Lesser Yellowlegs, Governors Island

I had my first Greater Yellowlegs in April 2013 at Sherman Creek. Since then I have had the species at least once every year — three times in 2017. Given that the Eastern population of Lesser Yellowlegs is somewhat larger than that of Greater, and that New York City shorebirding hotspots in other boroughs record relatively similar numbers of these birds, it is a mystery why Lesser Yellowlegs is so rarely observed in New York County (Manhattan).

Prior to yesterday, there had been only two eBird reports of Lesser Yellowlegs in Manhattan since 2010 — an unchaseable flyover in April 2010, and an appearance on the mud flats of Inwood Hill Park in July 2016 that was entered a couple hours too late to chase before the tide rose.

Yesterday, August 24, the fenced-in puddles on the southeast side of Governors Island, which have been hosting a variety of common shorebirds since spring, finally produced a rarity. After 3 p.m. Gabriel Willow of NYC Audubon found a Lesser Yellowlegs feeding among a mixed flock of shorebirds that included Least Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper, a singleĀ Solitary Sandpiper, and Killdeer.

With the last ferry to Governors Island leaving on weekdays at 4:15 p.m., I could not do a same-day chase.

Today I took the first ferry of the morning, at 10, hoping that the Lesser Yellowlegs did not join in what was a large overnight flight. To my delight it and all the other species mentioned above were still present.

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Longstanding nemesis bird finally enters my list

Greater Yellowlegs

Greater Yellowlegs (Photo credit: Len Blumin)

I added a number of good birds since my last post: Blue-gray Gnatcatcher on Sunday the 14th — a tough bird to find early in the season, of which there have been only a few reports so far in Central Park; Northern Rough-winged Swallow, which I had over the Meer on Monday and over the Lake this morning; Snowy Egret, seen from around 93rd Street and the East River among a breeding colony of Great and Snowy Egrets on Mill Rock Island; and, today, Greater Yellowlegs!

Credit goes to ace birder Stephen Chang, who appears in my book. He found two Greater Yellowlegs on the Sherman Creek mud flats of Swindler Cove Park in Inwood last evening and posted his sighting on eBird. This morning eBird alerted me to his observation, as the species is one I have not yet observed this year (or ever) in Manhattan. I made many trips to Swindler Cove in the heat of August last year to try to see large shorebirds, but after my initial sighting of a likely Short-billed Dowitcher, no others appeared for me. I was delighted to see this one venture out on the mud flats roughly 20 minutes after my 11:15 a.m. arrival.

I then went to Fort Tryon Park to raptor-watch, but I saw only three Turkey Vultures gliding north over the Hudson and two Red-tailed Hawks.