Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Great Bay Blvd WMA 5/26--Least Tern

I had stuff to do in the morning and what with migration coming to an end, I figured my best shot at birds in the afternoon would be toward the water so I drove down to Tuckerton. I wasn't disappointed with shorebirds--there were pockets of sandpipers, Dunlins, turnstones, and a few of the larger shore species all along the 5 mile stretch. I also came across a fairly large flock of Black Skimmers at the start of the road, loafing on a mud flat, yipping like little dogs, a sight and sound that always amuses me.

I saw a couple of Seaside Sparrows out in the open--one was taking a little bath and the other was running from one tuft of grass to another on a mud flat practically at my feet. I also heard a couple more and had I been really paying attention to that one sparrow I'd probably have twice the number. But I was looking for new stuff. I was looking, particularly for Saltmarsh Sparrow, a bird I just can't seem to find in Ocean County and I was looking for White-rumped Sandpiper and I struck out on both, though I thought I had some pretty good candidates for the latter but they were just too far away and obscured by grass for me to call definitively.

If I focus on what I did see than I'm pretty happy with the day. I was also looking for different terns when I was out at the inlet but that area was pretty dead and the wind was unrelenting. Those of you who follow this blog (Hi Mom!) know that I abhor wind--doesn't matter if it's January or May, wind is wind to me. So the walking around part of the trip was challenging. I was walking the road between the fourth and fifth bridges checking out the marshes when I saw a tiny tern dive into a pool. It took a moment for the thought to click in, but I watched the Least Tern for about 30 seconds to confirm the i.d.

Walking back toward the car I noticed that the mud flats on one side were covered in an icky red slime which I assume is some sort of algae or the like. The birds didn't seem to mind it and it made for great contrast:
Short-billed Dowitcher on red mud
Semipalmated Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper on red mud
There were not the great number of egrets that are sometimes there and I saw exactly one each Glossy Ibis, Tricolored Heron, and Little Blue Heron. I had pulled off just north of the fourth bridge on my way out to make one last stab at finding something interesting and there it was--the first one I've seen this month and an adult.
34 species
Great Egret  18
Snowy Egret  12
Little Blue Heron  1   
Tricolored Heron  1
Glossy Ibis  1
Osprey  10
Clapper Rail  4     Heard
American Oystercatcher  1
Black-bellied Plover  15
Semipalmated Plover  20
Greater Yellowlegs  1
Willet  7
Ruddy Turnstone  26
Dunlin  75
Least Sandpiper  5
Semipalmated Sandpiper  100
Short-billed Dowitcher  9    
Laughing Gull  50
Herring Gull  20
Great Black-backed Gull  1
Least Tern  1
Forster's Tern  15
Black Skimmer  32
Willow Flycatcher  1     Heard in grove, just before 5th bridge. 
Fish Crow  1
Tree Swallow  20
Barn Swallow  50
Gray Catbird  2     Heard
European Starling  1
Common Yellowthroat  4     Heard
Seaside Sparrow  4
Song Sparrow  2
Red-winged Blackbird  50
Boat-tailed Grackle  10

Monday, May 25, 2015

Brig 5/25--Least Bittern

Another visit to Brig today, this time with Shari. I was hoping to find the Wilson's Phalarope again, but didn't have the same luck as I did yesterday. And there were a lot more birds to look through compared to the previous day:
This is just a tiny sample of the literally acres of birds on view today. I estimated 6000 Dunlin alone, plus a couple thousand more Semipalmated Sandpipers and scores of Black-bellied Plovers, dowitchers and the like.  Despite not finding the phalarope, we had a great circuit around the impoundments.

Probably the best bird of the day, possibly the best bird of the year, we found first thing down at the gull pond. Shari was scoping the pond on the right side of the dike and I walked over to look in on the other side when I saw a blackbird chasing a larger, buffy bird out of the reeds. Immediately I knew what it was and I shouted, "Shari, Shari, look at the bird!" as it flew right by me, veered over the hood of our car and dove down into the reeds in front of Shari, vanishing. But we both got great looks at the bird with dark remiges and buffy coverts--a Least Bittern. I suspect that the bittern blundered too close to the blackbird's nest while it sneaked through the reeds and the blackbird was having none of it, even though a bittern wouldn't be a threat (I don't think). I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I've seen a Least Bittern and I've never had one fly so close to me. An excellent sighting which made any other birds we found gravy.

