Sunday, September 7, 2014

Brig 9/7--Wilson's Phalarope

The wonders of modern communications. From multiple digital platforms (email, Internet, text) many "interesting" birds were reported from Brig the last few days. Shari, Joan and I went down this morning to see if we could turn up any of them.

For once, the water in the pools wasn't too high (this has been a complaint all summer), and the channels out on the outer side of the drive had goodly amounts of mud, all fine for shorebirds. Which didn't help any on the first go-round as we only found the most common and expected of shorebirds. The happiest finds the first trip were at the exit ponds where we came up with a Pied-bill Grebe and 5 Wood Ducks (alas, still in eclipse).

Shari stopped in the Visitor's Center at lunch and saw that Greg had made some entries in the bird log there, so I gave him a call. He was back out on the dikes with his brother. We compared our findings and they had come up similarly dry. However, as we were making our way back onto the drive for the 2nd trip, Greg called me back to say that they had had a Wilson's Phalarope. "Had" was the crucial word; it had flown off. On our 2nd trip the tide was lower and mud more extensive but we still weren't picking up much new--a few Least Sandpipers and a Gull-billed Tern were added on the south dike. We were on the north dike when Greg called again--the bird was back in sight. This was not going to be a case of Too Late The Phalarope for me (whatever that means) so I sped along up the road about 3/4 of mile (amazing how long that seems at 15 mph) and found Greg and Rich setting up their scope. We got out and found the bird. It was easy. Here is my technique for spotting a Wilson's Phalarope in a flock of other shorebirds: Look for the craziest bird. That will be the phalarope. It was running back and forth snatching bugs just off the surface of the water or sand, tail up, head down, zig-zagging every which way. Dumb luck allowed me to digiscope a couple of photos when it strayed into where I had the lens pointed.
Then Shari, always a great spotter of rarities, found another one! It was about 100 feet to the left of the first, doing the same kind of dance. We had both in sight at the same time, so we knew we weren't just counting the same one twice. Unfortunately, while this one was closer, my camera was already back in the car and we'd move up the road to get a better angle on the second bird.

We also managed to come up with some Blue-winged Teal, not a big deal but first of season for me (I'm not sure if this summer or fall--summer by the calendar, fall for migration). For the day I managed 55 species, counting the eagle I saw sitting on a utility pole on the Mullica River as we passed over it on the parkway.
Canada Goose  30
Mute Swan  6
Wood Duck  5
American Black Duck  3
Mallard  4
Blue-winged Teal  6
Pied-billed Grebe  1
Double-crested Cormorant  100
Great Blue Heron  4
Great Egret  50
Snowy Egret  20
Black-crowned Night-Heron  2     Dogleg
Glossy Ibis  36
Turkey Vulture  2
Osprey  5
Northern Harrier  2
Clapper Rail  1     Heard, north dike
Black-bellied Plover  3
Semipalmated Plover  2
Greater Yellowlegs  15
Lesser Yellowlegs
Ruddy Turnstone  2
Least Sandpiper  5
Semipalmated Sandpiper  200
Short-billed Dowitcher  10
Wilson's Phalarope  2     
Laughing Gull  300
Herring Gull  100
Great Black-backed Gull  2
Gull-billed Tern  1
Caspian Tern  3
Forster's Tern  20
Black Skimmer  10
Mourning Dove  10
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  1
Red-bellied Woodpecker  1     Heard, picnic tables
Downy Woodpecker  1
Peregrine Falcon  2
White-eyed Vireo  1     Heard upland section
Blue Jay  5
American Crow  6
Tree Swallow  25
Carolina Chickadee  1     Heard picnic tables
Tufted Titmouse  2     Heard picnic tables
Carolina Wren  2     Heard
Gray Catbird  2
Cedar Waxwing  1
Common Yellowthroat  1     Heard, Gull Tower
American Redstart  1     picnic tables, either female or 1st year male
Northern Cardinal  2     picnic tables
Red-winged Blackbird  25
Boat-tailed Grackle  1
Brown-headed Cowbird  1     north dike with blackbirds
American Goldfinch  10

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