September Shorebirds and More From Conneaut Harbor, Ohio

September 30, 2016  •  4 Comments

September is the peak of shorebird migration in the northeast and it is thrilling to see these birds that are usually not a part of our birding adventures.  Although most have lost their breeding plumage by September, they are still a thrill to watch, photograph, and guess what they are.  Some of the differences between certain species like plovers or sandpipers are so subtle that it is easy for the novice birder to misidentify.

This September, I spent several hours along the shore of Lake Erie at Conneaut Harbor, one of Ohio’s birding hotspots, located just a few miles across the Pennsylvania border.  During the month, I had the enjoyment of seeing several migratory birds and a few that stick around all year round.  I have several photos to share with you so this photo blog is dedicated to my sightings at Conneaut Harbor.

We'll begin with a couple of species of terns.  In the following three photos you will see the largest tern in North America, the Caspian Tern.

Caspian TernCaspian Tern


Caspian Terns on the rocks of Lake Erie.

Caspian TernCaspian Tern


I thought this scene was comical as the Herring Gull frightens the Caspian Tern.

Herring Gull & Caspian TernHerring Gull & Caspian Tern


The Common Tern has been known to breed in Presque Isle State Park in Erie, PA.

Common TernCommon Tern


Common Tern

Common TernCommon Tern


During the month, I photographed a nice quantity of birds in the sandpiper family like this Baird's Sandpiper.

Baird's SandpiperBaird's Sandpiper


Least Sandpiper

Least SandpiperLeast Sandpiper


The Stilt Sandpiper is named for its long legs.

Stilt SandpiperStilt Sandpiper


Most Western Sandpipers are found on the west coast of the United States.  Occasionally, we get a few adventurous ones flying through the mainland on their way to the Atlantic for the winter.

Western SandpiperWestern Sandpiper


There are several Bald Eagles found along the coast of Lake Erie.  This juvenile left its rocky perch and flew low over the inlet behind the break wall.

Bald EagleBald Eagle


The Great Blue Heron is a very common bird which may stay year round in certain areas of PA and OH.  After catching their fishy food, they flip the food several times to get it lined up with their throat before swallowing.

Great Blue HeronGreat Blue Heron


A Great Blue Heron enhances the view of the Conneaut Harbor Lighthouse, in operation since the 1920's.

Great Blue HeronGreat Blue Heron


I found an interesting piece of history regarding the town of Conneaut (pronounced “con-e-aught”) and how it got its name.  The town of Conneaut lies on an old Indian trail later used by settlers seeking fortune on the western frontier.  Seneca Indians called the creek that empties into Lake Erie at this point Konyiat, meaning place of many fish. 

I have to say, it is a place of many birds too.

A summer breeder in Pennsylvania and Ohio is the Green Heron.

Green HeronGreen Heron


It's not uncommon to find Green Heron perched in the trees surrounding a lake, pond, or stream.

Green HeronGreen Heron


Another member of the heron family is the tiny Least Bittern.

Least BitternLeast BitternFemale or Juvenile


The next bird is an American Golden-Plover.  This plover makes one of the longest migratory journeys of any shorebird.  It breeds on the high Arctic tundra of Alaska and Canada and winters in the grasslands of central and southern South America.

American Golden-PloverAmerican Golden-Plover


The American Golden-Plover has a long, circular migration route.  In the fall it flies over the Atlantic Ocean from the East Coast of North America nonstop to South America.  On the return in the spring it passes primarily through the middle of North America to reach its Arctic breeding grounds.

American Golden-PloverAmerican Golden-Plover


The Semipalmated Plover is the most common plover seen during migration.

Semipalmated PloverSemipalmated Plover


The shallow waters of the mudflats provided an ideal spot for this Sanderling to bathe.



Another migrator through the northeast is the Lesser Yellowlegs; often seen running through shallow water looking for food.

Lesser YellowlegsLesser Yellowlegs


A year-round resident is the noisy, Belted Kingfisher.  Here is a male Belted Kingfisher perched on a sunlit branch.

Belted KingfisherBelted Kingfisher


Just so you know, a female has a second band around her chest which is chestnut-brown in color such as the hovering kingfisher in the next photo.

Belted KingfisherBelted KingfisherFemale


Although the Great Egret can be found in many areas of the north, beyond the boundaries of range maps, I don't see many in Western Pennsylvania except during migration.

Great EgretGreat Egret


This Great Egret walks very slowly while watching for an unsuspecting fish to swim by.

Great EgretGreat Egret


I hope you enjoyed seeing the various species of birds I found at Conneaut Harbor, OH.  Each visit came with great enthusiasm for what I might find.  I never visited in April to catch the spring migration but I'm definitely including it in my schedule in 2017.

Thanks for looking,



Dan, your photographs are amazing--so tack-sharp! And I appreciate your including the identification and narrative of each bird. For those of us who are not technically "birders," it is interesting to have this information.
Coy Hill(non-registered)
Amazing collection of shorebirds and the photos are of stunning! Thanks for sharing!
Cheryl Poff(non-registered)
I have lived in Conneaut all of my life and have been exploring the sandbar for approximately the last five years. I love your pictures. I see all of these birds on a daily basis. Yes, I drive through this area every day it is open. When it is closed through the harsh winter, I sit on the public dock and observe what I can. Thank you. Keep coming.
Nancy Hunt(non-registered)
Very nice!
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