What came after the WSB: Shorebirds!

After the whirlwind day, and not much sleep, you’d expect normal people to sleep in.  But not us.  We were again up at daybreak and heading out to the meadows.  But first, of course, we had to get a White-eyed Vireo in the motel parking lot.  At the meadows there was a dense covering of fog, and most of the birds were hidden, but we did see 2 Short-billed Dowitchers, Least Tern, and an  Orchard Oriole.  Before we could go any further, a bolt of lighting lit up the sky and a downpour followed, getting us all wet but soaking me to the bone, as I was the only one who wasn’t wearing rain gear.  We had to go back to the car.  Our next stop was Reeds Beach, for the Horseshoe Crab/shorebird spectacle.  The very high tide the night before had my hopes up, because this high of a tide would mean the breeding Horseshoe crabs would come further up on the beach, laying there eggs further up in the sand, and thus making the eggs more accessible for shorebirds.  I was worried the rain would keep many of the birds away, but I needn’t have feared, as we drove the sun came out.

When we reached Reed’s, we couldn’t see the shoreline through all the beach houses, but we could hear them- the sound of thousands of Laughing Gulls, one of the main predators of horseshoe crab eggs.  At the end of a pot-hole filled road we reached the point where you could access the beach.  Boat-tailed Grackles and Forster’s Terns were numerous, but the real stars were the Laughing Gulls.  They were everywhere.  There tightly packed bodies blanketed the beach, the filled the air, and there sound droned out all others.  All the birds were in high breeding plumage- they had the white around the eye, and you could even see the pink tinge on their breast only high-breeding birds have.  We immediately took out our scopes and began scanning the gulls for shorebirds, primarily Red Knot.  Red Knots are uncommon (and declining) shorebirds that make one of the most incredible migrations on the planet.  These birds winter in Tierra Del Fuego, and breed on the arctic tundra.  The Delaware bayshore is one of the most important stops for the Red Knot, as this is timed perfectly with the Horseshoe Crab spawning so that they can feed and fatten up for the remaining portion of their migration.  We scanned for a while and soon my dad spotted a group of Red Knots of in the crowd.  We all got pretty good looks and spent a while looking at them and our surrounding area, marveling at the the pure awesomeness of the place we were in and the spectacle we were seeing, which made even the pestering gnats bearable.  Eventually we had to move on.  We stopped at a tiny little gap in the houses and looked over the beach close beside us.  We couldn’t believe our eyes. There was  a whole flock of Beautiful Red Knots right in front of us, along with Dunlin, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Sanderling, Ruddy Turnstones, and of course, more Laughing Gulls.  So we spent a while at that little spot before moving on to our next stop, the Heislerville Marshes.

Photos of the Spectacle below.

There are lots of Laughing Gulls on this beach

LOTS of Laughing Gulls

Yeah. Laughing Gulls

Did I mention there were Laughing gulls?

OK. Let's search for a Franklin's! (oh yeah... and there are some Dunlins too.)

"Uhh.. is it just me, or did the world just turn Black and White?"

And you wonder why there are no Beach goers in May...

Oh, finally, some Red Knots!.... and Turnstones! Oh- and Semipalms too!

Red Knots are one cool shorebird

(From left to right): Ruddy Turnstone, Red Knot, Dunlin, Semipalmated Sandpiper.

So, after that cool experience, we moved on to Heislerville.  Heislerville had had some cool birds around, primarily 3 Curlew Sandpiper and 1 Red-necked Phalarope, tipped off to us by our friend Chris Vogel.  The Curlew Sands would be lifers (I had seen the phalarope out west), so I was excited.  Even though we searched for a while, we couldn’t find either birds, but still saw tons of shorebirds and got really good views (possibly even better than brig).  I’ll let the photos say it all.

Short-billed Dowitcher

SBDO

Skimmers

Black-bellied Plover

Semipalmated Plover

So, we had to leave the shorebirds.  We drove up through Jersey, reached Steve and Linda’s house, gave our goodbyes, and then my dad and I headed back to CT, tired after a long weekend of birding.  We might have stayed longer, but we had to get home because my dad had to prepare for his big bird art show on Saturday at the Greene art Gallerely in Guilford.  For those who don’t know about it, here:

It will be a great show, so come on down!  I’ll be at the opening, so it would be great to see you!

Keep Birding!

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