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Marsh Check at INWR and a Pectoral Sandpiper

Published August 13, 2013
Tags: Life List Happenings, Pectoral Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, Spotted Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Semipalmated Plover, Black-bellied Plover, Killdeer, Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Bald Eagle, Osprey, Northern Harrier, Red-tailed Hawk, Great Blue Heron, Green Heron, Great Egret, Belted Kingfisher, Common Gallinule, Mallard, Northern Pintail, Pied-billed Grebe, Hooded Merganser, Wood Duck, Double-crested Cormorant, Northern Flicker, Cedar Waxwing, Swamp Sparrow, Eastern Wood-pewee, Eastern Kingbird, Willow Flycatcher, Belted Kingfisher, Northern Rough-winged Swallows, Tree Swallows, Barn Swallows, Purple Martins, Caspian Tern

It was my great pleasure to accompany Celeste Morien on a marsh check at Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge this morning. We collected data on all water birds for marshes on the federal land in the refuge for the Integrated Waterbird Management and Monitoring Program, and also submitted our findings to eBird, which included all birds noted.

Our morning began at 6 AM at the refuge headquarters where we loaded our gear into one of the four-wheel drive trucks and headed out to the marshes. It was a mix of eerie and "cool" to be out at the hour when dawn was just breaking through a misty rain.  A Red-tailed Hawk surprised us both as it flew from its hidden perch, gracefully disappearing behind the thick leaves of a tree down the dark road.  A beaver emerged from one of the ponds as we slowly drove by, giving us some very nice views of his hefty form. And just down from there, we caught sight of a young Common Gallinule as it walked into the reeds.  We were in another world altogether.

I think I can speak for both of us when I say our highlight was watching a young Black-crowned Night Heron devour a fish. Celeste's sharp eyes caught sight of the juvenile and we were able to creep quite close, quietly photographing on the way, as he wrestled his meal down his enormous throat.

Another highlight was seeing a young Bald Eagle visiting the nest he most certainly fledged from. An adult was perched nearby and the two soared together for awhile - and then the young eagle returned to the nest of its birth.

A few days earlier, Celeste had "promised" me a Pectoral Sandpiper - and she delivered! This was a life bird for me and I finally ended up getting some great views on our third encounter with one. The Pectoral Sandpiper has a well defined "bib" of sorts that separates the darker upper breast from the white lower, underside. Its crown is a bit darker too.  Pectorals are promiscuous birds; males will mate with multiple females and females with multiple males.

We also saw several other species of shorebirds: Least Sandpipers, Spotted Sandpipers, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Semipalmated Plovers, 2 Black-bellied Plovers (one had lost a lot of its breeding plumage but the other was still quite black), and Killdeer.

We flushed a Common Gallinule and her 3 young ones and, shortly after that, we flushed a Northern Harrier, which I haven't seen in a few months. We also saw more Wood Ducks than I've ever seen on any one day and there were many Double-crested Cormorants - 48 of them spread out and "hanging" along the branches of the bare trees at one misty location.

Many other birds of note were seen today, including: Ospreys, Great Blue Herons, Green Herons, Great Egrets, Belted Kingfisher, Mallards, Northern Pintail, Pied-billed Grebes, Hooded Merganser, Northern Flickers, Belted Kingfisher, Cedar Waxwings, Swamp Sparrows, Song Sparrows, Eastern Wood-pewee, Eastern Kingbird, Willow Flycatcher, Northern Rough-winged Swallows, Tree Swallows, Barn Swallows, Purple Martins, Ring-billed Gulls, and Caspian Terns.

A very quick stop at Batavia Waste Water Treatment Plant didn't bring much at all; it was surprisingly devoid of birds.  Other than many Bank Swallows, I only found a few Spotted Sandpipers, a few Canada Geese, about 15 Mallards, a very few Ring-billed Gulls, a few Great Blue Herons, 1 Green Heron, and 3 Double-crested Cormorants.
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Juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron
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Here, the heron struggles to get a good grip on the fish
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The fish is down the hatch; notice the bulge on the heron's throat?
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All done!
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And off he goes: the young heron flew off!
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Young Bald Eagle at its nest
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Great Blue Heron
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Poorly lit Belted Kingfisher
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Young Common Gallinule
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The flushed momma Common Gallinule
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Lesser Yellowlegs
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Pectoral Sandpiper (my life bird today)
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Pectoral Sandpiper
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Pectoral Sandpiper
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One of the 2 Black-bellied Plovers we saw today.
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Double-crested Cormorant
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Beautiful Double-crested Cormorants hangin' in the marsh
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Celeste looking for shorebirds
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Bank Swallow at BWWTP
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Bank Swallow at BWWTP
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Cedar Waxwing at BWWTP
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Juvenile Cedar Waxwing at BWWTP
Reply from: Gale VerHague on 8/13/2013 9:48 PM
 How fun! Sounds like a great morning!