Saturday, March 14, 2015

Assunpink WMA 3/14--Wild Turkey, Lesser Black-backed Gull

I was supposed to go on a "Birds of Jackson" field trip led by Mike Mandracchia today, but inclement weather forced him to postpone the trip. That didn't mean that we couldn't go out exploring, though we did wait until mid-day when the rain eased up somewhat. We headed up to Assunpink where there are tremendous numbers of geese; we were interested in finding an odd looking one that was reported there this morning. We spent a long time in the drizzle scanning a mixed flock of Snow Geese and Canada Geese looking for the weird one and/or a Ross's Goose. We found neither but the number of geese, while down from what I saw there yesterday, was still impressive.

The lake was a little difficult to view because the warm weather and rain was creating a fog bank off the ice but we did manage the usual ducks. It was while we were going out on Imlaystown Road that the birding started to get interesting. First we found our FOY (for both of us) Wild Turkeys in a stubble field along the road. Finally. I usually have these birds in our backyard but they've been no-shows since November.

A specialty of Assunpink can usually be found just outside the border of the WMA in "the driveway across from the burnt house." We stopped there and scanned the muddy ground and found two White-crowned Sparrows, which Mike needed for the year. They were there yesterday too and will probably stick around until early April. Why that one spot is so reliable I don't know, especially since there is a cat that sits at the end of the drive that birds simply ignore.

A little farther south was field full of gulls. We saw it coming in and Mike said we'd check out later. First glance offered approximately 500 Ring-bill Gulls. Looking a more carefully we saw two larger gulls with charcoal gray mantles. They didn't look like Herring Gulls (though we did eventually find one in the flock) and they didn't weren't big enough to be Great Black-backed Gulls; one of them walked out of the stubble and we saw it's yellow feet and knew we had our FOY Lesser Black-backed Gulls. Eventually we saw two more gulls about the same size but in immature plumage. A consultation with Sibley's convinced us that we had two immature LBBG's also. Paler heads than immature GBBG and again, not a bulky.

I wish I'd taken a couple of pictures of the turkeys and gulls, but I would have had to get out of the car for that and wet weather put a damper on the idea.

Our list for Assunpink:
25 species
Snow Goose  500
Canada Goose  300
American Wigeon  2     In marsh on Imlaystown Road
Mallard  1     In field with SNGO & CANG
Northern Pintail  20
Ring-necked Duck  2     Marsh on Imlaystown Road
Bufflehead  2     West end of lake
Common Merganser  4     West end of lake
Ruddy Duck  15
Wild Turkey  7
Northern Harrier  1
Ring-billed Gull  500
Herring Gull  1
Lesser Black-backed Gull  4      2nd, 3rd, and 4th year birds.
Mourning Dove  5
Belted Kingfisher  1
Blue Jay  2     Heard
American Crow  1
Carolina Wren  1     Heard
American Robin  50
European Starling  5
White-crowned Sparrow  2
Northern Cardinal  2     Heard singing.
Red-winged Blackbird  500
Common Grackle  500

Red-necked Grebe
The rest of the afternoon was spent on the North Shore, starting at Seven Presidents Park (nothing) continuing down to a few ocean overlooks where we found Black Scoters and Greater Scaup, to Lake Takanassee where we were surprised to find 6 Canvasbacks plus a Merlin, down to the Shark River where the featured birds were a Horned Grebe and a Red-necked Grebe and finally wound up back in Ocean County at Gull Island Park at the end of the Manasquan River where we found an American Oystercatcher, my first one in Ocean County this year. The only other oystercatchers I've seen this year I was also with Mike, down on Brigantine Island near Atlantic City. 

There were a few other lakes we stopped at--some were "productive," some were not. In all I think I garnered around 55 species. Mike had a few more, including a Bald Eagle that I couldn't get on flying over the Shark River. 

For a half a day of birding in gloomy wet weather we had a very good day.

1 comment:

  1. Drizzle? Warm weather? Fog? What's that...???