Wetland walks offer rich rewards

Shorebirds like the Hudsonian Godwit are a thrill to seek out. PHOTO: Ann Brokelman

Almost every time I write one of these articles I want to begin by saying: “Some of my favourite birds are…” I then have to step back and convince myself that not every bird can be my favourite. Then, I get stuck for a time trying to think of a different way to introduce a bird or group of birds, of which the more I think about, the more I want to call my favourite. Anyway…

A spectacular class of birds found at Tommy Thompson Park on the Leslie Street Spit are our shorebirds. They come in all shapes and sizes, have bills, feet, and legs built for very specific hunting purposes, and still have the varying colour schemes and sounds that I love in many other species. If you spend some time watching them you will catch them walking gracefully along our shorelines and purposely through marshes and other wetland habitats looking for food.

One of my best shorebird memories happened alongside my friend Peter. We heard that a Hudsonian Godwit was in the area, and Peter asked me if I wanted to seek it out.

“Gee, what do you think?” I said.

We had to walk through a marsh to get to the location. Carefully, we plodded between the reeds, through some shallow water, onto a sandbank and then into thick mud flats. Funny that Peter didn’t tell me about any of this before we left! We both had on rain boots but neither of us realized how muddy it would be.

By the time we made it through the marsh, we were hot and somewhat miserable. But then, there before us was a large shorebird with a long, upturned bill: the Hudsonian Godwit.

With Peter holding my arm so I didn’t wipe out, the camera came out and the moment was captured forever. Moments later a helicopter flew over us and I can bet the passengers were laughing like crazy at how ridiculous we must have looked in the mud.

That same trip we saw a Greater yellowlegs with its long yellow legs. This physical advantage makes wading farther from shore possible and, along with its long bill and elegant neck, it is able to access more food than some of its rivals. Watching it for a while, it seemed to never stop moving with its almost frenzied dashing around.

If you’re interested, Tommy Thompson Park is a great place to see a variety of shorebird, butterflies and birds. It can be a bit of a hike but I think it is worth observing these lovely delicate birds. Go out and enjoy them… but preferably from a dry, solid ground location.

See if you can figure out the shorebird below. They are found in parking lots, apartment complexes and by the water.

Who am I? Leave your guesses in the comments. PHOTO: Ann Brokelman
Who am I? Leave your guesses in the comments. PHOTO: Ann Brokelman

Ann Brokelman is an avid birder and nature photographer.

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