Although the summer solstice — the “first day of summer” — was on June 21st, to some birds that may have been the first day of Fall. All of the shorebirds we see in Maine are migratory. Some of them migrate to Maine for the winter (Purple Sandpipers) while some come here just to breed (Piping Plovers) and then there are dozens that just migrate through the state between their summer and winter destinations. Quite often there are days in late June that we see shorebirds and wonder if they are the last of the spring migrants or the first of the fall migrants.
Using eBird.org we can look at line graphs showing the frequency of reports fora few of these migratory shorebirds to see when ‘spring’ and ‘fall’ is for these birds. Below is a chart comparing Greater Yellowlegs, Least Sandpipers and Short-billed Dowitchers — all shorebirds that migrate through Maine.
eBird’s maps and charts can be a very valuable tool for learning about the occurrence of different species in Maine. Here are some easy step-by-step instructions on how to create one of these charts:
Go to eBird.org and click on the ‘Explore Data’ tab. That should get you here: http://ebird.org/ebird/eBirdReports?cmd=Start
- We will choose ‘Line Graphs’ for this exercise, which will get you to this page for selecting the species you want to compare: http://ebird.org/ebird/GuideMe?cmd=quickPick
- You can choose up to five species. For this lets use a breeding species (Piping Plover), migratory species (Greater Yellowlegs), and a wintering species (Purple Sandpiper). Just type those names into the ‘select species’ and you may have to choose the proper designation from a drop down list. When those three species are under the “Your selected species list”, click “Continue”.
- You should be looking at a beautiful line graph (and bar chart actually) for these three species BUT the default is for the region to be set to all of North America. You’ll want to click on the “Change Location” button under the bar charts and then choose “Maine” and “Entire region” before clicking “Continue” at the bottom of the page.
- You can refine the location as much as you’d like. It can be fun to compare counties or even hotspots around the state but not that will be looking at a smaller data set which may not be truly representative of that population.
- Compare your chart with the one below. You can also compare to this.
- Give yourself a pat on the back, grab your binoculars, and go find a shorebird on its ‘fall’ migration.
A Maine native, Doug grew up in Hollis and graduated from the University of Maine in 2011. Throughout college Doug worked at Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center and was hired as Maine Audubon’s staff naturalist in the summer of 2013, a long time “dream job.” In his free time, Doug volunteers as one of Maine’s eBird reviewers, is the owner and moderator of the ‘Maine-birds’ listserv and serves as York County Audubon board member and Secretary of the Maine Bird Records Committee.