Thursday, July 10, 2014

Sandy Hook 7/10--Bank Swallow & a Couple of Out of Season Species

I spent about 4 hours birding Sandy Hook today, starting at the northern tip and working my way down to Plum Island on the bay side, just before the exit. It was there that I found my FOY Bank Swallows (finally) mixed in with Barn Swallows, but they were not nearly as interesting to me as a number of other birds I found today. Just at Plum Island I came across a Whimbrel, which was a surprise, along with a Clapper Rail and its chick. I was able to view the rail for an extended period, which almost never happens, and a Clapper Rail chick is a lifer for me--a little black fuzz ball on the beach. A nesting Willet there was not happy with my presence and made
several attempts to take my hat (head) off.

Up at the northern tip of the hook (the "False Hook") I found plenty of Common Terns, quite a few American Oystercatchers, 3 Piping Plovers (most of the beach is cordoned off to protect these endangered birds), a Short-billed Dowitcher and two Dunlins in breeding plumage, rare for this time of year.

Walking the 1/2 mile or so through deep sand back & forth to the tip wasn't enough exercise for me, so I drove down to the Fort Hancock parking lot and walked the bike path, Road to Nowhere, and Randolph Road down to Horseshoe Cove. Along the way I found 8 American Redstarts, none of them red, being either juveniles or females.

Horseshoe Cove didn't look promising, especially by mid-morning with beach goers, dogwalkers, fishermen, and a class of kids either seining for sea life or skipping stones, but I saw one weird looking duck way out by the ruins of the fortifications (Hazardous Conditions), so I walked out as far as I could go and saw what struck me as an eider. Eiders are winter ducks. So I dismissed that idea and figured that it might be some sort of scoter. Black Scoters do hang around, sometimes, in the summer. I took some digiscoped pictures that barely approached mediocre. I couldn't find any field marks for scoter, but eider? Nah.

It's an eider, a Common Eider hen. I posted links to the pictures on Jerseybirds and the responses came in immediately all agreeing that my first reaction was correct. There are no Common Eider July records in eBird for Monmouth County--until now. I'm doing pretty well finding out of season waterfowl this year.

My full list:
Brant  1
Common Eider  1     
Double-crested Cormorant  16
Great Egret  1
Snowy Egret  2
Osprey  7     Most on nests
Clapper Rail  2     Plum Island
American Oystercatcher  25
Piping Plover  3     False Hook
Killdeer  1
Willet  1     Plum Island
Whimbrel  1
Dunlin  2     
Semipalmated Sandpiper  3
Short-billed Dowitcher  2
Laughing Gull  100
Herring Gull (American)  50
Great Black-backed Gull  70
Least Tern  10
Common Tern  50
Mourning Dove  3
Yellow-billed Cuckoo  1     Heard, Randolph Rd
Chimney Swift  1
White-eyed Vireo  3     Heard
American Crow  1     Heard
Fish Crow  1     Heard
Bank Swallow  2
Barn Swallow  20
Carolina Wren  1     Heard
American Robin  10
Gray Catbird  15
Northern Mockingbird  3     One attacking Osprey nest at Horseshoe Cove
European Starling  5
Cedar Waxwing  2
Common Yellowthroat  4
American Redstart  8     
Eastern Towhee  2     Heard
Field Sparrow  1     Heard, Fisherman's Trail
Song Sparrow  4     Heard
Northern Cardinal  2
Red-winged Blackbird  20
Common Grackle  2
House Finch  4
American Goldfinch  2
House Sparrow  2

The last bird I saw seemed to be an escapee from a wedding:

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