As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Monday, 1 July 2019

Lost Birds Find Their Way to the Cape

By MARK FAHERTY • MAY 22, 2019
On Sunday, a birding group from Mass Audubon Wellfleet Bay was sorting through migrant shorebirds on Morris Island in Chatham. The usual suspects were in place – Semipalmated Sandpipers newly arrived from Brazil; Dunlins, Sanderlings, and Ruddy Turnstones all in their breeding finery, plus shrieking Willets defending their nearby nests.
The numbers were modest, as is typical for spring – most shorebirds avoid this part of the world on their northbound journey. But among the dozens of expected birds was one that did not compute. It was the size and shape of a Dunlin, with that same long, down curved bill, but with red where the black belly should be. The leaders, David Clapp and Joel Wagner, quickly realized this was a rare visitor from “the Continent” – a Curlew Sandpiper.
Curlew Sandpipers breed in a relatively small area of Arctic Siberia, then make an impressive migration to Africa and Australia for the winter. This species used to be almost annual in spring on Cape Cod, but shows up much less often these days - it’s anyone’s guess why.  And how does a bird that’s trying to get to Siberia from Africa end up on Cape Cod, anyway? That’s also up for debate, but the prevailing theory is that a few Curlew Sandpipers overshoot their fall migration to Africa, putting them over the tropical Atlantic and eventually in South America, where they settle in for the winter with other shorebirds. Come spring, these birds head north with the other North American shorebirds, ending up in places like Chatham. No one knows if and where these lost birds end up breeding, but it’s unlikely they find their way back to Eurasia from here.

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