Monday, October 20, 2014

Great Bay Blvd WMA 10/20--Purple Finch

Favorable winds last night sent me down to Great Bay Blvd this morning with Greg & Karmela.  I was hoping for a county bird; I came away with a state bird and year bird instead.

Greg & I met Karmela at the north end of the WMA, just after the first bridge & it immediately became apparent that the road was inundated with yellow-rumps and both kinglets. My counts for all 3 are extremely conservative. After thoroughly checking the cedars and reeds we moved on down to the north side of the fifth bridge, where besides hundreds of Boat-tailed Grackles, we began to see sparrows. The one sparrow, however, that I really wanted wouldn't be found in that habitat (supposedly, although, as the day progressed, we began finding birds where they "shouldn't" be) so we moved on down to the inlet at the south end of the road.

It was here, in the marsh grass or reeds we (I especially) were hoping to find Nelson's Sparrow, which has become my county nemesis bird. As I said in my last post, I've bracketed this bird in Atlantic and Monmouth Counties, but still need it for the all-import Ocean County list. I'd seen reports of multiple birds in the last few days, but despite slogging through mud and grass we weren't able to turn up any of this elusive bird. In face, we couldn't even find the very closely related, but much more common, Seaside Sparrow.

But, in the "not supposed to be there" category, Greg pointed out a large bird flashing white on its tail feathers that turned out to be an Eastern Meadowlark. One of the memorable lines in Peterson's Field Guide to Eastern Birds regards habitat: "a meadowlark needs a meadow." Not this one. Mud flats at low tide do not a meadow make.  A fisherman's loose dog scared the bird into the grass but we later saw it much clearer and for longer flying to our right.

So I thought the meadowlark would be the consolation prize--I always say I only need one good bird to make it a successful day in the field. The birding, though, go really interesting as we walked up from the inlet to the fifth bridge, a distance of about 6/10 of a mile. Just south of the bridge, Karmela photographed a very fresh looking male Northern Parula which then flew low into some bushes where all three of us got great looks. A small stand of trees held Cedar Waxwings, innumerable butterbutts and kinglets and a Brown Creeper.

On the other side of the bridge many juncos were the in pullout area, but we lost interest in them quickly enough when Greg pointed out a Purple Finch that flew into a cedar. It was a little difficult to get on the bird in the dense vegetation, but eventually Karmela and I found it and then the female came in. Again, from Peterson: "a sparrow dipped in raspberry juice."

The cedars and dead trees in this area act as a night-heron roost, so we spent some time trying to find one but came up empty until Greg found a juvenile hunkered down in an indentation in the marsh reeds. We agreed it was of the black-crowned variety.

Crossing back over the bridge is when things got really weird. First we found another female Purple Finch. Then another; and another! And while they flew around, Greg pointed out a Wood Duck in the middle of the channel. There is no way a Wood Duck should be in Little Sheepshead Creek. Yet, there it was.  It didn't stay long though. We turned our backs and it was gone as if in a dream.

We stopped worrying about it when Greg spotted a warbler on some goldenrod. This was a gray, plain, nondescript, warbler, the most nothing warbler you'll ever see and it was an Orange-crowned Warbler and a state bird for me.

So, while I'm still light a Nelson's Sparrow for the county, it was an extremely rewarding and surprising (if somewhat tiring) 6+ hours of birding along the boulevard of broken asphalt.

My list. Karmela's and Greg's lists vary somewhat.
47 species (+1 other taxa)
Brant  50
Wood Duck  1
American Black Duck  20
Common Loon  1
Double-crested Cormorant  300
Brown Pelican  1
Great Blue Heron  3
Great Egret  25
Snowy Egret  1
Black-crowned Night-Heron  1     Marsh before fifth bridge
Turkey Vulture  6
Northern Harrier  1
Sharp-shinned Hawk  2
Greater Yellowlegs  20
Dunlin  15
Laughing Gull  5
Herring Gull  25
Great Black-backed Gull  20
Belted Kingfisher  1
Red-bellied Woodpecker  2
Downy Woodpecker  1     Trees before fifth bridge
Northern Flicker  2
Eastern Phoebe  2
Brown Creeper  2
Golden-crowned Kinglet  5
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  20
Swainson's Thrush  1
Hermit Thrush  1
American Robin  1
European Starling  20
Cedar Waxwing  3
Orange-crowned Warbler  1
Northern Parula  1     South of fifth bridge
Palm Warbler  3
Palm Warbler (Western)  1
Yellow-rumped Warbler  30
Field Sparrow  2
Savannah Sparrow  5
Song Sparrow  5
Swamp Sparrow  2
White-throated Sparrow  5
White-crowned Sparrow  4
Dark-eyed Junco  10
Northern Cardinal  1
Red-winged Blackbird  5
Eastern Meadowlark  1
Boat-tailed Grackle  200
Purple Finch  5   

No comments:

Post a Comment