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Odd and End of Spring

May 23, 2011
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I am completely infatuated with eBird not only as a tool for managing my own records, but as a fantastic means to track what people are seeing in the four counties of my Triangle Big Year and plan my own attempts to find birds.  I’ll probably go into that more later this week, but needless to say I keep a close eye on the bar charts to see where people are seeing birds I have yet to find and to plan accordingly.  My goal for the month was to get to 175 in the Triangle by the end of May, that way I could spend the summer pinning down some of the more difficult breeders (like Kentucky Warbler, Mississippi Kite and Least Bittern) before heading into fall with a list of the birds I may have missed in the spring.

In order to get to my goal of 175, it was clear I needed to do some work on shorebirds, a group I had largely neglected with the exception of a few incidental finds.  Snipe obviously, and a flock of Least Sandpipers here and there.  Plus, With the prospect of a wet summer bearing down on us the lakes will probably stay high making the mudflats hard to come by in the Triangle which will have a significant effect on my ability to get even the expected ones.   I might as well get them when I can.

There’s a small patch of exposed mud on the south side of Lake Crabtree in Wake County.  Of all the sites in the triangle, this was the one that seemed to be attracting some interesting birds.  Shorebirds being generally unusual in the spring in the Triangle anyway, just about anything beyond Spotted and Solitary is noteworthy, and this little patch was producing late-August type lists of birds.  When I arrived, the dozen or so birds were spread across the bare mud.  A trio of Semipalmated Plovers were quite nice to find, as well as a single gangly Lesser Yellowlegs bounding across the flat like a Labrador after a ball.  A small flock of Semipalmated Sandpipers foraged in the shallow water and a larger Calidris, that I originally and tentatively called a Pectoral Sandpiper, foraged near them but not with them.  It seemed to fit the larger bird with the very long wings, but I wasn’t happy with the call.  Something about it nagged me but I couldn’t put my finger on it and I let it go.  After all, Pec was a new bird for the year.

I headed over to the other side of the lake to see if I could find any terns or swallows, but had little luck.  The Eastern Kingbirds made an appearance again.  I can’t remember the last spring I’ve seen so many of them.  I wonder if the 13 year Magicicada cicadas currently assaulting eardrums across the south have anything to do with that.  I would expect a bumper crop of the big bug eating birds.

The biggest surprise on the lake was a single Common Loon, both because it was exceptionally late but also because it was still apparently in basic plumage.  An odd bird, but the first Common Loon I’d ever had for Wake County so that was pretty cool.

By this point that mystery shorebird was weighing on me pretty heavily.  I headed back to the mudflat and had another look.  This time, with a clearer eye and slightly better light, I saw a White-rumped Sandpiper.  Long and pointy and even dark-legged when it ventured on shore.  Better late than never.

With a fairly solid assemblage of shorebirds in the bag, I headed out to Mid-Pines Road in southern Raleigh following reports of multiple Mississippi Kite sightings in the area.  The first stop was Kiteless, but singing Grasshopper Sparrows and a trio of female Bobolinks were good birds for the county.  Sort of expected – at least in the back of my mind – was a Loggerhead Shrike just off of busy Lake Wheeler Road, a rather difficult bird to find in the Triangle anymore

Sunday morning I birded Mason Farm with Noah.  No photos, but he enjoyed finding a Millipede and a snail while I appreciated the calling Willow Flycatcher, an unexpected pick up for the year.

I still have a couple tricks up my sleeve to get to 175 by the end of the month, but it’s looking like even money at this point.  For now I’m 169 down with 47 to go.

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5 Comments
  1. May 23, 2011 9:33 am

    Good luck 🙂 Does your son have a life list yet?

  2. May 23, 2011 10:17 am

    White-rumped Sandpiper is a really nice find! That still leaves you with a Pec to find in August or September, too.

  3. May 24, 2011 6:19 am

    Loggerhead, blockerhead, searchtilyouredead.
    One day I’ll get it. If it exists at all, unlike the so-called Yellow-crowned …

    Okay, enough whining, I do need to get outside more.
    Nice day out for sure. Congrats on the ‘rump and, you know, that shrikey thing.

  4. Nate permalink*
    May 24, 2011 8:15 am

    @Derek- Not yet. I tried keeping track of birds I saw when I was with him, but who knows what he really sees and doesn’t see.

    @John- That’s the plan. It worked out well as Pec is a pretty regularly occurring shorebird around here.

    @Jochen- Thanks! This one I have photo proof of, so no disparaging my sightings, huh?

    • May 25, 2011 7:47 am

      My oldest who is 20 months has taken to pointing and saying biwd, biwd until I let her know just what she saw. It is rather cute. Maybe yours will follow in your steps.

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