Monday, September 29, 2008

Purgatory Creek Shore Birds

This summer when gas prices got high I decided to try and do more of my birding closer to home. There were a few good spots in the Twin Cities that I visited regularly, Carpenter Nature Center, Mn Valley NWR, Dodge Nature Center and Wood Lake Nature Center, but in the past I also did a lot of traveling to places like Crex Meadows,Carlos Avery, Necedah NWR, Hok Si La, Park Point, Hawk Ridge, and Sax Zim Bog. This year since I was limiting my trips to those further locations I needed to find some new spots in the Twin Cities that I could visit to give me some more variety. Near the end of July I found a new spot that fit the bill. Purgatory Creek Park is a wetland area surrounding Purgatory Creek in Eden Prairie, MN. It is in the South west part of the Twin Cities, and I live on the South East, so it is not as close as many of the parks that I frequent in the Twin Cities but it is still only 20 to 30 minutes away, depending on traffic. They have a good system of trails, including one that runs between two wetland areas, and a viewing area. I heard about it on the MOU list server because it had some of the best mud flats around back at the end of July.
So I headed off to Eden Prairie after work to explore the park and check out the mud flats for any possible shore birds. I was not disappointed. There were a lot of things for me to photograph. They even had a small mud flat with a few shorebirds like this killdeer.
Besides for the killdeer I also spotted a solitary sandpiper. You can tell that it is a solitary, as I learned later in August at the shorebird workshop which I attended, because of the white eye ring and the dark shoulder.
Solitary sandpiper often found alone, thus the name. They are unlike most other shorebirds in that they do not mind having vegetation around, so they are often found wandering small ponds.
The lesser yellowlegs, on the other hand, will usually avoid mud that is filled with greenery. They use their long legs to wade through the water looking for aquatic insects, and small fish to eat.
It is difficult to tell the difference between the lesser and greater yellowlegs. A lot of people look for a difference in size to tell them apart but this can be difficult when you have only one bird. In our shorebird class we were told to examine the beak of the bird, if it is two toned then it is a greater yellowlegs but if it is a single color, as this bird demonstrates, then it is a lesser yellowlegs.


Leedra said...

I am glad to learn the difference in the lesser yellowlegs and greater yellowlegs. I never could see the difference and did not know what to look for.

Had a Killdeer in the yard last week acting like they acted in the spring when they had nest. Never did find a nest, and hope they didn't have one this late. It also appeared they may have been teaching the young about the broken wing. Not sure but I couldn't go anywhere in the yard for their squawking.

Shellmo said...

I'm glad you provided info on how to tell the difference between the lesser & greater yellowlegs! Next year I have to start paying more attn to shorebirds.

The Birdlady said...

Loved your post - the birds are ALWAYS my favorites, but that variegated meadowhawk is gorgeous!