In Search of Shorebirds

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Shorebirds are not confined to the shore. Indeed, any place where water accumulates and then recedes creates an instant migratory shorebird feeding ground. But the birds are often very far away from wherever you have stopped to observe them. Unless you are lucky enough to find a deserted beach where you can hide behind something, chances are you will be looking at shorebirds either on a remote sandbar or, inland, across quite a distance.

Lesser Yellowlegs

Lesser Yellowlegs

On Sunday morning, I joined a joint-sponsored Chicago Ornithological Society/Evanston North Shore Bird Club event led by the venerable local birder par excellence Walter Marcisz. The destination was the sludge ponds at the Calumet branch of the Greater Chicago Metropolitan Water Reclamation District. The field trip was prearranged months ago and required background checks of all participants, since this is government property, not a designated birding hotspot.There was a decent variety of birds, although nothing out of the ordinary except for three beautiful Black-Bellied Plovers. But due to the nature of the location, cameras were not allowed. So the two shorebird pictures you see here were taken last weekend at Chautauqua or Emiquon. At least I got a good picture of the Emiquon sign.

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If I was ever unsure about Pectoral Sandpipers I have made up for it this year already; everywhere I have been there have been several.

Pectoral Sandpipers

Pectoral Sandpipers

There were other birds too last weekend, like this Northern Rough-Winged Swallow.

Northern Rough-winged Swallow

Northern Rough-Winged Swallow

And an Indigo Bunting who would have qualified for my previous post about blending in.

Indigo Bunting

Indigo Bunting

In any event, the sludge pond trip left me far south enough to cut west over to McGinnis Slough. Even though it was by then mid-day, it seemed prudent to check it out. The Swamp Rose Mallow is in full bloom now.

Rose Mallow

Swamp Rose Mallow 

Periodically, flocks of blackbirds would rise up from the marsh where they were no doubt feeding alongside shorebirds I could not see. There were also huge flocks of Chimney Swifts but I was at a loss to photograph them adequately.

Red-Winged Blackbirds

Red-Winged Blackbirds

Chimney Swifts

Chimney Swifts

Further south I was delighted to find the Sandhill Cranes, possibly the same birds from a couple weeks ago. There were again three, but only two fit in one picture frame. All that brown stuff on the ground is dried up pond lilies, which completely camouflaged smaller birds feeding in it.

Sandhill Cranes

Sandhill Cranes

So our weather has changed from cool, cloudy and rainy to hot and dry in little more than a week. Much of my time for blogging has instead been spent watering my front yard. More about that eventually (assuming watering and praying for rain works).

2 thoughts on “In Search of Shorebirds

    • Thanks for your comment! Yeah, I am always excited to see them. What’s really funny is another birder went to McGinnis after the sludge ponds and was so focused on looking for shorebirds (and not paying attention to the egrets that are about the same size as the sandhills) he didn’t see them.

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