May and June are peak times for seeking real rarities in Alaska, especially Eurasian species that will sometimes occur on the edges of the Bering Sea, or on islands such as the Aleutians and the Pribilofs. Last month was no exception when, for example, St. Paul Island produced Wood Sandpiper, Lesser Sand-Plover, Black-tailed Godwit, and White-tailed Eagle; St George Island had Common Greenshank; Adak Island yielded Eurasian Curlew, Wood Sandpiper, Common Ringed Plover, Common Snipe, Eyebrowed Thrush, and Hawfinch; St. Lawrence Island had Lesser Sand-Plover and Red-flanked Bluetail; Shemya Island had Wood Sandpiper and Black-tailed Godwit; and Attu Island hosted Tundra Bean-Goose, Great Knot, Long-toed Stint, Terek Sandpiper, Steller's Sea Eagle, and Siberian Rubythroat.
But these locations were more often than not inaccessible to birders who wanted to seek those individual birds over quickly, say, a day's trip or a long weekend! Most of these locations require some long-term travel planning.
Accordingly, we travel to the other side of the continent to review another Eurasian rarity that stayed in place for about nine days.
Eurasian Oystercatcher is a hefty shorebird and the Old-World counterpart of American Oystercatcher. The Eurasian Oystercatcher breeds from Europe to c. Siberia and e. Asia. It normally winters coastally south to near Equatorial Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, the Persian Gulf, the Indian subcontinent, and se. China. While it is a common summer resident in Iceland and has been found in Greenland about three dozen times, it has only been seen now in eastern North America four times, all in Newfoundland since 1994. The species was also seen once in Alaska on Buldir Island in 2012.
The fourth record for Newfoundland - and also for the eastern Atlantic coast - was discovered last month at Lushes Bight.
It was first reported by Marilyn Gillingham on 14 May. Getting to Lushes Bight (population < 200) was no simple task for the birders who made it.
Starting at St John's - not always even a simple flight fromthe Lower-48 -it is a good 6-hour drive from St. John's, followed by a ferry from Pilley's Island to an island called Long Island, and then a short 4km drive to Lushes Bight.
The oystercatcher, frequenting the rocky shoreline, was last seen on 23 May. What follows is a short eBird report from Frank King on 17 May with seven photos:
ACCESS MATTERS: GOLF COURSE ISSUE
A Common Greenshank on Long Island, New York is another rarity that might have ranked as the rarity of the month, but unfortunately it only remained a day and a half. It was found on 5 May at the Timber Point Gold Course, in Suffolk County, New York, and was last seen on the morning of 6 May.
Common Greenshank is found most springs on the edges of Alaska, but has also been found a couple of times in California and approximately four times in Eastern Canada. So, a bird in New York was indeed exciting!
Timber point is a 27-hole public course, but the Common Greenshank there last month favored some puddles immediately east of the main parking lot, south of a water hazard, and northeast of the main building. Curiously, these were the same intermittent puddles favored by a very rare Wood Sandpiper last spring!
Since the puddles could be viewed from the edge of the main entrance road running between the parking lot and the building, there was little conflict between birders and golfers. Nonetheless, birders were instructed to avoid, for any reason, walking out onto the golf course.
Andy Carracino, at the Timber Point Pro Shop, reported that there were no complaints of birder misbehavior. He even double-checked with the course Superintendent who confirmed the situation. Fortuitously, there was also some rain which discouraged golfer visitation, but sustained the puddles at the time!
Access for birders, crucial in this case, was enhanced by coincidental circumstances.
TIP OF THE MONTH: KEEP RECHECKING
It's b-a-a-a-ck! Readers may remember the Zenaida Dove found last July in the weedy agricultural fields and puddles in the West Kendall area of Miami-Dade County, Florida. It remained, usually associating with Mourning Doves, for many weeks. See our previous coverage here:
Presumably the very same Zenaida Dove re-appeared on 9 May at the very same location.
This is a fine reminder to re-check a rarity location well after the individual bird has seemingly "left." It may well re-appear - perhaps a year later, or perhaps even sooner. Another rarity may sometimes even be attracted to whatever habitat qualities attracted the original rarity. (Note the previous reference to the Common Greenshank on Long Island appearing at the very same golf course puddles where Wood Sandpiper showed up last year.)
Getting into the habit of re-checking a rarity site - especially if it is on your regular "birding circuit" - can't hurt. Indeed, it can often produce another "quality bird" that will continue to keep you coming back!
POISONED BALD EAGLES IN MARYLAND
Authorities in Maryland have been trying to stop whoever is killing Bald Eagles. This year, seven Bald Eagles and a Great Horned Owl have been killed along the Eastern Shore by poison.
Other eagles have experienced significant sicknesses. Something very similar happened in 2016 in Maryland, when 13 Bald Eagles were found dead.
The USFWS say these poisonings are an ongoing problem in the northern Delmarva Peninsula.
Speculation is that a landowner, or landowners, may be putting out poison to kill "nuisance animals" such as raccoons and foxes. The raptors then feed on the disoriented or deceased animals. Authorities say that these baits are being laced with carbofuran, sold as Furadan, which is especially toxic to birds
The Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) issued an advisory in response to the poisonings "reminding all farmers, applicators, and retailers that the use and sale of carbofuran (commonly known as Furadan) is ILLEGAL under state and federal law." The highly toxic chemical was banned in 2009 by the Federal Environmental Protection Agency, but this did not prohibit storing the pesticide on private property.
The serious trend started in early March, and other dying or sickened eagles were discovered in April. You can find more details here:
IBA NEWS: HUMBOLDT BAY GETS WHSRN UPGRADE
Last month we described the Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), an Important Bird Area (IBA) in north-central Oklahoma, and its upgraded classification as a Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN) "Site of International Importance." This month we feature another "upgrade," this time Humboldt Bay, one of the premiere natural estuaries in California.
The Humboldt Bay IBA extends from a placid lagoon to a broad mudflat edged with saltmarsh vegetation during low tide, with much of it managed as Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge. When the Humboldt Bay Complex on the coast of northern California joined WHSRN in 1998, it was designated as a Site of International Importance based on surveys from the early 1990s that documented more than 100,000 shorebirds using the area.
Last spring, a bay-wide survey revealed that more than 500,000 shorebirds used Humboldt Bay during spring migration alone - a number five times greater than was previously estimated. The team of biologists, students, and local birders conducted four surveys, 14 days apart, over 46 days. Their findings were published in the August 2018 issue of Wader Study, documenting that Humboldt Bay surpasses the 500,000 bird threshold and therefore qualifies as a WHSRN Site of Hemispheric Importance.
The 2018 surveys documented 26 shorebird species using the Bay and surrounding habitats. The most abundant species were long-distance migrants that use Humboldt Bay as an essential stopover near the end of their journey from South America to breeding grounds in the Arctic. Western Sandpiper was most numerous, followed by Dunlin. The researchers determined that 313,750 - 536,750 Western Sandpipers were present at Humboldt Bay during a two-week period. Combined with maximum counts of other species, Humboldt Bay now has the monitoring data to show it hosts half a million shorebirds during spring migration alone.
IBA status of Humboldt Bay:
For additional information about worldwide IBA programs, including those in the U.S., check the National Audubon Society's Important Bird Area program web site at: