I was again birding with friends this past weekend in the Champlain Valley, and one of the places we stopped was at Noblewood Park in Willsboro. Noblewood has a nice forest of mixed deciduous trees and eastern hemlock and we found a few woodland birds such as tufted titmouse and red-eyed vireo on our walk there. But we weren’t particularly interested in woodland birds anyway.
The attraction of Noblewood to birders is its sandy shoreline along Lake Champlain – especially the sandy spit along the mouth of the Boquet River. On our visit, the end of the spit and the nearby sandbars were lined with gulls and we found four species of gulls as we searched through the flock. Most of them were Bonaparte’s gulls – about 300 in all – and we scoped slowly through them hoping to find a less common species. After all, species such as little gulls sometimes get mixed in with Bonaparte’s at this time of year. We didn’t notice any on this trip.
We did, however, find a handful of common terns as well as a few Caspian terns as we searched. Caspian terns are the largest tern in North America and vocalize some raucous and loud calls – making them fun to watch. There were also a few distant double-crested cormorants.
Noblewood’s sands are also attractive to migrating shorebirds which are flying south from the arctic at this time of year. The Champlain Valley is the best place in the region to see migrating shorebirds, and Noblewood is one of the best locations to check for them. On the day we were there we found a few scattered shorebirds – a couple least sandpipers, killdeer, and semipalmated plovers. We also saw a spotted sandpiper fly up along the Boquet River on our way out. One of my friends birding with me had been at Noblewood first thing that morning, and he also found a greater yellowlegs. The yellowlegs was gone by the time we were there in late morning – perhaps because of boater activity.
One of the best ways to find interesting species in a place like Noblewood is to stand and scan, giving time for new birds to arrive. And while we didn’t find anything different or out of the ordinary, we stood watching for a while enjoying the beautiful day and the view across the lake. Then it was time for lunch – and we were off to a local deli for a sandwich.