Lightning struck a second time today at Somerset Lake IBA. After work, Mike Lanzone and Jeff Payne stopped by the lake, hoping for a White-rumped Sandpiper or maybe even a Red Knot. They were both shocked to find a WHIMBREL instead. This Arctic-to-Caribbean-and-back migrant is a powerful flier, and research by the Center for Conservation Biology has tracked Whimbrels regularly migrating south over the open Atlantic ocean and even powering through hurricanes!
This is a bird that evolved to conquer the horizon. Microphones built to capture the calls of nocturnally-migrating birds sometimes capture their uniquely strident voice wafting down to earth over Pennsylvania. Seeing one on the ground in the Keystone State is another story. Amazingly, this is the second time that our little lake has hosted a Whimbrel. You can read about the first one here. That bird was a juvenile, trying to find its way south on its first migration. It seems even more unusual that an adult Whimbrel would stop over on its northbound migration, especially on a day that seemed (to us) to be conducive to further migration.
The first Whimbrel stayed at the lake for weeks and weeks. However, this bird is an adult, and presumably it’s on a tight schedule to get up to the high arctic for nesting. We’ll see how long this one visits!
And now a word about Somerset Lake… As you might know, fellow Nemesis Birder Mike Lanzone, myself and many others have been working hard through the Somerset County Conservancy and its Somerset Lake Action Committee (SLAC), to organize community support for revitalizing the lake property. In order to get the state to pony up the money needed to repair the dam, we’ve raised over $100,000 and facilitated a deal where Somerset County will lease the land around the lake from the PA Fish & Boat Commission, to administer our first county park. The new park will hopefully soon be named “Somerset Lake Nature Park.” Low-impact activities and wildlife habitat will remain the focus of the new park, and wildlife observation will be as important as fishing and boating.
To that end, SLAC has been raising money for the repair of the dam and certain improvements to the park. For example, we’d like to complete the loop trail around the lake, and ideally build a boardwalk through a marsh section. Observation/photography blinds would be a nice addition as well. The County has already begun planning, and the park advisory board is in place.
If you’re wondering how you can help us win an additional $25,000 grant for park improvements, all you need to do is VOTE for us on the State Farm Neighborhood Assist Facebook page. Out of thousands of submissions, the proposal co-written by yours truly was chosen among 200 finalists. State Farm is generously funding the top 40 projects with $25k. To determine who wins, they have been holding an election on Facebook. Thankfully, we are doing astonishingly well in the voting campaign! This has been largely due to a ton of work by Michael Ohler, Angi Tennant, Cassie Moon, and many other folks here in Somerset.
But we want to see just how high we can raise our rank. To pitch in, just go here to vote each day for the next week: https://www.state-assist.com/cause/1500198/somerset-lake-park
This has been an amazing season for Somerset Lake. The Marbled Godwit on Cinco de Mayo was another Pennsylvania mega rarity. Thanks for your support in keeping Somerset Lake an awesome birding destination!