For the first time since I began birding in Chatham County, Jordan Lake didn’t drop below full pond this fall, and we never got any mudflats. Nonetheless, a handful of late-summer surveys at the New Hope Creek end of the lake turned up a respectable array of migrant wading birds. The water was generally too deep for them to forage, but they returned nightly to roost in this area (as in years past). It’s a relaxing place to spend the evening as the birds fly in from the south, and I even got my wife to join me on a few of the outings. The details: I made five trips to the New Hope Creek area—three in July, one in August, and one in September. The rarest bird was a juvenile White Ibis, seen with a friend on the first visit (7/5), followed by a Black-crowned Night-Heron on the second trip (7/13). I managed to see Snowy Egrets on two occasions, with a high count of 3 on 9/18. Little Blue Herons had a good year and were present on every occasion; my highest count was 26 individuals on 8/25. On one survey (7/13), a friend and I tallied a whopping 16 Green Herons. This was strange—this species doesn’t usually gather in large numbers. Great Egrets were present at consistently high numbers; a high count of 69 on 7/13 wasn’t unusual, but it sure was fun to watch them stream in. By contrast, Great Blue Herons were present at consistently low numbers; the lake didn’t seem to attract any migrant big blues this year, and the locals must have their normal roost spots (somewhere other than New Hope). Without any mudflats, shorebirds were practically nonexistent. A couple Killdeer were present on 7/5; I found a couple Solitary Sandpipers at Overcup Creek on 7/13; and a Spotted Sandpiper or two worked the New Hope shoreline on a couple of occasions (7/22, 8/25). But I had to head to the coast this year to see any other shorebirds. I encountered a few other interesting non-wading birds on these surveys, including two Bank Swallows amidst over a hundred migrating Barn Swallows (8/25), a heard-only Whip-poor-will (8/25), and a Merlin and Kestrel flying in opposite directions (9/18). Hopefully next year we’ll get some mudflats. The gardener in me enjoyed this year’s rain, but the birder in me did not.
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