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I will take The One Ring to Falls Lake, though I do not know the way.

August 19, 2007

The temperature’s climbing, the cicadas are singing and the shorebirds are moving; it’s late summer in North Carolina. Yesterday I went out in the first of the season’s field trips run by the Chapel Hill Bird Club, five of us traveled to Falls Lake north of Durham and looked for shorebirds on the flats exposed by the falling lake. Most years the lake is too high so the shorebirds that pass though the area just keep on truckin’. But with the lake so low due to the drought, the odds were good that some birds might stick around.

It’s still hot as hell here so it was an early morning for us. The lake was really low, as you can see to the left. Reports from earlier in the week had indicated a good diversity of shorebirds, hopefully they hadn’t all left with the cold front that passed through earlier that morning.

The flats are on a far arm of the lake and we had a good walk ahead of us. It’s still August so even though the full power of the sun had yet to hit us, there was little birdsong. The ever-present Red-eyed and White-eyed Vireos were our sole companions as we trekked out the rail bed to the back of the lake.

We did run into a group of about 30 Wild Turkey feeding on the dry lake floor. This photo was taken at a good distance through my binoculars so apologies for the quality. I was just playing around with the possibilities of “digibinning”.

We eventually reached the arm with the best flats. There was a group of about 40 Lesser Yellowlegs hanging out with a few Solitary Sandpipers so I tried to take some pictures through my scope. The quality leaves a fair bit to be desired but having the ability to document birds like this is pretty cool, especially with a little point and shoot. Cropped and cleared the pictures are at least identifiable, I think that the subject will have to be pretty close for me to be able to get any detail. Practice makes perfect, maybe at some point I’ll figure out the secret, such that it is. Some pictures though…

Lesser Yellowlegs

Solitary Sandpiper

Small flock of Lesserlegs


Ok, so after I took the photos of the Tringas I put the camera away. I was too busy trying to turn some of the chunkier Semipalmated Sandpipers into Westerns (no dice) and enjoying finally being out looking at birds in North Carolina after taking a good part of the summer off (in my defense it’s been really hot, so lay off). The shorebirds are plentiful enough with Leasties, Semipalm Plovers in addition to the Sandpipers, lots of not-very-Solitary Sandpipers and hundreds upon hundreds of Great Egrets and Great Blue Herons, likely in such numbers to take advantage of the fish glut in the shallower water. At the farthest point out we ran into a group of mostly Short-billed Dowitchers and Pectoral Sandpipers that contained a couple Stilt Sandpipers, an uncommon bird for the area and one I haven’t seen in many many years, so that was really cool.

It wasn’t all birds though, on the walk back my hand began swelling from the heat so I removed my wedding ring for safekeeping. In the transition to my pockets I dropped it onto the tall grass. Son of a…. There was no finding it and after several minutes I just had to give up. Once we finally get some rain and the lake refills, it will lie in Davy Jones’ locker beneath layers of mud. So be it, my understanding wife forgave me, with the promise that I don’t wear my replacement ring birding anymore. So this is a message to the Birding Gods, I’ve made my sacrifice, there better be a Smew in it for me this winter, I await your decision…


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