Sunday, April 19, 2015

On the Lookout, April 14, 2015

Roy Knispel, Gil Derouen, and myself birded a selected few sights the other day in the rain. Unlike last week, on Tuesday, this was not those drenching downpours but that good, light, steady rain that the land loves. At least my yard is still growing at a speed faster than I can feel the desire to mow.

Roy registered 52 species for us. That is a lot but of course includes many common yard birds and all the not-so-common species but not necessarily new ones for the year. I added seven new for the year which brings my total to 82. We might be seeing more shorebirds in the next month. We had spotted sandpiper and solitary sandpiper today. Gulls are not nearly as prolific as two weeks ago. They probably have sensed the change in the climate and returned to home. Seeing flocks in the hundreds are not uncommon in these parts over the winter. But, at least a small batch of ring-billed were still at Musick’s Campground along with I think our first Bonaparte’s gulls for the season. Why the Bonaparte’s show up now and not earlier is a question I’d have to ask, too.

One rule of thumb is to always check out the flock of anything. Cowbirds like to congregate with starlings. All geese seem to like each other. Certainly ducks gather in bunches of each other. Gulls, too, collect. The Bonaparte’s are easily seen as smaller than ring-billed and have a black head which is very evident. With 8-10 power binoculars most of the time you can tell what you are seeing isn’t quite the same as the bird next to it but you might not have enough power to clearly define what you are looking at. Jumping up to a low-power range scope might be a good investment. The zoom/high power spotting scopes are out of my budget.

South Holston Lake level is coming up nicely. The lake has several feet to go but at least the lake is filling. Shoreline changes daily and with our hilly countryside sometimes wading shoreline disappears altogether. For this summer and probably until next spring, however, Boone Lake, which borders Johnson City and cuts through Piney Flats, will remain non-existent. When we take the spring count in a few weeks, we’ll find out just how the shoreline has changed and what it means for spring or early summer shorebirds.


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