Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Great Sedge Island 9/10--A Circumnavigation

Greg & I did another canoe expedition out to Great Sedge Island today. We got a later start than usual as the weather was predicted to improve as the day progressed, but the sun was still playing hide and seek when we got in the water around 11:30. The tide was high and the weather gloomy--actually downright threatening--as we made our made through snake ditch. We weren't seeing much of anything other than hundreds and hundreds of Tree Swallows streaming overhead, flying north (figure that out). However when we got through the channel and out to the inlet (where the little purple tail is on the southern part of the map) we hit a bonanza of birds. The high tide must have concentrated them all in one place. There were dozens of oystercatchers, skimmers, 4 tern species, at least 60 pelicans, but the special birds were:
A Marbled Godwit feeding in the shallows, standing next to first an oystercatcher, then a Willet, giving us good size comparisons;
A Black Tern that we first saw swimming a few feet offshore which then merged itself (but still stuck out) in the large, mixed flock of terns on the beach;
And most oddly, a very early Common Eider, just molting into breeding plumage. We first saw the bird waddling on the beach into the water--I've never seen an eider on land--it then swam out into the inlet, but not before Greg was able to digiscope a good shot:

Common Eider
Photo: © Greg Prelich
All summer we've been exploring the area, probing a little farther each time, like the Portuguese mariners who explored the African coast, until today when we turned northwest we decided, like Vasco de Gama (yes, just like him), to make the turn and circumnavigate the island.

It was a hard pull for a while since the tide was going out as we were going in, but we made back to the bay just in time to see the sand bars start to emerge at low tide. We stopped at a hummock and scanned the water At first there were few birds, mostly gulls, resting in the shallow water. Just as Greg put the scope away I told him that a lot of large, reddish birds had just flown in. He reassembled the scope and there, for the 2nd time in a row, were 7 Marbled Godwits. The odd number leads us to believe that these are the same godwits we had last week (and that the single godwit at the inlet is also the same one we saw last week). We watched them for a long time before first one, then five, then the remaining godwit flew off, perhaps as impatient as we were for the tide to finally expose some ground.

Today's trip yielded 40 species for me. They were:
Mallard  2
Common Eider  1     
Double-crested Cormorant  100
Brown Pelican  60
Great Blue Heron  1
Great Egret  10
Snowy Egret  15
Little Blue Heron  1
Tricolored Heron  2
Green Heron  1
Osprey  2
Clapper Rail  2     Heard
American Oystercatcher  65
Black-bellied Plover  25
Semipalmated Plover  20
Willet  3
Marbled Godwit  7     
Ruddy Turnstone  5
Red Knot  1
Semipalmated Sandpiper  25
Short-billed Dowitcher  4
Laughing Gull  100
Herring Gull  100
Great Black-backed Gull  4
Caspian Tern  10
Black Tern  1
Common Tern  50
Forster's Tern  30
Royal Tern  25
Black Skimmer  60
Belted Kingfisher  1
Peregrine Falcon  2
White-eyed Vireo  1     Heard, boat launch
American Crow  1
Tree Swallow  1500     Huge flocks flying over in streams.
Gray Catbird  1     Heard
Northern Mockingbird  2
Saltmarsh Sparrow  2
Seaside Sparrow  2
Boat-tailed Grackle  3


  1. Umm...My friend Larry, Vasco de Gama, keep me clear who I'm with!

    1. Just recycling a little 6th grade history.