Sunday, April 20, 2014

American Golden Plovers

I was fortunate to get word of large numbers of American Golden Plovers at Mt. Comfort Airport one evening (April 15th). I had just gotten home from Cincinnati, and hadn't eaten yet, so I decided that I would have to stop by the next day. After dinner, it was still light enough, so I decided to drive on over and see what I could see. Since it was somewhat of an impulse, I didn't not dress properly and was just wearing shorts and a t-shirt. It was sunny, but the temp was below 40 and the wind was blowing. Never mind, there were birds to be seen, and I figured I wouldn't have to get out of the car.

It turned out that Don was at the airport when I got there. In a recently plowed area were tons of shorebirds. Many Pectoral Sandpipers were visible. Other birds kept popping their heads up above the rows. It was far enough away, that even through the scope, it wasn't easy to see what they were. I decided to go check out the back along 500W to see if I could get a clearer look. I had seen American Golden Plovers once before in Newton County. The adult breeding plumage is striking, and the birds are large. I figured that they should stand out.

I decided to go back to the first area and see if I could make out the birds in the plowed field. By this time, I had gotten the field jacket and rain pants out of my trunk to try to keep warm. I walked up to the fence at the fire station, and tried to play the visual equivalent of whack-a-mole. A bird would pop up, and then duck back down. Eventually, I got a bead on a couple adults in breeding plumage. Then it occurred to me that the nondescript birds I was seeing were American Golden Plovers in non-breeding plummage. The field was filled with them; everywhere, of course, besides near the fence.

The setting sun illuminates a small portion of the flock. I was happy that I got to see them. Most of the birds were not in breeding plumage, and they were distant, but I didn't see any the next afternoon when I stopped by to check.

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