Aija and I spent a week at Seabrook in August, and despite the heat, we birded and shot photographs on North Beach. Of course! So, what’s to see on North Beach mid-August – through Aija’s binoculars and my camera lens? Like any time of the year, always interesting sightings!
The striking American Oystercatchers are wonderful to see, especially a larger flock moving around from the point to the SCDNR nesting area. We were on the lookout for our old friend U5, and his mate and juvenile. The family treated me to a nice “through the lens encounter”. Mom and juvenile were together foraging, then each gave their little call. I heard the return call to my far left, and there’s U5 doing a magnificent flyby!
Piping Plovers are back from breeding up north. We resighted eight, two were banded. We reported the orange flag plover to researcher Alice Van Zoeren, Great Lakes Piping Plover Conservation Team, in Michigan. Alice emailed, “This is your friend Red/Yellow; he lost his yellow band over summer. He and mate fledged two chicks successfully at Sleeping Bear Dunes on North Manitou Island this summer. Their territory was 2 miles away from the main nesting area, so we got lots of exercise checking on them each day! Glad he’s made it back to Seabrook!”. Red/Yellow is one of the captive raised PIPL Mark Andrews spotted last October He stayed with us through the spring and is back!
We learned from the researchers at the Virginia Tech Piping Plover Program that the green flag Piping Plover “2E1 was banded as a pre-fledged chick at Fire Island National Seashore, NY, on 6/2/2021. This is the first observation since banding.” This is 2E1’s first trip south, so like Red/Yellow, maybe will stay with us all wintering season too! Why not, Seabrook is a safe and wonderful place!
Between trips to North Beach, we headed down Route 17 to favorite spots – Bear Island and Donnelly WMAs. The targets were Swallow-tailed and Mississippi Kites that are seen this time of year. These graceful birds soar and swoop very fast in search of bugs, so photographing them is a real challenge, I wasn’t pleased with this trip’s quality, but the photos show the “moment” of the kites catching then gobbling insects while in flight. A terrific surprise at Bear Island was coming upon a Least Bittern sitting up on the marsh grass, and “posing” for us for a long time. This elusive bird usually skulks deep in the grass, it’s rare to get looks like this!
Back on North Beach the Black Skimmers gave me a nice beach landscape shot. Small groups of Short-billed Dowitchers and Black-bellied Plovers hung out, some still with breeding plumage.
Least Terns, and Royal Terns with juveniles begging for food, rested in the protected nesting area. A favorite tern – the graceful Gull-billed Tern, buzzed my head while I was photographing shorebirds. We wondered why as breeding season is over. But then we realized they were catching insects in midair, or maybe looking for small crabs on the ground! These beauties don’t rely on fish for their diets like their ocean-diving cousin tern species.
Seeing what’s up on Jenkins Point is always fun. Aija knew a Yellow-crowned Night Heron had been hanging out on Old Wharf Road. This was unusual, as Jenkins Point is a place for the Black-crowned Night Heron. My trusty birding buddy was right as usual. I always wonder, would I ever get these photos without Aija’s expertise?
Article and Photos by Ed Konrad