With relatively high lake levels throughout the late summer and early fall, this was another lackluster year for shorebirds on Jordan Lake. That said, it was better than last year, and featured a healthy numbers and diversity of wading birds. No migrant dabbling ducks this fall (just woodies and Mallards).
The details: Between mid-July and late September, I split my lake birding time between sunset wader surveys at New Hope Creek (6 trips, once by kayak) and shorebird surveys at Overcup Creek (10 trips), plus one kayak trip to White Oak Creek, and another to Morgan Creek. Lake levels remained near full pond throughout August, and only dipped down to 1 foot below normal by mid-September, only to rise again. The wading birds didn’t seem to mind the high water and must have found somewhere to forage during the day. Every night, like clockwork, they returned to roost in the cypress trees at the far northern end of the lake (the New Hope Creek arm), making for quite the spectacle. (Towards the end of the season as the lake sort of dropped, more foraged in the shallow water here.) Great Egret numbers were low throughout July, climbed in August, and reached a peak of 147 birds in mid-September; not too shabby. Little Blue Heron numbers peaked earlier, with 37 in early August.
A few species were only seen during July, including Green Heron, Black-crowned Night-Heron (on two occasions), and White Ibis. I found Snowy Egrets and a Tricolored Heron (a species that is becoming somewhat less rare) on four occasions, including my paddle trip to Morgan Creek, which yielded some great photos.
The best waders I saw all season were a pair of juvenile Roseate Spoonbills, which I surprisingly found at Overcup Creek (along with a group of Little Blues). These are becoming more common in the piedmont.
Shorebirds, unlike waders, actually need mudflats. As New Hope never dropped low enough to expose its majestic mud (barely attracting 4 species), I directed most of my shorebirding efforts to Overcup Creek, which develops mediocre mudflats earlier than any other part of the lake. It’s also only a few minutes from my house. I didn’t find anything spectacular (other than the Spoonbills!), but by mid-September I was able to consistently locate the most common 6 species of shorebirds there. If you don't know what they are, you probably don't care either. Beyond waders and shorebirds, the most interesting birds this year were Anhingas—present all over the lake throughout July and into early August—and a Mississippi Kite over New Hope in late July. Here’s to a well-timed drought next year 😊. I really miss local shorebirds.