Tag Archives: Greater Yellowlegs

ELEGANT RARITY AT PARKER RIVER – THE AMERICAN AVOCET!

Far, far outside its normal range, the elegant American Avocet has once again made Parker River National Wildlife Refuge a stop over point on its migratory route. Recent records indicate the American Avocet was photographed at Plum island in 2013, 2015, 2016, 2019, and now 2022. According to local photographer friends, the American Avocet has been here for over a month. When it first arrived, the Avocet still had much of its orangish neck and breast breeding plumage. Today, you can only very faintly see the orange hue in its breast feathers.

American Avocets have an usual technique for fishing. They capture aquatic invertebrates by swishing their long, up-curved bill from side to side, a signature behavior called scything. American Avocets eat a wide variety of invertebrates including midges, beetles, flies, fairy shrimp, amphipods, and small fish. They also eat the seeds from aquatic plants.

If you plan to see the Avocet, this exquisite beauty is easy to spot. Go to parking area #6, opposite Stage Island. If you don’t see a bunch of photographers to point the way, you can usually find it at the far curve, foraging at the Stage Island Pool, to the left side of the causeway to the Island.  You can’t miss its striking black and white plumage as it is foraging in a mixed bunch of Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs. The crowds of birders and photographers are not in the least phasing the shorebirds as there is quite a good distance from where you are permitted to observe and where the birds are feeding and resting.

American Avocet Range Map

 

Photo of American Avocet in breeding plumage by  Dan Pancamo – originally posted to Flickr as Quintana June 2nd 2010 courtesy wikicommons media

M is for May Migration Through Massachusetts

During the month of May, Massachusetts is graced daily with species arriving from their winter homes. Some need to fortify for the journey further north, to the boreal forests, bogs, and tundra of Canada and Alaska. Some will nest and breed in Massachusetts, finding suitable habitat along the coast, and in the marsh, scrub, shrub, forest, and grassland found throughout the state. For several projects on which I am currently working, I have been exploring wildlife sanctuaries along the Massachusetts coastal region. Here is just a sampling of some recently spotted migrants, and it’s only May 4th. Lots more to come!

Biggety Brant ~ This Brant Goose appeared to be the bossy boots of his gaggle, chiding, nipping, and vocally encouraging the group along. A large of flock of approximately 40 Brants was recently reported by readers Debbie and Dan, seen at Back Beach in Rockport. The Brants are heading to the wet, coastal tundra of the high Arctic. No other species of goose travels as far north or migrates as great a distance as do Brants.

W is for Wading Willet. A PAIR were well hidden in the marshy grass! Both the flesh and the eggs of Willets are considered tasty. They were nearly hunted to extinction, saved only by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. Willets breeding in Massachusetts is nothing short of a miracle. Notice how closely they resemble Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs; all three belong to the Genus Tringa.

Y is for Yawping Yellowlegs. Both Greater and Lesser Yellow are seen in Massachusetts marshes at this time of year. Greater Yellowlegs have a loud, distinct call, which they utilize often. The Greater Yellowlegs are feeding on tiny crustaceans, killfish, and minnows to fortify for the journey to the boggy marshes of Canadian and Alaskan coniferous forests.

Piping Plover Piping ~ We should be proud that our state of Massachusetts has the greatest record of Piping Plover recovery. I recently saw a bar graph at a lecture presentation, given by Dave Rimmer at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, which illustrated that the recovery rate has flatlined in Canada and New Jersey, and diminished in the Great Lakes region.

T is for Tree Swallow Tango ~ Males arrive on the scene prior to the females. The courtship ritual involves the gents showing the ladies possible nesting sites.

Tree Swallow preparing for takeoff.

 

Birds of New England: Yellowlegs and the Boreal Forest Biome

Lesser Yellowlegs Massachusetts © KIm Smith 2014.What a treat to happen upon this pair of yellow-legged shorebirds feasting on tiny invertebrates in the mudflats at Henry’s Pond.
Lesser Yellowlegs Pair Massachusetts © KIm Smith 2014

The yellowlegs were foraging companionably alongside the Mallards, American Black Ducks, plovers, and Kildeers. I returned the following dawn and they had already departed for parts warmer. Perhaps we’ll see them again during their spring migration as they journey north to breed in the boreal bog forests of Canada and Alaska.

Lesser Yellowlegs Massachusetts  © KIm Smith 2014 -.Lesser Yellowlegs Preening

Here on Cape Ann, we are fortunate to catch fleeting glimpses of species such as yellowlegs during the the great annual fall migration. The map below shows the boreal forest biome (biome is another word for ecosystem), which lies to the south of the tundra and the north of deciduous forests and grasslands. The ground in the boreal forest is damp and boggy because of snowmelt and little evaporation due to cooler summer temperatures. The moist ground and long day length at northerly latitudes during the summer makes for explosive plant growth–Think Bird Food!–not only in the wealth of plants, but myriad insects attracted!

taiga_500Boreal Forests

I believe the pair to be Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes). I am by no means a bird expert and imagine they could also possibly be Greater Yellowlegs. If any of our wonderful expert bird lovers would like to weigh on this, I would be grateful. Songbirds and shorebirds that I have filmed on Cape Ann are featured in my Monarch film and I am in the process of writing the script. I want to insure that all the bird identifications are 100 percent accurate..

Map courtesy google image search.