Saturday, September 1, 2012

Rare Shorebirds

After my somewhat quiet start, Gambell has been producing. On August 29th we took a trip down to the bottom of Troutman Lake in a thick fog. Shorebirds were grounded and abundant. This is where I got my first solid looks at Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, and they were quite numerous.
We continued around the lake, checking the good plover habitat along the way. Plenty of Pacific Golden-Plovers were around, but we couldn’t find the rarer Lesser Sand-Plover (a bird seemingly annual now on Gambell, and one of my high priority species). We made a quick stop to check some landbird habitat, and this is where I flushed a white-rumped Tringa. It called while flying, and landed in another pond where we chased it down. It turned out to be the third fall record of Wood Sandpiper for Gambell.
We made it back around the lake and started birding the far boneyard. Almost immediately Paul called out “COMMON SANDPIPER!”. This is unheard of in the fall, and represents the first fall record for Gambell. We spent quite a bit of time chasing it around to get better looks/pictures to confirm it wasn’t a Spotted. It is still present today.
August 30th brought north winds and rain. North winds are not what you want for Asian vagrants, but the rain seemed to drop a number of “trans-Beringian” migrants from the mainland. There were good numbers of Northern Wheatear, Bluethroat, Arctic Warbler and both Wagtail for all to enjoy. I was able to finally get an identifiable picture of a Bluethroat, an extremely hard bird to approach.
In the afternoon, huge numbers of Short-tailed Shearwaters were streaming by. The picture below is one frame from the massive passage that lasted over 6 hours. You do the math.
August 31st is more of the same. Stronger north winds did not bring many new passerines. Arctic Warblers, Wheatears and Bluethroats are still around in smaller number than before. Paul’s tour had a “flava” Horned Lark below Troutman Lake, so even with poor winds birds from Asia are coming over. All of September is fair game for finding megas from Asia, and more tours are coming in the next few days, so this place will be covered in birders. Someone should turn something up! More soon…

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