Waterbirds Highlight Lloyd Center Wednesday Bird Walks

photo courtesy of Robert Feingold

by Jamie Bogart, Lloyd Center Research Associate

Since the Lloyd Center Wednesday Bird Walks began a couple of years back, they’ve been timed around the spring and fall warbler migration, winter “irruptive” feeder species, and wintering waterfowl. With the exception of Ospreys, for which we have platforms, beach and salt marsh species which nest off the property are mostly peripheral sightings. This year our start in early September, when many breeding songbirds have left the forest and fall warblers are yet to arrive, we caught the short timeframe of dispersal of shorebirds, raptors, waders, and cormorants, that dot the shorelines in late summer.

The Greater Yellowlegs, a familiar migrant shorebird that nests in Canada and is sometimes in flocks of their relative the Lesser Yellowlegs, were seen in small numbers on Little River in the salt “pannes”.  Pannes are unvegetated patches of salt marsh that become inundated with shallow water and aquatic food sources that attract waterbirds.  On one warm, calm October day, two yellowlegs landed on an exposed muddy creek, offering an extended close-up view for a couple seated on our bench off of the Lloyd Woods trail spur.  The couple simultaneously witnessed an Osprey, likely a fledge, come in close for a dive for fish. Near the landing on Little River Road, Double-crested Cormorants, the one highly abundant diving waterbird present in the estuaries through summer, were roosting with their wings spread on exposed rocks during the low tide. The first American Black Duck and a small flock of migrant Canada Geese were also seen.

In the waters visible from the Center’s pier on the Slocums, a small flock of Mute Swans, a lone Common Eiders, and fishing cormorants

Bald Eagle

photo courtesy of Pamela Lowell

swimming and splashing underwater, were present on walks on an otherwise quiet estuary. But waiting for fish from the salt marsh shore were small flocks of Great and Snowy Egrets, familiar white waders  that congregate along estuaries, in rookeries, or along the edges and on exposed mudflats of the marsh. Egrets gathered close to shore near the trail to the pier, and around the pannes and creeks at Little River, 10-12 in a flock. Small numbers of Great Blue Herons, the one wader which winters along estuaries and has high numbers on the Slocums, had replaced the egrets on the latest walks. We had great looks of three Belted Kingfishers, the one songbird commonly seen near our dock and flying over the estuary, also in pursuit of fish. With their striking blue-white plumage and trademark chatty call, kingfishers are unmistakable perched in the trees bordering the estuary, or diving from a branch.

Sightings of Bald Eagles on the Slocums have increased in recent years, especially in winter, as the nesting population has expanded. On multiple walks, participants observed two adult eagles perched on our osprey platforms, likely the same pair seen during last winter at the mouth of the river. Not surprisingly, the eagles were the lead attraction for some patrons, with these early sightings likely a sign the pair will spend another yet fall and winter at our waterfront, to the delight of birdwatchers attending this walk.     

Soon enough the current waterbird community will mostly vanish to southerly haunts, with migrant ducks slowly trickling in to replace them. And just as the foliage in peaking, the forests are quickly coming alive with migrants still passing through, and birds set to spend the winter. Come along on a Lloyd Center Wednesday Walk in the weeks and months ahead, to see what birds are active in a place where the action runs year-round!