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Birdwalk Highlights for 9/2: Spear Farm Estuary Preserve and Yarmouth Town Landing.

We arrived at the parking lot at Spear Farm to find a small wave of warblers that included 2 BAY-BREASTED WARBLERS, 1 BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER, 1 BLACK-THROATED GREEN WARBLER, and 1 AMERICAN REDSTART. A family group of CHIPPING SPARROWS and 2 of our 4 RED-EYED VIREOS on the morning were also present. Off to a great start!

Soon after entering the woods, we spent some extended quality time with a female PILEATED WOODPECKER. Her mate answered her calls from the distance. Later, a juvenile flew by. A RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER sounded off as well, and along with HAIRY and DOWNY WOODPECKERS nearly swept the woodpecker roster. While the woods were quiet overall, as expected in September, we encountered some birds here and there, including a total of 4 GRAY CATBIRDS, a couple of RED-BREASTED NUTHATCHES, and a calling BROWN CREEPER.

At the river's edge, 2 LESSER YELLOWLEGS were present, as were 2 GREAT BLUE HERONS and downriver, a couple of hunting OSPREYS. At the pond, a great look at a GREEN HERON was a real treat. A single AMERICAN BLACK DUCK and a BELTED KINGFISHER were also present, with two migrant TREE SWALLOWS southbound overhead.

The edge of the pond hosted an EASTERN PHOEBE, a vocal COMMON YELLOWTHROAT, and then offered up a great learning moment with a bright fall WARBLING VIREO that took a careful study to properly identify.

We then relocated to the Yarmouth Town Landing with the rapidly incoming tide. A couple more Great Blue Herons stalked the shallows, two more Ospreys were fishing - one successfully, while a RED-TAILED HAWK soared overhead.

But we were here for the shorebirds, and while diminishing numbers resulted in relatively few, we made up for it with a rarity: a juvenile BAIRD'S SANDPIPER! Amongst a flock of 198 SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPERS, a larger, longer-winged peep was apparent, but the lighting was atrocious. Expecting it to be a White-rumped Sandpiper, I was shocked to see its dark rump when the group took off. Luckily, they circled back and although we struggled to get good lighting, everyone saw it well through the scope and eventually in binoculars when it briefly came closer. This is the first Baird's I have seen along the Royal River as they usually prefer grasslands, plowed fields, or high beaches. Only seeing 9 LESSER YELLOWLEGS and one LEAST SANDPIPER was less disappointing (a sign of the advancing season) with this exciting rarity added to the list!

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