Thursday, August 1, 2013

They're Back!

Who's back?

Shorebirds are back!

Today was beautiful. Mid-80s this morning, with a slight breeze. Humidity was moderate and tolerable. Sun was shining. Just a perfect morning to head out to Blackwell Swamp over at Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge.

I was on the search for ONE thing though: Shorebirds. And boy, did I find them!

The thing about Blackwell Swamp is you drive through woods practically the entire way to the actual swamp. The swamp is in a clearing, but still in the woods. Normally, there are tons of herons and egrets at the swamp, but this morning it was eerily silent. One Great Blue Heron fished in the distance.


So, I drove on. Once you get past the swamp area, and through the trees, there starts to be cropland to the right side of the road. On the left is the Tennessee River. Now, I chose here because of these croplands. Most are nothing but mudflats, and with the rain we had, I expected some water to be laying in the fields.

My expectations were correct.

But what took my breath away wasn't shorebirds, it was the sheer number of Great and Snowy Egrets. 108 Great Egrets, 15 Snowy Egrets, and at least one immature Little Blue Heron. They coated the farmland, every which way you looked, an Egret was standing or flying. It was amazing. I don't think many people would argue against the beauty and majesty of these birds.

Finally, we get to visible mudflats (crops were blocking the ones in the distance), and I kept my eye out in the puddles for movement. The first few mudflats were void of any shorebirds... but once we rounded the first bend past the creek that shoots off the river....

Dozens. All over. Killdeer, Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Pectoral, and Least Sandpipers scattered in the flats. I decided to try to hike through the soybean field, careful not to harm any of the plants (especially since you're technically not supposed to walk in the crop fields.... oops!). This helped get IDable photos, though they're nothing I would share with you here.

This is my eBird checklist (50 species in 2 hours on the first of August? I'll take it!):

Still on the hunt for Avocets, which were recently reported at Wheeler. Maybe I will check in next week and see what other birds will show up. Tonight, I leave for my long-awaited trip to Dauphin Island. Check back in the next couple of days for my report!

Until next time....
Happy birding to all of you!

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