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Hot for Shorebirds

August 18, 2008

Got it bad, got it bad, got it bad.

August is shorebird time. And after nearly two months of slow summer birding I’m ready to bust out. I’ve been jonesing for their return for weeks ever since the I spotted the first Sanderlings and Leasts down at the beach three weeks ago, not to mention I still have some gaping holes on my year list. And though I really enjoyed birding in the great wide west, there was part of my worrying that I was missing something back home. Whether or not I actually was missing anything is irrelevant. I had limited internet and therefore missed any hot tips on the listserve.

One of the birds I missed was a Glossy Ibis near Greensboro, a bird I’ve been in position throughout the year to get, but have yet to find. An inland record is unusual, and much more fuel friendly than getting out to the coast where their far more likely late in the summer. While it was something of a longshot for it to have stuck around this long, that place where it was seen was also fairly good for shorebirds, better at least, than any closer area that I knew of. So I went to Lake Thompson, just on the north side of Greensboro, hoping for access to the mudflats on the back end of the lake.

As you can see above, the mudflats left a bit to be desired. It’s not Jamaica Bay or anything, but it wasn’t bad. For whatever reason, the Piedmont region of North Carolina isn’t particularly condusive to mudflat creation, it’s a bit too hilly and the red clay soil is a bit too porous. The water tends to flow down hill into fast flowing rivers and what doesn’t is fairly quickly soaked up into the water table. The only opportunity we have for good numbers of shorebirds is if a long drought empties the reservoirs exposing the shallow arms as vast expanses of mud. This was a situation we had last year and the shorebirding was phenomenal. This year, we’ve had enough rain to keep them mostly full.

In addition to the ever-present Canada Geese, I spotted a flyby Caspian Tern, a nice pick up of a bird I had not found in the spring, but the birds on the mud were a tad disappointing. There was a pair Spotties and a half-dozen Leasts picking along the edge of the water, but by and large I was dealing with that most tragic of shorebird diagnoses, NBK, Nothing But Killdeer. And there wer lots of those, chasing each other over the mudflats, screaming over the water, and most obnoxiously, looking decidedly un-Killdeer like at 8x, and revealing their true identities once I dragged the scope over. The Glossy Ibis was, as expected, a no-show.

I know it’s still early, and a post to the state listserve this afternoon gave some indication that the local lakes might be starting to get productive again. If the rain stays away for a couple weeks, they could be pretty good again. It’s all very exciting, and I’m more than ready for it.


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