And we got a couple of good ones too. After sorting through the thousands of shorebirds and not finding the one we were really looking for, we moved on up the road past the observation tower. We'd seen a few Glossy Ibises here and there, no big numbers, and in the southeast pool we found another ibis next to a Great Egret. But this one, Shari noticed, had red legs.
And while you can't really see it in the photo, a red eyeball. And heavy white around the face:
All of which adds up to a White-faced Ibis. I've seen a couple this month, but this was FOY for Shari.

Yesterday I was able to see the continuing American White Pelican in the middle of the pools. It was distant, but the bird is so big that picking it out was easy once someone pointed me in the right direction. Today we weren't able to find it from the usual vantage points. I was just starting to wonder where that bird would go when it wasn't at Brig when we were coming up to an island, just before the drive goes into the woods, where Black Skimmers, terns, and gulls usually hang out. In the midst of the skimmers and plovers and other shorebirds was one huge, white bird. Even with its head tucked in we could tell it was the pelican.
You can just see the black wing tips and small portion of the yellow beak. 

Other birds we were happy to find were Whimbrels, Ruddy Turnstones, and of course, American Oystercatchers. One species we didn't find, hard to believe, was Great Blue Heron.

Here's the list for our one turn around the dikes:
50 species
Canada Goose  25
Mute Swan  3
Wood Duck  7     entrance pond
American Black Duck  2
Mallard  4
Double-crested Cormorant  50
American White Pelican  1     
Least Bittern  1     
Great Egret  15
Snowy Egret  5
Black-crowned Night-Heron  1
Glossy Ibis  12
White-faced Ibis  1     
Turkey Vulture  1
Osprey  5
Bald Eagle  1
Red-tailed Hawk  2
American Oystercatcher  4
Black-bellied Plover  100
Semipalmated Plover  20
Willet  25
Whimbrel  12
Ruddy Turnstone  10
Dunlin  6000
Least Sandpiper  50
Semipalmated Sandpiper  2000
Short-billed Dowitcher  100
Laughing Gull  200
Ring-billed Gull  1
Herring Gull  50
Great Black-backed Gull  10
Gull-billed Tern  2
Caspian Tern  1
Forster's Tern  25
Black Skimmer  89
Peregrine Falcon  1
Great Crested Flycatcher  1     Heard
American Crow  1     Heard
Fish Crow  2
Purple Martin  15
Tree Swallow  2
Barn Swallow  3
Marsh Wren  1     Heard
Gray Catbird  1     Heard
Common Yellowthroat  5
Yellow Warbler  
2
Chipping Sparrow  1     Heard
Seaside Sparrow  5
Red-winged Blackbird  50
Brown-headed Cowbird  2

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Brig 5/24--Wilson's Phalarope, Saltmarsh Sparrow

Shari, who leads a more well-rounded life than I do, had other things she wanted to do today, so I drove down to Brig by myself. I was hoping for shorebirds and I got them in droves. I was also hoping to find one of the Wilson's Phalaropes that had been reported there the last couple of days. I was expecting to do a lot of scanning of distant shorebird flocks in order to find the bird, but instead, right after marker 4, on a mudflat close to the road, I saw one Willet, and standing a couple of feet away a phalarope.

This is a male, which, unlike most species, is less colorful than the female. Still, I was proud that I found it on my own. I then stood around for 20 minutes, watching it, and hoping to hand it off to another birder to appreciate. But no one stopped. No one was curious. Pete has a theory that when people crap out early at Atlantic City, they take a spin around Brig just to do something to delay having to go back home. I think there were a lot of losers circling the dikes today. Finally, the bird, along with a few Semipalmated Sandpipers and the Willet, flew off.

