.......and Reflections

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Joy of a July Marsh

 I visited Lorain impondment near the Black River to see if any shorebirds might have dropped in on this leg of their fall migration. Yes, it's that time already. In fact, there were a number of migrant shorebirds present on Ohio's north coast even late in June.

There was some shorebird variety. There have been Three Dunlin at this location all summer and they are most likely non-breeding individuals. In all species there are always some non-breeding birds for a wide range of reasons. There were Lesser Yellowlegs and Least Sandpipers all of which are early fall migrants from the far northern breeding areas. Killdeer and Spotted Sandpipers are shorebirds that bred at the this artificial wetland in Lorain County.

Baby Killdeer are cute as a button in their own right. They are an unmistakable spitting image of their parents. They are little plover fuzz balls with disproportionately long legs. They only have one stripe around the neck when they are hatched but the second ring will appear when fuzz turns to feathers. There are usually 3-5 siblings that feed themselves but are guarded and tended by both parents for 40 days before they are completely on their own.

Baby Spotted Sandpipers aren't all that commonly seen even though this species is a common local nester. For starters, the fledglings don't stay little very long. They will take flight 16 to 18 days from hatching. The fledglings I took pictures of today will be flying in two weeks. Fuzz to flier in a couple of weeks is hard to comprehend.

Spotted Sandpipers only have one brood. However the story gets a little dicey as the females frequently have two or more clutches but with different males. There are 3-5 eggs and typically 4 eggs per clutch. This Spotted Sandpiper brood is an early clutch and incubated by dad. Later clutches are incubated by both the male and the female. The adult pictured here in the blog is a male and his job is guarding and supervising. Baby Spotties are grazers from the get go.

As soon as the downy babies dry after hatching, they leave the nest. The coolest thing about baby Spotted Sandpipers is that they are born with the same gate as their parents. Birders familiar with this sandpiper know that it drops it's butt when it walks making the bird have a bobbing motion. Try to imagine three fuzzballs with long legs bobbing their way out of the nest just like their parents. It is a thing that can only evoke a smile and a chuckle. It looks a bit like dryer lint bouncing along a mudflat.

There are a lot of ducklings and goslings around many marshes these summer days. I included a picture of baby American Coots chasing mom or dad (could be either) around for a meal. Baby Coots have to be fed by their parents for the first month of their lives, and babies will be so no more, and independent in 8 weeks.

So get out to your local wetland and see whats going on. I think the more you know about the life histories of these marsh birds the more you will come to appreciate the business of life and the joy of July.

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