This morning I led a shorebird trip starting at 7am at the Montezuma NWR 
Visitor Center.

Next Saturday (20 Aug) Dave Nicosia will lead a trip starting at the same time 
(7am) & place (Visitor Center off NYS-5/US-20). 

Our group was initially comprised of 5 experienced birders with 4 scopes, the 
small child of a birder who was content to stand around with a small pair of 
binoculars, plus a family of 6. This family lacked optics or a field guide. 
Whole categories of birds were completely new to them. Yet they were curious 
enough to get up at 5am to leave Rochester and make a considerable detour to 
spend most of their morning with us before going to a family gathering. Either 
they had a pretty good time, or they were incredibly polite, probably both. I 
hope they come back next week. We all shared sightings, optics, and information 
with them. I hope they come back, whether or not they remember to bring their 
pair of binoculars.

On the Wildlife Drive, the Seneca Slough near the start was nicely productive. 
The river had risen enough since Sunday that it connected to the puddles in the 
slough, which hosted 4 species of shorebirds: a Killdeer, a Spotted Sandpiper 
(which lacked spots but was bobbing its rear end), a Solitary Sandpiper, and a 
Lesser Yellowlegs. Also a fox ran across the far end.

At stops along the Main Pool we added a perched adult Bald Eagle, families of 
Common Gallinules and Pied-billed Grebes, the rare summering Ring-necked Duck, 
several Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Herons, Caspian Terns, Ring-billed 
Gulls, Eastern Kingbirds, Cedar Waxwings, and eclipse Mallards. A few of us 
also noted a couple of Blue-winged Teal, some distant American Coots and Wood 
Ducks, a couple distant Northern Harriers, a juvenile Song Sparrow, a probable 
Willow Flycatcher, and various swallows. 

We added Greater Yellowlegs at Eaton Marsh. At Benning, Scott Peterson found a 
Wilson's Snipe, Ann Mitchell found a breeding plumage Dowitcher which she 
considered to be Long-billed (I was, as usual, not confident with this 
speciation), and I found a few Least Sandpipers. There was also a cooperative 
eclipse Wood Duck here.

Having done the Wildlife Drive with us, the family went on their way. The rest 
of us continued to Mays Point Pool where we met two birders who were on last 
week's field trip: a Brit and his local friend. Mays Point Pool has dried out 
considerably. The only shorebirds we saw were a single Lesser Yellowlegs and a 
few Killdeer, but they were fairly close and in the open because the shallows 
and wet mud were only near the channel along the dike.

>From here we followed recent reports and made the bold move away from the 
>National Wildlife Refuge and toward Morgan Road near the DEC offices in 
>Savannah. In theory there's a boat ramp here into the narrower and shallower 
>branch of the Seneca River which flows around the west side of Howland Island 
>and, to its south, Hog Island. In practice there is a convenient, if weedy, 
>parking area for a few cars next to a long broad swath of shallow water strewn 
>with algae, small mud bars, and newly emergent grasses and cattails. We were 
>greeted by a considerable flock of Least Sandpipers spiced with Semipalmated 
>Sandpipers and Plovers, plus a single Baird's Sandpiper.

This Baird's was more unambiguous than the one I reported from Benning a couple 
weeks back. For one thing, it didn't spend all its time in an odd position 
preening. It had the typical long, horizontal shape of a Baird's, with a narrow 
taper to the rear including wingtips crossed over the tail, not blunt-ended 
like a football or smaller peep species. Compared to the grayish Semipalmated 
Sandpipers, whose faces and throats were conspicuously paler, the Baird's was 
larger and taller, and its head, neck and breast were almost completely a 
smooth tan. It had black legs. This Baird's, a juvenile instead of a molting 
adult, also had a warm brown back whose every feather was narrowly edged buffy, 
creating a uniform scaly appearance.  

When a young Northern Harrier came between us and the peep flock, they moved a 
bit farther away. Some, including the Baird's, hid around a bend in the 
"river". We tried walking a short distance south along a nearby dike, but soon 
saw that it provided no better vantage. However, in walking from the boat ramp 
parking area toward the DEC buildings we had a different view of the pond 
between Morgan and Carncross Roads. On a little bit of mud which was relatively 
close to the DEC parking lot yet hidden from it by tall cattails, wonderfully 
lit by the sun behind us, we found a fine collection of shorebirds: two or 
three each of Killdeer, Semipalmated Plovers, Lesser Yellowlegs, Least and 
Semipalmated Sandpipers, and singles of Solitary Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, 
and Short-billed Dowitcher. The dowitcher was particularly lovely to me. Not 
only did it have a golden wash across the breast and a warm glow over its back 
from fresh, bright-edged feathers, but its tertials had diagnostic black and 
orange barring. Although this bird was gray on the face and neck, it was not 
overall cool in tone nor so extensively grayish as a juvenile Long-billed. The 
positive ID of a dowitcher to species is a wonderful thing. 
--Dave Nutter
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