I was hearing a lot of Seaside Sparrows today and saw a couple distant birds fly down into the reeds. The one serious birder I ran into today pointed out a Saltmarsh Sparrow to me. It too made a nose dive into the phragmites, but it's on the list. Not a bird I was particularly worried about. Besides, Tuckerton or Cattus Island is where I want one.
55 species (+2 other taxa)
Canada Goose  50
Mute Swan  1
American Black Duck  1
Mallard  15
Double-crested Cormorant  7
American White Pelican  1     Continuing bird. Large white bird with huge yellow bill. Unmistakable.
Great Blue Heron  3
Great Egret  45
Snowy Egret  25
Glossy Ibis  50
Black Vulture  1
Turkey Vulture  1
Osprey  3
Clapper Rail  2
American Oystercatcher  3
Black-bellied Plover  13
Semipalmated Plover  2
Greater Yellowlegs  3
Willet  15
Ruddy Turnstone  20
Dunlin  1000
Least Sandpiper  200
Semipalmated Sandpiper  1000
Short-billed Dowitcher  3
Wilson's Phalarope  1     S
Laughing Gull  100
Herring Gull  50
Great Black-backed Gull  10
Caspian Tern  1
Forster's Tern  20
Black Skimmer  57
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  1
Peregrine Falcon  1
Great Crested Flycatcher  2     Heard
Blue Jay  1     Heard
American Crow  1     Heard
Fish Crow  5
Purple Martin  15
Tree Swallow  20
Barn Swallow  10
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  2
American Robin  1
Gray Catbird  5
Common Yellowthroat  10
Yellow Warbler
 3
warbler sp.  1
Eastern Towhee  2     Heard
Chipping Sparrow  4
Saltmarsh Sparrow  1
Seaside Sparrow  10
Song Sparrow  2
sparrow sp.  1     Anyone want to help me out with this?


















Northern Cardinal  1     Heard
Red-winged Blackbird  50
Common Grackle  3
House Finch  1     Heard, parking lot
American Goldfinch  1     Feeders


Ohio 5/14-5/21 Links & Trip List

Click photo to read sign
We spent a week in Ohio, mostly around the Magee Marsh area with forays into Sandusky and Erie Counties. We found 150 species, smashing our record from two years ago and we did it without finding one pigeon! That seems almost impossible, especially since we spent a late afternoon/evening in Toledo. We added 30 species to the year list.

Magee Marsh is on the southern shore of Lake Erie and is the last stop for migrating birds who are reluctant to cross the lake to their breeding grounds in Canada. So they plunge down into the marsh, build up their food reserves (and perhaps courage) and while doing so, put on a show for the birders who flock with them to the boardwalk. The Biggest Week in American Birding Festival takes place during migration and the boardwalk is jammed. The day after the festival ends, the boardwalk is comparatively empty, yet the birds don't know the festival is over.

Maumee Bay SP 5/14--Cliff Swallow

Oak Openings 5/15--Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Red-headed Woodpecker, Swainson's Thrush, Blue-winged, Nashville, Mourning, Chestnut-sided, Blackpoll, & Wilson's Warblers, Lark Sparrow, HENSLOW'S SPARROW, Scarlet Tanager

Magee Marsh Boardwalk 5/15--Cape May, Bay-breasted, & Blackburnian Warblers

Sandusky County 5/16--Alder Flycatcher, Willow Flycatcher, Bobolink

Ottawa NWR Estuary Trail 5/16--Common Nighthawk, Gray-cheeked Thrush

Erie County 5/17--Least Flycatcher, Bank Swallow, Northern Waterthrush, Tennessee Warbler, Connecticut Warbler

