Waterfowl migration is on!

DR. MADELINE A. KALBACH PHOTOFour birders at the Tarlatt photo blind. In the back are Erin Ryan and John Boyd. In the front are Madeline Kalbach and Gary Lukens.

Everywhere you go these days, there are waterfowl and/or shorebirds. Most are resting and feeding as they prepare to continue the sometimes long journey to their wintering areas.

Lately, I have been seeing large gatherings of mallards and geese on my birding expeditions. They seem to fill the fields, ponds, wetlands and other bodies of water to the brim!

Canada and cackling geese are the most numerous of the geese, while the mallard and pintail seem to be the most common ducks. American wigeon, various species of teal and gadwall are also relatively common sightings at this time of year.

Ever wary at this time of year, they can all rise up in a flash if they think a hunter is nearby. So have your camera ready for an exciting shot!

I take my scope along at times like this because, among the hundreds of mallards, for example, there might be another species of duck hunkered down in the group or standing at the edge of the flock.

The same is true for large flocks of geese. Canada geese are the most numerous, but closer observation with a scope or binoculars may produce a cackling goose, a greater white-fronted goose or even a subspecies of the Canada goose. It is a worth a long look when you see a large flock of waterfowl these days.

In addition to waterfowl, shorebirds also abound. Wherever there are mudflats you will usually find shorebirds. Sanderlings and dunlin are most often seen on our ocean beaches, but other species may be found among the larger flocks along its edges. Black-bellied plover should also be seen on most beach walks, and if you are lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of our rare snowy plover.

It is a must right now to check out the Leadbetter mudflats. Walks at Leadbetter are likely to produce shorebirds. Dowitcher and yellowlegs are coming through now, both here and on the beaches. The best time for viewing is the first two hours over the high tide.

South Bay Trail, which is now open, should also produce an abundance of waterfowl and shorebirds. You might even catch sight of the northern harrier flying over the salt marsh hunting for an unsuspecting small duck or shorebird for its lunch.

The Tarlatt wetlands and fields are also places to look for waterfowl and shorebirds at this time. Try a visit to the photo blind at Tarlatt. It may produce some excellent bird sightings.

This is the time to get out and experience the fall migration of waterfowl and shorebirds. So grab your binoculars and get out for walk of hike on the Refuge. It is an exciting time to be sure!

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