Last week I checked out Noblewood Park in Willsboro for late summer birds. Noblewood’s sandy spit attracts a variety of species such as gulls and shorebirds at this time of year, and I wanted to see if anything of note was there. There had also been a report of an immature little gull at Noblewood and I wanted to see if it was still around.
There were many gulls on the spit when I arrived including herring, ring-billed, and great black-backed. There were also about 40 Bonaparte’s gulls – a much smaller species than the others and the species with which little gulls usually associate. And I found the little gull immediately – its dark edged plumage and dark “M” on its wings in flight showing themselves quite clearly.
I was excited by my quick success, but when it came to taking photos of the gulls, I had more difficulty. The Bonaparte’s gulls were rather flighty and kept moving around – with the little gull in their wake – making it difficult to get any photo of the birds. I waited to move closer to them in case the reason for their flightiness was me, but it didn’t help. In fact, one of the reasons they seemed to be so spooky was a surprising one. An immature cattle egret was out on the spit in the midst of all the gulls and appeared to be chasing the Bonaparte’s gulls around. Then the Bonaparte’s returned the favor by dive-bombing the heron when it flew!
The egret is a southern species and not often found in our region – but they will nest on the Four Brothers Islands. Interestingly enough there were also reports of immature little blue herons (a much more difficult bird to see) on the Vermont side of the Crown Point Bridge and another report from western Massachusetts, suggesting there may have been a small late summer dispersal north from their usual haunts.
Eventually the turf war between the egret and the gulls ended with the contingent of Bonaparte’s heading to a sandbar on the far side of the Boquet River. Gone were my chances to photograph the little gull. I waited a while for them to return to where I could photograph them, but they never did. So I stood and watched the heron, taking a few photos of it instead.
I also scanned the lake since there had been recent reports of jaegers from the Vermont side of the lake, but I found none. I did, however find a few shorebirds at the spit including semipalmated plovers, least sandpipers, and a greater yellowlegs. Subsequent reports since I was at Noblewood have noted similar shorebird numbers and the addition of an American golden plover – another nice find. That’s three good birds at Noblewood in the past few days. But none of these birds will stick there for long, so anyone interested in seeing them will need to head to Noblewood soon.