Shorebird migration is picking up! This week has seen an increase in migrants passing through, as well as nest initiation by residents. I found my first Killdeer nest of the season at Lake Whitewood, or rather, the parent loudly alerted me to its presence as I approached unaware. I also saw three Wilson’s Snipes in the area this week. Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs continue to be abundant at local lakes. Several Willet made an appearance today and were very tolerant of my presence, to my surprise. Sandpipers are also starting to move into the area, with an abundance of Baird’s Sandpipers at both Lake Whitewood and Oakwood Lakes State Park. I was surprised to see American Avocets and Wilson’s Phalaropes in breeding plumage at Lake Whitewood, as well as a fly-over of White-faced Ibis.
Waterfowl are in high abundance yet again, with early spring migrants already gone and breeding birds just starting to arrive. Along with the mainstay Canada Goose, Mallard, and Wood Duck, a number of migrants are lingering in high abundance, including Northern Shoveler, Redheads, Ring-necked Duck, Lesser Scaup, Blue-winged Teal, and Bufflehead. Green-winged Teal are rare, with a grand total of one for the day. Gadwall have become abundant this week, as have Hooded Merganser and Ruddy Duck. American White Pelicans and Double-crested Cormorants are here in very high numbers, foraging in large flocks with Ring-billed Gull and Bonaparte’s Gull. It’s amusing to watch the gulls steal fish from their foraging partners, only to be immediately swarmed by other gulls looking to kleptoparasitize each other! A handful of Western Grebes and Forster’s Terns have also arrived back at Lake Whitewood. I quite enjoy these species that I never managed to see back in Oklahoma. There are still a few Common Loons in the area, with one at Oakwood Lake State Park today. I have seen five now, but all at a great distance. This is still a species I’ve never seen in detail and it will have to remain at the top of my list for birds to see!
We have started to see some early passerine migrants arriving, as well, but still only a few species. Tree Swallows, Barn Swallows, and Purple Martin have all made their first appearance of the spring this week. Song Sparrows have been increasing in number for the past two weeks, but a single Vesper Sparrow has now added itself to the mix. Dark-eyed Juncos have suddenly all but disappeared, though, as have American Tree Sparrows. Red-winged Blackbirds have thinned out a bit and seem to be establishing territories instead if roving the countryside in massive flocks. Yellow-headed Blackbirds have swept in in large number, though, and are quite abundant in marshy areas and a lake edges. I was lucky enough to see a single Hermit Thrush at Oakwood Lakes on its long migration northward. I also saw my first warbler of the spring today! A lonely Yellow-rumped Warbler was foraging in the treetops at Oakwood Lakes in its magnificent breeding plumage!
On the non-avian front, ants have been exploring the surface world again for several weeks now whenever the temperatures are above 40F or so. One very warm day saw several bees on the scarce spring flowers two weeks ago. I am starting to see some large Calliphorid flies out and about. Today at Oakwood Lakes, I stumbled across a small patch of warm sand packed with tiger beetles! Not sure on the species yet, but you can bet I will be investigating. Thirteen-lined ground squirrels are out and foraging like crazy in Brookings County, as are Richardson’s ground squirrels. White-tailed deer are roving and mink and muskrat are appearing again. I heard an abundance of marshland frogs but wasn’t able to see any. Painted turtles are emerging again, though, and are plastered on every log! Eagerly looking forward to an uptick in passerine migrants in the coming week or two!