Compiled by Eamon Corbett
August can be a bittersweet month for young birders. As we
watch migratory shorebirds and eagerly anticipate the waves of warblers that
are on their way south, we are reminded that summer is drawing to a close, and
that school (and, with it, restricted birding time) is rapidly approaching. So while
it lasts, we have to make the most of August, and these five young birders
On The Baypoll Blog,
Corey Husic writes about one perhaps underappreciated August migrant
spring, birders gather around old fields and meadows to listen to
the pzeent!of the American Woodcock. This display marks the beginning of
spring–the ground has thawed and birds are ready to breed. Some nature groups
even lead walks specifically for listening to the spring display of the
woodcock. However, many of this birders do not give notice that there is a bird
that goes "pzeent" in the fall, long after the springtime woodcocks
have become silent. These are the calls of the goatsuckers. The nighthawks.
For many birders, however, August migration evokes images of
one group: shorebirds. In a post that opens with Dickens quote, John
Shamgochian describes his lifer Wilson’s Phalarope on his blog, John’s
It was a stunning
bird – long, black, dainty bill, gray body and rusty neck giving it a
fashionable appearance. It was small, barely larger then a White-rumped
Sandpiper, dwarfed by its feathered alarm system, a pair of Greater Yellowlegs.
Both were double its size, and although both were handsomer then the phalarope
they were no competition to the regal appearance of this long-legged wader.
Some great birding moments can take place close to home. But
for many people, staying close to home precludes seeing pygmy-owls. Not so for
Joel Such, who writes on his blog, the Such-n-Such
On August 4th, we got
a call from our neighbors, Pete and Val, about the little owl being
back. She’d seen it previously, searched the Internet, and decided
it was a Northern Pygmy-Owl. We immediately headed over to indeed
find a Northern Pygmy-Owl in the top of a cottonwood tree in broad daylight.
August is also a great time for pelagic birding. Writing on
his blog Flight
of the Scrub Jay, Alex Burdo proves with his excellent photos that there is
no such thing as a bad California
In short, seasoned
Pacific pelagic birders would almost certainly consider our trip a bust.
However, for someone with no Pacific pelagic experience, nor much pelagic
experience elsewhere, this trip was a blast! Personal highlights included Western
and Clark’s Grebes, Black-footed Albatross, Pink-footed Shearwater, Ashy
Storm-Petrel, Wandering Tattler, Red Phalarope, all three Jaegers, California
Gull, Marbled Murrelet (guess we won’t be returning to Portola after
all!), Cassin’s and Rhinoceros Auklets as
well as many others.
And lastly, at her blog, Wild at Heart, Kristina Polk writes
brilliantly about an encounter with a Steller’s Jay in Colorado:
The stellar’s [sic] jay swept up into the conifer
like a spirit, dark and sudden and mystic. Cobalt feathers shone with an inner
glow, for the cloudy skies offered little light to illuminate his plumage. A
finely barred tail flicked, the bird shifted on his perch, and then his face
was there. Ebony black with a thought of azure, his head bobbed under a
remarkably plush crest. Brilliant white strikes above his eye and bill accented
his smart look, an outward expression of the intelligence within. Sprightly and
confident was he as he fluttered down on fairy wings to stand on the dry bed of
fallen pine needles, black feet sturdy on the sienna surface.