Ottawa NWR Auto Tour 5/17--Common Gallinule, Sandhill Crane

Metzger Marsh 5/18--Eurasian Collared-Dove-like bird

Maumee Bay SP Boardwalk 5/20-- Virginia Rail

More Pix

The list: ALL CAPS=Life Bird; Bold Italics=Year Bird; Underline=Rare Bird
Species            First Sighting
Canada Goose     Oak Openings
Mute Swan     Pipe Creek
Trumpeter Swan     Arnold Marsh
Wood Duck     Oak Openings
Gadwall     Pipe Creek
American Wigeon     Pipe Creek
Mallard     McClure's Marsh
Blue-winged Teal     Pipe Creek
Northern Shoveler     Pickerel Creek Wildlife Area
Green-winged Teal     Metzger Marsh Wildlife Area
Redhead     Pickerel Creek Wildlife Area
Ruddy Duck     Pipe Creek
Common Loon     Metzger Marsh Wildlife Area
Pied-billed Grebe     Ottawa NWR Auto Tour
Double-crested Cormorant     McClure's Marsh
American White Pelican     Metzger Marsh Wildlife Area
Great Blue Heron     McClure's Marsh
Great Egret     Christy Farm
Green Heron     Magee Marsh
Black-crowned Night-Heron     Arnold Marsh
Glossy Ibis     Pickerel Creek Wildlife Area
Turkey Vulture     Oak Openings
Northern Harrier     McClure's Marsh
Cooper's Hawk     Pipe Creek
Bald Eagle     McClure's Marsh
Red-tailed Hawk     Oak Openings
Virginia Rail     Maumee Bay SP Boardwalk
Common Gallinule     Ottawa NWR Auto Tour
American Coot     Pipe Creek
Sandhill Crane     Ottawa NWR Auto Tour
Black-bellied Plover     Metzger Marsh Wildlife Area
Semipalmated Plover     Pearson Metropark
Killdeer     Magee Marsh Boardwalk
Spotted Sandpiper     Pipe Creek
Solitary Sandpiper     Pipe Creek
Greater Yellowlegs     Ottawa NWR--Boss Unit
Lesser Yellowlegs     Pickerel Creek Wildlife Area
Ruddy Turnstone     Ottawa NWR Estuary Trail
Dunlin     McClure's Marsh
Least Sandpiper     Pearson Metropark
Short-billed Dowitcher     Metzger Marsh Wildlife Area
American Woodcock     Magee Marsh Boardwalk
Ring-billed Gull     Ottawa NWR Estuary Trail
Herring Gull     Ottawa NWR Estuary Trail
Caspian Tern     McClure's Marsh
Common Tern     Ottawa NWR Estuary Trail
Eurasian Collared-Dove     Metzger Marsh Wildlife Area
Mourning Dove     Oak Openings
Yellow-billed Cuckoo     Oak Openings
Eastern Screech-Owl     Magee Marsh Boardwalk
Great Horned Owl     Secor Metropark
Common Nighthawk     Ottawa NWR Estuary Trail
Chimney Swift     Pickerel Creek Wildlife Area
Ruby-throated Hummingbird     Oak Openings
Red-headed Woodpecker     Oak Openings
Red-bellied Woodpecker     Oak Openings
Downy Woodpecker     Oak Openings
Hairy Woodpecker     Christy Farm
Northern Flicker     Oak Openings
Pileated Woodpecker     Irwin Prairie
American Kestrel     Jerusalem Rd
Merlin     Magee Marsh Boardwalk
Peregrine Falcon     Pickerel Creek Wildlife Area
Eastern Wood-Pewee     Oak Openings
Alder Flycatcher     McClure's Marsh
Willow Flycatcher     Christy Farm
Least Flycatcher     Pipe Creek
Eastern Phoebe     Oak Openings
Great Crested Flycatcher     Oak Openings
Eastern Kingbird     Oak Openings
White-eyed Vireo     Oak Openings
Yellow-throated Vireo     Oak Openings
Blue-headed Vireo     Pearson Metropark
Warbling Vireo     Oak Openings
Red-eyed Vireo     Oak Openings
Blue Jay     Oak Openings
American Crow     Oak Openings
Horned Lark     McClure's Marsh
Northern Rough-winged Swallow     Pipe Creek
Purple Martin     McClure's Marsh
Tree Swallow     Oak Openings
Bank Swallow     Pipe Creek
Barn Swallow     Oak Openings
Cliff Swallow     Maumee Bay SP
Black-capped Chickadee     Oak Openings
Tufted Titmouse     Oak Openings
White-breasted Nuthatch     Oak Openings
House Wren     Oak Openings
Marsh Wren     McClure's Marsh
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher     Oak Openings
Eastern Bluebird     Oak Openings
Veery     Oak Openings
Gray-cheeked Thrush     Ottawa NWR Estuary Trail
Swainson's Thrush     Oak Openings
Wood Thrush     Christy Farm
American Robin     Oak Openings
Gray Catbird     Oak Openings
Brown Thrasher     Oak Openings
Northern Mockingbird     Pipe Creek
European Starling     Oak Openings
Cedar Waxwing     Pipe Creek
Ovenbird     Oak Openings
Northern Waterthrush     Pipe Creek
Blue-winged Warbler     Oak Openings
Black-and-white Warbler     Oak Openings
Prothonotary Warbler     Magee Marsh Boardwalk
Tennessee Warbler     Sheldon Marsh
Nashville Warbler     Oak Openings
Connecticut Warbler     Sheldon Marsh
Mourning Warbler     Oak Openings
Common Yellowthroat     Oak Openings
Hooded Warbler     Secor Metropark
American Redstart     Oak Openings
Cape May Warbler     Magee Marsh Boardwalk
Northern Parula     Magee Marsh Boardwalk
Magnolia Warbler     Oak Openings
Bay-breasted Warbler     Magee Marsh Boardwalk
Blackburnian Warbler     Magee Marsh Boardwalk
Yellow Warbler     Oak Openings
Chestnut-sided Warbler     Oak Openings
Blackpoll Warbler     Oak Openings
Black-throated Blue Warbler     Magee Marsh Boardwalk
Yellow-rumped Warbler     Oak Openings
Black-throated Green Warbler     Magee Marsh Boardwalk
Canada Warbler     Oak Openings
Wilson's Warbler     Oak Openings
Eastern Towhee     Oak Openings
Chipping Sparrow     Oak Openings
Field Sparrow     Oak Openings
Lark Sparrow     Oak Openings
Savannah Sparrow     Christy Farm
Grasshopper Sparrow     Oak Openings
HENSLOW'S SPARROW     Oak Openings
Song Sparrow     Oak Openings
White-crowned Sparrow     Oak Openings
Scarlet Tanager     Oak Openings
Northern Cardinal     Oak Openings
Rose-breasted Grosbeak     Sheldon Marsh
Indigo Bunting     Oak Openings
Bobolink     Harder grasslands
Red-winged Blackbird     Oak Openings
Eastern Meadowlark     Oak Openings
Common Grackle     Oak Openings
Brown-headed Cowbird     Oak Openings
Orchard Oriole     Maumee Bay SP Boardwalk
Baltimore Oriole     Oak Openings
House Finch     Oak Openings
Pine Siskin     Oak Openings
American Goldfinch     Oak Openings
House Sparrow     McClure's Marsh

