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A Whimbrel Visits!

Published September 16, 2017
Tags: General Observations, Whimbrel

For several years now, I've been looking for a Whimbrel for my Erie County list.  I've seen them in other counties and others have seen them here in Erie County.  But never have I been able to catch up to one in my own county!

All Whimbrel sightings I've heard about or read about in Erie County were in bad weather situations - where big wind events or harsh rain storms put the bird(s) down on a beach or breakwall where they sit to ride out the storm.  So, storm after storm, I'd go out and scope and scan the beaches and breakwalls along the Niagara River and Lake Erie hoping to see that silhouette of a storm-blown Whimbrel, its long, decurved bill identifying it in the dim light.  And storm after storm, all I got for my effort was wet, wing-blown, and cold.

Oddly, on a sunny, warm, and beautiful day a couple of weeks ago, my dream came true.  I had just finished some early morning birding down at the Outer Harbor in Buffalo and I was in my car finalizing my checklist.  As I put my key in the ignition, I gave one last glance out the side window.  What?  OMG!!!  There, as plain as can be and as big as life, was a Whimbrel.  (I'm glad I wasn't eating anything or I'd have choked on it!)  Trying to calm myself and force myself to think clearly, I fumbled with my camera to get at least a documentation photo. I didn't think this mirage would last and expect it to fly off  any second.  I took some photos right through the closed car window - then, as I began to breathe a little more normally, I got a few better shots through an open window.

Strangely, the bird remained on the ground and to my surprise, it slowly started foraging along a path near the water.  Holy cow, maybe I can get some more photos.  I slowly got out of my car and began, what turned out to be an hour's worth of "documentation" photos.  I was enraptured by this bird, my unicorn!

As it turned out, this bird didn't leave right away as I assumed it would.  This beauty stuck around for 8 incredible days (Sept. 6th - Sept. 14th), giving many folks the opportunity to visit it.  Wow!
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One of my first shots of this beautiful shorebird
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Right away, it began searching for worms, grasshoppers, and whatever tasty delicacies it could find!
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A trusting bird - but I still maintained a respectful distance - these photos are all at 600mm and heavily cropped.
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Whimbrel
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A dog walker flushed the Whimbrel and it took a short flight to the rocky wall of the harbor.
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Taking another short flight...
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Such a striking bird!
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This was taken on Day 3
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The Whimbrel escaping the a Peregrine Falcon's fast and furious attempt to catch it!
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Not only was this bird getting "loved to death" by many photographers, there were at least 3 foxes nearby that I feared would hunt the Whimbrel.