Once again I joined Dave Hursh and James Orrico for an exciting day at South Beach in Chatham, Mass. My family was staying in the Cape so for James and I the ride was short. After a ride out to the South Beach tip we started birding immediately. Many other birders were present and I felt assured the beach would be well-covered, in case anything unexpected were to turn up.
On the ride out I noted American Oystercatcher, Least Tern and Scoter sp. (unfortunately we were going too fast). When we arrived we picked up such birds as Sanderling, Semipalmated Plover,“Eastern” Willet and a flyby Whimbrel picked out by call, before moving on down the beach.
When we reached the first Cove, the skills we had added at Jamaica Bay paid off. We added 3 White-rumped Sandpipers in quick succession then notched Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs. Good looks were also obtained of our second Whimbrel of the day. A flock of Horned Larks flew by as did a far off Northern Harrier over the dunes.
The second cove was where the flocks were and we spent around 3 hours here studying them. When we entered a Whimbrel was seen in the dunes, a large flock of terns contained over 30 Roseates as well as a few Least Terns. After scanning a large flock of shorebirds with no stand outs (where are those Westerns??) we broke for lunch.
James and I recently purchased small chairs to use when birding and it was very nice to have a dry seat. While eating we scoped out some beautiful Roseate Terns. Now that’s birding!
After lunch, the shorbs at the other side of the Cove were beckoning, so we moved there. Along with another group from Western Mass (including Andrew Magee who I birded with in Maine last year) we scoped out 6 Hudsonian Godwits (had 8 on the day) and 2 Marbled Godwits. We got a terrific chance to compare these birds, something I don’t often get to do. The difference between these two birds amazes me every time I see them together. Marbled Godwits are HUGE in comparison to the almost Dowitcher-sized Hudwits. By shape and bulk makes it a pie of cake for differentiating Hudsonian and Marbled Godwits.
We also got great looks at a mixed flock of Red Knots, Black-bellied Plovers and Short-billed Dowitchers. Some of the knots had still retained much of the red-orange on their underparts while others had almost lost it completely.
After getting looks at the shorb flocks we headed back the way we came. Before leaving the cove, we decided to scope the tern flock once more. I was about 3/4 of the way through I immediately spotted a bird I know that was different, structurally as well as plumage-wise. It was visibly smaller, had a different shaped cap and darker back. “Black Tern!” I shouted. Dave and James ran over to take a look. For the next 30 minutes or so we enjoyed great looks at the juvenile Black Tern as it preened and slept.
After spending some time with the tern, we had to move fast if we wanted to get back in time. We stopped to look a close feeding Hudwit.
In the first Cove, we encountered a very close flock of feeding terns. James noted the larger fish had driven the bait fish into the shallows and the terns we taking advantage of it. Even though we were rushing to get back we had to stop for a minute to enjoy the show. Everywhere we looked terns were diving into the water and coming out with large fish. Soon the flock had grown much larger as terns from far and wide came to take advantage of the feast. WOW!!
We had to pull ourselves away from the show in order to get back in time. However, large flocks of terns and gulls were scattered over the entire beach and we had to resist the temptation to scan each one. We did stop to scan one very large flock, though and Dave was able to locate our second Black Tern of the day, this one an adult. (Sorry no photos as we were literally running down the beach)
Soon we reached the meeting spot and departed, tired from a long day, but very satisfied.
Shorb totals by Dave and I:
Black-bellied Plover (175) mostly in large flock in 2nd lagoon
Piping Plover (8)
Semipalmated Plover (375++)
American Oystercatcher (20)
Greater Yellowlegs (30)
Lesser Yellowlegs (5)
Willet (25) Including several “Westerns”
Hudsonian Godwits (8) 2nd Cove
Marbled Godwit (2) 2nd Cove
Ruddy Turnstone (100+)
Red Knot (200) 2nd Cove
White-rumped Sandpiper (15)
Semipalmated Sandpiper (900+)
Least Sandpiper (350+)
Short-billed Dowitcher (50+) REALLY LOW NUMBERS!
Another great day of shorebirding!