Maumee Bay SP 5/14--Cliff Swallow

Cliff Swallow showing white forehead patch
After a day-long drive through Pennsylvania and Ohio, we arrived at Maumee Bay SP where we picked up our registration material for the Biggest Week in American Birding. We were only going to be there for the last 3 days of the festival but we still needed to get our badges.

It was there that we also picked up our first year bird in Ohio, accidentally and incidentally. As I was waiting for Shari to come back out, I saw some swallows flying out from under the carport in front of the lodge. Something about them told me that they weren't Barn Swallows and when I looked up at the roof of both the carport and covered entrance way I saw mud nests attached to almost every corner, with swallows flying in and out of them. I could also hear chicks begging. The little white forehead patch cinched the identification: Cliff Swallows. One of the nests was actually built atop a Barn Swallow nest. I'm glad I got photos when I did, because a couple of days later most of the nests had been knocked down by the lodge staff--apparently they wanted to avoid paying customers getting surprises from on high.

Oak Openings 5/15--Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Red-headed Woodpecker, Swainson's Thrush, Blue-winged, Nashville, Mourning, Chestnut-sided, Blackpoll, & Wilson's Warblers, Lark Sparrow, HENSLOW'S SPARROW, Scarlet Tanager

Lark Sparrow
Photos: Shari Zirlin
We signed up for a van trip to Oak Openings Preserve Metropark, west of Toledo. It meant getting up at 4:30 in the morning. The weather was rainy and the leaders were young. They may know their birds, but they were very inexperienced in leading a trip. However, Oak Openings presents very unusual habitat for that part of the country--essentially oak covered sand dunes. It reminds me a little of the Pine Barrens since very little grows there other than scrub oak.
Red-headed Woodpecker

Most of the birds we get in Ohio we will probably get in New Jersey if we look hard enough, but there are a couple of sparrows that are found in Oak Openings that are respectively, very hard to get in NJ and practically impossible.  Those were the birds I was especially interested in. Happily, so were the leaders.

