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Sunday, July 21, 2013

American Avocet makes appearence in Delco

     It was the seventh day of the July heatwave and I hadn't been birding for quite awhile. I decided to go to Sycamore Mills in Ridley Creek State Park in the early morning to beat the heat and took a short stroll along the creek. I managed to find a Yellow-billed Cuckoo and a singing Louisiana Waterthrush along with plenty of gnats flying in my face.
     It was good to get out and bird again, and that little romp started an inkling in me to get out more. So by the time evening rolled around I had checked the tide table for the Delaware River and found that low tide was at 6:30PM. I figured if it was too hot I could sit in the car with the air conditioning running and still watch over the river.
     I arrived at 5:45PM and there was already a huge mud flat in the middle of the Delaware. However, much to my dismay, people with boats were parked all around the flats jumping and swimming in the river. I figured that can't be good, but when I looked out there was a huge flock of gulls on the mud flat. So I got the scope on the gulls and started scanning. Going left to right I was picking out mostly Ring-billed Gulls, then one Great Black-backed Gull, three Caspian Terns, then some Laughing Gulls and finally a Forster's Tern. That was the end of the flock. Nothing spectacular, but I always enjoy seeing Caspian Terns. 
     So I continued to scan to the right figuring I would check out the island near the trees to see if any Wild Turkeys were walking around. Before I got to the island I was stopped by a long legged shorebird of considerable size. It stood at least as tall as the Ring-billed Gulls but it had it's head tucked in and I was looking into some mean sun glare. I guessed that it might be an Avocet but then it made a quick lift of its head and I thought I saw a down curved bill of a Glossy Ibis. You have to realize that this bird and the flats are about a 1/4 mile offshore.
     So I kept watching the bird and I saw a long white patch on the shoulder of the bird and started thinking American Avocet. The viewing angle was really poor so I drove farther down the road to close the distance and to get a better angle, hoping the bird wouldn't fly away before I got a better look. Much better. And better yet, the bird started walking around and feeding. I could see clearly the black and white body and the rufous colored head and neck along with the upturned bill. It was my first ever American Avocet in Delaware County. I took a few record shots with my little camera but nothing to brag about. What an exciting way to finish the day.
First American Avocet in Delco since 1969 (60x thru Telescope)

A little perspective on distance to mud flat. (20x)

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