2013 Kachemak Bay Shorebird Monitoring Project
On Monday, May 13th the Kachemak Bay Birders had its seventh shorebird monitoring session for this season. A total of 20 volunteers made observations for two hours (6:45 pm – 8:45 pm) at four sites on the Homer Spit, nearby Beluga Slough, the Islands and Islets on the south side of Kachemak, Bay, and the Anchor Point/River. Sites on the Spit include Mud Bay, Mariner Park Lagoon, Mid-Spit (Green Timbers and Louie’s Lagoon) and the Outer Spit (fishing hole and the boat harbor area).
This year’s spring migration was slow in starting but is making up for lost time. This was a banner monitoring session. Last session (May 8th) we saw 14 shorebird species (less the Willet) and 306 individual birds. This session (May 13th) we saw 20 shorebird species and a total of 10,519 individual birds, give or take a few. What a difference a spring makes - now that it really is here. We saw more shorebirds this session than we did our entire first year of monitoring in 2009 when we reported only 7,406 individual shorebirds (which didn’t include the Anchor River site). Are shorebird populations on the rebound?
To add to this, we have another possible rare bird alert. Our experienced team of Anchor River birders were stumped by a plover which they concluded might be a European Golden-Plover. The University of Alaska Museum Checklist of Alaska Birds for 2013 considers the European Golden-Plover an “Accidental” meaning that there are one or two Alaska records. We are only mentioning that this might be a possibility and birders who visit the Anchor River might be on the lookout in *** to provide further documentation, or lack thereof. Michael Craig will be writing up a description of what they saw which will be attached as a comment to our eBird submission. If the observation is not accepted in review, it will be withdrawn.
The weather during monitoring was stable. Conditions, based on the Homer Airport (http://w1.weather.gov/obhistory/PAHO.html), were as follows. At 6:53 pm skies were overcast with scattered showers in the area and the temperature was 43°. The wind was from the SW at 8 mph and the barometric pressure read 29.45 inches. At 8:53 pm conditions were still cloudy and the temperature remained 43°. The SW wind was at 5 mph and the barometric pressure stayed at 29.45 inches.
Here is a summary of shorebird observations followed by all other birds.
Golden and black-bellied plovers seem to have moved on. Some Pacific Golden Plovers were seen in the grass at Mid-Spit (18) and the Anchor River (5). A few Black-bellied Plovers were seen at Mud Bay (4) and the Anchor River (6). But more Semipalmated Plovers, which breed locally, were seen including Mud Bay (2), Mariner Park Lagoon (8), Mid-Spit (23), Beluga Slough (3), and Anchor River (4).
Black Oystercatchers (2) were seen at Gull Island.
Yellowleg counts are also declining. Greater Yellowlegs were seen at Mud Bay (1), Beluga Slough (1), and the Anchor River (4). Lesser Yellowlegs were at Mariner Park Lagoon (1), Beluga Slough (1), and Anchor River (2).
Whimbrel were seen at Mid-Spit (11) and Anchor River (21).
A group of Wandering Tattler (24) were seen at the boat harbor and Gull Island (1). Surfbirds, as usual, were at the entrance to the boat harbor (75) and Lancashire Rocks (80). Black Turnstone showed up at Gull Island (1), Lancashire Rock (3), and Anchor River (2). Ruddy Turnstone were seen at Mid-Spit (2) and Anchor River (1).
Hudsonian Godwit were seen only at Beluga Slough (3).
The big news is the arrival of our first big pulse of sandpipers. Our previous session on Wednesday observed only about 190 shorebirds in the Calidris genus. This session on Monday counted over 10,000. Fortunately, most of them arrived on Friday afternoon, just in time for the Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival. While daily counts seem to indicate some leaving the area, it is obvious that more have arrived. In fact, on a trip out to the Spit on Tuesday night I saw 10,000-15,000 sandpipers just in Mud Bay including about 90% Western’s, about 10% Dunlin, as well as some Dowitchers. Another birder there agreed with the count. It was a spectacular sight as huge flocks would take to the air, twist and turn, flashing brown and white, and then land on the beach again. At one point, two flocks of thousands of birds flew right into each other in what looked like a major head-on. But miraculously, they all came out the other side. Obviously, the birds don’t need FAA controllers.
The details for sandpipers are as follows: Western Sandpipers were at Mud Bay (3,504), Mariner Park Lagoon (2), Mid-Spit (1,510), the boat harbor (6), Beluga Slough (232), and the Anchor River (179). Dunlin were at Mud Bay (1,500), Mid-Spit (149), Beluga Slough (9), and Anchor River (+40). In addition there were lots of “peeps” including Mid-Spit (+5,000), boat harbor (50), Beluga Slough (16), and Anchor River (500). The peeps were about 90% Western Sandpipers and 10% Dunlin. Other sandpipers include Least Sandpiper at Mariner Park Lagoon ( 36), Mid-Spit (6), Beluga Slough (6), and Anchor River (5). Semipalmated Sandpiper (5) was seen at Anchor River (5). Pectoral Sandpiper were at Mud Bay (1), and Anchor River (3). Rock Sandpiper (2) were seen on Lancashire Rock.
Mixed in with the big flocks of sandpipers were a lot of Dowitchers. Most observers didn’t venture to determine whether the birds were short or long-billed and just lumped their sightings by recording Dowitcher sp. ; Mud Bay (119), Mariner Park Lagoon (10), Mid-Spit (4), Beluga Slough (22), and Anchor River (13). However, some observations were more specific with Short-billed Dowitchers at Mariner Park Lagoon (4), and Anchor River (4). Long-billed Dowitchers were seen and photographed at Mariner Park Lagoon (19) and reported at Anchor River (3).
There was just 1 Wilson’s Snipe at Anchor River.
Other bird observations, by site, are as follows:
Mariner Park Lagoon:
Green-winged Teal – 14
Northern Shoveler – 18
Bald Eagle – 4
Sandhill Crane - 2
Lapland Longspur - 2
Bonaparte’s Gull - 1
Common Murre - x
Black-legged Kittiwake - x
Common Loon – 2
Bald Eagle – x
Herring Gull - 2
Rock Pigeon – 2
Common Murre – 5,000
Pelagic Cormorant – 8
Red-breasted Merganser – 6
Pigeon Guillemot - 2
Lapland Longspur - 1
Savanna Sparrow – 3
Song Sparrow – 1
Greater White-fronted Goose - 40
Cackling Goose – 18
Northern Pintail - 5
Green-winged Teal – 37
American Widgeon – 34
Eurasian Widgeon - 1
Northern Shoveler – 7
Mallard – 6
Common Loon – 2 on bay
Harlequin – 2 on bay
Common Murre – x on bay
Sandhill Crane - 7
Mew Gull – 30
Glaucous-winged Gull - 4
Bald Eagle – seen eating a duck
Peregrine Falcon – seen catching a sandpiper in the air
Merlin – 1 heard
Ring-necked Pheasant -1
Lapland Longspur -1
Next report in 5 days. Keep on birding.