Shorebirds in the Calm Before the Migrant Storm

This week was that unfortunate time of year when basically every breeding passerine species is hunkered down and impossible to find and its too early for any migrants to speak of. Basically the only good birds around are shorebirds, and I live in a famously shorebird lacking area. Consequently, I have to drive long distances to get any decent birding.

This week I picked Conneaut, Ohio as my spot to head for the shorebirds I never get closer to home. This location on the shore of Lake Erie is an excellent vantage point for shorebird observation with birds often allowing very close approach and a great potential for rarities.

Since my last visit, an observation tower on the sand spit had been installed and it was here that I set up and waited the arrival of shorebirds. It wasn’t an incredible day by any means but shorebirds came in waves, seemingly dropping in out of nowhere.

The first flock was mostly semipalmated sandpipers with a single Baird’s mixed in. When these flew off, they were quickly replaced by a flock of least sandpipers and another crisp Baird’s. This flock was much more confiding than the other one, giving great photographic opportunities as they fed along the beach. Their plumage was immaculate (the perks of birding this early in the season!) with one least in particular sporting bright rufous plumage!

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Brightly Plumaged Least Sandpiper

Waiting for new shorebird turnover was hardly boring either. A Bonaparte’s gull flew by at one point, bald eagles scaring gulls were entertaining to watch, a couple yellowlegs (both species) and two semipalmated plovers moved around the beach all morning, and trying to turn a double-crested cormorant into a neotropic is always a fun diversion.

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Semiaplamted Plover

The shorebird activity seemed to have mostly burned off by afternoon however and, except for a flyby sanderling, nothing much more of note was seen and I eventually headed back to Pittsburgh. August had temporarily satiated my burning desire for birds and successfully braced me oncoming onslaught of migrants.

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