August Shorebirds

Green Heron

Green Heron

After seeing three species of shorebird at Andrew Haydon Park last weekend, on August 9th I decided to spend some time looking for more. I planned to return to Andrew Haydon Park to check out the developing mudflats, but I also had a shorebird spot in my own neighbourhood that I wanted to visit first. After returning home from our camping trip to Murphy’s Point, I noticed that one of the stormwater management ponds in Emerald Meadows had been dredged and that there was construction equipment next to one of the large sewer pipes feeding into the pond. By Saturday, July 26th, the construction equipment was gone so I paid the area a visit. The pond had been reduced to a large expanse of mud with a wide channel of water running down the middle toward the pipe. I wasn’t surprised to see several mallards foraging in the water; however, the Green-winged Teal feeding in the muck with the mallards was a surprise. This was the 48th species I had seen in the storm water management pond area since I started keeping track a few years ago.

There were also shorebirds – I counted seven Killdeer, two Spotted Sandpipers, four Solitary Sandpipers, two Greater Yellowlegs and two Lesser Yellowlegs. As there isn’t usually much shorebird habitat in these ponds, the Solitary Sandpipers and the two yellowlegs species were also new for my list. When I returned the following day, two Black-crowned Night-herons had joined the birds in the shallow water, and two Least Sandpipers had replaced the Greater Yellowlegs. All of these shorebirds required a scope to identify them, but it was thrilling to see so many species so close to home. On August 6th I stopped by after work and spotted a different shorebird at the very back of the muck in the reeds and was thrilled to identify it as a Wilson’s Snipe, species no. 53! I hoped that the low water levels would last throughout the month and perhaps attract some other shorebirds, but the rain started falling in the middle of the month and the pond quickly filled up again.

Solitary Sandpiper

Solitary Sandpiper

When I stopped there on August 9th, it would be for the last time until waterfowl migration began in October. There were still lots of shorebirds, including seven Killdeer, one Spotted Sandpiper, five Least Sandpipers, two Lesser Yellowlegs, and two Solitary Sandpipers close to the little lookout above the sewage pipe! As a result, I was able to get some decent photos of the Solitary Sandpipers. This one was the closer of the two, and I managed to capture it stretching its left wing and leg.

Solitary Sandpiper

Solitary Sandpiper

From there I continued on to Andrew Haydon, hoping to see some more shorebirds. When I checked the marsh at the western end I found three: two Spotted Sandpipers and a Least Sandpiper. A Great Blue Heron and a Great Egret were fishing in the bay, while a single Hooded Merganser was swimming close by. I also saw a single Green-winged Teal and two Wood Ducks foraging in the shallow water with the mallards.

I left the river walked around the ponds, where a photographer focusing on something near the bandshell caught my attention. When I approached I saw a juvenile Green Heron hunting in the water in front of the island, and a juvenile Great Blue Heron standing on the slope above it.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

The Green Heron was standing motionlessly in the water, occasionally stabbing down into the water to spear a small fish.

Green Heron

Green Heron

Click to enlarge this photo showing a picture of the heron with a small fish in its beak:

Green Heron

Green Heron

While I was watching the Green Heron, I noticed movement from the Great Blue Heron out of the corner of my eye. It was doing a wing stretch, and I managed to capture a couple of images while it was stretching (this photo can also be enlarged):

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

After taking my fill of pictures, I continued on my walk. I headed back to Graham Creek where I had seen the Elusive Clubtail last weekend. I didn’t see any dragonflies of note this time, but I did spy a Solitary Sandpiper wading in the shallow water.

Solitary Sandpiper

Solitary Sandpiper (click to enlarge)

The usual songbirds were flitting about in the dense line of shrubs that separate the grassy lawn from the creek bed, including a Baltimore Oriole, a couple of Cedar Waxwings, and a couple of Warbling Vireos much higher up in the trees. There were no warbler species among them, either early migrants or post-breeding wanderers, so I left and returned to the ponds. I noticed a family of Canada Geese at the edge of the water with three young birds still in their juvenile plumage. One of the juveniles was still quite small; as all of the geese born this past spring are now almost indistinguishable from their parents (at least when seen from a distance), I figured that one pair had had a second brood.

Canada Gosling

Canada Gosling

I decided to end my visit then and, as I headed back to the car, noticed an Osprey hovering above the western pond. I walked over toward it, hoping to capture a photo of it as it scanned the water. Unfortunately it didn’t see any fish in the pond worth catching and flew off toward the river instead. I grabbed this shot as it was leaving:

Osprey

Osprey

August is a fun time to go birding. Even if songbird migration hasn’t yet started, the shorebirds are beginning to arrive, and there are plenty of interesting birds around. The juvenile herons fishing along the pond edges of Andrew Haydon Park are always fun to watch, and it’s great to see such a diverse variety of waterfowl. I tallied 26 species in the 80 minutes I was there – not a bad number at all for the beginning of August!

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