Shorebirds: Whimbrel

Photo of Whimbrel

By late July, shorebird migration in New England is in full swing. While some species like Semipalmated Sandpipers drop in to many beaches and mudflats by the hundreds, other species, like Whimbrel, are uncommon outside of their favored coastal stop-over sites (one such spot in Maine where 100+ Whimbrels have been seen during low tide in late July and early August is Flat Bay in Harrington). Here in southern Maine, single-digit counts are typical, and this scarcity contributes to their popularity among birders.

Their large size, compared to most common shorebirds, and their long, decurved bill make them reasonably easy to spot with a good pair of binoculars or a spotting scope. Looking for them on exposed mud flats at low tide tends to be more productive than trying to spot them among marsh grasses at high tide. Rarely, one has landed near me on a sandy beach, and on several occasions the loud flight calls of a Whimbrel have alerted me in time to look up and see the bird's distinctive silhouette speeding past.

To learn more about Whimbrels and to hear a sample of their loud calls, visit All About Birds. To view the following images in full-size, click here.

17.29 | Nature Notes (Jul 16-22)

Photo of Red-billed Tropicbird
Red-billed Tropicbird | Seal Island NWR, ME | 21 Jul 2017

Highlights of the Week

Butter-and-eggs Toadflax (Linaria vulgaris), Chicory (Cichorium intybus), Wood Lily (Lilium philadelphicum), and Narrow-leaved Fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium) flowering.

FOY birds included Wilson's Storm-Petrel (seen from land in Biddeford Pool and from a boat at Seal Island NWR), a rare Long-billed Dowitcher (found by a friend) feeding in a puddle at a farm in Clinton, the very rare Red-billed Tropicbird (back for a 13th summer in Maine), Red-necked Phalarope, Sooty Shearwater, and Manx Shearwater.

I saw a life subspecies: a white morph Great Blue Heron (sometimes called "Great White Heron") who has been fishing at Little Pond in Stoneham for weeks.

Wild Edible of the Week

I visited a productive patch of Black Raspberries more than once this week to get my annual fix of deliciousness. The fruits are among my favorite wild foods!

Moon Challenge Report

I completed my Movement Moon challenge by walking 3+ miles or biking 5+ miles, on 6 out of 7 days.

Nature Challenge of the Week (for you, the reader)

Observe some fish, in fresh, brackish, or salt water, large or small, schooling or solo, perhaps even in the bill or talons of a bird.


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Butterflies: Viceroy

Photo of Viceroy butterfly

Though more closely related to White Admirals and Red-spotted Purples, Viceroys (Limenitis archippus) are most often confused with similarly colored Monarchs. To separate the two, note the black median stripe across the rear wings of the Viceroy, a field mark not present on Monarchs, or from a distance, watch how they fly. Viceroys tend to glide with wings held flat, unlike Monarchs who usually glide with their wings in a V shape.

Larval plants for Viceroy caterpillars include various Willows (Salix spp.) and Poplars (Populus spp., including Big-toothed and Quaking Poplar). Adults are widespread in New England during the green season.

To view the following images in full-size, click here.

17.28 | Nature Notes (Jul 9-15)

Photo of Roseate Tern
Roseate Tern | Biddeford, ME | 15 Jul 2017

Highlights of the Week

Rose Pogonia, White-fringed Bog-orchid, and Tawny Cottonsedge are flowering at the Saco Heath.

Common Lowbush Blueberry, Red Raspberry, and Shadbush have ripe fruit.

Shorebird diversity and overall numbers are on the rise, as birds return from their breeding grounds to our north. Migrant shorebirds this week included: Black-bellied and Semipalmated Plover, Whimbrel (FOY), Sanderling, Least and Semipalmated Sandpiper, Short-billed Dowitcher, and Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs.

Wild Edible of the Week

I enjoyed the sweet-tart fruits of Hairy-stemmed Gooseberry.

Moon Challenge Report

I met my Movement Moon goal this week by walking 3+ miles or biking 5+ miles, on 5 out of 7 days.

Nature Challenge of the Week (for you, the reader)

Find and sketch two types of mushrooms: one with gills and one with pores.


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My work as a naturalist is supported by readers like you. To pledge a monthly contribution of $1 or more, please visit Patreon. Thank you!