Autumn shorebird summary

Now that the first frosts are with us it seems that the shorebirds are just about done for the autumn at St-Lazare sand pits. Below is a summary of the season’s passage. Exceptional were the high numbers of Black-bellied Plovers, five Hudsonian Godwits and five Long-billed Dowitchers.

 Black-bellied Plover – The first was seen on 20-September, numbers then increased and late afternoon saw the spare sand bars covered in birds. My best count was 144 on 24-October.

American Golden-Plover – around from 03-October with up to 15 on some days. In relatively nearby fields there was a flock of at least 70 in newly ploughed fields. The last birds were present 18-October.

Semipalmated Plover – Been scarce this year with three on 1-September, two of which remained until the next day and one on 6-October and that was it!

Killdeer – The traditional autumn build up saw a peak count of 75 in Mid September.

Spotted Sandpiper – although four pairs bred or at least tried to, they moved out fairly quickly. The last one of the autumn was seen on 21-September..

Solitary Sandpiper – Up to three were around late August but none since.

Greater Yellowlegs – The numbers fluctuated as birds moved through with never more than 10 on site on any one day, the last record, (of five birds) was from 17-October.

Lesser Yellowlegs – The numbers peaked at 45, the last was on 12-October.

Hudsonian Godwit  – A great year for this species with several sites in Quebec hosting birds. The first arrived on 3-October and stayed a four of days. Next came three birds together seen on the evening of 12-October, finally a new bird arrived 13-October and stayed until the next day.

Semipalmated Sandpiper – Not very common this autumn peaking at around 15 individuals.

Least Sandpiper – Birds were present daily throughout the main autumn passage period.

White-rumped Sandpiper – The peak count was seven birds.

Baird’s Sandpiper – Three different birds passed through but none stayed for more than a day.

Pectoral Sandpiper – Perhaps up to 20 birds were seen throughout the autumn with the highest day count being nine.

Dunlin – The first birds appeared 30-September and then increased to 26 by mid October.

Stilt Sandpiper – At least one individual was present from late September into early October.

Short-billed Dowitcher – One was present 23 to 27-September.

Long-billed Dowitcher – An unprecedented five individuals were seen including three together on several dates. The first was seen on 30-September, the last on 28-October.

Wilson’s Snipe – Scarce this autumn with just three birds around in late September.

On 26-October I went out to Hungry Bay, the western entrance to Beauharnois Canal. No wind to speak of meant it was easy to scan the area, my totals for an hours watching were: Red-necked Grebe 11, Horned Grebe 3, White-winged Scoter 11 and Common Loon 10. There were still a couple of Myrtle Warblers around too.

This past week has seen the water dominated by Canada Geese but the Redhead continued to show and three new Ruddy Ducks appeared today making eight for the autumn so far. Common Mergansers are now being seen daily while one day had three male Hooded Mergansers to compliment the female/immature which has been around for a while. Northern Pintails have only numbered two which is poor while the lone Common Goldeneye lingers

The colder weather has also started to inspire visible movement through the pits with Rusty Blackbirds seen daily in small flocks, Dark-eyed Juncos are also zipping about and a Northern Gray Shrike is in residence ready for the anticipated redpoll feast.

The forecast for the week to come is for much of the same type of weather so fingers crossed for more passage. It can’t be too long before the Blue Jays start up and this year I will probably have time to enjoy it. Sorry that there have been no photos for a while, must try harder.


Pits tick, no pics

A couple of hours at the pits today was quite rewarding. The site’s first ever American Coot seemed oblivious to its fame conferred on it by being my 207th species there. Also present were four Long-billed Dowtchers together, now five Ruddy Ducks some fly over Snow Geese, eight passing Turkey Vultures and 98 Black-bellied Plover. A flock of around 60 Rusty Blackbirds went through, Dunlin numbers reached 16 and three Common Mergansers were a sure sign of more to come.

Yesterday, thanks to an email to Ontbirds by Jacques Bouvier, we nipped over to Alfred Sewage Farm lagoons to enjoy a Red Phalarope, that is all three phalaropes there for us this year. Also there were fewer BB Plovers than I’ve got! Pectoral and White-rumped Sandpipers along with the commoner stuff, also Ruddy Turnstone. It would be nice to get a phal of any sort at the pits but time is running out this year I think.

