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11 out of 11 in USA

…for Wader Quest!

Wader Quest’s latest trip was back to the USA and was a great success, both in terms of the birds seen and the talk they gave to the Louisiana Ornithological Society.

The trip was designed with Arctic breeding waders in mind. These birds are passing north on their way from as far south as Tierra del Fuego at the tip of South America. Birds passing through Louisiana and Texas are using one of two flyways. The majority are caught up in the Mississippi Americas flyway which funnels birds through and around the Gulf of Mexico, a smaller number are right on the western extreme of the Atlantic Americas flyway.

These Arctic breeders include American Golden Plover, Hudsonian Godwit, Semipalmated, Baird’s and Buff-breasted Sandpipers all of which were on Rick and Elis’ hit list. The Semipalmated was easy enough and was encountered on the first day at the first marsh visited, but the others were a bit more tricky. These other four were found when they left the Gulf coast and headed inland to an area known as ‘Rice Country’. This is a patchwork of rice fields, shrimp farms and the odd turf farm. As such they are a magnet for migrating waders.

With help from wader experts Steve Cardiff and Donna Dittman the Wader Quest duo scoured the fields for the species they needed. By the end of a long and exhausting day they had seen all but the Baird’s Sandpiper. In addition to the Arctic breeders they were treated to Upland Sandpiper and Wilson’s Phalarope, both being birds they needed to see.The following day Rick and Elis were determined to get their Baird’s Sandpiper and were prepared to spend the whole day if necessary sifting through the waders. The very first bird that they got their scope on in the morning, after the mist had lifted, was Baird’s Sandpiper. It’s funny how birding can be like that sometimes!

At the coast before the trip inland, target birds Pectoral and Solitary Sandpiper had been seen plus the Eastern form of the Willet. That left just one species to be found. American Oystercatcher.

For those of you who have not looked for Oystercatchers in the USA, don’t expect to see great flocks of them flying around and beetling about the beaches in noisy troops as they do in the UK, these are much more solitary birds and really surprisingly difficult to find.

A tip off from the LOS birders Joelle Finlay and Ken Harris with whom they had been birding on the Saturday and pinpoint directions from Paul Lehman in California saw the husband and wife team heading back to Texas with a plan. At precisely 16.8 miles from the turn off to Peveto Woods in Cameron Parish Rick stopped the car, he lifted his bins and there, exactly where everyone said it would be was an American Oystercatcher, the trip list was complete, a full house 11/11

Local journalist Cyndi Sellers spent one day with the Wader Quest team and was instrumental in organizing the LOS meeting at which the talk was given on the Saturday night where donations received totalled US$152.00, all of which will go to the WWT to assist with their Spoon-billed sandpiper captive breeding programme. The talk was well received, topics that were covered were; ‘why it is that the inter-tidal zone is the forgotten cousin of the rainforests when it comes to conservation’; ‘the plight of the Spoon-billed Sandpiper and what the captive breeding programme is all about’ and, of course, ‘some of the great birds that had been seen so far on the Wader Quest!‘

To follow Wader Quest or to make a donation to the captive breeding programme go to http://www.waderquest.org

4th July 2014