A sometimes subtle truism is that birds will only be found where people are looking for them. (One of the weaknesses of banding.)
All the interesting reports of shorebirds at Boundary Bay are centered around 96th Street. Last year I had seen many interesting birds near Mud Bay Park. But what about other locations? If no one is looking at other locations, then, well, who knows?
I did try Mud Bay Park at high tide and it's mostly bereft of shorebirds - at least compared to last year. I saw about 50 Plovers sitting with some Gulls and Terns. To get close to them I would have had to hop a fence.
I went to 112th and just looked from the dyke. By this time the tide was receding quickly. Didn't see anything, but a small flock whirling in the distance. Sometimes there are flocks foraging right at this shoreline at this intersection.
Then I drove to 104th and parked. My plan was to walk towards 96th. I have two reasons to take this approach: Firstly parking is friendly and secondly, the sun would be at my back. I wore rubber boots and walked out onto the mudflats. The tide was rapidly receding by this time. I had to walk about 1 kilometer to get to the water's edge. The footing was muddy initially, then became firm, and near where the tide stopped receding, it became soft again. At no time did I tread water deeper than ankle height.
I saw a number of Plovers near the water line. Perhaps 100. Some were resting, some foraging and some playing (running at one another hopping on one leg). As I slowly moved towards them, they slowly walked away. As I got closer, I noticed smaller shorebirds among them. Two that stood out were bright orange in colour, with what appeared to be no markings on their chests. Solid orange in other words.
After speaking with someone last year who said he had seen Red Knots out at the water's edge, I had a hankering to find some. Moreover, someone had reported seeing some off of 96th Street this year.
You really can't sneak up on a bird on the mudflats. I slowly approached these orange birds, but at some point, all the shorebirds got spooked by something and took to the air. I did not see where the orange birds landed.
Even though the shot is distant, I'm certain that these orange birds are Dowitchers. Probably Short-billed as someone mentioned that the SB ones prefer salt water environments. Now I wonder if anyone really did see Red Knots there, or did they mistake Dowitchers for RK? I wish they were Red Knots, but they weren't.
As for the Plovers, clearly most were Black-bellied. I think I saw 2 Golden Plovers. They were slimmer (slighter) and had stronger markings on their heads. I didn't get close enough to ID the small scuttling shorebirds.
As to what startled the shorebirds, I suspect it was this juvenile Peregrine. While walking back to the dyke, I noticed her on the mudflats. In fact she ran after something while I watched her. As more of these birds arrive, I suspect that the shorebirds will spook more often. (Last year at Reifel I watched a Peregrine take a run at about 1,000 Dowitchers. They made a roar as they all took to the air at the same time. After the Falcon passed I saw some feathers floating down to the water.)
I noticed that "Liron" also posted a photo of this bird. I think we spoke to one another, right "Liron"? I'm the fellow with the monopod.
The other interesting thing I noticed was behavioural. When I walked towards the dyke, I came across an area where where was a concentration of those little greenish plants (look like black spots when viewed from the dyke). I spotted some Peeps foraging in the area. I slowly approached and suddenly a couple of shorebirds scuttled away. They had been hiding among these plants and I had not seen them. I stopped and looked more carefully. There were between 50 and 100 shorebirds hiding/resting in this area. They would have been invisible from the dyke.
I did see one bird that had a white head with some orange at the side of its head. No JPEG yet though of this bird.
I got much closer to these birds which were hiding. I eventually IDed, Semipalmated, Least and Western Sandpipers. Two others mentioned that they had seen a small flock of Semipalmated Plovers foraging with their larger brothers.
As I neared the dyke area I noticed a fellow with a pair of binoculars studying a pond with small Peeps foraging in it. What was notable about this situation is that the foliage along the dyke is so tall that he could not see the 50 or so shorebirds foraging at the foot of the dyke (mostly Semipalmated Sandpipers). In other words, many birds will be missed is you view only from the dyke.
Here's a shot of a Western Sandpiper doing a wing stretch. Someone pointed out that the Westerns have dark legs whereas the Least have yellowish legs. The wing stretch helps ID this one.