Stan & Joan DeOrsey
Having spent the better part of the cold season
on a southern beach, Tybee Island near Savannah, we learned to
appreciate how tides effect birding. An incoming tide, the time
between low tide and the next high tide, brings nutrients on
each wave and always found the gulls and sandpipers present in
larger numbers, as well as feeding more actively. The Sanderlings
run in and out, while the Willets and Least Sandpipers probe
determinedly. Ring-billed Gulls have an interesting dance they
do standing in one spot loosening sand as the surf runs out.
Offshore birds such as Northern Gannets tended to fish closer
to shore on an incoming tide, especially with an on shore breeze.
Around the time of high tide also finds more birds present,
often roosting on the beach, such as Purple Sandpipers and Ruddy
Turnstones, as the high tide has pushed them off otherwise exposed
rocks and mud flats. The highest high tides occur during the
full moon and almost as high for the new moon. This is a great
time to search for Marsh Wren and Seaside and Sharp-tailed Sparrows
as well as rails which are pushed into bushes and grassy areas
where these elusive birds may be more readily seen.
The draw back of low tide is that it often exposes vast areas
which allow sandpipers to disperse and be further away from shore
and thus further from view. You will only advance across a mud
flat once, hopefully in shoes you do not intend to wear again!
On the other hand if you know a good vantage point overlooking
confined mud flats then low tide is the time to be there.
Of course a lot more than tides effect concentrations of birds.
The time of day, weather, man made disturbances, season, and
food supply play nearly equal roles. But if you are planning
a day trip to the shore, particularly a habitat of beaches, mud
flats, or submerged rock outcrops, check the tide tables so you
are present on an incoming morning tide. Then avoid summer beaches
and don't become trapped by high tide!
Over Dutchess, May