Late summer birding!? But it’s still hot in many parts of the country, hot and sultry and not much seems to be happening with songbirds, right? They’re in their post-breeding slump, molting and fattening up, getting ready to go south…

But not every bird. There are birds are on the wing — shorebirds! They are streaming down from the Arctic. The adults leave first and the juveniles follow afterwards. One migration flyway is down along the East Coast. Many birds are stopping in Delaware — on sod and potato farms, mud flats and beaches. All of these habitats are full of hungry and eager shorebirds heading south, far
south… down the east coast of Brazil and Argentina. Some make it all the way down to Patagonia!

After numerous reports of decent numbers of birds and some interesting, less common species, my wife, a friend and I decided (super early of course) to head down to the Delaware shore (Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge is our favorite spot) last month to find some of the goodies on offer.

Our first stop was probably the best — a little rain fed depression on the side of the road full of shorebirds, yielded a few very nice species — including four Hudsonian Godwits, some Pectoral Sandpipers and a single Solitary Sandpiper. The sighting of the Hudsonian Godwits was
particularly special, as these birds usually make the journey from James Bay, Canada, to Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, in one giant, non-stop flight. The precise path of their migration is still unknown, and is part of an active study by Cornell. Perhaps Hurricane Bill had something to do with
them being seen on land.

Next we stopped at a recently harvested potato field, where (amongst other species — Killdeers, Pectoral Plovers, etc.) a lone Buff-breasted Sandpiper was seen picking its way around. An Upland Sandpiper was reported, but it was hiding in a ditch and never showed. Those, alas, where the highlights of day, as when we reached the shore, Hurricane Bill had brought the tide in very early and very high, and recent rains had filled the impoundment ponds at Bombay Hook. Bill had also cranked up the heat and humidity, so we beat a hasty retreat after lunch back to DC.

So what will September bring? More shorebirds for sure, but also songbirds will be coming through in earnest, starting their journey to the tropics…

Happy birding everyone! And let me know what you’re seeing where you live in the comments below.

(Image: Juvenile Hudsonian Godwit. Credit: Henry McLin/Flickr through a Creative Commons license.)

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  1. I am at Rehoboth Beach in early September every year. What is the sandpiper I always see eating right along the edge of the ocean. They appear to be eating whatever is washed up by the waves – scurrying in and out of the wave line?

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