Shorebird Crazy at Chazy

            Over the past few weeks, local birders have been heading to Chazy Landing to an area where the Great and Little Chazy Rivers empty into Lake Champlain.  The rivers create a small set of mudflats and wet meadows, and since shorebird habitat is difficult to come by in the region, the small area attracts a wide variety of species.  And while the location is on private land, interested birders can put in a canoe at the boat launch at the Great Chazy River and paddle a short ways looking at marsh birds before they reach the opening and the mud flats. 

            And the trip is worth it.  Two weeks ago, friends and I spent about two hours there during a trip along the lake and we found nine species of shorebirds.  This included many common species such as semipalmated plover and Wilson’s snipe, but our list also included a red-necked phalarope, a species seldom found in this region.  The following day another birder found a second red-necked phalarope with the original bird we found.  They didn’t stick around long and were soon gone – on their way south.  Such is the way with migrating shorebirds.baird's Larry

            But our list didn’t stop with shorebirds at Chazy.  The collection of fields, marshes, and mudflats attract a wide variety of birds.  While we were there we saw two American bitterns, two American coots, and many species of ducks.  The latter group included gadwall and both blue-winged and green-winged teal.  Marsh wrens chattered from the grasses and flocks of bobolinks called bink! overhead.  An immature northern harrier hunted over the marsh and at one point a peregrine falcon sent everything into the air when it shot in looking for a meal.  Our day was topped off with a few Caspian terns and two black-crowned night herons. 

            Over the next few days, other birders noted the collection of birds, finding a black-bellied plover and many white-rumped sandpipers.  The following weekend I was back for another late afternoon shift.  I found 50 species of birds while sitting in one place for two and a half hours – not bad!  This time around I noted 11 species of shorebirds including Baird’s, stilt, and pectoral sandpipers, as well as a single dunlin.  There were actually fewer individual shorebirds than there had been the previous week – perhaps because they were constantly being spooked by a northern harrier and being harassed again and again by both a merlin and a peregrine falcon.  At one point the peregrine even took a shot at the merlin which wheeled in the sky and buzzed the peregrine right back! northern harrier - Chazy

            The collection of birds also included two immature American coots, a family group of four common gallinules (including two fluffy, black chicks), and nineteen blue-winged teal.  I also turned up four American bitterns and a lone black-crowned night heron this time, but the birds which may have stolen there show were the swallows.  Hundreds and hundreds of migrating swallows streamed overhead moving south and feeding.  I saw between 300-400 bank swallows alone and I identified five species of swallows in my time:  barn, tree, northern rough-winged, bank, and cliff.  I had seen a similar display of swallows on my way to Chazy when I checked out nearby farm fields.  As evening came, the swallow feeding frenzy slowed down and they were replaced by a feeding common nighthawk on its way south.  It was a nice close to the day. 

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Big mast year in the Champlain Valley