Tag Archives: Tringa melanoleuca

M IS FOR MAY MIGRATION THROUGH MASSACHUSETTS

During the month of May, Massachusetts is graced daily with species arriving from their winter homes. Some need to fortify for the journey further north, to the boreal forests, bogs, and tundra of Canada and Alaska. Some will nest and breed in Massachusetts, finding suitable habitat along the coast, and in the marsh, scrub, shrub, forest, and grassland found throughout the state. For several projects on which I am currently working, I have been exploring wildlife sanctuaries along the Massachusetts coastal region. Here is just a sampling of some recently spotted migrants, and it’s only May 4th. Lots more to come!

Biggety Brant ~ This Brant Goose appeared to be the bossy boots of his gaggle, chiding, nipping, and vocally encouraging the group along. A large of flock of approximately 40 Brants was recently reported by readers Debbie and Dan, seen at Back Beach in Rockport. The Brants are heading to the wet, coastal tundra of the high Arctic. No other species of goose travels as far north or migrates as great a distance as do Brants.

W is for Wading Willet. A PAIR were well hidden in the marshy grass! Both the flesh and the eggs of Willets are considered tasty. They were nearly hunted to extinction, saved only by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. Willets breeding in Massachusetts is nothing short of a miracle. Notice how closely they resemble Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs; all three belong to the Genus Tringa.

Y is for Yawping Yellowlegs. Both Greater and Lesser Yellow are seen in Massachusetts marshes at this time of year. Greater Yellowlegs have a loud, distinct call, which they utilize often. The Greater Yellowlegs are feeding on tiny crustaceans, killfish, and minnows to fortify for the journey to the boggy marshes of Canadian and Alaskan coniferous forests.

Piping Plover Piping ~ We should be proud that our state of Massachusetts has the greatest record of Piping Plover recovery. I recently saw a bar graph at a lecture presentation, given by Dave Rimmer at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, which illustrated that the recovery rate has flatlined in Canada and New Jersey, and diminished in the Great Lakes region.

T is for Tree Swallow Tango ~ Males arrive on the scene prior to the females. The courtship ritual involves the gents showing the ladies possible nesting sites.

Tree Swallow preparing for takeoff.

 

MARSH SUNRISE

Yellow Legs feeding at daybreak in the marsh.

I am not sure if this is a Greater or Lesser Yellow Legs. It was too dark to make an id before flying off to join several more feeding at low tide in the marsh.

Look for both Greater and Lesser Yellow Legs along the shoreline–they are seen in Massachusetts during spring and fall migrations. Yellow Legs are traveling to bogs and marshes of the boreal forest region of Canada and Alaska where they breed and nest for the summer.

WINGED CREATURE NEWS AND QUESTIONS SUBMITTED BY READERS

We love hearing from our readers. Please feel free to ask questions about, and to share your photos of, Cape Ann’s beautiful wild creatures. GMG FOB Susan Larosa shared the extraordinary news that a Vermillion Flycatcher was spotted in Maine, the first recorded sighting EVER. Although they are known to wander, these birds are native to the southwestern region of the United States, and southward. Click on this link to continue reading the full story: The National Audubon Society says a web camera has captured the first confirmed sighting in Maine of a colorful species of bird typically seen in the southwestern part of the country.

Range map of the Vermillion Flycatcher–no where near New England!

Facebook Friend Linda shared the next two photos, wondering what bird? Linda, I think the photos are of the Greater Yellow Legs. Where was the photo taken (general area, you don’t have to be super specific) and approximately how big do you think it was, compared to other birds, for example. Greater and Lesser Yellow Legs are often confused. I have seen far more Lesser than Greater Yellow Legs on Cape Ann but the bill seems extra long, which would indicate a Greater Yellow Legs.

Range Map of Greater Yellow Legs showing it is a passing migrant through our region

Birds of Cape Ann: Greater Yellowlegs and the Boreal Forest

  • Lesser Yellowlegs Massachusetts © KIm Smith 2014.

What a treat to happen upon this pair of yellow-legged shorebirds feasting on tiny invertebrates in the mudflats at Henry’s Pond. 

Lesser Yellowlegs Pair Massachusetts © KIm Smith 2014

The Yellowlegs were foraging companionably alongside the Mallards, American Black Ducks, plovers, and Kildeers. I returned the following dawn and they had already departed for parts warmer. Perhaps we’ll see them again during their spring migration as they journey north to breed in the boreal bog forests of Canada and Alaska.

Lesser Yellowlegs Massachusetts  © KIm Smith 2014 -.Greater Yellowlegs Preening

Here on Cape Ann, we are fortunate to catch fleeting glimpses of species such as Greater Yellowlegs during the great annual fall migration. The map below shows the boreal forest biome (biome is another word for ecosystem), which lies to the south of the tundra and the north of deciduous forests and grasslands. The ground in the boreal forest is damp and boggy because of snowmelt and little evaporation due to cooler summer temperatures. The moist ground and long day length at northerly latitudes during the summer makes for explosive plant growth–Think Bird Food!–not only in the wealth of plants, but myriad insects attracted!

taiga_500Boreal Forests

I believe the pair to be Greater Yellowlegs. If any of our wonderful expert bird lovers would like to weigh in on this, I would be grateful. Songbirds and shorebirds that I have filmed on Cape Ann are featured in my Monarch film and I am in the process of writing the script. I want to insure that all the bird identifications are 100 percent accurate.

Addendum: Many, many thanks to Kate and Patricia (see comments) for identifying the pair as Greater Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca)!!

Map courtesy google image search.