Saturday, July 19, 2014

Brigantine 7/19--Western Sandpiper, Black Tern

Scott Barnes and Linda Mack led a trip around Brigantine's dikes today and besides the many "quality" birds we found, there were some interesting identification lessons. My two new FOY birds were both species that, unless I am standing right on tip of them in good light, I'm reluctant to call. The first, Black Tern, has been hanging around for at least the last week, so it wasn't a surprise find. At first it was over the marsh pretty far out, and while I was eventually able to get it in our scope, it was essentially a gray bird (this was a juvenile) without any solid field marks. But, happily, the bird decided to fly toward us and fish over the mud on the cove side and there we were able to distinguish it as something more than a little tern that didn't look like the rest of the terns flying around.

The 2nd FOY was Western Sandpiper, always hard to pick out from among the thousand other peeps scurrying around on the mud flats. How Scott picks them out to begin with is a marvel to me. We had two today in the same area and, once you look at it, they stood out well from the surrounding gray birds since they still had a lot of rufous breeding plumage on them. Who knows how many Western Sandpipers I overlook in the course of a summer.

I know that today I overlooked quite a few Bank Swallows among the dozens of Barn Swallows roosting in the reeds. I'd already seen one or two BANS so I didn't spend anytime picking through all the BARS that I saw when I had the chance.

Common Tern
Photo: Shari Zirlin
This tern actually made me feel good about my i.d. skills. The usual tern at Brig is Forster's Tern, a tern of the marsh and wetlands. There were lots there today. Common Tern is anything but at Brig, though the place to look for them is at the turn onto the north dike, by the sluice gates.

When I first saw this tern it's bill immediately called itself to my attention because of the reddish cast, but I dismissed the idea of it being anything other than a Forster's. Then it flew and I thought again, because it appeared darker, that it might be a Common, but I wasn't sure and started looking through the shorebirds in my scope. I became aware that Scott was leading a discussion about the bird, trying to decide if it was COTE or FOTE. "Man," I thought, "if Scott has a hard time with this bird, what are my chances?" Still, I looked again and pointed out the tail feather to Scott, how much darker they appeared than the other terns and that "turns out" to be a good field mark, since Common Terns have dark outer tail feathers, while Forster's have dark inner tail feathers. So, instead of subjective field marks like bill color and structure, we had an objective field mark and agreed that we had one Common.

It was a good day for terns--if we had had Royal, we'd have made a clean sweep of the expected terns at Brig for this time of year. As it was we had Least, Gull-billed, Common, Forster's, Black, Caspian and Black Skimmer.

My tally for the day was 63--we kind of sped through the upland portion the 2nd time around as a drizzle started, so that kept the passerine count down a bit.
Canada Goose  50
Mute Swan  12
Wood Duck  10
Mallard  15
Double-crested Cormorant  5
Great Blue Heron  2
Great Egret  25
Snowy Egret  5
Little Blue Heron  1
Tricolored Heron  1
Black-crowned Night-Heron  4
Glossy Ibis  25
Turkey Vulture  1
Osprey  15     most on nests
Clapper Rail  3     Heard
American Oystercatcher  1
Black-bellied Plover  4
Semipalmated Plover  1
Spotted Sandpiper  1
Greater Yellowlegs  3
Willet  10
Lesser Yellowlegs  2
Whimbrel  5
Least Sandpiper  2
Semipalmated Sandpiper  1000
Western Sandpiper  2
Short-billed Dowitcher  100
Laughing Gull  200
Ring-billed Gull  1
Herring Gull  10
Great Black-backed Gull  25
Least Tern  2
Gull-billed Tern  5
Caspian Tern  1
Black Tern  1
Common Tern  1     
Forster's Tern  70
Black Skimmer  30
Peregrine Falcon  1
Eastern Kingbird  1
Blue Jay  1     Heard
American Crow  2
Fish Crow  1
Purple Martin  20
Tree Swallow  2
Bank Swallow  5
Barn Swallow  100
Marsh Wren  3     Heard
Carolina Wren  1     Heard
American Robin  3
Gray Catbird  4
European Starling  75
Common Yellowthroat  4
Eastern Towhee  1     Heard, upland portion
Chipping Sparrow  1     Heard, picnic tables.
Seaside Sparrow  5
Song Sparrow  4     Heard
Northern Cardinal  1     Exit ponds
Blue Grosbeak  1     South dike
Red-winged Blackbird  50
Boat-tailed Grackle  1
House Finch  4     Visitor Ctr Feeders
American Goldfinch  1

No comments:

Post a Comment