Featured Image: Breeding adult; photo taken from Merlin ID App; photographer: Mark Johnson.
This week marks the sixth week of conducting shorebird surveys at Elkhorn Slough Reserve, and a few weeks ago after surveying the usual suspects (Sanderlings, Western/Least Sandpipers, Black-necked Stilts, American Avocets, Marbled Godwits, Willets, dowitchers, Long-billed Curlews, Whimbrels, Semipalmated Plovers, Spotted Sandpipers, Ruddy Turnstones, and Black-bellied Plovers), I saw something new in the far distance mixed in with the Willets and Marbled Godwits. After over an hour of surveying shorebirds, I walked back to my car, put my binoculars and spotting scope away in the trunk, and sat in the driver’s seat, when suddenly I saw something different in size, silhouette, and posture. I ran back to my trunk, got my binoculars, and saw a Red Knot in its beautiful salmon-orange breeding plumage.
The Red Knot is a stocky sandpiper with thick black legs and beak. They are found throughout the polar region in the high Arctic during the breeding season. During the winter, some are found along southern coasts of the United States and many others go to South America. Others that nest in the northern part of Canada will migrate over Greenland to winter in Britain and Canada. There are six subspecies found around the world, and the subspecies that winter in Argentina stop in Delaware to feed on horseshoe crab eggs to fatten up before they head up to the Canadian Arctic. What makes these birds very interesting is that they migrate more than 9,000 miles, one of the longest migrations of any bird.
I was very excited to see something new during my surveys. Shorebirds are starting to migrate north to breed, and the numbers of each species during my surveys are decreasing, but I am keeping my eyes wide open just in case I run into another Red Knot.