Kennebunk Plains

By Seth Davis

Six young birders, including two new members (Jack and Weston) took to the plains this past Saturday despite the ominous forecast.  The evening began at 4:30 pm and we were greeted by a very vocal Northern Mocking bird mimicking the calls of cardinals, titmice, and Blue Jays.  Our goal was to see some of the less common sparrows including the state-endangered Grasshopper Sparrow,  as well as other notable birds like the state-endangered Upland Sandpipers, and Eastern Whip-poor-wills.  

We had an early success, with numerous Vesper Sparrows along the pathway, and we heard several Grasshopper Sparrow calls, though at the time we didn't get any solid views.  Seth spotted a bird that he was certain was a Grasshopper Sparrow, how ever Weston, being a very keen birder, pointed out that it was better for a Savannah Sparrow, and he was correct!  As we continued, a bird flew by that had a very "shorebirdy" profile.  Sure enough our first Upland Sandpiper!  It was a lifer for many!

We decided to move down toward the pond at the far side of the Kennebunk Plains.  We heard a Veery that was strangely close to the trail, several Common Yellowthroats, and a mystery bird that sounded an awful lot like a Eastern Wood-pewee, however it was too repetitive of a song to be confirmed.  

We continued around a loop and came upon a good sized patch of blueberries, so we decided to take a break and have a snack.  Around that time Weston got an excellent shot of a Grasshopper Sparrow and we were able to get it scoped, our first confirmed view!  

When we arrived back at the parking lot we had another break to eat some dinner/snacks and then ventured out again around dusk in hopes to hear some whip-poor-wills calling, but sadly they didn't start up.  

All-in-all it was a very successful trip, and outside of one small sprinkle, we didn't get rained out!  Some of the young birders reported that they had six lifers on the trip!  

See our full checklist here: https://ebird.org/me/view/checklist/S46751361

Sanford Lagoons

By Seth Davis

MYBC had an excellent opportunity to go birding for an extended period at the Sanford Lagoons on Saturday the 12th.  7 young birders and special guests David Doubleday, Sue Keefer, and Steve Norris had an awesome time exploring this amazing hotspot outside of Sanford during peak migration time. 

We wouldn't have had this opportunity if it weren't for the generosity of the management at Sanford Lagoons allowing us to spend additional time on the weekend.  We would like to thank them along with Andy Aldrich for helping to coordinate this effort. 

The day started out strong with upwards of 20 species within the first 10-15 minutes, including several Bobolinks, Least and Spotted Sandpipers, and brief but solid view of Wilson's Snipe.  The latter being a lifer for many! 

Our goal was to try and see the influx of wood warblers, but to do that we needed to make our way past the treatment ponds to the tree line.  As one may guess, there were LOTS of birds along the way.  As we made our way further down the path, we heard a very distinct "err-uh, err-uh" coming from the reeds.  As we wanted to make this a learning experience Lena and Seth tried quizzing the young birders to figure out what family the bird that was making that call was from.  After a short time, the young birders deduced that it was a rail, and specifically that bird was a Sora.  We wanted to get a actual view of the bird if possible, but with rails it is difficult to catch a glimpse without using playback of some form.  Another learning opportunity arose regarding the ethics of playback.  Especially in the Spring, bird song playback is discouraged as it may unnecessarily disrupt normal bird activity and increase stress levels of territorial males etc.  Using bird calls is far better than songs, but should be used sparingly.  After some discussion, we concluded that this would be a reasonable use of playback so we tried it.  The Sora began increasing it rate of calls, but alas, we never got a view of the bird.  

Moving forward, we spotted some small ducks in one of the ponds, and excitingly, one of them was a Ruddy Duck!  That was on the "hope-to-see" list for several of the young birders.  