Last week we went to see the movie ‘The Big Year’. I’m not sure whether European birders will get the chance to see it, I thought it was actually quite good and did not make us (birders) seem like anoracks too much. It differs quite a lot from the book but if you take it as harmless fun you won’t go too far wrong.

The comng week looks reasonable, perhaps aFox Sparrow will find my seed carpet at the pits before the Chipmunks clean it all up, they must be due but no sign in the garden so far, just six White-throated Sparrows, 30+ Juncos and a lonely Chipper.

Dark and dank

The weather continues crap, the light rubbish, the wind blows but the birds are still around. During the week the fifth Hudsonian Godwit of the autumn was around for a couple of days. Yesterday and today three Long-billed Dowitchers were around but flighty. I took some snaps of a Dunlin and Black-bellied Plovers and a distant shot of two of the dowitchers, the buffy edged tertials are not too clear in this view! The Redhead, Common Goldeneye and four Ruddy Ducks remain, hoping for a scoter.

Cape May odds

Just a few more shots from Cape May, these from Sandra

The pits are still active, up to 70 Black-bellied Plovers still around but the numbers fluctuate. Long-billed Dowitcher yesterday, Hudsonian Godwit the day before. Duck are trickling in, the past two visits have added Ruddy Duck (4) and Redhead to the year list, I might hit 170 for the year there which is quite resonable. I also took a little sortie down Chemin Fief revealed eight Eastern Blubirds hanging around, which was nice.

Fat bloke bothering birds on a beach, even photoshop can’t work its magic on tha frame!

Looking from The Meadows beach towards Cape May lighthouse.

The hawk watch platform on a very busy day, looking up you saw a hawk from virtually dawn until  dusk.

Well maintained trails and boardwalks at Cape May State Park, pity you can get a push chair down them though.

The Golden Rod was very popular with the Monarchs.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk and Common Buckeye, a couple of the former and a lot of the latter.

Red Rambur’s Forktail.

Almost a tweet!

Pits shorebirds update

Yesterday: Three Hudsonian Godwits, two Black-bellied Plovers, six Amerian Golden Plovers, one Stilt Sandpiper, two Lesser Yellowlegs.

Today: One Hudsonian Godwit (diff bird from above), 67 Black-bellied Plover, three American Golden Plover, one Pectoral Sandpiper, three Dunlin.

There is somewhere else that they get when not at the pits!

Cape May odes

Migration is not restricted to birds and Cape May has the same effect is has on birds on butterflies and dragonflies. The former are very well represented by hundreds or even thousands on Monarchs which glide south in a fluent stream, pausing only to feed up on the flowering plants. Secondary to this movement are the very many Common Buckeyes.

Dragonflies are known to be fairly long distant migrants, Green Darners have crossed the Atlantic many times and so its not surprising that they are super common at Cape May in fall. Also abundant are Carolina Saddlebags and Black Saddlebags, you can sit at the end and watch all three species setting off from the point to their winter quarters. To our surprise a few other species still flew and I managed to take my year and life list up a few places.

Below some shots, Carolina Saddlebags was a new species, as was Blue-faced Meadowhawk and Rambur’s Forktail. Black Saddlebags, Wandering Glider, Eastern Pondhawk (female), Blue Dasher (male and female) and Green Darner complete the photo set.

Cape May continued

Cape May State Park is free, that alone is remarkable and very worthy of mention. The park has extensive, easy to bird trails which are naturally popular with birds and non-birders alike. The birds when we were there we spectacular at times. For two days the sky had a Sharp-shinned or Cooper’s Hawk in it at all times, often several of each. Turkey Vultures, various hawks and falcons along with Northern Harriers were also passing through and the heavily occupied hawk platform was kept very busy. Lower down wave after wave of Myrtle Warblers were “chitting” from their hiding places, each walk seemed to produce list additions. One treat was the presence of Carolina Wrens every 200m or so along the trails, we don’t have many in Quebec!

Our total trip list was 116 species, modest but enjoyable, we bolstered the Cape May list with a side trip to Brigantine, actually called the somebody famous Forsythe reserve.

Above shots of Caroline Wren, Northern Mockingbird, Palm Warbler and a juvenile Cooper’s Hawk. Below an interesting gull, reported as Iceland, it clearly is not but is a leucistic gull, perhaps Ring-billed. Also at Cape May were many American Wigeon.
A few shots of Ruddy Turnstone, American Herring Gull, Myrtle Warbler, Great Egret, Snowy Egret and Boat-tailed Grackle.