We met at our new (earlier) start time at 7:00 AM along Highway 49 – just east of the pumphouse. The weather conditions were perfect today, with sunny skies, little or no wind, and temperatures in the 60’s. This particular area has provided the best shorebird habitat along Hwy. 49 this summer, but the lack of rain in recent weeks has reduced the wet area to a narrow band along the western edge of the pool.
The minimal amount of shorebird habitat present produced a very limited number of birds, with only a few Lesser Yellowlegs, a Stilt Sandpiper, and Least and Baird’s Sandpipers present – and none of them being especially close to us. Further back were a few Black-necked Stilts and a Greater Yellowlegs. Also spotted were a couple of Great Egrets, fly-by Black-crowned Night-Herons, and a few ducks and geese.
After about 45 minutes, our group of 17 drove east and south to Ledge Road – and we walked out along the east end of Old Marsh Road. A fairly nice mudflat was present, with the shorebirds much closer than the ones along Hwy. 49 – so we were able to get good looks at many of them. A Greater Yellowlegs flushed as we arrived, but several Lessers provided great opportunities for observation. One of them had a Solitary Sandpiper standing near to it, which gave us an excellent opportunity to compare their sizes and fieldmarks.
Also present were Least (about 20) and Pectoral Sandpipers (perhaps five), and we also had good opportunities for comparing these two similar species. A Semipalmated Sandpiper had been spotted initially, but unfortunately it couldn’t be relocated when we got closer. Killdeer and a couple of Wilson’s Snipes were also present.
Other birds observed in this area were Great Egret, Belted Kingfisher, Black-billed Cuckoo, Northern Flicker, Marsh Wren, Gray Catbird, Cedar Waxwing, Common Yellowthroat, Swamp and Song Sparrows, Eastern Wood-Pewee, and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. (Note: One of our field trip attendees also reported seeing a KING RAIL along Ledge Road about this same time! She described a very large rail that crossed the road from one side to the other.)
We left that area about 9:30 and returned to Hwy. 49 – back to our original location to check it again. Many of the same birds were still there, but this time there were two Stilt Sandpipers present. Further to the west along 49 (at the so-called “ibis pond”) we scanned for birds among the mats and clumps of cattails. Another Black-necked Stilt was found, along with a scattering of shorebirds. The highlights there were an adult Common Gallinule with a fairly small chick, and a female Yellow-headed Blackbird. A large pond just down the road to the west produced a large family group of Trumpeter Swans.
Our group then headed to the Auto Tour, where we slowly drove around the loop to the parking area near the boardwalk. This floating walkway had been nearly completely reconstructed this spring and summer, and re-opened just last month, but unfortunately the pond there had been drawn down so just masses of weeds were present. As a result, this area wasn’t very productive so we didn’t stay long, and we only walked a short distance out onto the boardwalk. A few Barn Swallows and Purple Martins were present, but the birds were greatly outnumbered by the Leopard Frogs that were found in a small wet few spots along the boardwalk.
From there we finished up the field trip by checking the rest of the Auto Tour, but bird-wise it was fairly quiet. We had another Hooded Merganser and some Blue-winged Teal in the wet ditch beyond the Red Rock, and we found a group of about eight Black Terns and another Black-crowned Night-Heron on the last pond (which had fairly high water), but not much else that was different for the day.
Thanks to Daryl Tessen for helping to lead today’s field trip. We ended up a little before 11:30, with a temperature now around 80 degrees, and a decent total of about 55 species for the day.
Tom Schultz, Field Trips co-chair