Shorebird Turnover – Weekend Highlights

Too many stories to tell from a day’s birding. So this post will be to prove to myself that my statements on migration and shorebird turnover are accurate.

Story 1

To prove the point, I visited the local shorebird spot Friday PM, Saturday AM, again Saturday after the passing of the Cold Front, and Sunday morning.

Luckily I was mostly correct and there was turnover in shorebirds.

On the Friday Evening’s and on the early Saturday AM visits the BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER was still present from last weekend along with some SEMIPALMATED PLOVERS which had arrived earlier in the week.

Molting Black-bellied Plover

But the number of KILLDEER from Friday to Saturday had dropped from 100 to around 10. Did they fly in front of the front or go somewhere else locally?

Numerous Killdeer with Black-Bellied Plover
Semipalmated Plovers with Least Sandpiper

The Cold Front came through around noon Saturday and on the afternoon visit the Black-bellied Plover was gone. Killdeer numbers were still low but there were now LESSER YELLOWLEGS and PECTORAL SANDPIPERS present. This was still the case Sunday.

So a passing front does lead to shorebird turnover.

Story 2

Even though the forecast was for heavy rain Saturday I headed out anyway. I follow the old axiom to “Bird in the worst weather”. And I’m glad I did.

After leaving the shorebird site I headed to Driftwood SFA and then on to Johnson County Park. My goal at those locations were birds that will be leaving soon. But that will be the next blog.

Just before I arrived at JCP it started to rain. I parked by the small pond and did a quick check for shorebirds. Nothing.

Fast forward to an hour later and I’m still sitting in the car at the same spot watching the strong thunderstorm end. Putting the window down I hear the “peek-peek” of a SPOTTED SANDPIPER.

Spotted Sandpiper with friend.

Not only had the storm forced down the Spotted Sandpiper but a dozen SOLITARY SANDPIPERS.

SOSA Shorebird Turnover
A few of the dozen Solitary Sandpipers forced down by the storm.
SOSA (8)
Solitary Sandpipers with Semipalmated Sandpiper. Note the Solitary’s needle like bill.

I have experienced this a couple of times previously.  During migration if there is a Cold Front coming through and there is a strong storm, immediately go out and check flooded fields, shorebird spots, etc. The odds are there will be grounded shorebirds that won’t be hanging around long.

I didn’t see anything uncommon but one never knows.

Story 3

A late weekend addition. Sunday night I watched 4 COMMON NIGHTHAWKS feed in the neighborhood. These must be migrants following the Cold Front since the only one seen in the neighborhood this summer was in late July.

CONI (14)
Common Nighthawk

CONI (17) CONI (19) CONI (20) CONI (22)


A Quest My Good Man

I think I have been very good not using Monty Python references in this blog. If you are even a small fan of Monty Python you know you can reference anything to their skits. Today though I say the heck with it. I’m on a Common Nighthawk Quest.

That’s right my good man. A quest for Common Nighthawks.

OK. No more Monty Python in case you don’t get the reference.

CONI 090111 Common Nighthawk
On a country road in Illinois I came across a small flock of Common Nighthawks foraging. They would fly from field to field over road. LaSalle County IL 9/1/11

After whiffing on the EASTERN WHIP-POOR-WILLS I got thinking about Common Nighthawks. I don’t have a “go to” location in Johnson County for nighthawks and that bothers me.

I have participated in 3 IAS Summer Counts and have only seen 1 nighthawk on those counts. This seems strange because the little town we lived in Illinois had three locations.

  1. The old Kmart plaza built-in the 1960’s.
  2. The High School that is 80 years old.
  3. Over some old buildings in the small downtown

What do these three locations have in common? Old, GRAVEL, flat roofs. The kind nighthawks LIKE to nest.

And what does my new, urban environment have? Lots of new, RUBBER, flat roofs. The kind nighthawks DON’T LIKE.

It’s no wonder Common Nighthawks are on the decline. Not enough to be on a watch list but enough to be concerned. One thought is the change from the flat, gravel roofs to the rubber roofs.

CONI'S 090111 A Quest
I wish I would have had the new camera for this encounter. LaSalle County IL 9/1/11

I will now to turn my quest to the “older” section of Greenwood versus the newer area I usually bird. There are some old strip malls and an old Kmart that might proof fruitful. I’ll also check the two small towns that have limited downtown areas but might have gravel roofs.

So for fun, one more Monty Python reference.

Bridgekeeper: What… is your quest?

Sir Lancelot: To seek the Holy Grail Common Nighthawk.

I’m sure I’ll let you know if I succeed in my quest. My good man.