We finally made it to the tree line, and had a decision to make of going left or right.  We may have made a poor decision in going left as the sun was backlighting the trees making it more difficult to see the warblers... Regardless, it started out slow with a lot of "heard-only" warblers, but things picked up as we got further down the line.  Sue called out "Blackburnian!" which despite being high in the tree, many (unfortunately not all) were able to get a glimpse of this beautiful bird.  At one point it became difficult to keep track as there were Ovenbirds, American Redstarts, Yellow-rumped Warblers singing and moving about in the trees.  Lena then heard a very high pitched song that turned out to be a Blackpoll Warbler!  Again many saw it, but the group was getting fragmented at this point making it more difficult to communicate.  

There were some other fun highlights.  Garrett spotted a pair of Bald Eagles, one of which was attacking a female Mallard with ducklings looking for an easy meal.  Ian noticed a beautiful male Chestnut-sided Warbler which alighted on a branch where we were walking.  We also spent considerable time trying to deduce an unfamiliar bird call, which Lena concluded was a Wilson's Warbler in the distance. 

As we were concluding the trip, we noticed some very motionless Snapping Turtles in the ponds.  Sadly they were no longer alive (we deduced this by the age-old trick of tossing pebbles near one of them), but it is a fairly common occurrence coming out of the cold winters.

Here is our final eBird checklist: https://ebird.org/atlasme/view/checklist/S45585307

On another note, this was Lena Moser's final outing with MYBC as co-coordinator.  Lena was one of the original co-founders of the club and MYBC would not be here today if it were not for her vision and passion for educating youth in the natural world.  Though we are sad to see her go, we know she has a lot of fun and amazing adventures in her future, and we are forever thankful for her help and dedication to the Maine Young Birders Club. 

Bird Banding with Professor Noah Perlut

By Lena Moser

On Saturday, April 21st, five young birders came out to the University of New England to learn all about bird banding from Professor Noah Perlut.  In short, we did not leave disappointed!  Dr. Perlut showed us exactly how birds are captured and banded, and he explained the importance of this practice for understanding and conserving birds. 

After banding birds, we visited the Department of Environmental Studies, where we got to see UNE's small but growing collection of avian specimens.  We discussed the importance of museum collections and why bird skinning is a useful skill to have.  Finally, we visited the new student commons building - the Ripich Commons - and learned all about bird-safe glass.  Specifically, we talked about why it is essential to design window glass in a way that prevents birds from crashing into the glass and needlessly dying.  All in all, our UNE trip was a very educational and inspiring experience!  Many thanks to Dr. Perlut for generously volunteering his time, energy, and expertise to the Maine Young Birders Club on this day.  We were all very grateful to spend the morning learning from him.

A picture often says a thousand words, so enjoy viewing our extensive gallery of photos below :)

Woodcock Walk

By Lena Moser

On Sunday, April 15, three young birders braved the icy roads and cold weather to join MYBC in the search for the American Woodcock, also amusingly known as the "timberdoodle" or "bog sucker."  Lucky for us, we struck gold!  Shortly after sunset, we arrived at a field in Kennebunkport, where we were greeted by a couple of recent arrivals: Hermit Thrush and Eastern Phoebe.  We walked out onto the frozen field, which was coated in a crunchy layer of ice, stood still, and listened for the distinctive, nasal "peent!" of the woodcock. 

In a few minutes, we heard one off in the distance, followed by another one closer by.  As the air grew darker around us, we heard the woodcock twittering high overhead as he performed his elaborate flight display.  While he frolicked high above, we took this chance to approach his display turf by quickly jogging our way closer.  Standing still under a large white pine, we held our breaths in the hope that he would land back on his favorite patch of field again. 

The woodcock did not disappoint.  He descended, loudly chirping, and landed about 20 feet in front of us!  Lena spotlighted him, and everyone got great looks through binoculars at the plump, peenting bird.  The next time he shot off into the sky, we set up the scope and got in line, ready for better looks.  Again, the male woodcock landed back on his favorite piece of earth, and Seth trained the scope on him as Lena kept the bird in the spotlight.  One by one, each young birder got to relish incredible looks of this unique bird and admire his fabulous brown-mottled camouflage.  Needless to say, we were all made very happy!

