Friday, May 15, 2015
Tricks of the Trade # 2: Sandpipers and rain
Rainy weather is widely recognized as a catalyst to improved shorebirding* . The general paradigm is that migrating shorebirds are strong fliers, most of which will normally migrate overhead undetected, even into a headwind. Rain is the one thing that will make them pause. Rain may also create temporary pools that these birds can congregate in, especially on wide expanses of open lawn. The grassy expanse known as the Exxon Fields on Grand Isle is the best such example in southeast Louisiana at this time- and at times attracts thousands of shorebirds. Before Katrina, the athletic fields on the UNO east campus were good- but they have been encroached on by too much development in the last decade.
Today I went to check the storm water retention ponds at Causeway x Airline that I posted from several days ago. The small collection of birds that has been hanging out there was augmented today by a flock of 25 Semipalmated Sandpipers, which were presumably pausing because of the rain.
One characteristic of shorebird rain fallouts is that they do not last long- birds often disappear as soon as the rain lets up, even the same day they put down.
The earlier-reported Semipalmated Plover and pair of Lesser Yellowlegs continue, suggesting that there is indeed enough food there to make it worth an extended stay for some birds.
*the term "shorebird" is generally used by birders to refer to sandpipers, plovers, yellowlegs, and their kin- not large waders such as herons.