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Thursday, August 25, 2011

RISD Beach Aug 24, 2011

Here are some photos I took yesterday at RISD Beach. Despite the wind and the high water levels the birding was good, and we left pleased with our finds.

A Short-billed Dowitcher hunkering down from the wind.

The same dowitcher, NOT hunkering down from the wind and regretting it.

A Least Sandpiper shyly hangs out (from a distance) with its larger cousins the Semipalmated Sandpipers.

Can you spot the Pectoral Sandpiper?

A Pectoral Sandpiper and Semipalmated Sandpiper check out the mud.

A Ruddy Turnstone and some Semipalmated Plovers take flight while a Lesser Yellowlegs and some Semipalmated Plovers and Sandpipers watch. Can you find the yellowlegs?

A Lesser Yellowlegs studies the scene carefully.

A plover wings by.

How many bird species can you see in this picture? I can see five (Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Ruddy Turnstone, Semipalmated Sandpiper and Semipalmated Plover.)

The birding and photographing was great!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Charlestown Breachway and Mud Pond 10:08-12:40 am & 1:00-1:15 pm August 23, 2011

Yesterday we visited Charlestown Breachway to celebrate my brothers tenth birthday. Charlestown Breachway is one of the most heavily birded locations in fall and late summer. The tidal flats are swarming with shorebirds of all sizes. Carefully planning our walk to correspond with low tide (which was at 8:52am), we neatly arrived at 10:00. Only an hour off time. To our amazement the tide was still going out. Later an experienced birder told us to always expect low tide to be 3 hours later than anticipated at this location. Good to know (especially for those of us who can never arrive on time.)

The birding was fabulous; gulls, terns, egrets and shorebirds were everywhere. We quickly lost count of their numbers. There were many birders on the flats, a few of whom I recognized from earlier birding encounters.

Despite the numbers of birds and birders there weren't many unusual species. One interesting sighting though were pair of deer, a doe and a fawn, who wandered out onto the flats in the later half of our walk. They meandered about for a few minutes, before returning to the bushes from where they had come. I wonder what they were doing out there?

Deers on the flats

A little while after seeing the deer, three birders whom I have birded with before pointed out to us a Western Sandpiper - a very good bird for the area. It looked similar to the abundant Semipalmated Sandpipers which covered the flats, but it had a more curved bill (similar in shape to the bill of Dunlin.) Another field mark were the rufous upper scapulars which are found on the breeding Westerns and the juveniles. This bird was a juvenile.

Western Sandpiper

Western Sandpiper

Another species of bird we were hoping for was Yellow-crowned Night-Heron. There were supposedly two Yellow-crowns in the breachway, but we didn't have time to go see them (I say see them because they were only being seen at one place on the breachway.)

Birding at this location is very interesting because the tidal flats are separated by deep channels which you have wade across through waist to neck high water to see anything of interest.

Here is the list of birds we saw at Charlestown Breachway:
Great Black-backed Gull
Herring Gull
Great Blue Heron 1
Northern Mockingbird 2
Song Sparrow 4
Turkey Vulture 1
Gray Catbird 1
House Finch
Tree Swallow
Double-crested Cormorant 6
Great Egret 7
Common Yellowthroat 1
Common Tern 5
Barn Swallow 2
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Semipalmated Plover
Bank Swallow
Downy Woodpecker 1
Laughing Gull 2
Least Sandpiper 2
Greater Yellowlegs
Mute Swan 1
Canada Goose
American Goldfinch 3
Ring-billed Gull
Willet 3
Western Sandpiper 1
Piping Plover 1
Mourning Dove 1
Osprey 1
Green Heron 1
Carolina Wren 1 and Sanderling 1.

Sadly we missed a few other species we were hoping in the area mainly: Black Skimmer, Forsters Tern, Roseate Tern, Stilt Sandpiper, Seaside Sparrow and Red Knot. These have all been seen here recently. The skimmer, seaside, stilt and the roseate would have been lifers.

After that we went for a swim in the ocean to have our faces pounded into the sand by battering waves. Apparently this was when we none of us noticed a large earthquake that was felt all along the east coast. Then we got back in the car and drove to Mud Pond in Matunuck (which the birders that pointed out the Western Sandpiper to us recommended.)

Least Sandpipers, a Semipalmated Sandpiper and 2 Semipalmated Plover (the plover on the left has a broken wing)

Little Blue Heron

Here highlights included an adult Little Blue Heron resting on the far side of the pond, a Semipalmated Plover with a broken wing (I guess that doesn't count as a highlight it's more of a downlight). A Pectoral Sandpiper was hanging out with a Semipalmated Plover and Greater Yellowlegs. A Solitary Sandpiper rested 15 feet from us on the mud but we only ID it afterwards via photographic evidence; at the time we had thought it was just another plain old Lesser Yellowlegs.

