Searching the Salt Marsh

Posted by Jane N on

Hello Everyone,
Well, the time has come, the lazy days of summer are over, school starts tomorrow. It has been a great summer for birding the weather has been fantastic, the best it's been for a long time. To end these last couple of days of freedom I thought I would head to the ocean and explore the salt marshes for migrating waterfowl.
I went to Plum Island on Friday and scored a couple of new birds. I was walking along Hellcat trail when I saw a group of people in a clearing. It doesn't take much to figure out that when you see a group of people with telephoto lenses and spotting scopes that there must be something interesting to look at. There along the edge of the marsh was a pair of Whimbrels, they belong to the Sandpiper family but are one of the largest with a long downward curved bill. What is most interesting is that they don't live in New England, they are just passing through on their migration from their breeding grounds in Canada to their winter home on the Gulf Coast.
To escape the heat and get out of the sun I headed for the bird blind to cool off. I was rewarded with another new sighting. Again there were fellow birds set up with scopes and I was able to see a small flock of Wilson's Phalarope resting in the marsh. These birds are also in the Sandpiper family just passing through to their southern winter homes. I sort of felt like I was cheating, I didn't really find either of these new birds, I just came upon fellow birds who shared their findings.
Saturday was another beautiful day so I decided to head to Cape Neddick, Maine to do some more salt marsh birding. The tide was dead low and knew I could hang out at Chris's trailer for the day and have plenty of time for birding. I sat on a stone wall at the edge of the marsh for nearly and hour, there were all sorts of bird activity to watch. Because the tide was so low the marsh was down to a thin trough of water teaming with fish. It was easy pickings for many birds.
I watched as a Belted Kingfisher made repeated dives into the water for small fish. There were Ring Billed Gulls & Herring Gulls fighting over fish and small crabs. There were flocks of Semipalmated Plovers flying back and forth in formation feeding on small fish. There were Tree Swallows swooping low over the mud flats for small bugs and a Common Night Hawk chasing the Tree Swallows.
But the best sighting of the day was the most unexpected. As I sat and watched the activity on the mud flats of the salt marsh just out of the corner of my eye I spotted movement along the marsh edge. There emerging from the cover of the reeds was a Least Bittern. The Least Bittern is a very secretive member of the Heron family and I have been trying to find one all summer. He lingered in the open for about 5 minutes then just as suddenly disappeared back into the thick reeds.
I still have until December 31st to add new birds to my Big Year list but now that the summer is over I won't have as much time for birding. But I'm always scanning the woods and sky for new birds.
Current Big Year Total.......215
Happy Birding, Jane

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