Shorebirds on the movePosted on August 2nd, 2010 Add a comment >>
Shorebirds(by that I mean the family of birds made up of sandpipers, plovers, and related species) are slowly winging their way south from that magical region in Canada known as the tundra. Having arrived there in mid to late May, shorebirds quickly take advantage of the sun-warmed tundra surface to breed.
It’s not always that welcoming in the tundra with the occasional late spring snowstorm that arrives or the lingering snow-pac and ice still clinging to the shorelines of many tundra lakes and ponds. But a breeding pair usually find a soft, protected spot of tundra ground to hollow-out and call home.
The shorebirds endure the often chilly days and nights and eventually produce eggs and successfully brood/hatch 2 to 3 young on average, during June and early July. Again, the dangers of tundra living await the young in the forms of predatory falcons, jaegers, fox, and the fearless gulls that come looking for an easy meal.
Once reaching fully-fledged status, the young are on their own(can fly after about 20 days). In the paradoxical world of idyllic settings of nature, we find many bird species (after a few quick lessons in feeding) leaving their young to fend for themselves.
Shorebird females are usually the first to leave the breeding grounds, then the males, followed by the “hatch-year” young a couple weeks later. All eventually “regroup” on the wintering grounds of coastal South America(Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil)
OK, but how do the Adirondacks enter into this amazing migration pattern? Well, we are not on a huge flyway for shorebird migration but we do get few winging their way over the Eastern Adirondacks, specifically along the Lake Champlain Valley.
On this map you can find Hudson Bay, and it’s smaller “tongue” of James Bay, directly north of the Great Lakes. Many shorebirds nest along the shorelines of these bays and nearby tundra. During the “fall” migration south(from late July to late September) many species of shorebird use a direct flight path from James Bay south through Ontario and Quebec, and are often funneled down through the Champlain Valley, eventually reaching the Hudson Valley and out to the Atlantic Ocean. Once on the ocean, most shorebirds make a bee-line for S. America!
Where should I look for shorebirds? In the agricultural fields of eastern Clinton and Essex Co’s., and over in Addison Co., VT, take a look at newly-plowed fields. It gets even better if there is standing water along the rows of the fields. This draws out the insects from the mud and reveals a good food source for the shorebirds.
One notable migration stop-over site is Noblewood Park, in Willsboro, NY. Slowly walk out onto the sand spit that builds-up at the mouth of the Boquet River. In mid August to late September, look carefully for some shorebirds and gulls sitting along the sand-spit.
Just watching one sandpiper feeding along the shore allows you a glimpse into the monumental journey that these bird make twice a year from Canadian tundra to the warm beaches of a South American winter.
Photo credit: Semipalmated sandpiper – Wikipedia photo
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