Second week of monitoring shorebirds: Elkhorn Slough Reserve
Doing shorebird surveys is exciting because you never know what new species you are going to see. One of the problems you can encounter when doing surveys is that low tides are random and can be a struggle to keep up with them. We have two low tides and two high tides, and you might think that it translates into having more options to when you do your surveys. But in reality, one low tide could occur in the middle of the night and the other during the day, leaving you with only one option. This past week was one of those weeks where low tide was happening at five in the morning and the other low tide in the afternoon. It was a constant struggle, but in the end it was all worth it because I saw some new species that I had not seen before.
One survey in particular, the South Marsh loop trail at Elkhorn Slough was very rewarding. It was an afternoon and my goal for the day was to do two sites out of the four sites within ESNERR. When I arrived at the site I noticed that there wasn’t much bare ground exposed and I knew that it was going to limit the number of shorebirds that were going to feed there. But on the other hand, you could find species that don’t like to associate with large flocks on places that have little activity. That day, I had the opportunity to see my first spotted sandpiper. At first I wasn’t sure what kind of species it was but after careful observations I figure it out. I managed to see approximately four spotted sandpipers and they seem to feed apart from each other. Occasionally I would see two feeding real close to each other, but more often they were away from each other. To make my experience more interesting, the sound of something splashing behind me grabbed my attention and when I turned to look I saw a ray splashing with its pectoral fin. I believe he might have been feeding right at the edge of the water since it is very common for them to feed there.
Besides seeing spotted sandpipers and a ray, I also spotted a sandhill crane flying above heading towards the agricultural fields where is has been hanging around for a several weeks. I would always hear people talk about seeing a sandhill crane and I really wanted to see it. That day while moving along the site I heard an unusual call and started looking at the sky and there it was, a sandhill crane. I was so exited but I felt like I didn’t have enough time to visually inspect the crane because it was flying and it quickly disappeared in the distance. On my way out I encounter an individual from the reserve and I was telling him about the crane and then he pointed it out feeding in the strawberry field. I immediately took out my binoculars and stayed there for a few minutes enjoying the view. Overall it was a great day and experiences like that keep me eager about doing more shorebird surveys.