Long-billed Dowitcher photo from http://www.gobirding.eu/
Wilson's Snipe photo by Bob Stanowski
A visit to Little Pond this past Tuesday evening, 9/27, (before the latest rainstorms inundated this area with floodwaters) turned up White Memorial's first-ever (in recent times) Long-billed Dowitcher. While scanning the shoreline for shorebirds I spotted a gray bird with a very long bill probing like a sewing machine in the mud. Since Short-billed and Long-billed Dowitchers look very similar, and their bills are only 1/4" difference in length, it was initially very difficult to determine which species we had. Even with the spotting scope it didn't show a definite characteristic for either species. However, since Short-billed has been seen here approximately 8 times in the past 12 years, and Long-billed had not been seen here at all in that time span, I was leaning toward calling it Short-billed or just Dowitcher sp. Most of the previous sightings have been in the spring when the two species have enough differences in plumage to distinguish them. Plus, all of the previous birds gave their distinctive Short-billed "tu-tu-tu" call notes while we watched them. Fortunately for us this time, this bird let loose with its distinctive "keek" call notes several times when it flushed and flew around for no obvious reason. The call notes clinched this bird's identification as Long-billed. These calls, coupled with the lack of striping on the head and back ruled out Wilson's Snipe, which we had just seen a few minutes before spotting this bird. Other notable birds seen on and around the pond on this visit included 52 Wood Ducks, 5 Blue-winged Teal, 13 Green-winged Teal, 4 Double-crested Cormorants, 1 Great Egret, and 2 Green Herons. Notable by virtue of high numbers were Mallards (99) and Swamp Sparrows (45). The Little Pond Trail produced our first Rusty Blackbird of the fall season, 24 White-throated Sparrows, a Marsh Wren, and a hooting Great Horned Owl as notable species. In all, this visit tallied 44 species of birds in 1 hour and 45 minutes. Three days later, after 5.5" of rain had inundated the boardwalk and the rest of the area, we only came up with 34 species along the trail leading in from White's Woods Rd. and the overlook area on the west side of the pond. With no feeding habitat available for shorebirds we didn't find any, but we were surprised to find a Sora trying to forage along the edge of the woods where the floodwaters were intruding into them. For ducks, we only saw 2 Woodies, 2 Blacks, and 25 Mallards. The rest of the birds seen on this visit were common resident and migrant landbirds along the trail, including 35 White-throated Sparrows.