Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sandpiper Migration Underway

Although we are still in the height of summer in terms of heat, fall migration has started and sandpipers are passing through on their way south. I decided to try to beat the heat yesterday morning and got out at 7:00 AM--84 degrees--to the chat trail in Lake Wichita Park. I walked to the barrow pit in hopes there would still be some water, and consequently some birds.

I make no bones about the fact that I find shorebird identification difficult. I have to have a good view for a long time to be sure of any but the most distinctive shorebirds, especially the peeps (the smallest of the sandpipers.) Fortunately, I got both.

The first was a spotted sandpiper, easily told by the distintive bobbing motion it makes as it walks along the shore line. The photo below (courtesy of Mike Baird, Wikimedia Commons) doesn't show the spots on the underside. I has a lot more difficulty with the two small peeps. I easily spent 20 minutes watching them and working with my field guide to identify the Baird's sandpiper. (Photo below courtesy of the US Fish and Wildlife Service.)

The black-necked stilts are still present in decent numbers and easy to identify. There were also some blue-winged teal on the barrow pit.

Warblers are also beginning to come through on migration. I saw several yellow warblers along the trail and around the barrow pit (photo below from Wikimedia Commons.)

I was sitting on one of the benches along the trail looking over the barrow pit. The stilts were unusually quiet. Then all of a sudden all of the birds starting making noise. When I looked up, there was a Cooper's Hawk flying over the water, probably looking for breakfast. A couple of killdeer flew up and mobbed him into the trees. I don't recall seeing shorebirds mob predators before, but obviously they do.

A little later, I was trying to identify a little Empid (no luck there) when I had the chance to watch two black-chinned hummingbirds chasing each other all over the area.

On the way back to my truck, I watched a pair of orchard orioles searching through the willows for bugs. All in all, a good morning.

Good birding!

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