Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Birdwatching by Kayak

Prothonatary warbler
Birdwatching by kayak is a great way to see some of America's most beautiful birds, including seldom seen bird species. Kayaking is a good way to explore aquatic habitats where many of these elusive birds are found.

In spring, several species of warblers begin seasonal migrations across North America. Many of these tiny songbirds prefer streams, creeks or swampy woodland habitats.

Among the most beautiful are yellow warblers and Prothonatary warblers, two species that prefer semi-aquatic environments. Mid Atlantic birdwatchers often spot these beautiful birds along creek banks while exploring by kayak.

The indigo bunting is another small but brilliantly colored songbird that is sometimes seen around ponds, creeks or streams. These opportunistic feeders also like overgrown areas and shoreline brush.

Swallows are another type of specialized bird that orient to aquatic environments. These amazing birds catch and eat tiny insects. Look for them along rivers, lake shorelines, or other areas.

The Baltimore oriole is another tree-orienting songbird that is sometimes seen by Mid Atlantic kayakers. These colorful birds prefer a diet of insects and nectar. They are often found along river banks where flowering plants and berries are abundant. Orioles are known to be shy but sometimes tolerate the approach of a slow moving kayak.

In cypress swamps and other low-lying woodlands, many birds specialize in feeding around fallen trees, cypress knees and low lying vegetation. Towhees and members of the sparrow family search the ground along streams and creeks, sorting thru leaf litter for insects and invertebrates.

Songbirds seen along Mid Atlantic streams and creeks are popular among photographers and artists, especially some of the more colorful species such as summer tanagers, Prothonatary warblers, and Baltimore orioles.

As expected, members of the heron and egret family are easily seen by kayak. By moving unobtrusively, kayaks are often able to approach quite close to these birds and observe their antics. Other fish-eating birds are also commonly seen by kayakers, including kingfishers, ospreys, bald eagles and other species.

Depending on the region and season, kayakers may see ducks, geese, brant, swans, or other waterfowl. In coastal estuaries, sandpipers, plovers, oyster catchers, marsh hens, coots, loons, terns, gulls and other aquatic birds can be observed and photographed by kayak.

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