Monday, August 25, 2008

Mucky Meanderings

When I gathered up my bins and scope, along with Marvin and Charley, to scope out the mudflats on the Aldrich arm of Stockton Reservoir today, I had high hopes. Visions of Buff Breasted Sandpipers, Neotropic Cormorants, and Ruff swirled in my overly optimistic brain. Unfortunately, none of the above made a showing. But the shorebirds and waders were abundant, and any day in the Ozarks with shorebirds is definitely a good one!

I saw my son Nathan in July, and we visited the basement of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, where all prepared bird skins are housed. We spent some time with Caladris sp., specifically trying to discern the subtle differences between Semipalmated and Western Sandpipers. I was struck that, in many cases, the two species, side my side, even in hand, were difficult to identify. I believe that some of the birds in the tray remain unidentified to species.

We approached the mudflat as closely as possible without sinking deeply into the newly barren muck. But, with a little help from Charley, the museum work paid off! Here's a Western Sandpiper that we found and confidently identified. I'd call it the Bird of the Day. Marvin's photo of it is great! Be sure to click on it to enlarge!

photo by Marvin DeJong
Other highlights included 11 species of shorebirds. In addition to the Western Sandpiper, we had Least Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Solitary Sandpiper, Spotted Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Stilt Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs, Greater Yellowlegs, Semipalmated Plover, and Killdeer.
Over 100 Black Terns sailed over the lake, with a single behemoth Caspian Tern tagging along.

Waders numbered in the 100's, too. A handful of Little Blue Herons, and many Great Egrets and Great Blue Herons lined the shore.

All in all, it was great to get out on the mudflats again. The conditions at Aldrich look great, and as long as the rain holds off, they should improve with the coming weeks. I'm already planning my next visit. Friday sounds good to me!


N8 said...

That's a huge bill on that bird. Must be a female.

david said...

Awesome! I'm coming up on Thursday and am looking forward to some good birds over the next couple of weeks.