Sunday, May 13, 2012

Spring Birding

I had a fantastic day yesterday driving around my area, checking out the sloughs - the old sloughs are filled with reeds and cattails.  Always great for wading birds.  We had so much rain last year (flooding) that all low-lying areas in cultivated fields are also filled with water...and these shallow water bodies with muddy shores are prime for shorebirds.

Pectoral Sandpipers (Calidris melanotos ) below are fairly numerous at the moment. 

 Of course, there are plenty of muskrats busily swimming back and forth in their particular water spaces.  I think they are so cute.

 A rear view of a pair of Northern Shovelers (Anas Clypeata).  Cool Facts from AllAboutBirds:

The bill of the Northern Shoveler is about 6.5 cm (2.5 inches) long. The bill has has about 110 fine projections (called lamellae) along the edges, for straining food from water

Northern Shoveler pairs are monogamous, and remain together longer than pairs of other dabbling duck species. 

When flushed off the nest, a female Northern Shoveler often defecates on its eggs, apparently to deter predators.

 This is a favourite slough.  The shoreline is usually filled with resting ducks, squabbling Canada Geese, long-legged American Avocets and every other species of shorebird that happens to be around.  But not yesterday morning when I came by.  Mr. or Mrs. Coyote had got there first.

 And here's a Willet (Tringa semipalmata).  Willets are just one of those birds that is here all summer.  Nondescript really, except when flying.  A distinctive call that anyone who has spent time in the prairies in summer will recognize.  No Big Deal.   Yet, a couple years ago, I was birding at a fairly well-known area.  Some other birders were present (from the East) and were so over-joyed to be seeing Willets.

And this is probably why (from AllAboutBirds):

Willets and other shorebirds were once a popular food. In 1871, John James Audubon wrote that the eggs were tasty and the young “grow rapidly, become fat and juicy, and by the time they are able to fly, afford excellent food.” By the early 1900s, Willets had almost vanished north of Virginia. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 banned market hunting and marked the start of the Willet’s comeback.

Another Willet fact:  Although both parents incubate the eggs, only the male Willet spends the night on the nest.

There are two distinct subspecies of Willets.  The Western  (T.s. inornata) and the Eastern  (T.s. semiplamata)

For more info, go to: 


  1. Nice! Can't wait to get down south to my favourite slough!

    1. Thanks, Brenda. Can't beat a Prairie slough in the Spring for sights & sounds!