Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Meta-typo

I love to collect to typos and other printing errors--they make up most of the "words" entries in this blog--so I was delighted to find an essay about mislabeled pictures of birds in Pete Dunne's entertaining Small-headed Flycatcher. Seen Yesterday. He Didn't Leave His Name.

I was even more delighted when I read this sentence:
At one pregnant moment, a point-blank house finch was shown that, to everyone's astonishment, threw back its head and belted out a beautiful morning warbler song.
Perfect. A typo in an article poking fun at copy-editing errors. A meta-typo. For you non-birders, t'aint no such thing as a morning warbler. Try Mourning Warbler with the easy-to-read initial caps.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Whitesbog (Ocean County) 11/11--Northern Shrike

I hadn't really checked email while we were doing the Delmarva tour so I was surprised to find an message from Mike Mandracchia asking me if I wanted to try to find the shrike that had been spotted at Whitesbog on Monday. What shrike?

Doing a little research on Jerseybirds and eBirds I quickly found that Greg had discovered what seemed to be a Northern Shrike in the bogs and then refound it a few hours later. I remembered a couple of years ago chasing a shrike at Whitesbog that was a one-day wonder and that frustrating memory, coupled with my dead tiredness from the long weekend and the drive back dampened my enthusiasm for the hunt. But the idea that it was in Ocean County overwhelmed my disinclination and besides, I hadn't seen Mike in a while.

Greg emailed me the couple of places he'd seen the bird and Mike & I set out this morning to look. We did about 2/3 of the circuit around the main bogs with very little bird activity. But at the dogleg there was a pocket of sparrows jumping around and when we got out of the car to investigate a really interesting one we'd seen well but couldn't identify (and still can't) Mike looked up in a bare tree not fifty feet from us and found the shrike. We got pretty good looks at it with our binoculars and then it flew into a small tree in the bog. By the time we set up our scopes, Mike had a brief look, enough to convince him that it was Northern Shrike and not a Loggerhead (they are notoriously difficult to tell apart and since NJ is the southernmost range of the Northern and northernmost range of the Loggerhead we can get either one), but then it flew again. Actually, we never saw it fly. It disappeared, Only to turn up about an 1/8 of a mile to the west atop another tree. Unfortunately, we had committed the cardinal sin of wandering away from our scopes, so by the time I had run down the road to retrieve one, it flew. Again. Disappeared. Again.

We'd seen it and Mike had seen it better than I had but it was still a BVD bird. Greg, by this time, was on the dikes and after comparing sightings from yesterday and today we split up to look for the bird. Mike and I circled the bogs a couple of times with no results and then decided to plant ourselves in good habitat and hope the bird would show up. That didn't work either.

Around noon we decided our looks were decent enough that we could leave and feel successful. I was driving out Whitesbog Road when my cell phone rang. I stopped the car and answered, only because I thought it was Shari. It was Greg; he'd found the bird.

My Saturn Ion really isn't built for Whitesbogs' roads, but I went bumping along to where Greg was, even though I was sure that the 5 minutes it took to get there would be 1 minute too long and it was. The bird disappeared. Again.

It is at these points that I start to hate birding. Why? Why am I doing this?

Greg got into my car and we drove around, meeting other birders along the road, none of whom had been successful until one of them got a text that the bird was all the way down by the double-laned road. We drove down there and found birders intent on their scopes. By the time we set up our scopes, the bird disappeared. Again.

We shouldered our scopes and started walking back to where we'd met. Greg was saying that when he had the bird about an hour before it was actually vocalizing. Then we heard something. Now, it might have been the shrike, or it might have been the flicker we saw flying across the bog that made the sound. But the flicker flew to a tree and in that tree I saw the shrike. The shrike and flicker fought a bit for possession of the limb the shrike occupied with the shrike winning the skirmish. And finally, we were both able to get the bird in our scopes and finally I was able to convince myself that it was a Northern Shrike, based on color, mask, bill, and the negative factor that it didn't look like a mockingbird as Loggerheads will.

After more than 6 hours (and not much bird life other than the shrike) I was content to leave.

12 species
Turkey Vulture  3
Red-shouldered Hawk  1
Belted Kingfisher  2
Downy Woodpecker  2
Northern Flicker  2
Northern Shrike  1    
Golden-crowned Kinglet  2
Song Sparrow  10
Swamp Sparrow  5
Dark-eyed Junco  5
Red-winged Blackbird  1
American Goldfinch  1     Heard, Dogleg

Delmarva 11/7-11/10--List & Index

Saxis Marsh
Photo: Shari Zirlin
Shari & I went on a van trip, led by Scott Barnes & Linda Mack of NJ Audubon down to the Delmarva Peninsula. Our major stops were Bombay Hook, Chincoteague NWR, Eastern Shore of Virginia NWR, Kiptopeke State Park, Magothy Nature Preserve, and Prime Hook. While only a few of these spots were new to us, it always a pleasure to go to familiar areas with experts who have the patience and knowledge that allow you to "get on" birds you would probably overlook.

