At our usual departure time of 5:30, the Avids headed for Conneaut Harbor. The forecast was for a sunny day with temperatures in the 70’s – great weather to search for shorebirds.
In addition to watching for birds on the three-hour drive, we were treated to “sun dogs,” an atmospheric phenomenon consisting of a rainbow-colored spots on both sides of the sun. Also called parhelion, the effect is created by sunlight refracting of plate-shaped ice crystals in the cirrus clouds. Birders are interested in things beyond the birds!
On arrival to the sandspit at Conneaut, we were required to pay the $5 fee, which had started the day before, so that we could drive out onto the beach. The shorebirds apparently were put off by the 15 mph winds (or perhaps the fee), as we saw only a few Least Sandpipers. However, we did have stellar looks at a Least Bittern, thanks to a photographer who motioned us over to look. Just to add a little interest, while we were watching the bittern an intoxicated man approached us: he wanted to photograph our group as part of a protest against the new entry fee.
Proceeding with the birding, we enjoyed watching an immature Common Merganser learning to fish while we drove out of the park. There were no birds on the breakwalls, but we did locate a few Bank Swallows at the Marina.
Next stop: Funk, Ohio. We were able to see some shorebirds from OH 95, but they were too distant for easy identification. There were several groups of Sandhill Cranes, but they, too, were very distant. Wilderness Road and surrounding areas, the places where we could easily stop for close views, remained shorebirdless, a trend we needed to break.
Reports of a Wilson’s Phalarope, Bairds and Western Sandpapers led us to a vote, and the unanimous decision was to go to Big Island Wildlife Area. We arrived there about 6:00 pm and we located the Wilson’s Phalarope, but didn’t find the Baird’s or the Western Sandpipers. However, there were hundreds of shorebirds of more common species at this location, mostly both Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Pectoral Sandpipers, and Killdeer. We also managed to pick out a Stilt Sandpiper and a few Short-billed Dowitchers. A decision was made to head home – and we anticipate more shorebirds on the next trip.
Our list of 58 species for the day is below.
Great Blue Heron