Lark Sparrow I've seen a couple of time in NJ, both times I believe at Sandy Hook, but Oak Openings is the place to go in NW Ohio to find them. It took some doing, but finally, toward the end of our stay there we found one very accommodating bird that posed for us on the roadside.

Earlier in the day we spent a long time staring into a grassy field. It looked a lot like the fields in Colliers Mills here in NJ and it too had Grasshopper Sparrows. But that wasn't the bird of interest. After much time looking and listening I was finally able to home in on the "Gdip" of a HENSLOW'S SPARROW, a very secretive, hard to find prairie grasslands species. This was our only life bird for the trip. Hearing isn't as good as seeing but it counts and for a bird this small and furtive I count it a success, especially since two years ago we didn't even get that close. (Spoiler alert: the next day, in Sandusky County, I actually caught a glimpse on one.

When we first arrived, in the rain, the group gathered in a very fancy blind of the kind that many of the Metroparks have--Windows on Wildlife. But it was stuffy and the birds I could see were the birds I get at our feeders. Another group had a report of Mourning Warbler just behind the building, so despite the drizzle and damp, Shari & I followed them and were fortunate to see this always sought after warbler, high in a balsam fir tree, which in itself was very unusual, since the MOWA's are usually ground skulking birds.

Oak Openings is also a great place to find Red-headed Woodpecker and it lived up to its reputation. Across the field from where the Lark Sparrows nest we found at least 3 of them, feeding eye-height on the dead trees.

We spent around 7 hours at the park and garnered 68 species, 12 of them year birds. It was definitely worth the trip, even if I did feel that we could have blundered around the park just as well on our own. I doubt I would have heard the Henslow's if we had.
68 species
Canada Goose  2
Wood Duck  2
Turkey Vulture  1
Red-tailed Hawk  1
Mourning Dove  2
Yellow-billed Cuckoo  2
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  1
Red-headed Woodpecker  3
Red-bellied Woodpecker
 2
Downy Woodpecker  1     heard
Northern Flicker  1
Eastern Wood-Pewee  1
Eastern Phoebe  4
Great Crested Flycatcher  2     heard
Eastern Kingbird  1
White-eyed Vireo  1     heard
Yellow-throated Vireo  1     heard
Warbling Vireo  1
Red-eyed Vireo  3
Blue Jay  1
American Crow  1
Tree Swallow  2
Barn Swallow  1
Black-capped Chickadee  2
Tufted Titmouse  2
White-breasted Nuthatch  2
House Wren  2
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  1     heard
Eastern Bluebird  1
Veery  1     heard
Swainson's Thrush  2
American Robin  2
Gray Catbird  1
Brown Thrasher  1
European Starling  1
Ovenbird  2     heard
Blue-winged Warbler  1     heard
Black-and-white Warbler  1     heard
Nashville Warbler  3     heard

Mourning Warbler  1
Common Yellowthroat  5
American Redstart  2
Magnolia Warbler  1
Yellow Warbler  3
Chestnut-sided Warbler  1

Blackpoll Warbler  1
Yellow-rumped Warbler  1
Canada Warbler  1
Wilson's Warbler  2
Eastern Towhee  3
Chipping Sparrow  5
Field Sparrow  4
Lark Sparrow  1
Grasshopper Sparrow  2
HENSLOW'S SPARROW  1     heard
Song Sparrow  2
White-crowned Sparrow  2
Scarlet Tanager  2
Northern Cardinal  4
Indigo Bunting  2
Red-winged Blackbird  2
Eastern Meadowlark  1
Common Grackle  1
Brown-headed Cowbird  6
Baltimore Oriole  14
House Finch  2     heard
Pine Siskin  2
American Goldfinch  5