Whimbrel and 3 Avocets– Sept ’12, Somerset County, PA

On September 4th after returning from out of town, my wife, Trish Miller, and I were birding our Somerset Lake route. One of our first stops is on the south side of the lake. As we scanned the south side I notice a large shorebird bathing on the far shore. I couldn’t make out much from that side, so we went over the closer parking area. I crept up so I was just peeking over the dam embankment and to my surprise a Whimbrel was standing with some mallards, preening!

Whimbrel first morning

After a bit it started to feed, walking all around on the edge of the lake and in the sedges. It then flew, circled up high. I thought it was leaving for sure, but luckily it came back down and landed in the grass on top of the dam. After quickly sending out a notice on the local RBA and taking some photos, we learned that this was only the second county record!

Whimbrel on the last morning at Lake Somerset, fattened up a LOT, comparison photo of three earlier dates below.

Later that day, Jeff Payne and I were talking about how great Somerset Lake has been for shorebirds this year. I made the comment to him “…yeah, but too bad it’s getting late for Avocet now. We likely missed getting one here this year”. Of course it too would be a 2nd county record, so a long shot anyway.

Trish and I got the Somerset Lake fairly early the next day after dropping our daughter off at the bus. We pulled into the dam parking lot and I crept up and peeked over again to see if the Whimbrel was still there…. To my amazement it was, and it was standing with three American Avocets! I ran back to the car and told my wife, who of course thought I was initially pulling her leg after the comment I made to Jeff the day before. We watched all four together for quite some time. Quite neat to add them to the Somerset list this year!

3 American Avocets standing with the Whimbrel just before sunrise at Somerset Lake

American Avocet

American Avocet feeding at north flats by Geoff Malosh (click to go to his post)

Here are a few videos of both the Whimbrel and Avocet feeding. The first video shows the Whimbrel foraging on grasshoppers and other invertebrates. The second and third video show two different feeding behaviors Avocets use. The first video shows sweep feeding, which is typical feeding behavior, using the senses in their recurved bill. The second shows sight feeding which they do in clear shallower water.




Whimbrel Flying showing rump, this bird has brown rump and lower back so it is a N. American bird  (Numenius phaeopus hudsonicus)


Digiscoped picture of the last remaining Avocet after 2 of the 3 left.

Comparison picture that you can see how much the bird seemed to fatten up during its stay. It seemed to feed non-stop on grasshoppers and other invertebrates. The first pic to left shows the first morning, second shows day 4, third day 6, and then the pic near the top of the page shows it on the last day in which it seemed to be a little football!

Avocet flying from the south flats area



Whimbrel at south side of Somerset Lake, photo by Geoff Malosh (click to go to his post)

Video of the Whimbrel walking along the top of the dam digiscoped by Alex Lamoreaux.


American Avocet

Avocet feeding at dawn near the north flats area



Whimbrel running down the dam breast feeding on grasshoppers

Note- Whimbrel was present from Sept 4- 14, 3 Avocets arrived on Sept 5, 2 left that night, one continued until September 10. Also, that I am aware of,  more than 50 birders were able to come and see these during their long stopover at an inland lake, many of which this was their first PA Whimbrel and Avocet!!