Prior to our woodcock outing, we enjoyed a pizza dinner and dessert a la Anna.  (Anna baked us cupcakes and served them with berry frosting and blackberries on top.  YUM!  Thank you so much, Anna, for the delicious treats!)  After dinner, we tested our birding know-how with The Great North American Bird Watching Trivia Game.  Some questions were very challenging and sure stumped us, but we certainly learned more about birds in the process.  We also played Bird Bingo and enjoyed learning about various birds outside the US, such as the Shoebill, Blue Coua, and Superb Lyrebird.  We watched a great David Attenborough video about the latter and were highly amused by the lyrebird's ability to mimic camera clicks and chainsaws.  Anna also told us about the lyre in Greek mythology... about how Hermes invented this instrument from a turtle's shell and later gave it to Apollo.  So yes - everyone went away with more knowledge and good entertainment this evening.

One last bird highlight of note: just before sunset, at around 6:45 pm, Brendan yelled out, "Great Blue Herons!"  We all looked out the window, and to our great surprise, we saw 18 Great Blue Herons rise up out of the marsh from behind the UNE soccer field along Hills Beach Road.  The herons proceeded to soar around in one giant flock like vultures!  It was an amazing sight... Lena and Seth said that they had seen lots of Great Blue Herons at rookeries before but never in a soaring flock like that, so it was very cool.  Perhaps this was a group of migrants returning together?  It was certainly odd to see them all soaring in a large flock up in the sky like that.  We will now need to look into the migratory behaviors of Great Blue Herons to learn more.  Nice spotting, Brendan!

Owl Outing (aka Owlting)

by Seth Davis

Five of Maine's top young birders and two parents tested their endurance with lack of sleep and freezing temperatures on Saturday to try and spot one of the more elusive order of birds, owls.  We met at 3 a.m. in Robinson Woods in Cape Elizabeth.  We spent 15 minutes or so discussing owling ethics and the most appropriate use of tools like audio playback as well as how to be cognizant of lighting and excess noise we can create.  After this briefing, we moved out in hopes to find Great Horned Owls (GHOWs) reportedly nesting in the area.  After 20 minutes of listening very patiently and limited playback, we didn't hear or see any GHOWs, though Lena thought she may have heard one or two toots of a Northern Saw-whet Owl.  We didn't feel confident enough to count it. 

Our next stop was Two Lights State Park.  This was supposedly a good spot to hear/see Northern Saw-whet Owls (NSWOs).  After a short walk to the parking lot we spent some time calling for NSWOs with no luck, however on our walk back we heard a shrilling call of some mammal.  Brendan thought it may have been a fox or fisher cat, but it didn't repeat its call so we did not fully ID it. 

We then went to Crescent Beach State Park, another good area for GHOWs and NSWOs.  We spent some listening and looking in the trees for any owl silhouettes, but again, we had no luck.  Several in the group heard a distant GHOW perform a short burst of song, but again, not everybody heard it to be 100% convinced.  Besides, at this point our desire to hear/see owls was getting to our heads!

Moving on, we stopped by the entrance to a property owned by the Sprague Corporation where we have heard there has been a NSWO for the past several years who has been rather chatty.  Besides being spooked by ice cracking very loudly on a nearby pond, we had no luck finding any owls...  Our worst fears were starting to come true.  Maybe this MYBC outing would turn out to be a bust.

On our way out to go to Prout's Neck, Seth noticed a small field off to the right that looked like it would be good habitat for owls.  It was worth a shot, so we pulled off the side of the road and played a few NSWO songs in hopes for a response.  We didn't hear a response from a NSWO, but SUCCESS!!!  We all clearly heard a GHOW announce, "Who's awake? Me too!" off in the distance! We immediately drove down toward the tree line where it was heard and got out of our cars.  To our amazement, the owl was directly in the tree above us! It took some processing time as there was some confusion with it being so early in the morning, but suddenly the owl took off from its perch and most were able to see the silhouette of it flying against the sky as dawn was just beginning to break.  

