As a member of the Buffalo Ornithological Society, I and other members receive occasional phone calls from the society informing us of rare bird alerts. Recently we received a report of a Curlew Sandpiper that was sighted on the shore of Lake Erie.
This was an extremely interesting report, as there have only been four records of this bird in the Buffalo Ornithological Society database. According to the society database, of the four sightings in the society's region, the sightings occurred in July, August and November. The current sighting is the first report from October.
The thought of writing about this bird as well as other rare birds in the Western New York area seemed to be an appropriate topic for this week. In addition to the Curlew Sandpiper, over the time that I have been monitoring the local rare bird reports from our county, 70 rare bird species have been recorded, including the Curlew Sandpiper, that are not regular species native to this area. The list that has been recorded is too long to include in this article, however, one of the shorebirds I will also mention today is the locally rare Piping Plover.
Clockwise, from above left: a Dunlin found along the Lake Erie shore, photographed by Dick Miga; a Curlew Sandpiper; a Piping Plover, photographed by Dick Miga along the First Ward beach in the Dunkirk harbor; a Swallow-tailed Kite; and a Black Vulture..
With respect to the Curlew Sandpiper, this bird is found primarily in the high arctic tundra where it nests. The female incubates the eggs. After the breeding season, the males usually precede the females while the birds commence their southward migratory flight to eastern Asia. This post-breeding flight appears to be slightly earlier than most birds in the span of their life cycle.
The feeding habits of the Curlew Sandpiper are similar to that of the Dunlin, another shorebird found in our area as it pecks for small crustaceans in the sand or mud. The Dunlin that we see along Lake Erie can be observed from early September to about the first week of December, when it continues its southward journey. I am also enclosing a photo of a Dunlin for comparison.
I have also included submitted photos of two rare members of the Vulture and Kite family that appear occasionally over the Ripley Hawk Watch. Over the years at the watch, coordinator Lenny DeFrancisco and assistants Sally and Mel Freeborough have reported several rare species - two of which are the Black Vulture and the Swallow-tailed Kite.
The Black Vulture is a member of the family of birds known as the New-world Vultures, which also includes the common Turkey Vulture, with which many of us are familiar. The other species, the Swallow-tailed Kite, also belongs to the Hawk, Kite and Eagle family and is a native bird of the southern states of Louisiana through Georgia. Most of these unusual local sightings are usually the result of interesting weather patterns that have forced some of the birds to divert from their normal migratory paths.
There are reports that indicate that the Black Vulture range is expanding northward, which should be interesting to watch out for. I thank Lenny, Sally and Mel for contributing the data on the sightings of the Black Vulture. They were spotted: March 4, 2000; May 6, 2002; March 17, 2003; April 4, 2005; and May 8, 2007. A Swallow-tailed Kite was spotted at the Hawk Watch on March 17, 1997.
As a reminder to you, I am always interested in article topics and photographs (with name of plant or animal on the back along with the name of the sender). Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Dick Miga at 38 Elm St., Fredonia, N.Y. 14063. Thank you.