Shorebird migration begins!

I guess I jinxed myself the other day when I said birding has been slow around Lake Havasu.  The next morning (August 10), David and I went to the north end of the lake and found an adult Tricolored Heron!  Since then, we’ve been birding every morning (and will try to continue it) and enjoying some movement of terns and shorebirds.

The Tricolored Heron was particularly exciting because it flew from the Arizona shore, across the lake until it landed in California!  For me, it was a new bird in both states.  More importantly, it was a first for both Mohave and San Bernardino Counties.

Ganked from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Tricolored_Heron_by_Dan_Pancamo.jpg

Tricolored Herons are a widespread species, found year-round along the Atlantic coast from Virginia south to Brazil.  They are widespread on the Pacific coast as well, from Baja south to Ecuador.  Only in Mexico and central America are they regularly found inland.  (That information could be outdated, so any correction is welcome.)  In Arizona, the species is casual, most often found from the Tucson area south.  There are only about four previous sightings in the LCRV, which is surprising, since the birds that show up in Arizona are individuals dispersing north from Mexico, and Tricolored Herons are found around the mouth of the Colorado River.

Other exciting birds we saw that day were the first migrant terns of the fall!  Okay, to be fair, a Common Tern in early July was probably a fall migrant, and Caspian Tern fall migration has been happening since the beginning of June.  But now Black Tern migration has begun, with several individuals seen on every visit to the lake.  A few Sterna terns have been seen as well: two Forster’s and one Common were on Havasu on the 10th.  Also worth noting, Ring-billed Gulls have started arriving, including the lovely juveniles.

(not a lovely juvenile)

We have a few favorite shorebird spots in the area.  In Lake Havasu, the beach at Rotary Park sometimes has shorebirds, but the Island STP is generally better habitat.  For a longer morning of birding, the Havasu NWR has some excellent shorebird habitat at Pintail Slough and Beal Lake.  We’ve checked all these sites in the past few days and have been excited to see lots of shorebirds turning up – small flocks of Western and Least Sandpipers, a few Marbled Godwits and Long-billed Curlews, some Black-necked Stilts and American Avocets, several Spotted Sandpipers, a Solitary, a handful of Willets, a few Dowitchers, Greater Yellowlegs, decent numbers of Wilson’s Phalaropes.  Today we visited Pintail Slough hoping for a Semipalmated Plover reported by DeeDee DeLorenzo – not only was there one there, but about ten were at Beal Lake.  The highlight, though, was a Snowy Plover among the Semis at Beal Lake – a scarce migrant in the LCRV.  No real rarities on the list, but I’m always on the lookout for something good on the shimmering mudflats.

What’s weird is that a lot of these birds are showing up late, according to The Book.  When other desert shorebird sites were swimming in sandpipers, all I could turn up here was a single Least Sandpiper!  Terns have been very scarce, as well, with very few in July – Forster’s Terns should already have peaked.  It will be interesting to see if the majority of the birds are just moving south later than usual, or it turns out to simply be a poor year.  I’m hoping for the former!

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About Lauren Harter

I live in Lake Havasu City, Arizona, where I work as a field biologist and spend as much of the rest of my time as possible looking at (and listening to!) birds.
This entry was posted in Havasu NWR, LCRV, Migration, Mohave County, San Bernardino County, Vagrants. Bookmark the permalink.

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