9/25 – Fall at South Beach

Wayward birders journey to South Beach in the fall for hopes of a rarity. And a good time!

Dave Hursh, Jim Orrico and I spent the last Saturday of September at South Beach, one of my favorite birding spots. This trip was led by Mark Faherty for the Cape Cod Bird Club’s Weekend. We enjoyed a fantastic showing of later-fall migrants and winter residents as well as some birds that still felt the warmth of summer.

The ride out was extremely bumpy on a very windy day. After landing we were surprised to find almost nothing at the South End Lagoons. It was very disappointing and many of us, especially Mark were worried about the prospects of the day. We spent some time watching some Dunlin, Least Sandpipers, and Ruddy Turnstone before continuing our journey up the beach.

On the way, Mark spotted a bird foraging with a Least Sandpiper along the wrack line. It was larger with a very streaky breast and long pointed wings. Pectoral Sandpiper. The bird soon took off and landed it the grass but we were able to find it again and get good photos. Again it flew, again we found it again. So close I could have touched it will my tripod.

Hidden amongst the grass: Pectoral Sandpiper

Shorebird numbers slowly began to improve and soon we were running into decent sized foraging flocks of smaller peeps, Dunlins, and SemiP Plovers.

1 Dunlin retaining much of its breeding garb, accompanied by a Semipalmated Plover and a Dunlin with a bit of breeding color left.

The Dunlin with a bit of his color left accompanied by a bird that has molted into basic plumage, juvenile, perhaps?

We continued along, content after getting some good study time in with the PecSand. Someone said “What’s that?” and pointed to a group of American Oystercatchers way up the beach. “Marbled Godwit,” Mark called. It was far, but a good scope look. This was one bird I was definitely NOT expecting, seeing as there hadn’t been any reported in the region for a couple weeks.

While we were watching the godwit, Dave and I picked out two White-rumped Sandpipers, one of my favorite shorebirds. We were able to obtain great looks and it would continue the trend of having multiple good birds in view at once.

2 White-rumped Sandpipers

After the White-rumps our walk continued. We headed “inland” when Mark called out, “American Golden-Plover! There’s two more” We raced over. A lifer for Dave and very exciting birds to get. The American Golden-Plovers were on close view and allowed for detailed study.

American Golden-Plover

Unfortunately, I was never able to get all three in the frame at the same time

While the group was enjoying the Golden-Plovers, Mark spotted yet another highlight. 2 Lesser Black-backed Gulls! Late summer-fall is a great time of year for the Black-backed Gulls at South Beach. These two were good looking adults and over the next few minutes I went back and forth between the Plovers and the Lesser Black-backed. Decisions, decisions!

Lesser and Great Black-backed Gull comparison

But we had to move along if we didn’t want to be running back. Moving up the beach, we noted a tern that looked much like a Roseate. At this time of year, terns are tough to ID. This bird was never confirmed, however. Take a look for yourself.

pos. Roseate Tern; note the pointed bill, long tail, etc.

We also got better looks at the Marbled Godwit:

Marbled Gowit among American Oystercatcher

Now, with time running low we headed to the ocean side in hopes or turning up a pelagic or two. The wind was really kicking up at this point and sometimes the sand actually stung when it was blown against your legs. Once there we enjoyed the barrage and had hundreds of Gray Seals hauled out on the beach in view. Several dozen curious seals looked at us from the safety of the water.

Hauled Out Gray Seals

Gray Seal

But we had to ignore our friends for a minute and concentrate on scanning. A Great Shearwater soon came into view among the feeding terns. We noted it’s tell-tale flight of above the horizon, below, above, below. Large numbers of White-winged Scoters flew past, and a few Common Loons appeared. Suddenly, a Parasitic Jaeger appeared and began chasing a tern. In the next few minutes we witnessed an incredible chase in which eventually the Jaegar prevailed and stole the tern’s catch.

It was time to get moving. On the way back we relocated the American Golden-Plovers as well as 2 more Lesser Black-backed Gulls. There were also some Horned Larks feeding in the grass and a Short-billed Dowitcher in a lagoon.

Lesser Black-backed Gull

A 16 shorebird day-on September 25! There’s no place like South Beach……..


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One Response to 9/25 – Fall at South Beach

  1. Dave says:

    AHHHHHH! What pics of the Marbled Godwit, Golden-Plovers, Lesser Black-backs, and Gray Seals! Some of your best pics ever! And a great post. Nice!

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