My Bird Blog: A blog about my birding discoveries, bird feeders, birds on my life lists, and all things bird related

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A Whimbrel and Ruddy Turnstones on Lake Erie

Published May 27, 2013
Tags: Life List Happenings, Ruddy Turnstone, Whimbrel, Black-bellied Plover, Least Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Dunlin, Warbling Vireo, Great Crested Flycatcher

I got a little more education on shorebirds today while birding along the north shore of Lake Erie. Whimbrels have a narrow window of migration in our region, and we knew the window was closing within the next day or two.  Some say there is only about four days that they'll be moving through. If we wanted to try for one, it had to be today or tomorrow.

At our first couple of stops in Port Colbourne, we didn't find any Whimbrels, but a little further west at Point Morgan, we did get a lifer for me, a very cool Ruddy Turnstone!  Several, actually.  Ruddy Turnstones are very handsome birds with a nice blend of a ruddy / reddish brown along with patterns of black and white. They're named for the ruddy color and for the fact that they turn stones over with their beaks as they search for crustaceans to eat.

When I finally tore my eyes away from the turnstones, I began to see other peeps and shorebirds: Dunlin, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Spotted Sandpipers, and Killdeer. We also saw some Caspian Terns, Red-breasted Merganser, Mallards, Double-crested Cormorants, and I'm sure another one or two I'm forgetting.

Further west, at Rock Point Provincial Park, we saw my first Whimbrel! I got my eyes and bins on it right away, just knowing it was a lifer. It took the expert eyes of Doug Happ to confirm the ID. The Whimbrel's long, curved beak was very cool.  And s/he was standing right next to a Black-bellied Plover!

Interesting facts: a Whimbrel is so defensive of its young, it will actually attack a human if someone gets too close to its nest. And some Whimbrels make a 2500 mile nonstop flight from southern Canada or New England down to South America.  Nonstop!

A little hike through the rest of the beach area and park brought more Dunlin (close to 400 for the day!), more sandpipers, terns, cormorants, lots of Rough-winged Northern Swallows, Purple Martins, a Bank Swallow, a Great-crested Flycatcher, Eastern Wood-Pewee, and Warbling Vireo.

Driving back, we topped off the day by checking-in at the Dunnville-Mosaic Esterhazy Lagoons. There, we found a pair of Trumpeter Swans and a couple more Black-bellied Plovers.
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A Black-bellied Plover (left) and a Whimbrel along the nothern shore of Lake Erie
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Ruddy Turnstone - another life bird
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Ruddy Turnstone
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Ruddy Turnstones
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Ruddy Turnstone
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Caspian Terns
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Semipalmated Sandpipers and Dunlin
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Killdeer
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Least Sandpiper
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Semipalmated Sandpiper
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Northern Rough-winged Swallow
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Warbling Vireo