Saturday, August 30, 2008

Mudflat Madness

Marvin DeJong and I arrived shortly after 8 am Friday on the east end of the Aldrich arm of Stockton Reservoir. Just as on our previous visit Monday, the birds gathered along the south shore where the water had receded considerably since our last visit. Our hearts started to race with anticipation as we circled around the back roads to the shorebird locale. We were greeted with the raspy tones and scattering flocks of American Egrets and Great Blue Herons that lined the upper retention pool. I took a wooden plank with us this time, as we easily sank deeply into the mud last Monday. It worked well, as we easily crossed the quick mud of previous days. During the last visit, we could not venture out on the mudflat, but this time the moisture had evaporated enough to allow us to walk gingerly out onto the flats. We soon gave up on being careful, and just like kids, we were having a great time playing in the mud! Soon we were trudging deliberately with 5 lb. mud covered shoes, approaching each group of shorebirds and terns until we sunk to our ankles. I scanned a group of Black Terns that has been increasing in numbers for the last 2 weeks.
I was rewarded with a single Least Tern. Although it disappeared shortly after the flock spooked, we saw 2 in a flyover at the same spot an hour later. Marvin managed to get off a shot from far away.Soon a couple Semipalmated Plovers showed. We ended the day with 7 of them, and no luck in turning up a Piping Plover.
The shorebird selection was good, but I think it will be even better in a week or two. Although I fear for New Orleans and the Gulf coast again, I am looking to see what birds that Gustav both stalls in our area and pushes up into our area.

Below are a few of our birds for the day.
Stilt Sandpipers mingle with assorted peeps, mostly Leasts, Semipalmated, and Pectorals.

A Lesser Yellowlegs hangs near a Semipalmated Plover.
A Semipalmated Plover struts his stuff.

A footnote to the story. For a few years in the 90's my son Nathan and I would always find Bewick's Wren on one of the access roads to Stockton Reservoir near Aldrich. Everytime I've gone by the location for a decade, I stopped to do my screech owl thing and to pssh a bit. Well, yesterday it finally returned. A Bewick's Wren came out instantly, berating me for my obnoxious, albeit convincing imitation. It had been a long dry spell for me and that species.

Good friends Charley Burwick and David Ringer headed up to Aldrich today. I'm anxiously awaiting what they manage to uncover. David always brings expert knowledge to the field, regardless whether our search is for shorebirds, gulls, warblers, or other avian species. Be sure to visit his blog often for world class birding adventures. Anyway, while he is in our neck of the woods, I'm sure he will turn up something interesting.
All photos courtesy of Marvin DeJong.


N8 said...

Marvin is really taking some nice photos since his eye surgery.

Nice Least Tern! That's a pretty good bird in your parts, huh?

Greg said...

Yes, we have gotten Least Tern at Aldrich twice this month!

Marvin would say that his ability to find the bird is improved, but that focusing the bird in the viewfinder is basically the same at before his cataract surgery.

I think shorebirds give him the time to get close, set up and compose the shot. His shots in my last post were awesome and his hummingbird shots at [url=] the GOAS message board[/url] are great!

Greg said...

Shoot, how do you make a link to a website in Comments?

marvin d said...

Hey, thanks for the nice comments. I can see birds much better at a distance since the cataract surgery. Better luck through the camera will wait for my new reading glasses. 99% of a good picture is being able to get close enough. It sure is nice to be able to see birds in trees again.

david said...

Greg, thanks for the report! Unfortunately, Charley and I didn't find anything rare (not for lack of trying, I might add). We did help the Martins find and identify their life Stilt Sandpipers, so that was a good feeling.

To make a link, you have to use an anchor tag -- <a href="">hummingbird shots</a> becomes hummingbird shots.