It was a beautiful late summer day, Mardi and I headed down to Jamaica Bay for the 8th Annual Shorebird Festival on Saturday, August 24, 2013. The weather people gushed that it might be the best weekend of the summer. Well any summer day that has shorebirds in is ok by me. But we had to admit that it was simply a fine summer day to be at the 8th Annual Shorebird Festival at Jamaica Bay with the Founders Don Riepe, Kevin Karlson and Lloyd Spitalnik and assistant Elizabeth Manclark. After a welcome talk at the headquarters, several groups of birders went out for shorebird walks to the famed East Pond of Jamaica Bay NWR.
We elected to go to the North End. Arrangements had been made by the organizers for a bus to take people to the distant North End entrance of East Pond. Tom Burke, Gail Benson, Kevin Karlson, Andrew Baksh and Lloyd Spitalnik were the leaders of this excursion. Don Riepe, Seth Ausuble, Glenn Phillips and Peter Post went to the South side of East Pond.
I dallied a bit and Mardi left with the group as it headed south along the edge of the pond. Soon I was left alone with my camera. I found a place where the sun was behind me; I had waded a dozen or so yards out in the water leaving an exposed mud flat and more water to the northwest. I knew that if I moved slowly and kept low profile, the birds would get used to my presence. It did not take long for small flocks of peeps to fly in and after awhile they foraged their way into the good light and were close enough for me to make photos. The deep blue sky and reflected vegetation, helped to make this Semipalmated Sandpiper pop.
The presence of peeps instilled enough confidence to entice a busy Lesser Yellowlegs to race walk along the shore of the North End of the East Pond.
After a bit, a few colorful juvenile Short-billed Dowitchers began to forage their way nearer to the peeps and my position. They were in no hurry, and were not wary of me.
Here is a momentary association of two foraging Short-billed Dowitchers.
Here a Short-billed Dowitcher has pulled up the soft parts of a submerged marine worm which was slurped down in an instant.
After the constant foraging, I saw one Short-billed Dowitcher and then another and another take a feather care break. Usually they were in shallow water and then suddenly they seem to be struck with the urge to preen. Now if you think about it, these birds have probably just flown a few thousand miles from the place they were born only a few months ago, yet they have all the necessary skill needed to migrate south and take care of themselves.
This bird seems to be thinking about how good it would be to preen. No sooner did the through happened than the preening behavior began.
Here the bird uses the tip of its bill to stimulate the oil gland near the base of its tail. You can even see that the prehensile tip is open.
Now the bird rubs it head in area near the just stimulated oil gland.
Another bird preens by head scratching with a toe nail. I cannot help but think that this bird has the look of sheer bliss because the scratching feels so good!
And then there is the feather fluffing,
which leaves some birds with a momentary puffy look.
After the feathers are fluffed, some birds simply feel the need to flap their wings to make sure that everything falls into the proper place and still works.
After a few last minute tweaking of feathers here and there,
the just finished preening bird instantly started foraging again. It seems to know that these pleasant days at the East Pond are for putting on fat for the long flights still to come as it heads deeper into the South.
Plovers could be seen among the sandpipers. Here is a Semipalmated Plover, also a migrant foraging in the shallow water, the special dark ooze of the East Pond can be seen on it’s feet. Shorebirds don’t need muck boot.
I noticed ripples around some of the Semipalmated Sandpipers while they were foraging in shallow water. The birds employed rapid probing motions which produced a virtual halo of concentric ripples, one ripple for each probe. I thought about timing the probes and measuring the distance between the ripples and wondered what it could teach.
The 8th Annual Shorebird Festival at Jamaica Bay was a chance for all participants to make their own observations. Mine were made in a couple of hours and there was much that I missed. Mardi and the rest of the North Enders saw more species than I photographed. We hope you enjoy them. Our advice is this, get out and let the birds teach you things about our world. It doesn’t hurt to have the likes of Don Reipe, Kevin Karlson, Lloyd Spitalnik, Tom Burke, Gail Benson, Andrew Baksh, Peter Post around for the pesky calls and encyclopedic knowledge of shorebirds and Jamaica Bay. We look forward to next years festival.