Great Egret

Great Egret

Monday, 7 August 2017

Sewage lagoons are for the birds

The Blenheim Sewage Lagoons are popular with the birds. The variation in water levels, including in the sprinkler cells, has something for everyone.

These past few days have been quite good for shorebirds, finally. The spring was fairly uninviting for them, since the sprinkler cells were dry and the other ponds were too high with almost no muddy edge. So it is a nice change, and hopefully conditions will remain good since the shorebird southern migration is well under way and will be continuing for several weeks.

I made it to the Blenheim lagoons on the weekend. Saturday evening was quite nice: low bright light for good viewing and photography, a gentle breeze, unlike the sometimes very windy conditions that these lagoons are known for. Although other birders had been their earlier in the day, I had the full two hours all to myself, and the birds.

There were lots of Lesser Yellowlegs, the most I have seen there for quite awhile. A conservative estimate was about 75 birds. A very small number of Greater Yellowlegs was there as well.
Semipalmated Plovers were around in small numbers.
In the sprinkler cells was the usual mix of Least and Semipalmated Sandpipers. Of greater interest were at least 4 Short-billed Dowitchers, in various plumages.

Also in the sprinkler cells were at least 3 White-rumped Sandpipers. They aren't always easy to pick out unless they are flying, at which point being a largish gray 'peep' type sandpiper with a white rump really sticks out. I did see these birds flying, but did not get any photos of that action. I did get two of them feeding, and they blend in fairly well. However their wings are a bit longer than their tail, which usually tells the 'tale'. This next photo doesn't show that feature all that well, due to the angle of the photo, and it is the only one I got. However the rusty base to the bill, which is shown here, is diagnostic, fortunately.
The target species for my visit was to catch up to a Red-necked Phalarope, one of which had been seen by multiple parties earlier in the day and in previous days. I did catch up to it and got some decent, but more distant than I would like, photos.
There were other birds, including several Pied-billed Grebes.....
...and two Hooded Mergansers, among others.

Wood Duck, Blue-winged Teal and Ring-necked Duck plus the usual Mallards and Ruddy Ducks were all noted, but not photographed.

There were a few land birds as well. Typical of this time of year are Bobolink in their autumn plumage. There were at least 9 that I saw. Males, females and young of the year all look basically the same now, as in the next photo.
 They aren't nearly as distinctive as their alternate, or breeding, plumage of the male, shown next in this early July photo.
A family of Eastern Kingbirds was feeding on flying insects.
Yellow Warblers are still around, although it won't be long before warblers of all types are making their way south.

Butterflies were noticeable by their absence. But I did catch up to another winged invertebrate, a Cicada Killer, feeding on a Swamp Milkweed.
All in all, it was a great couple of hours, and there were lots of photo opportunities along the way.

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