Thursday, 11 December 2014

Shorebirds on the move

One of the delights for birders in Southern Ontario is the variety of shorebirds that pass through the Great Lakes region in migration in every Spring and Fall.  In Northumberland County this is especially true of the shores and wet areas of Presqu'ile Provincial Park and the area of Cobourg Harbour, as well other suitable places nearby, such as the the Lake Street Marsh in Port Hope and the big pond at Garden Hill.
Migrating Dunlin in breeding plumage (May 26, 2014)
On their way North to breed, Dunlin are quite colourful, as seen in the pictures (above and below) which were taken when over 1000 Dunlin were on the beach at Presqu'ile Park, in late May 2014.
Dunlins having a chat at lunchtime
Earlier, in mid-May, I photographed a single Dunlin, in the company of a Ruddy Turnstone and a Semi-palmated Sandpiper, in Cobourg Harbour. 
As reported in the previous posting, in mid-July, Cobourg Harbour was visited by an aberrant Dunlin, one that exhibited "Leucism" (reduced pigmentation).  Not totally white or colourless, it showed pale rusty patches where a normal Dunlin would be most coloured.
When Dunlins return in the fall, on their way South to their wintering grounds on the Eastern Seaboard, they are mostly dull grey-brown, and much less attractive.
Dunlin in non-breeding plumage (November 15 and 17, 2011)
Another common shorebird that migrates through our area is the Sanderling. 
Sanderling in non-breeding plumage, wintering in Texas (2011).
White-rumped Sandpiper, hiding behind a juvenile Sanderling, at Presqu'ile Park (September 23, 2013).
The mixed flock below consists mainly of Sanderlings, along with a Semi-palmated Plover (front, left) and two or more Semi-palmated Sandpipers (front, centre and in the main group).
Sanderlings on a  beach on Tybee Island, Georgia
Another mixed group of waders at Presqu'ile: a Sanderling (back left), two Semi-palmated Plovers (back right and left front), two White-rumped Sandpipers (in the middle distance).
Semi-palmated plovers can be quite feisty, at times (as below).  
Below are a Least Sandpiper and Pectoral Sandpiper, many of which pass through Presqu'ile Park, every year.
Much less common in Southern Ontario are Buff-breasted Sandpipers which migrate from the Arctic Islands mainly through the prairies and central plains, all the way to the Pampas of South America.  The one below was on Owen Point in Presqu'ile Park, on September 2, 2011. 
Short-billed Dowitchers (below) are medium sized waders with long bills for probing mud. They pass through on their way from the lowlands of James Bay, heading for Caribbean islands and the northern shores of South America.  
Whimbrel are even larger waders, and every year some pass through, though often far out over Lake Ontario. Some come to land for a rest, as did these two on Presqu'ile beach.  
Another occasional visitor is the American Avocet, which is basically a western species.  In May 2013, we had one showing its breeding plumage and a second in September 2013, wearing non-breeding garb, both in Cobourg Harbour.
More photographs of these species and others can found in the albums for Presqu'ile Park and Cobourg Harbour in my photo sets on Flickr

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