Saturday 16 October 2021

Shorebirds of Algonquin

Been awhile, eh? 

Alright, I'll say it. Algonquin Park is notoriously bad for birding. Sure, there's some good things to be seen here and there, but you (usually) have to work very, very hard for it. I can't tell you the number of times I have walked around the Old Airfield over the past several weeks and the best bird be an American Pipit. 

However, despite how bad it is, many birders, myself included, absolutely adore birding in the park. Why? Well, when the work you put in pays off, it really pays off. 

Back in the summer I was joking about doing a little naturalist table on the "Shorebirds of Algonquin", which was quickly kyboshed when I realised that we only had like four (4) shorebird specimens. As you can imagine, Algonquin is not exactly the most "productive" place for shorebirds. Rocks? We got em. But we lack many of the sandy beaches and exposed marshes that are required for these migrants to touch down on.

There is however I very special place in the park that sometimes harbours shorebirds, you just have to maybe get rained on (after all, rain drives down the birds). That place is the magical East Side, specifically Radiant Lake and Lake Travers.

I only first set foot on the shores of Lake Travers this past summer, but have since made an effort to get back there as much as possible (which unfortunately, due to certain logistics, hasn't been super often). This is a very special lake in that is has a decent (for Algonquin) sized marsh with decent (for Algonquin) mudflats when the water is low. Many rarities have been found here over the years, and each time I go, I hope to add to that legacy (spoiler: no mind-bogglers yet).

Radiant Lake is another special lake in that it is very sandy, and very shallow. It is possible to wade pretty much right across the lake when the water is low enough. The sandy bottomed lake also translates into expansive sand bars that are sometimes exposed. 

30 species of shorebirds have been recorded in Algonquin Park, and I have seen 13 of them. Anyways, here's a few pictures of the ones I have encountered. 

On September 10, I went on a work trip to Lake Travers and Radiant Lake. Our best bird was a White-rumped Sandpiper (something like the 14th record for Algonquin). We also had Least Sandpipers, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Semipalmated Plovers, and a couple Greater Yellowlegs. 

White-rumped Sandpiper

Semipalmated Plovers

Least Sandpiper

A couple weeks later, I was on a camping trip to Lake Travers with Peter Simons, and we had a great time in the rain with a mini (emphasis on mini) shorebird fallout. We each got a few park shorebirds, such as a Lesser Yellowlegs, Pectoral Sandpiper, and Dunlin. 

Our eBird checklist is a sight to behold. At least, I think so :-) 

Annnndddd...that's it. Yup. A couple exciting instances for shorebirds is all you get! No fallouts of Hudsonian Godwits were observed (sadly). Water levels rose very quickly after that late September trip, and when I returned in early October, there were no exposed flats anywhere! A flyover Greater Yellowlegs is all I got...

I suspect my shorebird season is over in the park, but I'll still holding out for a Northern Lapwing in the airfield...

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