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.
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!
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.