[TN-Bird] Shorebird Bonanza

  • From: OLCOOT1@xxxxxxx
  • To: tn-bird@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sat, 12 Jul 2003 22:28:11 EDT

July 12, 2003
Ensley Bottoms
Shelby Co. TN
I did some birding while hurrying to the pits this morning but found little 
on the Mississippi River, probably due to the slow rise which should change to 
a faster assent in the next day or so. The poor Least terns are having it 
tough this year. I watched the Nexrad images that showed a storm front coming 
across Arkansas and it was slowly closing on Memphis. I was hoping that it 
get to the pits about the same time I did and produce a good bird or two.

When I arrived, I first checked out TVA Lake and saw 40 to 50 Least SP, 
Black-necked Stilts, 2 Least Terns and a real ratty group of eclipse plumaged 
Mallards. I continued to the steam plant and found 3 adult Western Kingbirds. 
adult was busily feeding at least 2 youngsters that could barely fly.

At the pits my mouth just fell open, there were shorebirds everywhere. I 
spent about 4-1/2 hours scanning and counting and ended up with almost 2000 
BIRDS! The totals were: Semipalmated Plover - 1 called continually for about 10 
minutes before I could locate it, 441 Killdeer included a young almost fully 
fledged bird that sported a single neck band that made the heart jump a 
little, 48+ Black-necked Stilts from just hatched to flying young and adults, 8 
Lesser Yellowlegs, 5 Solitary Sandpipers, 1 Spotted sandpiper, 39 Semipalmated 
Sandpipers, 8 Western SP, 1410 Least Sandpipers, 1 White-rumped and 27 Pectoral.

The Western Sandpipers were well along in the molt process but a couple were 
still sporting bright splashes of color and splotched breasts. The Least 
Sandpipers were a great study in the variability of this species in adults. 
colors ranged from bright birds with rich rufous feathers on backs, a few with 
red faces and backs with white racing stripes, dark birds about the color of 
bitter sweet chocolate with dark breast bands to match, medium colored birds 
some with very pale breast bands. The size variances also ran from large to 
small. It was a great pleasure to sit and savor each bird and just think in a 
couple of weeks we will even get a few immatures which also vary to throw in 
mix. Just for the fun of it, Mother Nature threw in a partially albinistic bird 
with a white dot on top of the head and a large white patch of feathers on 
its back. I took a photo of that and a pale Starling. The pits are just the 
right place for this type of study and to get use to recognizing these highly 
variable birds. 

The Pectoral Sandpipers also varied from very pale individuals to the normal 
brown and the huge males standing next to the small females serves as good 
reminders when you get that distant single bird and try to make it into 

The White-rumped could be going north or just decided to head back but I 
could not get good looks at the plumage. It slept most of the time so it may be 
gone in the morning.

Good Birding!!!

Jeff R. Wilson
Bartlett Tenn.

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