Sunday, August 4, 2013

WW Shorebirds: August Counts & Spring Totals


On August 4, I conducted the third session of the fall Shorebird Survey at the Muskegon Wastewater System. These are scheduled once about every 10 days, and we normally complete 8 each spring and 13 each fall since 2005. Generally, it takes me less than three hours to finish each survey, and that includes time counting other birds and photographing cooperative subjects. However, due to higher numbers and diversity, surveys in August take longer.

Today's survey was all business, yet it still cost me four hours. While my tally of 13 species (two less than last week) was a good figure, it was the number of shorebirds that proved outstanding. My final count was 717 birds - easily surpassing the previous record of 507 counted by Lena Usyk and me on 9/7/09.

In particular, three species were remarkably numerous. The total of 96 Lesser Yellowlegs set a new high for the Shorebird Survey, although significantly higher counts have been made by others at the Wastewater. More impressive were the 256 Least Sandpipers found today. This is almost certainly the highest actual count from this location. Also outstanding, 133 Pectoral Sandpipers also likely the highest actual count from the Muskegon Wastewater.

The spring 2013 set of Wastewater Shorebird Surveys generated 611 birds of 16 species. This compares favorably to the previous means of 15.9 species and 574 individuals. Seasonal high spring counts were obtained for Least Sandpiper and Ruddy Turnstone. Spotted Sandpiper (73 on May 18) and Least Sandpiper (51 on May 18) established new daily high counts during the spring survey; Upland Sandpiper tied the previous best (10 on May 15); and Ruddy Turnstone (31 on May 28) set a new record for both spring and fall.

Here are the spring 2013 totals (with averages from 2005 - 2012):

Black-bellied Plover - 5 (2)
Semipalmated Plover - 6 (7.8)
Killdeer - 84 (145.1)
Spotted Sandpiper - 200 (119.9)
Greater Yellowlegs - 5 (3.5)
Willet - 1 on June 2 (3.5)
Lesser Yellowlegs - 24 (37.9)
Upland Sandpiper - 26 (16.5)
Ruddy Turnstone - 34 (2.4)
Sanderling - 2 (1)
Semipalmated Sandpiper - 89 (83.6)
Least Sandpiper - 65 (27.1)
White-rumped Sandpiper - 3 (13.6)
Pectoral Sandpiper - 1 on April 6 (9.8)
Dunlin - 65 (87.8)
Wilson's Phalarope - 1 on May 28 (3.4)

- Brian Johnson

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