Greater yellowlegs. (Michael L. Baird)

On the first weekend in May, the Mahoosuc Land Trust participated in eBird’s Global Big Day. This is a day when birders join together to record as many types of birds that can be found in a single day. Thirty thousand birders participated and recorded 7,000 types of birds worldwide. At Valentine Farm Conservation Center, we did our part, reporting 23 types of birds.

Spring migration is always an exciting time because there’s a chance to see birds moving through before the leaves are out. The group that gathered at 8 a.m. on May 4 hoped to glimpse migrating song birds.

The day did not go as planned. During the first hour of searching, we did not find much and were starting to think the wet, cold April had slowed down migration. Halfway through the west loop trail, we heard the cry of an unexpected bird – killdeer.

This is a common shorebird that is known to prefer inland fields. We spotted five down in the flood plain of the Androscoggin. This year’s melt out had wreaked havoc on the corn and potato fields along the river, and the killdeer were roaming noisily along pond-sized puddles in the fields. These birds nest in our area, but this was the first time they had been reported at Valentine Farm.

While watching the killdeer, someone in our group spotted a different bird striding through the middle of a large puddle, probing the mud as it went. This bird had dark brown spots above and pale below with long yellow legs and a long, slightly upturned bill. The bird was a greater yellowlegs (photo by Michael L. Baird), a shorebird that passes through our area headed to spruce bogs in central Canada and Alaska where it breeds. A little more searching turned up two more wading through the temporary pond in search of food.

Our search turned up yet another surprise – a lesser yellowlegs. This bird looks identical to its larger cousin and can be challenging to identify, unless they are side by side. We were lucky with the larger birds in the same puddle.

We had started the day looking for songbirds but were surprised with migrating shore birds. I went back the next day. Only two killdeer remained. The yellowlegs had moved on. Spring migration will peak over the next few weeks. Keep an eye out for surprises which may still be in store.

James Reddoch, of Albany Township and Boston, leads birding events for the Mahoosuc Land Trust which celebrates 30 years conserving the natural areas of the Mahoosuc Region. Visit Mahoosuc Land Trust at 162 North Rd., Bethel, or at To learn about events or to contact James, email [email protected]


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