Stopping briefly at Prout's Neck where there had been a report of the extremely-difficult-to-get Long-eared Owl, we did some playback to no success.  But it was exhilarating to see some of the more common birds like Mourning Doves, Northern Cardinals, and Black-capped Chickadees begin to stir in the early morning and fly over our heads.  We then focused on trying to get to some of the open marshland where we had our last chance to hear owls calling from a distance.  

We rushed out to parts of the Scarborough Marsh, again with little success, but we did see a group of crows that began mobbing something, which we hoped was an owl, but sadly we couldn't get close enough to confirm it.  We spent some time discussing owl facts as we definitely wanted this to be a learning event, but we eventually rounded out the day with only one confirmed owl on our "owlting".  

But wait, there's more!  As we gathered to send everyone off at the Maine Audubon Scarborough Marsh Center, several young birders saw Herring an Great Black-backed Gulls in the distance, as well as a small flock of Snow Buntings that flew over.  As people were literally getting into their cars, Lena spotted a hawk(?) flying slowly in the distance.  Upon further examination, it turned out to be a Peregrine Falcon with something in its talons!  What a great way to end our "owlting" adventure with such a great bird.

Seabirds: You Eider See 'Em or You Don't

By Lena Moser

Note: click on the hyperlinked names of the locations to access the eBird checklist for each spot.

Today we headed to Cape Elizabeth and visited all its famed birding spots in a whirlwind tour.  In the chill of morning, we first gathered at Dyer Point, where we enjoyed seeing fly-by Great Cormorants, close Red-breasted Mergansers, a couple of distant, chunky Razorbills zooming speedily over the rolling ocean, a Red-necked Grebe, and several sizable rafts of colorful Harlequin Ducks.  A male King Eider was recently spotted at this location, and although we poured all our keen attention into scanning the waters for his lovely countenance, we sadly came up empty-handed, as the King was nowhere to be found.

Next, we explored Two Lights State Park and were rewarded with good looks at the three species of scoter: White-winged, Surf, and Black.  Although our walk through the brushy woods along the ocean was quiet and unproductive, we did see a couple of American Crows feeding on Staghorn Sumac berries, which was interesting to observe.  Sumac berries are quite nutritious, containing vitamin C, protein, fiber, and generous amounts of the minerals potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus.  Perhaps this is why the crows were enjoying munching on them.  Just as we piled into the cars to leave Two Lights, Brendan spotted a large bird soaring behind all the trees and asked, "Hey, what's that?"  It was big and dark, but we weren't quite sure what it was because it was flying behind all the tree trunks, concealed from view.  Suddenly, the bird rose up into the air, giving us great looks: a juvenile Bald Eagle!  It was fun to get this good bird from inside the cars, only moments before we left.  Great spotting, Brendan!

As we drove to Strawberry Fields, we listened to the apropos Strawberry Fields Forever by the Beatles.  We were hoping to find some Cedar Waxwings or Snow Buntings here, but we had no such luck.  Perhaps the windy morning kept these passerines down.  We did, however, see a Northern Flicker, which was an unexpected treat.

Afterwards, at Kettle Cove, we were rewarded by excellent, close looks at four Brant bobbing up and down in the water right along the shore.  Unfortunately, our brief walk through the woods was ridiculously quiet and unproductive... alas, simply not a good day for passerines.  At Crescent Beach State Park we had another Red-necked Grebe and 10 Great Black-backed Gulls who flew overhead in a loose flock.  We were enjoying watching their contrasting black-and-white plumage from below, until we were interrupted by a loud Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey military aircraft that flushed all birds from its path, and us too.  Birders flushed by an Osprey... who would have thought!

Our penultimate destination was the Spurwink River crossing, where we hoped beyond hope to find a Short-eared Owl, but our timing wasn't right, since Short-eareds are crepuscular and prefer to be active during dawn and dusk.  Perhaps we'll find this bird some other day.  We scanned through over 80+ American Black Ducks at the marsh, and Seth's sharp eyes picked out a female Hooded Merganser and a beautiful male American Wigeon, which is considered a seasonal rarity!  An alarmed American Crow also alerted us to a Red-tailed Hawk that few across the road and cooperatively perched up in an oak long enough for us to get nice looks through the scope.

