With shorebirds already beginning to migrate south from their breeding grounds, I’ve put together a plan to improve my (lacking) shorebird ID skills. Some people like to post their daily gym workout for motivation. For me, it’s going to be my daily (well, maybe not daily but frequent) shorebird workout! Follow along on social media to improve your own skills, or give me pointers if your shorebird ID is already sharp.
Here is my plan:
To get better results shore-birding, I’m devoting time to studying before their peak migration window.
I’m basing my studying around the following 3 guidebooks available on Amazon:
This is a field guide I just discovered that was recommended to me by a few different people. I’ve been told if you want one guide for shorebirds, this is the one to get! I’m still waiting for it to arrive from Amazon.
I ordered this field guide last year after a particularly frustrating shorebird session at Presqu’ile. I’ve been studying from it a lot over the past couple weeks and I like it! Their shorebird technique is to find “marker” species that you use to identify the other shorebirds in the group.
In addition to the specialist guides, I also like falling back on my Sibley guide for comparison. He has a great section on shorebirds!
Get Out in the Field
I’m making shorebirds the focus of my August birding outings. In the past, I haven’t dedicated enough time to this. August then rolls around again and I wonder why I have no idea what I’m doing!
My region has high water levels at the moment, so the usual shorebird hotspots may be quiet. eBird and networking with other birders should help point me in the right direction. Sewage Lagoons, flooded farm fields and possibly mud flats along rivers will be my targets.
Post my Photos Online
One of the best ways of making sure your IDs are correct is to post photos online. Someone will usually tell you if you’ve made a mistake! I’ll be posting the highlights of my shorebird outings on social media.
Hire a Guide
I’ve hired an expert to take me shore-birding mid-August. I’ve asked to not be told which shorebirds I’m seeing. I want to learn how to ID them myself! To make the most of this outing, I’m motivated to study and practice shorebird ID on my own beforehand. Having a “deadline” like this is helpful to stay on track with my plan.
I’m visiting Prince Edward Island at the end of August which is a good spot for shorebirds at this time of year. I’m doing the trip with non-birders so I will need to be able to do quick IDs on shorter outings. I hope the work I do earlier in the summer will set me up with the shorebird ID skills I’ll need for this trip.
I checked eBird for what was seen during August in previous years. Here’s a sample of what I found:
Spotted Sandpiper, Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Solitary Sandpiper, Piping Plover, Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling, Least Sandpiper, White-rumped Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper (in large numbers!), Short-billed Dowitcher, Black-bellied Plover and Red Knot.
Lastly, I think it’s important to think about why shorebirds? Why do I care so much about seeing and identifying this family of birds?
- I love water, so it makes sense that I like birds that hang around shorelines
- Their appearance – they’re a beautiful group of birds with their specially adapted bills!
- They are one of the most difficult groups to ID so I think it’s worth committing time to improving this skill
- I’m fascinated by their long-distance migration. Many shorebirds travel thousands of miles each year so I want to see and experience them during the short time they’re in my area.
- Many shorebird populations are declining. Being able to accurately report shorebird sightings on eBird (with the correct IDs) is one way to help this group of birds.
How are your shorebird ID skills? If you have tips or comments, share away! ↓
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