Yesterday I spent an hour at St-Lazare sand pits. It was mostly spent watching shorebirds or more precisely waiting for them to emerge from the vegetation before getting a good look at them. This passage season will be challenging because of the lush vegetation covering the wet areas. Recently I’ve found that you can scan the shorebirds for an hour then walk 50m and flush six Wilson’s Snipe that had previously evaded observation. Birds are also commuting to damp patches in nearby fields and even the Chicken sh*t pile on Montee Chenier, a haven for flies as you will find if you stop for a look with the windows down.
As I left yesterday I bumped into Larry Lafleur who was just arriving. Larry was down to take photographs, he’s not yet got to the owning binoculars stage but he will. Last night my in-box had a message asking about the identity of a dowitcher he’d snapped! At this time of year any migrant dowitchers are likely to be Short-billed and this proved to be the case. The turn-over of migrating shorebirds at the pits is such that you could go there four times a day and see a different set of species or at least different set of yellowlegs.
With the news of the dowitcher I went early this morning, but not early enough to beat the trucks arriving with spoil, I think the owner is probably intending to infill the lot eventually. Edging into place so that I could view as much of the shorebird habitat as possible it soon became clear that there were plenty of birds to look at. The dowitcher was still there, roosting out in the open and seemingly bomb proof as the trucks rumbled past. There were plenty of both yellowlegs but lesser numbers were greater – sorry, I just couldn’t resist that sentence. A nice year tick was a Stilt Sandpiper but it was skittish and I never got near enough to get it in the viewfinder. The regular Pectoral Sandpiper, it’s been there two weeks at least, was joined by six more and the wet, grassy area took on the appearance of a tundra migration staging point, briefly!
If you are thinking of visiting to look for the shorebirds be aware that they are active, mobile and not easy to watch at times. Just settle in one spot and wait and don’t be surprised if you see stuff not on my list as there are more species to look forwards to arriving. I usually get a few Baird’s each year and later there are Dunlin, maybe godwits and Long-billed Dowitcher plus Black-bellied and American Golden Plovers. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I might finally get a phalarope of some description drop in.
Below are photos of the dowitcher, it seems to bearlly enjoying having a scratch. There is also a shot of a Semipalmated Plover that was daft enough to stand still instead of panicking. My shorebird totals were: Greater Yellowlegs 4; Lesser Yellowlegs 14; Stilt Sandpiper 1; Short-billed Dowitcher 1; Killdeer 25; Semipalmated Plover 2; Spotted Sandpiper 2; Pectoral Sandpiper 7; Wilson’s Snipe 4; White-rumped Sandpiper 2; Semipalmated Sandpiper 2; Least Sandpiper 16; Solitary Sandpiper 2.