This past Sunday, I decided to go up to Conneaut Harbor, just over the Ohio border, to try to find some shorebirds. This is a fantastic location for shorebirds and one which I have been trying to go to over the past few weeks. However, something has always gotten in the way which has prevented me from going. This time however, there was nothing stopping me and we left Pittsburgh at 6 o’clock and headed north.
On the way up, we decided to stop at the Mosquito Lake Causeway in Trumbull County Ohio just to see what was there. There was an osprey and a large number of wood ducks but not much else. We then continued on our way and arrived at Conneaut Harbor at around 9.
While Conneaut Harbor is not much more than a sandspit next to a harbor and a small marsh, it attracts a huge number of shorebirds during the fall. What makes it even better though is how accommodating all of the shorebirds are. Conneaut is the only place that I know of where you can approach with in a few feet of a lot of the shorebirds that are there.
We pulled onto the sandspit to find a good number of birders already there. I got out and scanned through the shorebirds that were foraging in a small pool next to the marsh. A quick scan revealed short-billed dowitchers, a willet, least sandpiper, semipalmated sandpiper, semipalmated plovers, lesser yellowlegs, and a pectoral sandpiper.
I was very pleased to see that there were a very large number of semipalmated plovers on the sandspit as these are one of my favorite shorebirds and one that I don’t get to see all that often. The plovers were also one of the most accommodating shorebirds and many individuals came quite close.
As I was watching and photographic the shorebirds, word got to me that there was a lesser black-backed gull in the large flock of herring and ring-billed gulls which were sitting along the shore. This is another bird that I don’t get to see much of so I excitedly made my way towards the shoreline and was quickly able to pick out the lesser back-backed.
Lesser Black-backed Gull
After having ascertained that no new shorebirds had flown into the main pool, I decided to walk over to a separate sandspit where I could see there were a few sanderlings foraging. I didn’t want to stay there long however as I did not want to miss any of the action at the pool.
Bathing Semipalmated Plover
Getting back to the pool, I settled down to wait for any new shorebirds to come in. After about twenty minutes nothing new had come in (except for a few killdeer) so I walked down with some of the other birders present to where the sanderlings were for we could see that now there was a flock of peeps in with them.
As we were scanning through the shorebirds, two spotted sandpipers flew in (which are actually a pretty good bird for this location). A flock of Bonaparte’s gulls flew in as well and joined the other gulls by the shore.
Then, one of the other birders found the best shorebird that we had all day, a white-rumped sandpiper in among a flock of semipalmated sandpipers. It didn’t stay still for long however and soon took flight. All was not lost however as it landed in the main pool where it gave good views for a few minutes before flying off for good.
Flock of Peeps in Flight
The next piece of excitement after the white-rumped was the appearance of a flock of Forester’s terns which came in from the lake. An even better surprise was the single common tern mixed in with them! As if this wasn’t good enough, it wasn’t long until a single Caspian tern flew in, the third terns species of the day.
Not long after the appearance of the terns, we decided to leave to go to a nearby diner for lunch. After a quick meal we returned to the harbor for one last look around before heading south. This also provided me with a good opportunity to take some more photos of the shorebirds (specifically the dowitchers).
Short-billed Dowitcher Eating a Leech
After getting my fill of shorebird photography, we said goodbye to Conneaut Harbor and headed south. However, we decided to make a detour to Somerset Lake to try to find the Baird’s sandpiper and flock of 50 (!!) black terns that had been found that morning (Somerset Lake is quite out of the way on the way back to Pittsburgh but it would be worth it to see the terns). However, as went south, I received an alert that there was now a flock of 24 black terns at Moraine State Park. Not only was Moraine on our way to Pittsburgh but we had actually passed it half an hour ago!
Turning around, we headed back to Lake Aurthur at Moraine State Park where we pulled into to find a huge number of black terns flying around. This many black terns was a fantastic thing to see in Pennsylvania and it was really a great ending to an already memorable day.