I know I have been writing a lot about shorebirds this late summer, and I will continue today. It’s just that this year has been so exceptional for the presence of appropriate habitat for this group of birds that I may not get to tell you about them very much again for a few years.
The continuing drought has expanded the exposed mud at Lake Norman and along the Catawba River, resulting in habitat not seen in this area for some time. The relationship between birds and habitat can be summed up simply; “If you supply it, they will come.”
I hopped in my car as soon as I got home from work last Tuesday and headed for the Wilkinson Boulevard bridge over the Catawba River. I had gotten word that a couple of pectoral sandpipers, semipalmated sandpipers, and semipalmated plovers had all been seen there in the last couple of days. As soon as I arrived I spotted two semipalmated plovers just south of the bridge. These small plovers are dressed somewhat similar to our common year-round resident plover the killdeer, but are much smaller.
I walked north along the river’s edge under the bridge and continued on for a few hundred more yards where I could look across a cove onto a grassy flat that held more shorebirds. Another semipalmated plover was there, along with some least sandpipers and one semipalmated sandpiper. Two much larger birds strode into view. These were the pectoral sandpipers, a very nice bird to see here nowadays.
I checked the birds off my County Year List and decided to make a dash for Lake Norman to look for a short-billed dowitcher discovered just a few hours earlier. I arrived at 8:02 p.m. and was able to make out the distinctive silhouette of a dowitcher on the causeway flat. There are two species of dowitcher that might appear here, the long-billed and short-billed. The short-billed is the most expected but it is still a very good bird to see here.
It was a very successful two hours of birding but I am concerned the abundance of shorebird habitat is distracting me from checking out the land bird migration which is in full swing now too. It is a nice dilemma to have.
Taylor Piephoff is a naturalist with an interest in the birds and wildlife of the southern Piedmont: PiephoffT@aol.com. Check out his blog at piedmontbirding.blogspot.com