Thursday, August 25, 2011

Phalaropes at "Phals" Lake

By many accounts the past couple weeks have been exceptional for shorebirds on the mudflats at Falls Lake.  No less than 20 species of shorebirds have been reported recently including some really unusual ones that can be tricky to find even in appropriate coastal habitat, such as Piping Plover and Red Knot.

I didn't get to see either of the above, but I happened to run into David Lenat in a kayak at the railroad trestle, who gave me a full report on the rarities present.  He graciously allowed me to borrow his boat to paddle out to one of the islands to get closer views (and photos) of some of the birds.

I wasn't too surprised to see a rare inland Red-necked Phalarope; one had been reported several times in the previous week.  But seeing 4 was a bit of a shock!

Let's review...

Red-necked Phalarope

A Red-necked Phalarope should look something like this in winter plumage.

Here I managed to capture 4 in the same frame! 

Shorebird mayhem (with 4 Red-necked Phalaropes labeled)
 I would have tried for better photos, but I turned around to see David's kayak drifting off toward Wake County in the wind, so I had to hurriedly trundle through the shallows and mud to retrieve it.
 After returning the boat to David (thanks!!!) I found a rare Jacob Socolar wandering the shore with his scope.  Together we managed to pick out two distant Wilson's Phalaropes to make a 6 phalarope day and the corny title of this post.

It's enough to relegate the usually exciting Stilt Sandpiper to page B17.

Stilt Sandpiper
I'm about to head back to the coast, coincidentally into the path of the ferocious and rapidly approaching Hurricane Irene.  I wonder what birds it might bring with it?

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