Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Sands Point Preserve 2/4--Killdeer, American Pipit

There's a lot of interesting habitat on the west shore of Barnegat Bay that I haven't investigated much, partially because I don't the know area well and partially because it's easier to bird the spots you know are reliable. But today I drove over to Sands Point, just south of the Oyster Creek nuclear generating plant for a couple of reasons. Looking on Google maps I saw a good viewing point to look out on the bay and surrounding marshes, plus, there have been a lot of dubious sighting coming from that area on eBird and before I started to make a stink, I wanted to be sure that my skepticism was justified.

Of course, I didn't find the 60+ species that had been reported a couple of times from that spot--in a typical day in all of Ocean County this winter you'd be hard-pressed to have 60 species listed from everyone birding--but it is a good spot. When I first arrived I immediately found the kind of ducks you'd expect, plus other common waterfowl. It wasn't until I heard Killdeer that I got interested. I found at least 4 of them picking at the washed up seaweed on the beach.
But what really got my attention were a couple of small passerines that kept eluding me, giving tantalizing looks, then jumping behind a shrub or a heap of seaweed.  The bobbing tails were my first hint. Striped breasts. My first reaction was American Pipit, but the photos I took and what I could catch through the binoculars didn't match up well enough with my Sibley's, so I listed them as Palm Warblers. I wasn't totally convinced that they were warblers, but the pipits I've seen are spread out on the time line.
American Pipit
However, there are good birders in Ocean County and one them (part of his email address is "eagleeyes") looked at my eBird list and told me that I had a much better bird than the Palm Warbler, that it was indeed, a pipit.  Wow!

Other interesting sightings along the way were 7 Great Blue Herons and an immature Bald Eagle. What with the pipit sighting Sands Point definitely warrants more investigation. I only walked a bit on the beach and salt marsh because what I thought was just icy ground turned out in a couple of places to be iced over streams. Waterproof shoes saved me from any discomfort. 

I was there for about an hour and a half and turned up 19 species--about what you'd expect given the day, given the habitat.
Canada Goose  75
Mute Swan  2
American Black Duck  2
Bufflehead  10
Red-breasted Merganser  15
Common Loon  1
Horned Grebe  1
Double-crested Cormorant  8
Great Blue Heron  7
Bald Eagle  1     Flying south over marsh
Killdeer  4     
Dunlin  1
Ring-billed Gull  1
Herring Gull  5
Great Black-backed Gull  6
American Crow  1     Heard
American Pipit  2     
Song Sparrow  2
House Finch  9

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