Alas, June. Unlike the coasts, where the tides
create it twice a day, shorebird habitat varies tremendously from year to year,
often from week to week and sometimes from day to day in the interior. Cooley
Lake yielded shorebirds in 2002 because we were then in drought. Conditions are
now more normal, perhaps wetter than normal. We are more apt to find shorebirds
in shrinking puddles than along the shore of the lakes that dried up during the
Another factor affecting shore bird habitat in
July is plant growth. Once mud appears, seeds start sprouting. Soon, what
was shorebird habitat is covered with grass, smartweed, etc.
One good thing can be said about mid-summer
shore birding in the interior. If there is good habitat, it will usually have
The best habitat is sometimes created
when refuge managers draw down a lake or impoundment, temporarily creating
mud flat (and what may be even more important, shallow sheet
water). Fishing lakes are sometimes drawn down to deal with runoff of
agricultural pesticides. In waterfowl refuges that use the "moist soil" method
of creating habitat for ducks, the draw down creates the ground for a bumper
crop of smartweed, which can be flooded when the ducks come in.
You might ask, why not time draw downs to
cooincide with shorebird migration? The timing of draw downs is a major
skill in the business of waterfowl refuge management. If it is done at the wrong
time, the crop may be cockle burrs instead of smartweed. It would be nice
to know if this year's draw downs have been completed or are still to be
I saw a post the other day about Silver
Lake at SLNWR that may have included something about a draw down.
Posts about draw downs and other sources of
shorebird habitat would be most helpful.