Sunday, March 22, 2015

Sylvan Lake 3/22--Eurasian Wigeon

Eurasian Wigeon
We sandwiched a very nice year bird and rarity between two dips today. There always seems to be a Eurasian Wigeon somewhere in NJ, so I felt it was only a question of when that we'd get one, but I didn't expect to get such close and detailed looks as we did today. For a long time this winter a Eurasian Wigeon had been reported in the Shark River inlet, a little south of this location, but I never bothered to go up there because it is a big area to search. Sylvan Lake, on the other hand, is only a few blocks long and barely a block wide, so I felt our odds were a lot better. Shari (of course) spotted the bird almost immediately in a small flock of wigeons feeding on the lawn across the lake from us. Once you have the search criteria (brown head, gray body) the bird, if it is there, stands out against its green-headed, brown-flanked American cousins. In theory. In practice, usually the flock is far away, the lighting is lousy, and the bird is weaving in and out of the flock, or dabbling with its butt up in the air. That's how I've seen most of my Eurasian Wigeons. Wigeons, I read somewhere, spend more time grazing out of water than any other duck, but I've rarely seen them do so except in this area of the North Shore.

I took a few lousy digiscope photos from across the water, then we drove around the other side to see if we could get a better angle. It took a bit of looking but finally we were able to find a spot on a dead end street where we could observe the bird in with a few AMWI still eating whatever they find on a suburban lawn. That's when I took the photo above.

Before that stop we spent over an hour at the Manasquan Inlet looking for a drake King Eider that has been seen, off and on, for the last couple of weeks. I had a phone call from a fellow birder yesterday that he had seen it yesterday afternoon, in among thousand of scoters. Well, we saw the thousands of scoters with no problem, the overwhelming majority of them skunkheads (Surf Scoters) which seemed to form an endless line drifting north. We scoped the passing parade for as long as we could stand being in the wind then told ourselves that the eider had also drifted north. Our bonus bird though came courtesy of a couple of "civilians" who asked me if we were birdwatching (as if the binoculars and scope didn't give it away) and when I confirmed that we were, they pointed out a bird perched on the rain gutter of a condo. I put the scope on it and thanked them very much for the juvenile Merlin.  The bird was completely unperturbed by the all the activity on the boardwalk below and posed for as many pictures as we cared to take.

Our last location was unpremeditated. After shopping at Costco, we were parked at a Wawa when Shari saw a report from Assunpink that a Common (or Eurasian) Teal had been spotted there in with a flock of Green-winged Teal. While chasing a sub-species is not all that satisfying to me, there is always the possibility that the birds will someday be "split" and I would get an "armchair bird" on my list, so we drove over there. The flooded field where the birds had been seen in the morning was devoid of any ducks save one which I saw only in silhouette and it was too big, anyway, to be a teal. We checked the usual spots on the lake and while I did see one Green-winged Teal far off on the eastern end of the lake on the other side of the dam with some Ring-necked Ducks, it slid into the vegetation to quickly for me to see whether the flank strip was horizontal (American) or vertical (Eurasian). We did see a nice assortment of the usual ducks there plus, for Shari, her FOY White-crowned Sparrow in the reliable farm driveway just outside the WMA's border.

Our lists for the day. Including the Killdeer we had in the field next to the Wawa, we had 35 species in our wanderings.
Manasquan Inlet
12 species
Surf Scoter  3000     
Long-tailed Duck  100
Common Loon  15
Horned Grebe  3
Ring-billed Gull  10
Herring Gull  500
Great Black-backed Gull  10
Merlin  1   
American Crow  1     Heard
Fish Crow  1     Heard
House Sparrow  5     Heard

Sylvan Lake
14 species
Brant  200
Canada Goose  20
Gadwall  4
Eurasian Wigeon  1     
American Wigeon  25
Hooded Merganser  4
Red-breasted Merganser  3
Pied-billed Grebe  1
Horned Grebe  1
Double-crested Cormorant  1
Ring-billed Gull  100
Herring Gull  1
Great Black-backed Gull  2
Fish Crow  2

Assunpink WMA
19 species
Canada Goose  25
Mute Swan  6
Wood Duck  1     East end of lake
Gadwall  1
American Wigeon  4
American Black Duck  1
Mallard  1
Green-winged Teal  1     East end of lake
Ring-necked Duck  10     East end of lake
Lesser Scaup  2     East end of lake
Bufflehead  10
Red-breasted Merganser  2
Ruddy Duck  15
Pied-billed Grebe  2
Turkey Vulture  1
American Coot  15
Ring-billed Gull  2
Red-bellied Woodpecker  1
White-crowned Sparrow  1     

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