Compiled by Eamon Corbett
August can be a bittersweet month for young birders. As we watch migratory shorebirds and eagerly anticipate the waves of warblers that are on their way south, we are reminded that summer is drawing to a close, and that school (and, with it, restricted birding time) is rapidly approaching. So while it lasts, we have to make the most of August, and these five young birders certainly did.
On The Baypoll Blog, Corey Husic writes about one perhaps underappreciated August migrant
Every spring, birders gather around old fields and meadows to listen to the pzeent!of the American Woodcock. This display marks the beginning of spring--the ground has thawed and birds are ready to breed. Some nature groups even lead walks specifically for listening to the spring display of the woodcock. However, many of this birders do not give notice that there is a bird that goes "pzeent" in the fall, long after the springtime woodcocks have become silent. These are the calls of the goatsuckers. The nighthawks.
For many birders, however, August migration evokes images of one group: shorebirds. In a post that opens with Dickens quote, John Shamgochian describes his lifer Wilson’s Phalarope on his blog, John’s Birding Blog:
It was a stunning bird - long, black, dainty bill, gray body and rusty neck giving it a fashionable appearance. It was small, barely larger then a White-rumped Sandpiper, dwarfed by its feathered alarm system, a pair of Greater Yellowlegs. Both were double its size, and although both were handsomer then the phalarope they were no competition to the regal appearance of this long-legged wader.
Some great birding moments can take place close to home. But for many people, staying close to home precludes seeing pygmy-owls. Not so for Joel Such, who writes on his blog, the Such-n-Such Bird Blog:
On August 4th, we got a call from our neighbors, Pete and Val, about the little owl being back. She’d seen it previously, searched the Internet, and decided it was a Northern Pygmy-Owl. We immediately headed over to indeed find a Northern Pygmy-Owl in the top of a cottonwood tree in broad daylight.
August is also a great time for pelagic birding. Writing on his blog Flight of the Scrub Jay, Alex Burdo proves with his excellent photos that there is no such thing as a bad California pelagic:
In short, seasoned Pacific pelagic birders would almost certainly consider our trip a bust. However, for someone with no Pacific pelagic experience, nor much pelagic experience elsewhere, this trip was a blast! Personal highlights included Western and Clark’s Grebes, Black-footed Albatross, Pink-footed Shearwater, Ashy Storm-Petrel, Wandering Tattler, Red Phalarope, all three Jaegers, California Gull, Marbled Murrelet (guess we won’t be returning to Portola after all!), Cassin’s and Rhinoceros Auklets as well as many others.
And lastly, at her blog, Wild at Heart, Kristina Polk writes brilliantly about an encounter with a Steller’s Jay in Colorado:
The stellar’s [sic] jay swept up into the conifer like a spirit, dark and sudden and mystic. Cobalt feathers shone with an inner glow, for the cloudy skies offered little light to illuminate his plumage. A finely barred tail flicked, the bird shifted on his perch, and then his face was there. Ebony black with a thought of azure, his head bobbed under a remarkably plush crest. Brilliant white strikes above his eye and bill accented his smart look, an outward expression of the intelligence within. Sprightly and confident was he as he fluttered down on fairy wings to stand on the dry bed of fallen pine needles, black feet sturdy on the sienna surface.