Posted in Atlantic Canada Birding

Chasing the Red Knots during the “crazy shorebird spring”

Chasing the Red Knots during the “crazy shorebird spring” Posted on May 15, 2016

It’s been a ‘crazy shorebird spring” this year in Nova Scotia.  Alix d’Entremont coined that phrase and I’m inclined to agree.

Alix or someone equally geekier about birds than me (yeah I just need time to catch up I’ll get there) might know why all I know at this point is we are getting a lot of “overshoots” mixed in with the typical flocks.

Naturally most of these landed in CSI (Cape Sable Island) such as the very rare Curlew Sandpipers, but the Eastern Shore is getting our share of good views as well.

The shorebirds are in good numbers and lingering for nice sightings which is really fun and I finally got to see a Red Knot which I totally missed last year.

Now I must confess it took me a lot of tries to find the Red Knot.  On May 9th I found a large number of shorebirds that had just flown in at low tide in the back bay at Hartlen Point.  I was pretty excited about it until I got home and looked at eBird and realized that David Currie had found Red Knots amidst the shorebirds.

We birders are always jealous about what we don’t see and a difficult to satisfy bunch it seems.  And so I went back again at low tide in the back bay and no luck.  Then my friend Diane came over to help me look and I tried at mid-tide but that was not the right time to check the back bay for shorebirds it turned out.  We did see two Black-bellied Plovers on the beach but didn’t realize at the time that we should have stayed there.  The Red Knots feed differently and would likely never have been found in the back bay in all likelihood.  I did eventually figure out that I needed to scour the beach and rocks at the beach up by the main road and as I approached the area where they were David hailed me over and I finally got to watch 4 of them for a good while feeding with the Black-bellied Plovers and Ruddy Turnstones just like the Sibley’s Guide said they should be.  Whew!

Thanks Dave for helping me finally find the Red Knots!

Now honestly in the meantime I had gone out to see them in Three Fathom Harbour because I was growing impatient to get my lifer!  With my new Border Collie tied to my waist I wandered out on the low tide flats watching a massive group of shorebirds and birding friend Liz Voellinger on the other side of the water scoping them.  After she got her fill of the view I texted her and she said it was okay to come over with the dog.  So we drove over and got a closer view although on this side there was a lot of glare.

Liz scoping the flock.

While all this was going on Andy De Champlain was on the way over to see if he might get a view of the Red Knots too but the tide covered the sandbars just as he approached and the birds flew off.  Sorry Andy!  But we did go to Conrad’s Beach on the way back and find some lovely Sanderlings who were firsts for the year for both of us.  Birding is usually full of disappointments and wonderful surprises, and rarely boring.

Andy smiling as always 🙂

Even though I’d seen the Red Knots twice that day I headed out one more time with a 3 birding friends to see them one more time in Three Fathom Harbour.  You only get so many sunny days full of migrants and good folk you know.

B, Angie, and Tony scoping the flats for Red Knots. Yes we found one!

I must say I really am enjoying seeing the Shorebirds in their breeding plumages as I didn’t really take much notice of them until later in summer and fall last year when they are much duller looking.  The Black-bellied Plover in particular are spectacular.

Silver Sands Beach is often deserted during weekdays so one morning I had a 2 hour walk with Macy tied to my waist and got to enjoy lots of Black-bellied Plovers and Dowitchers at low tide and watch the Barn Swallows flying over the beach.  Having the beach to yourself is always lovely but with all the great company but all the better with your best canine friend and some cool shorebirds.

A lovely Wilson’s Phalarope was found during the Migration Counts yesterday in Chezzetcook and spotted again this morning so I decided I would put the collie in the car and head out to find it.  It was good enough to put on a lovely show, I got to chat with two fellow birders in the field, and afterwards stopped for a nice walk with Macy as she was good enough to sit that one out in the car so we didn’t spook it.

I believe this is the first bird I’ve personally seen where the female has fancier breeding plumage than the male.  Typically, that is not the case so it was fun to learn this about this species and have that be new to me.
Wilson's Phalarope with Greater Yellowlegs - Shore Road - Chezzetcook - May 15, 2016

Both the Red Knot and the Wilson’s Phalarope were lifers and “Nova Scotia ticks” for me putting me at 197 for my NS ticks so I’m going a bit crazy hoping to hit 200.  That is a milestone I’ve had my eye on for a while and I know it’s going to get really hard after that and I don’t really have a next milestone in mind.  For the most part I just enjoy birding and learning about the behavior and habitat of the birds and being outdoors.  But I get to have one to strive for right?

Happy Migration Season.