We ended our birding adventure back at Dyer Point, where we crossed our fingers for another chance of finding the King Eider.  Several other birders were at the Point already, with the same intention.  While scanning a distant raft of Common Eiders, Lena picked out the King, and pretty soon several others were on him, too.  There was a flurry of scope searches for this less-than-cooperative, distant bird, who frequently dove or disappeared behind the swelling of the waves.  After some time working on the eider, though, everyone came away with satisfied looks at this special lifer.  We were getting ready to leave the Point when Ian cried out, "Wait, what's this gull?  I think it's a white-wing!"  Sure enough, an Iceland Gull flew past us, and we were grateful to Ian for spotting this pretty, cream-colored gull for us.  What an eventful day indeed!

Christmas Bird Count 2017

By Seth Davis

5 young birders joined count-leader Noah Perlut, Jonathan Alderfer (of National Geographic fame) and several others in participating in the 118th annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC) in the Greater Portland area.

Our circle began early out at Scarborough Marsh. It was certainly a frigid morning, but despite the temperature, we walked the trail across from the Nature Center.  As the sun rose, numerous groups "murders" of American Crows streamed across the the sky - leaving their nighttime roosts and heading out for the day.  To our surprise there was a group "unkindness" of 15 Common Ravens among them... a new high count for this CBC area!  We also got great views of American Black Ducks and Herring Gulls among others.

We then moved down the road to the Eastern Trail where we spotted 2 Red-bellied Woodpeckers, one Belted Kingfisher, and a few Golden-crowned Kinglets above the Scarborough fowl (chicken coop :).  As we walked down the trail where there was a group "hermitage" of Eastern Bluebirds followed by amazing looks at Snow Buntings, which Ian spotted, and some Red-breasted Mergansers in the alpen glow.  As we moved further down the trail we came across a group "ascension" of Horned Larks which came in surprisingly close to us, and we got some distant views of Common Goldeneye and Hooded Mergansers.

Continuing our circle, we moved to the Scarborough River Wildlife Sanctuary which was extremely quiet and unproductive save for a pair of Northern Cardinals, Tufted Titmice, and a White-breasted Nuthatch.  There was a small group "ear-full" of Cedar Waxwings that flew over head.  

Moving on we stopped by briefly at Seaveys Landing where we saw a pair of Common Loons and a few Common Eiders.  Another brief stop at Pelreco, which again was rather slow, but we did pick up a Red-tailed Hawk, our first raptor of the day!

Arguably the highlight of the trip was Pine Point, where we warmed up with hot chocolate, cookies, and got views of numerous sea ducks including Long-tailed Ducks, Black and White-winged Scoters, and Bufflehead.  It is duck hunting season and there were several hunters far out on the water.  Though one's initial reaction may be negative, we found this a really good time to discuss how duck hunting provides a lot toward conservation efforts through the purchase of Duck Stamps (which 98 cents of every dollar goes directly to habitat conservation).  We then got an opportunity to talk to some incoming duck hunters and they allowed us to see and study some of the birds they had.  There was also a distant flyby of a Bald Eagle, but since it was outside of our count circle, we couldn't list it :(

We wrapped up the trip with a walk to Pine Point beach where we had a couple of Red-throated Loons and Horned Grebes. 

Two young birders, Anna and Andrew, made a full day of it by attending the compilation where all of the teams tally up how many birds they saw.  This is a very important part of this citizen science project, and over the years provides insight into the state of birds.  It was a fun and educational day, and we hope to see everybody next year for the 119th CBC!

Gilsland Farm Goldeneyes

By Lena Moser

On Sunday, November 12, five intrepid young birders gathered at the headquarters of Maine Audubon at Gilsland Farm on a very chilly (20-degree!) morning.  We were joined by Jeremy Cluchey (Maine Audubon Communications Director) and Ari van den Akker (Staff Photographer).  Jeremy and Ari will be writing an article about the MYBC, which is due to be published in the March 2018 newsletter Habitat.  We are excited that word is spreading about MYBC!

