Saturday, May 12, 2007

The Whimbrel Watch, May11, 2007

As the old song goes “Standing on the corner watching all the …..” That is what happens for Whimbrels at Gould inlet from the middle of April into May. Before I write about this wonderful show of Whimbrels let me get you oriented. Gould’s Inlet is on St. Simons Island. It is created by Postel and Rainbow creeks coming together and pouring into the Atlantic Ocean these two creekd are what separate Sea Island from St. Simons Island. The fact that these creeks are tidal and wash over drifting sand flats is the reason the gulls, terns, shorebirds and other water birds gather here.

A while back Brad Winn discovered that in the spring Whimbrels gather here in the evening in good numbers. These Whimbrels seem to use this area like a gathering point something like a bus stop. In the evening they would fly in to preen rest. They waited to almost too dark to see them then they would all leave at once. Brad thought they were flying off to roost on sand bars and small treeless island in the mouth of the Altamaha River. The Altamaha River spreads out into a delta area just north of St. Simons, Sea, and Little St. Simons Island. It is a rich diverse area. It is an area you can only see by boat. Egg Island Bar is one of four bird islands just set aside for birds to rest and nest. These sand bars and island are treeless too far out for the relentless predator, the Great Horned Owl.

The really neat aspect of Gould’s Inlet is you can drive right up for there is a small parking area. There are benches to sit on in other words it is very easy for any one to and watch this show. So I suggested as a Coastal Georgia Field trip. We meet here at 7:30 p.m. I was there at 7:20 and people were already there. It is a dream come true when I can drive up to an area and see birders. Scopes and binoculars at the ready folks are looking through them and chatting about the glories of past birding days or the next trip they are planning. Years before when I spent a little over a year just traveling to see birds there would be times when I would see no birders. Then I would turn into some famous birding spot and there the birders would be all line up scopes point in one direction. Birders were whispering, pointing and smiling as the special bird someone had spotted. So here I was getting out of my van and seeing quite a few birders. Man it just did my heart good. Grabbing an arm load of books I walked over to the group. It is important to me that everyone is included from beginners to experts, so I always try to bring bird books to share.

Looking over to the expose sand bar, there weren’t any Whimbrels yet. The group was enjoying watching the Red Knot in their summer finery. There were Semipalmated Plover, Sanderlings, Willets, and Rudy Turnstones to look at as well. I point to the sand bar and the group looked over there and because there were no Whimbrels there yet they went back to the terns, skimmers and other water birds. A few minutes later the Whimbrels started quietly gather. The group was amazed at how quickly these fairly large shorebirds just came in. In the end we had about one hundred or so Whimbrels on the sand bar. As the light was fading around 8:30 pm the Whimbrels all opened their wings and flew off. It appeared choreographed. They flew in a line across the tip on Sea Island before gaining height. As they gained altitude they bank left and disappeared into darkness.
With Georgia’s Wildlife on my mind, Happy International Migratory Bird Day!

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