9:30 am, is not my idea of a bird walk, let alone a shorebird walk. When Darren Klein of NYC Audubon approached me about subbing for Gabriel Willow in leading a shorebird walk at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, I was hesitant for many reasons. However, my love of shorebirds and teaching others the little I know won the day and so it was August 15th, that I found myself waiting at the visitor's center for my attendees. I had several friends on the Pond who were texting me intel and based on their feedback I decided, we needed to bird the north end of the pond. After working out the car pooling arrangements to get the group up to the north end, we were on our way birding, as we walked the north dyke, Willow Flycatcher, Cedar Waxwings and Catbird were some of the passerines we encountered on our way in. Once we arrived at entrance of the north end, I got people situated for viewing purposes and we immediately had success as the group were treated to STILT SANDPIPERS and LESSER YELLOWLEGS. Both birds feeding in close proximity, providing excellent studies.
On our left, we observed Least and Semipalmated Sandpipers feeding on the shoreline and on the Algal mat. I had the group take some time to differentiate the adults from the juvenile and pointed out several nuances in separating the two species. We then carefully made our way towards the spit before Dead Man's Cove, birding as we made our way through the mud. The group was very enthusiastic despite a hot day and I kept a close eye on everyone, checking in now and again to make sure no one was wilting. Near Dead Man's Cover we continued our good run as we picked up several WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPERS and distant PECTORAL SANDPIPERS. Semipalmated Plovers and Short-billed Dowitchers were also added to our list and a heard only Killdeer built up our shorebird species numbers. Although we missed the American Avocet which was flushed by a marauding Peregrine Falcon, which we did see, the shorebirding was fun with several attendees picking up life birds. I introduced the group to many of my friends on the pond and it was Tom Burke and Gail Benson who helped us pick up GULL-BILLED TERN. It was a distant look, not very satisfying and I hoped we had another shot at the south end.
Around 12:30 we headed back to the visitor's center and broke for lunch. My regular readers will chuckle at this because they know, there is no thing as a lunch break when I am birding, but when you are leading one must think about the clients too, so lunch it was. During lunch, I spent a little time looking for butterflies near the visitor's center then met the group and suggested the south end of the East Pond. By then, it had really heated up and many birders coming off the pond from the south end relayed that there was not much to see there. At this point some of our attendees dropped out and the rest joined me for a walk on the south end. At the south end, we saw some of the same birds we had at the north end and again had a good time studying the Least and Semipalmated Sandpipers. I challenged the group to pick them out and they had fun doing just that. A sharp eyed, attendee picked out a dot perched in one of the Beech Trees near the south end and it turned out to be a juvenile Peregrine Falcons, the group all had good looks.
Then I suggested walking up the east side a bit and a few more people by then decided to call it a day so an even smaller group of 6 walked up the east side towards the Raunt. I heard and then spotted the juvenile GULL-BILLED TERN and later on we had the adult. The group had very satisfying looks and I was happy that they had better looks than earlier on. A bit of pishing coaxed out a couple of Northern Waterthrushes that were giving us fleeting glimpses and the group all had nice looks at them. Scoping from the Raunt did not not pull out the American Avocet and so with the sun really cooking and the time nearing 3:00 p.m. we decided to call it ending a productive day in the field.