We were also joined by Maine Audubon's Staff Naturalist and birder-extraordinaire, Doug Hitchcox.  He made this trip especially great thanks to his birding expertise, thorough knowledge of the local habitats, and sincere willingness to share his enthusiasm, time, and energy with our group.

We started our bird walk at the pond, where we measured the thickness of pond ice and looked for muskrat dens along the banks.  On our way to West Meadow, we spotted a distant group of crows harassing a hawk.  Doug helped us identify it: Rough-legged Hawk!  This was a lifer for most in the group, so we were thrilled to get scope looks at this uncommon visitor from the arctic.  Also, a flock of a dozen Red-winged Blackbirds flew over our heads, and we briefly heard a flyover Snow Bunting, too.

Most of our time was spent at the Presumpscot River Estuary, where we scanned the river and examined the ducks on the water.  We saw large rafts of Common Goldeneye, Red-breasted Merganser, and Bufflehead, along with a few Common Eiders, Mallards, and American Black Ducks.  Doug spotted a Red-throated Loon and Lesser Scaup for us (the latter was great to compare to the female goldeneyes around it).  Ian kept trying to find a Barrow's Goldeneye in the group, and lo and behold, after some time, Doug says, "I have a Barrow's!"  The strange thing is that it didn't look like a typical Barrows.  The more we observed this bird, the more we noted how odd it was.  Its head was peaked and had a bright purple sheen to it.  Instead of a thin, white crescent on its face, it had a blobby triangle.  The bird also lacked the black "spur" of plumage on the sides of the upper chest, and its upper body looked very white... much like the surrounding Common Goldeneyes.  It only had thin lines of black across its wings.  Very strange.  Turns out this was a Common X Barrow's Goldeneye hybrid!  We all thought this was very cool, though sadly it could not be added to our life lists because a hybrid does not count as a full species.  We will have to start a new hybrid list instead!

Ebird checklist 1

To warm ourselves, we took shelter from the cold in the Maine Audubon headquarters building, where we observed Black-capped Chickadees, American Tree Sparrows, and three species of rodents (Gray Squirrel, Red Squirrel, and Eastern Chipmunk) up-close and personal as they came to the feeders outside the Discovery Room.  We also took a stab at a bird face ID quiz, which was a fun challenge!

Ebird checklist 2

Continuing on, we walked from the Audubon center through a grove of Eastern Hemlocks, where we learned about the invasive wooly adelgid that's decimating hemlocks in the Northeast.  We searched for owls roosting in the hemlocks but found a couple of squirrel nests instead ;).  From there, we walked to the Community Garden and around back to the parking area along the road.  We saw two Northern Flickers, a couple of aggressive Northern Mockingbirds chasing each other, and a Red-tailed Hawk circling overhead.

Ebird checklist 3

Overall, we are so happy we endured the cold and got to have such a great experience visiting the headquarters of Maine Audubon!  Thanks again to Jeremy and Ari for accompanying us in order to write a story about our club.  Also huge thanks to Doug Hitchcox for giving us so much of his time this morning.. your leadership and deep love of birding were inspiring and much appreciated by our group!

Young birders tackle a bird ID quiz at the Maine Audubon headquarters at Gilsland Farm, Falmouth.  Video by Doug Hitchcox.

Hooray for Mt. A!

By Seth Davis

On Saturday, October 21st, two young birders led our team around Mt. Agamenticus and the Center for Wildlife, and we had a blast!  Despite it being the tail end of fall migration and having slightly unfavorable winds, we had a pretty “birdy” day.

Some of the highlights on the mountain included Red-bellied and Pileated Woodpeckers, a close interaction with a mixed flock of Black-capped Chickadees, Golden- and Ruby-crowned Kinglets, and a Brown Creeper. After hiking around, we came upon some fallen logs and decided to perch on them for a while.  As we rested, we exchanged nature stories about our personally memorable encounters with wildlife.  We left our mark on Mt. A in the form of some MYBC graffiti.  (Don’t worry!  We used pieces of charcoal that we found to draw the silhouettes of birds and tracks on some rocks.  These will wash off in the rain soon.)  We “topped” it all off with a hawk watch at the peak of Mt. A, where we spotted 12 Turkey Vultures and 5 Red-tailed Hawks.

We then drove to the base of Mt. A. to the Center for Wildlife, where we did a self-guided tour. This was a fun experience, since we got close-up views of awesome wildlife like a Long-eared Owl, Merlin, Porcupine, and some Painted Turtles!  We also learned about how the Center for Wildlife cares for sick and injured animals.  (As we were walking around, we also had three Common Ravens fly overhead, croaking loudly.)  Toward the end of the tour, one of the staff—Sarah Kern—was kind enough to bring out one of their ambassador Peregrine Falcons, Freyja, and she fed her a quail and a couple of mice.  Watching this majestic falcon feed at such a close distance was simply incredible.  Sarah shared with us a wealth of information about Peregrine Falcon ecology and behavior, and she answered our many questions.  Thank you, Sarah, and the Center for Wildlife, for being the highlight of our day for all the hard work you do to help wildlife.

Our full eBird list can be found here. Thanks to our two young birders, Brendan and Anna, for making the day super fun and reminding us how a walk in the woods can be so rejuvenating and uplifting.

It's Shorebirding Time!

By Lena Moser

Today five young birders headed out onto the sand and waves to look for migrating shorebirds.  We are proud to admit that we did not go home empty-handed!  (Or is it "empty-binoculared"?)

Highlights included Sanderlings, Dunlin, Black-bellied Plovers, and a Short-billed Dowitcher on the Basket Island causeway at Hills Beach.  A female Belted Kingfisher also put on a show, hovering in place for long periods of time as she honed in on the fish she wanted to catch in the tide pools below.  Local birder Pat Sanborn pointed out a raft of nearby Green-winged Teal.  We loved seeing their bright green specula (colorful secondary feathers) glistening in the sun.  When we were done birding at Hills Beach, we relaxed and ate our lunches in the Park in the Pines as Cedar Waxwings serenaded us with their high-pitched calls.  After the brief rest, though, we were eager to continue our shorebirding adventure.

Next, we headed down Mile Stretch Road to South Point Sanctuary, where we were greeted by a flock of over 7 Black-and-white Warblers, a Magnolia Warbler, Red-eyed Vireo, American Redstart, and a loudly-calling Northern Flicker.  Coming off the boardwalk, onto the beach, we scanned the rack of seaweeds for peeps and were grateful to birder Richard for helping us find the Western Sandpiper: a rare visitor that was a lifer for all the young birders!  Of course, that made everyone's day.

Fortunes Rocks Beach also rewarded us with great looks at a White-rumped Sandpiper and a couple of Laughing Gulls.  Unfortunately, we also saw an injured Herring Gull with a broken/bloody wing... the sight of which made us all a bit sad because we knew this bird wasn't going to make it very long.  Micah Pietraho spotted a Red-necked Grebe with his sharp eyes, and we had to work hard to get good looks at that bird because it preferred diving to swimming.  We couldn't believe how many Northern Gannets were out on the ocean... we counted over 30, including a couple that flew in very close to shore.  One individual floated on the water for a while, affording excellent scope views.  A flock of White-winged Scoters flew past us quickly, but the large rafts of Common Eiders floated about lazily and were easy to enjoy.

Before calling it a day, we stopped at Great Pond, where we saw a young Black-crowned Night-Heron and a sleeping male Wood Duck, who presented quite the identification puzzle at first.  A good-sized flock of Snowy Egrets showed off their plumes as they preened in the trees, and a Spotted Sandpiper wobbled along the exposed mud bank.  We found some ripe blackberries nearby and enjoyed a sweet treat to boot!  

What a fabulous day of birding it was.  Conclusion: shorebirding is awesome!  Let's do everything we can to protect and care for our shorebirds, whose habitats and ways of living are continually under threat from habitat destruction, pollution, dogs-off-leash, climate change, and hunting.  We know there is hope for the future, especially with more educated and caring young birders out and about ;)