Late summer is a challenging time to bird. The local nesters have finished raising their families and have grown quiet and harder to see. Most southbound migrants have not arrived yet. The weather is hot and many parks are crowded. The biggest return on your birding investment this time of year is shorebirds. Southbound migrants are showing up in good numbers and species diversity is increasing. Here are few shorebirds from the past week.
Baird’s Sandpiper, Gearhart. Most individuals of this species migrate through the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains, but Oregon always gets a few juveniles that head a little too far west.
Semipalmated Plover, Fort Stevens SP. While these adorable little plovers can be found anywhere in migration, a great many are found working the coastal beaches.
Black Turnstone, Seaside. A quick stop at the Seaside Cove will usually turn up a lot of Black Turnstones.
Surfbird, Seaside. Surfbirds are also regular at the Cove, still sporting a little of their breeding plumage.
Ruddy Turnstone, Seaside. Scanning the flocks of Black Turnstones will often produce one or two Ruddy Turnstones.
Killdeer, Fernhill Wetlands. Not a migrant, but Killdeer still counts on a shorebird list.
Pectoral Sandpiper, Fernhill Wetlands. I have seen several Pectoral Sandpipers lately. It seems a little early for them, as they are often found well into October.
Shorebird numbers should continue to build for the next couple of weeks, and by then we should start seeing some other migrants as well.
Mid to late summer is the prime time to watch shorebirds in western Oregon, partly because it is the peak of southbound shorebird migration, and partly because the locally nesting songbirds have stopped singing and are very hard to see. Shorebirding in the Portland area has been a little more challenging this summer with major construction projects occurring at Fernhill Wetlands, Smith and Bybee Wetlands, and Jackson Bottom.
Broughton Beach, near the airport, has not hosted large numbers of birds this year, but has attracted some good species.
Baird’s Sandpipers come through Oregon every year, but never in huge numbers, so finding one is always a treat. They stand out with their buffy coloring and long wings.
Almost all of the Baird’s that pass through in summer are juveniles, so they show a strong scaly pattern.
While Sanderlings are quite common along the coast, it is rare to find them inland. Broughton seems to be a good spot to find them in Portland.
Here is a group shot of (L to R) a Sanderling, a Western Sandpiper, and a Baird’s Sandpiper, all juveniles. While it is fun to sort through thousands of shorebirds when the birding fates align, when birding is slow it does us good to take advantage of small numbers and really study the few birds at hand. Shorebird migration runs for another month, so I am hoping to have many more encounters before the rains return and the shorebirds depart.