Best of all was a Black Tern, one of two which were supposedly hanging about the muddy pond (the Black Tern was not actually black but was mostly white and gray because it was in nonbreeding plumage.) A birder came by who we later Identified as Jan St. Jean (she currently has the largest RI year list on the - she seems to always be seeing more than anyone). She told us that she had seen a Caspian Tern fly by (a very good bird for the area and one I have never seen before) disappointingly we didn't see the Caspian Tern or the Peregrine Falcon that she mentioned.

Black Tern (note terrible photograph)

Solitary Sandpiper

Here is the list of birds seen at Mud Pond:
Double-crested Cormorant
Little Blue Heron 1
Semipalmated Plover
Killdeer 1
Greater Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs
Solitary Sandpiper 1
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
Pectoral Sandpiper 1
Ring-billed Gull
Laughing Gull 2
Herring Gull
Black Tern 1
Tree Swallow
Yellow Warbler 1
Cedar Waxwing & American Goldfinch

It was a really great day with 2 year birds (Black Tern and Western Sandpiper) and 4 bird species which I have only seen once before (Black Tern, Western Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper and Solitary Sandpiper)!

Special thanks to all the birders who helped us find these lovely birds!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Aug 16, 2011 RISD Beach, Barrington RI 3:50-4:30pm

Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs

Liitle Blue Heron

RISD Beach saltmarsh

Sorry about not posting recently. I have been away camping for a fortnight in Gloucester, Massachusetts and Acadia National Park in Maine (which I would like to post about right now but I don't have the time, I am squeezing this in before we head out the door again.)

Yesterday we went for a quick walk at RISD Beach. It was high tide but none the less the birds were very active. By far the best bird of the walk was an immature Little Blue Heron, which despite it's name was pure white. This was not a surprise to us seeing that all Little Blue Heron immatures are white.

It was feeding with about five Snowy Egrets which are about the same size as the LBH. I noticed that it enjoyed flying, a fact that it made very clear by its many forays into the air - each one lasting about fifteen seconds.

This was my third LBH of the month and the fourth of the year. These averaged sized herons are quite uncommon in this area, the northern limit of its range (the most northerly report I have heard of recently was at Plum Island NWR.)

There were many common shorebirds in the marsh including Semipalmated Plover. Another interesting find was a pair of immature sparrows perching next to each other in a bush. Surprisingly they were not of the same species, on the left was a young Song Sparrow eight inches to the right of which was an immature Saltmarsh Sparrow.

Also on the marsh was a family flock of Mallards. In the flock were three teal sized birds about half the size of the Mallards, we decided that these were not teal but young Mallards presumably the same ones that were raised here earlier this year.

On the beach there were very large numbers of Laughing Gulls; pretty good birds for this area. There were actually more Laughers than all the Ring-billed, Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls combined!

Here is a full list of birds seen:
Mallard 8,
Double-crested Cormorant 25,
Great Egret 1 (Seen in the saltmarsh, standing alone in deeper water than the Snowy Egrets and the Little Blue Heron),
Snowy Egret 5,
Little Blue Heron 1,
Green Heron 3 (All three took of from around a shallow and muddy pool of saltmarsh water),
Osprey 1,
Semipalmated Plover 3 (Two were seen on the beach, the third was on the saltmarsh),
Spotted Sandpiper 1 (seen on the edge of the saltmarsh. This was the first time I have seen one here),
Greater Yellowlegs 4 (One was seen right next to the Lesser Yellowlegs giving a great size comparison),
Lesser Yellowlegs 1,
Ruddy Turnstone 1 (Seen flying north west up the beach presumably headed to the rockier section of the beach),
Semipalmated Sandpiper 30,
Least Sandpiper 15,
Laughing Gull 20 (None were in full breeding plumage),
Ring-billed Gull 10,
Herring Gull 2,
Great Black-backed Gull 1,
Common Tern 15,
Mourning Dove 3,
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 1 (Female seen where the woods bordered the salt marsh. I saw another hummingbird flying over the saltmarsh but it may have been the same bird),
Downy Woodpecker 1,
Northern Flicker 1 (Could have heard a second one. Calling it's "Peah Peah" call),
Blue Jay 1,
Barn Swallow 15,
Black-capped Chickadee 1,
Carolina Wren 1,
Gray Catbird 3,
American Redstart 1,
Saltmarsh Sparrow 3,
Song Sparrow 3 and American Goldfinch 3,