Saturday, November 29, 2014

Sandy Hook 11/29--Eared Grebe

Scott Barnes sent out an email yesterday about a "flash" field trip for today at Sandy Hook; the main attraction (aside from the good company these trips always provide) was the continuing Eared Grebe, a rarity 'round these parts that Scott found last week. I was eager for the EAGR since I hadn't seen one in 5 years and that was off Staten Island. I'm counting it as a state bird; Shari says we saw one years ago in the Shark River, but I'm dubious about our sightings from so long ago, before we had decent optics.

For an impromptu field trip attendance was pretty good--13 birders with nothing better to do showed up at Lot B. Scott & Linda led us up to Lot L across from Horseshoe Cove. Some birders were already scanning the extremely calm waters (miraculously, no wind today) and after a short time Scott (of course) located our target bird about 1/2 way out in the cove.  It took just a little doing to get everyone on the bird--grebes dive and dive a lot. I got good looks at the bird--it's pointy head, it's dusky neck and was able to compare it to the numerous Horned Grebes in the cove. The bonus birds were a Red-necked Grebe also present in the cove and a few Common Goldeneyes, providing very good looks.  (I'd seen a few yesterday in Barnegat Bay but under less than ideal conditions--gale force wind in my face so I looked at them just long enough to verify they were goldeneyes.)

While looking around the other side of the cove I spotted an immature male Common Eider. Unfortunately, I couldn't get Linda on the bird (there were no good landmarks) and it drifted out of sight before most of the group caught up to us. I didn't think it was any big deal (it was a Common Eider, after all) but everyone seemed inordinately disappointed that it had disappeared.

While we were standing around bemoaning our now lost eider a small flock of Horned Larks flew overhead, cheeping away, and that raised everyone's spirits.

Other notable sighting were a large flock of Snow Buntings on Gunnison Beach, a Merlin in the same location, and American Tree Sparrows and White-crowned Sparrows in the dunes around the hawk watch. We also had the largest flock of House Finches I've ever seen--at least a 100 flying around and landing on the telephone wires.

We ended the day sea watching at Lot C where we had our goofiest sighting of the day. A lone Snow Goose flew past us and, seeing other black & white birds landed in with a flock of gulls to the south. I guess that's why decoys work!

Our original plan for the day was to go to the Parker Preserve and search for a Sedge Wren reported there. I met some Burlington County birders today at the Hook who'd searched unsuccessfully for the bird recently, so I was happy that we called an audible and got the grebe.

My list for the day. I missed a few passerines, but nothing I really needed to see.
40 species (+1 other taxa)
Snow Goose  1
Brant  50
Canada Goose  25
Common Eider  1     
White-winged Scoter  3
scoter sp.  10
Bufflehead  20
Common Goldeneye  4
Red-breasted Merganser  25
Red-throated Loon  
Common Loon  4
Horned Grebe  10
Red-necked Grebe  1
Eared Grebe  1     
Northern Gannet  2
Double-crested Cormorant  12
Black Vulture  3
Northern Harrier  2     Lot C
Bald Eagle  1     Lot C
Red-tailed Hawk  1
American Coot  2
Black-bellied Plover  2
Sanderling  5
Ring-billed Gull  10
Herring Gull  100
Great Black-backed Gull  10
Downy Woodpecker  2
Northern Flicker  1
Merlin  1
American Crow  1
Horned Lark  8
Northern Mockingbird  2
Snow Bunting  50
Yellow-rumped Warbler  6
American Tree Sparrow  1
Savannah Sparrow  1
Song Sparrow  2
White-throated Sparrow  20
White-crowned Sparrow  3
Dark-eyed Junco  20
House Finch  100

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