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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!

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