Wolfe Neck Waste Treatment Plant 11/7--Black-headed Gull
Chincoteague NWR 11/8--White Ibis, Brown-headed Nuthatch
Saxis WMA 11/8--Virginia Rail
Seaside Road 11/9--Western Kingbird
Eastern Shore of Virginia NWR 11/9--Golden Eagle
Prime Hook 11/10--American White Pelican




For the 4 days I listed 114 species. The cumulative number for the group is always more. I would guess there were probably 5 or 6 species I missed. I'm very happy with what I got, including 6 years birds.

Snow Goose
Canada Goose
Tundra Swan
Wood Duck
Gadwall
American Wigeon
American Black Duck
Mallard
Northern Shoveler
Northern Pintail
Green-winged Teal
Ring-necked Duck
Surf Scoter
Black Scoter
Bufflehead
Hooded Merganser
Ruddy Duck
Northern Bobwhite
Red-throated Loon
Common Loon
Pied-billed Grebe
Horned Grebe
Northern Gannet
Double-crested Cormorant
American White Pelican
Brown Pelican
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Little Blue Heron
Tricolored Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron
White Ibis
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Golden Eagle
Northern Harrier
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
Bald Eagle
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Virginia Rail
American Coot
American Avocet
American Oystercatcher
Black-bellied Plover
Semipalmated Plover
Killdeer
Greater Yellowlegs
Willet
Lesser Yellowlegs
Marbled Godwit
Ruddy Turnstone
Sanderling
Dunlin
Western Sandpiper
Long-billed Dowitcher
Bonaparte's Gull
Black-headed Gull
Laughing Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Forster's Tern
Royal Tern
Rock Pigeon
Eurasian Collared-Dove
Mourning Dove
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
American Kestrel
Peregrine Falcon
Western Kingbird
Blue Jay
American Crow
Horned Lark
Tree Swallow
Carolina Chickadee
Brown-headed Nuthatch
Winter Wren
Marsh Wren
Carolina Wren
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Eastern Bluebird
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Brown Thrasher
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Common Yellowthroat
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Nelson's Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Boat-tailed Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Purple Finch
Pine Siskin
American Goldfinch

Wolfe Neck Waste Treatment Plant 11/7--Black-headed Gull

After our first stop at Bombay Hook, and some poking around agricultural fields on the way south, Scott led us to this waste treatment plant in Sussex County where a gull rarity had recently been located. Shari & I always say that no vacation is complete without a trip to a waste treatment facility.

On and over the water we came upon a flock of Bonaparte's Gulls, eating what we don't even want to think about, and in among the bonnies was one Black-headed Gull, which can be separated from the others by its red bill and the black on its underwings. It is slightly larger than a Bonaparte's, but that is virtually an impossible field mark to see in swirling, whirling flock of gulls. Interestingly, a Black-headed Gull was recorded last year at the same location and speculation was that it was a returning bird.

Black-headed Gull is one of the most common gulls in Europe and no life bird for us, though it was for some in the group. But it is just nondescript enough in winter plumage (when it does not have a black head) that I'm sure I'd overlook it 99 times out of 100 if I didn't have someone like Scott to point it out. It is these kinds of birds that point out to me the gaping holes in my birding talents.

We only spent about 15 minutes at the plant. Scott spotted the bird quickly and once everyone had a good look at it (it was difficult to track as the birds played a kind of aerial three-card monte) we were on our way to Virginia.

8 species
Canada Goose  25
Turkey Vulture  5
Bonaparte's Gull  15
Black-headed Gull  1     
Laughing Gull  1
Ring-billed Gull  2
American Crow  5
European Starling  2

Chincoteague NWR 11/8--White Ibis, Brown-headed Nuthatch

Brown-headed Nuthatch
Photos: Shari Zirlin
The two vans arrived at Chincoteague NWR at 7:30 and in 10 minutes we were starting to get overwhelmed with birds. It was like being back in summer with dozens of herons and egrets on either side of the road.

When we decided to go on this trip I thought there were only two birds we could get in Virginia that we didn't have for the year. Brown-headed Nuthatch and White Ibis. We got each one almost immediately on our 2nd stop on the road to the beach.

We passed a couple of White Ibises on the left and since it was a life bird for at least one guy in the van, Scott turned around to give everyone a better look. Most of the ibises we saw were juveniles with various degrees of brown & white mottling on them. They are still stand out birds with their flamboyant pink, curved bills.

