Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Fall shorebird blitz - kicks off with a rarity

Shorebirds are probably my favorite group of birds for a few reasons. First, there is a wide variety of species that migrate through in large numbers. Second, many of the shorebirds can be difficult to identify, making it more of a challenge. And third, the chance of vagrancy is high with this group, making the search for rarities quite enticing.

Seeing as it is now early July, a few species are already on the move southbound. For the next few months, I am going to spend as much time as I can searching some of my favorite haunts for these migrants. Today was my first chance to go out and check my two regular spots that are relative close to where I work in Windsor - the Blenheim sewage lagoons, and the Tilbury lagoons.

After checking Hillman Marsh (it is pretty dead this time of year), I headed east to Blenheim, making a quick stop near Wheatley where a few Dickcissels have been hanging out for a while. Ken Burrell found a male here on June 16 and since then 2-3 males have been seen regularly. The birds did not disappoint and I had excellent scope views of one singing, with 2 others also singing off in the distance.

The Blenheim lagoons had a nice selection of early southbound migrants. Among 40+ Killdeer and 34 Spotted Sandpipers, I also found 2 Short-billed Dowitchers, 1 Greater Yellowlegs, 1 Solitary Sandpiper, 17 Lesser Yellowlegs, and 8 Least Sandpipers. They were all hanging out in the irrigation cells as the water levels were still quite high in all 5 lagoons. The back lagoon (number 5) also held a few families of Wood Ducks, a female Ringneck Duck, a male Green-winged Teal, some Ruddy Ducks, and 4 American Wigeons.

Tilbury was my next stop and it did not disappoint. I noticed a few ducks and shorebirds on a small exposed mudflat, and after looking with my scope, a nice American Avocet stood out. This is only my second sighting of this species in Ontario and my first for a few years. A few photos of the beast (please excuse the image quality - I was digiscoping with my 18-55 kit lens):

American Avocet with Mallards - Tilbury lagoons

American Avocet - Tilbury lagoons 

American Avocet - Tilbury lagoons

American Avocet - Tilbury lagoons

Also at Tilbury were 1 Black-crowned Night-heron (new for the year, surprisingly), 1 Great Egret, a few ducks of various species, 1 Lesser Yellowlegs, and about 10 Least Sandpipers.

So there you go. A nice start to the fall shorebird blitz! Last year I didn't get any rarities among the ~25 species of shorebirds I saw during the months of July, August, and September.


  1. Josh,
    Awesome find. Nice way to kick-off the shorebird season. I'de love to go tonight to see the Avocet, but I doubt its still there. A confirmation on Ontbirds from some local birders would be nice!

  2. Dwayne, it seems that the bird has moved on. If you can, check out tilbury a few times this summer. The lagoon there is one of only a few areas in this part of Ontario with a large amount of shorebird and wading bird habitat, so if a rare heron or shorebird ends up in this part of Ontario, there's a decent chance that it will end up at tilbury. Unfortunately it seems that this lagoon is checked far too infrequently.

    Thanks Brandon!