Saturday, August 23, 2014

Monmouth County 8/23--American Golden-Plover

As a friend of mine use to say: The day gets away from you in the strangest ways.

Shari & I planned a relatively brief birding day--a trip around the drained bogs at Whitesbog to see if the recent rain had persuaded any interesting shorebirds to come in, then a look at Reed's Sod Farm up on CR 539, with the hope of finding a shorebird rarity (or two).

It quickly became apparent that Whitesbog was a washout. Even the large numbers of egrets and herons were down to single digit counts. But we did run into Greg out on the dikes who had the same ideas. Plus he told us that while we had been in Cape May yesterday, some shorebird rarities had indeed been reported on the sod farms. It just wasn't exactly clear which fields.

So, after counting 10 Least Sandpipers and 1 Spotted Sandpiper in the first bog, we three decided to try the sod farms. The eBird hotspot named "Reed's Sod Farm" is the big field on the corner of CR 539 and Herbert, our first stop, but Reed has a lot of fields in the area.

The first stop yielded nothing--the fields had not had the sod pulled up yet and, ironic as it seems, if you want to find "grasspipers" you have to look for dirt, not grass. We drove down to Gordon Road and again, the fields were green and devoid of birds. We tried the field on CR 526 which had been taken up, but again, not a bird to be found, never mind a rarity.

Shari & I, having done more birding than planned, decided to have lunch in nearby Allentown. Greg soldiered on. While I was eating my egg-white omelet, he called to tell us he had one of our targets on CR 526, east of where we'd left him. We had out that way after downing our meals and found Greg still there and, out among the clods of earth, a single American Golden-Plover, what I guess is a juvenile bird. I took a couple of documentary digiscoped photos:

It was fairly distant in the field, but it obviously isn't a Black-bellied Plover. The golden tinge on the wing feathers and back don't really show in the photos, but the dark cap and prominent supercilium are obvious. 

We then drove around some more, looking for fallow fields but most of what we saw was still green. We decided to get out of the cars and do some walking in the navigation beacon field at Assunpink. We picked up a couple of nice birds, birds that will soon be gone, like Blue Grosbeak and Indigo Bunting

Now Shari & I felt we really had to go. Greg said he was going to take a look at the lake. We said our 2nd goodbyes and Greg left. As we were driving past Eldridge Road we saw his car pulled over and Greg looking with his binoculars into a field. Naturally, we detoured. In the tiniest mud puddle he had found a Solitary Sandpiper--not a rarity, but a "good" bird.

Since the car was now pointing int he direction of the lake, we decided to go up there too. There we a large white bird swooping over the water--I at first thought it was a gull, but the flight pattern was all wrong. It looked like a tern, but a huge tern, and it was with its black cap and large red bill, the world's largest tern, a Caspian Tern, not often seen in those parts. 

So what looked like before lunch to be a lackluster day turned out quite well in the end. 

Our Monmouth County list:
Species                 Location
Canada Goose     Assunpink
Double-crested Cormorant     Assunpink
Great Blue Heron     Assunpink
Great Egret     Reed’s Sod Farm
Turkey Vulture     Reed’s Sod Farm
Red-tailed Hawk     Reed’s Sod Farm
American Golden-Plover     Reed’s Sod Farm
Semipalmated Plover     Reed’s Sod Farm
Killdeer     Reed’s Sod Farm
Solitary Sandpiper     Assunpink
Caspian Tern     Assunpink
Ruby-throated Hummingbird     Assunpink
Tree Swallow     Assunpink
American Robin     Assunpink
Gray Catbird     Assunpink
European Starling     Reed’s Sod Farm
Common Yellowthroat     Assunpink
Yellow Warbler     Assunpink
Field Sparrow     Assunpink
Song Sparrow     Assunpink
Northern Cardinal     Assunpink
Blue Grosbeak     Assunpink
Indigo Bunting     Assunpink
American Goldfinch     Assunpink

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