As we were watching the ibises roost in among Great Blue HeronsSnowy Egrets and a couple of juvenile Black-crowned Night-Herons, Scott heard the squeaky, baby-toy sound of Brown-headed Nuthatch.

These little birds are notorious for being hard to see since they tend to feed at the very top of pine trees, crawling around on pine cones. So we were amazed to find a few practically at eye-level, investigating a hole in a broken tree trunk.

We did a seawatch for a while but there was nothing special of note--just lots of Black Scoters. Ducks have been scarce on the water so far this fall--maybe the weather is still too warm.

Shari had a couple of nice finds at Tom's Cove just at the end of the road--her requisite American Oystercatcher and the only warbler other we saw on the trip than the ubiquitous Yellow-rumped Warbler--a female-type Common Yellowthroat.
Juvenile White Ibises

Practically an adult.
I listed 69 species--there were a few I missed or didn't list because I only heard them once.
Snow Goose  100
Canada Goose  25
Gadwall  1
American Wigeon  10
American Black Duck  20
Mallard  10
Northern Shoveler  5
Ring-necked Duck  2     Swan Cove
Black Scoter  500
Bufflehead  25
Red-throated Loon  1
Common Loon  10
Pied-billed Grebe  1
Horned Grebe  3
Northern Gannet  1
Double-crested Cormorant  25
Great Blue Heron  5
Great Egret  10
Snowy Egret  5
Little Blue Heron  10
Tricolored Heron  27     
Black-crowned Night-Heron  2     
White Ibis  10
Black Vulture  1
Turkey Vulture  1
Sharp-shinned Hawk  2
Bald Eagle  1
American Oystercatcher  1
Black-bellied Plover  2
Semipalmated Plover  10
Greater Yellowlegs  10
Sanderling  14
Dunlin  15
Western Sandpiper  1
Long-billed Dowitcher  5
Laughing Gull  1
Ring-billed Gull  10
Great Black-backed Gull  2
Forster's Tern  5
Royal Tern  20
Mourning Dove  1
Belted Kingfisher  1
Red-bellied Woodpecker  2
Downy Woodpecker  1
Northern Flicker  3
Blue Jay  1     Heard
American Crow  1     Heard
Horned Lark  1
Tree Swallow  5
Carolina Chickadee  1     Heard
Brown-headed Nuthatch  1
Winter Wren  1     Heard
Eastern Bluebird  1
Hermit Thrush  2
American Robin  1
Gray Catbird  1     Heard, Visitor Ctr
European Starling  3
Common Yellowthroat  1
Yellow-rumped Warbler
 50
Chipping Sparrow  1
Savannah Sparrow (Ipswich)  1
Song Sparrow  2
Swamp Sparrow  2
White-throated Sparrow  10
Red-winged Blackbird  15
Boat-tailed Grackle  10
Purple Finch  1     Heard, Visitor Ctr
Pine Siskin  1     Heard, Visitor Ctr
American Goldfinch  2

Saxis WMA 11/8--Virginia Rail

Saxis WMA
Photo: Shari Zirlin
Late afternoon found us headed west to the Chesapeake Bay. We were hoping for some Short-eared Owls but came up empty on that bird. But Scott showed us a neat trick. As the sun was setting, we walked along a road that went through part of Saxis Marsh. Scott quieted us all down then rapidly clapped his hands. Within a second of his stopping the marsh exploded in Virgina Rails calling from both sides of the road. There's no way to tell how many were out there, but we figured easily 10 or 12.

Seaside Road 11/9--Western Kingbird

Western Kingbird
Photos: Shari Zirlin
Sunday morning we headed south on the peninsula. Before visiting the larger birding spots, Scott took the group down a place called Indiantown, or at least to a crossroads near there, in the hopes of finding what he called "an East Coast regular rarity." Western Kingbird is not a year bird for us (we had a couple in May in NM) but it is still a cool bird, with it lemon yellow breast. Both vans drove around the area, picking up a few interesting birds along the way until Scott called us to say that he had located the bird, sitting on a wire. It was a quiet Sunday morning--I don't know if the residents of the house saw 13 birders creeping slowly down the road or what they thought we might be looking at. I was just glad they didn't come out on their porch with a shotgun or mean dogs.

12 species
Red-tailed Hawk  1
Killdeer  5
Mourning Dove  25
Northern Flicker  2
American Kestrel  1
Western Kingbird  1    
Blue Jay  1     Heard
American Crow  5
Carolina Wren  2     Heard
Eastern Bluebird  5
Northern Mockingbird  2
European Starling  10