Solitary Sandpipers aren't always solitary

Spotted Sandpiper from

Solitary Sandpiper from

Many of my previous posts have discussed the various groups of birds migrating back to and through White Memorial this spring. That includes shorebirds, which I've touched upon a couple of times. Now that we've passed the halfway point in May the shorebird migration will pick up, both in terms of diversity of species and the numbers of individuals moving through. Even though most people associate shorebirds with coastal, saltwater locations, there are inland places such as Bantam Lake and Little Pond in Litchfield, Great Pond in Simsbury, and Nod Brook in Avon which also appeal to shorebirds. If these birds become tired and/or hungry when they are passing over a lake or pond with a muddy shoreline, they are likely to drop in. They seem to be just as capable of finding and eating freshwater invertebrate animals as they would ones from saltwater environments. In fact, many shorebirds breed along bodies of freshwater in Canada. One of them, the Solitary Sandpiper, is pretty much exclusive to freshwater. It is one of the most likely species to be seen at inland water bodies in New England as it passes through northbound in April and May and southbound from late July through late September. Its name is somewhat of a misnomer, at least during migration time. While they aren't sociable, it is still possible to find quite a few of them in an area like Little Pond which offers them ideal feeding conditions when the water is low enough. We are currently experiencing these ideal conditions as floodwaters from the past month recede and expose mud inhabited by a host of invertebrate critters. That's why we encountered 14 Solitary Sandpipers, each, on 5/7 and 5/9 at Little Pond. E-bird flagged these as unusually high numbers, which I had to explain for them to accept. These birds weren't all concentrated on the mud bar at the Bantam River's inlet to Little Pond, as most shorebirds like Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs are. Instead, they were spread out rather evenly from this point down around to the River's outlet and then down the length of the River to a point below Sutton's Bridge on the Boardwalk. That's a distance of 1/4 mile. Each bird had its own foraging space. When one bird encroached into another bird's space, objections were voiced, and sometimes a chase ensued. Obviously, they would be solitary if they had a choice. By contrast, the Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs and Least Sandpipers all foraged together in relative peace at the mud bar, inlet, and outlet. Also found in this area was a Spotted Sandpiper. They prefer to remain somewhat solitary, too. Unlike these other shorebirds, though, this species will remain here to nest. Each summer we can usually find one pair at Little Pond, one or two pairs along the Bantam River as it heads down to Bantam Lake, and 2 pairs in the North Shore Marsh along Bantam Lake's North Bay. They nest on the ground among grasses and sedges, and forage for food along the muddy, sandy, and rocky shorelines. The Old Camp Townsend beach is an especially good place to see them from now through late September.

No comments: