Friday, April 17, 2015

Brig 4/16--Short-billed Dowitcher, Common Yellowthroat

It was about 4:30 by the time we made it on the dike at Brig. Our style of birding now was like a 2nd trip around the dikes--we were only really looking for new day birds and didn't intend to linger admiring the beauty of a Blue-winged Teal (though we would cast an appreciative glance.)

At the Visitor's Center there was some swallow activity around the martin houses; then it got very quiet. The reason for the inactivity became apparent when we saw Merlin zoom overhead. One of the braver (or more foolhardy) Tree Swallows actually managed to make sneak attack from behind and bash the Merlin on it tail. After that fun we found an Eastern Bluebird atop the weather vane of the Visitor's Center.

Not much in the Gull Pond so we drove onto the dikes where it was this duck and that duck until just past the observation tower we saw a small group of gulls loafing on a peninsula. They were pretty far out and I didn't look very hard, ignoring Mike's lesson. Mike, though, thought one of them looked very white so we hauled out our scopes and saw a fairly large gull with a big head and no black on its wing tips. Mike identified it as a first-cycle Glaucous Gull. I could see all the field marks he was describing but I would never have the confidence to id it by myself. Had it been an adult, yes. I remember the one I saw flying in the parking lot at Canal Park in Duluth--I had no doubt. If the bird had been standing up, then maybe I would call it. But laying down, head tucked in, from a good distance away? Man, you gotta be good.

A couple from Florida stopped and inquired as to the hubbub (we had run into Greg, Karmela and Rich and a lively field mark discussion was going on over a couple of scopes) and Mike showed them the bird which was a lifer for them.

It was getting colder and cloudier and the afternoon progress so we continued, adding Bufflehead to our duck list for the day.

At the first turn we saw a good-size flock of Dunlins. Scanning them we found some bigger birds mixed in which turned out to be Black-bellied Plovers and one that didn't. This deserved a scoping and after a minute or so we both got on our FOY Short-billed Dowitcher.  Just one. Soon, climate willing, there will be hundreds, if not thousands, probing in the mud like sewing machines, but, as I always say, "I only need one."

The couple from Florida stopped again (they knew a good thing when they saw it) and we got them on the dowitcher, a bird they weren't familiar with being relatively new to the obsession. It was funny describing which bird it was: "The medium-sized bird with the longest bill in the flock is the Short-billed Dowitcher."

Onward, past the Ospreys, the cormorants, the many egrets (I would be remiss without mentioning the American Oystercatchers), even past the small flock of ibis until near the end of the north dike we heard another easy warbler song, the witchety-witchety-witch of the Common Yellowthroat. And common it is. But good to hear it and it was my final year bird of the day.

As we made the turn onto the upland portion of the trail Mike found a female American Kestrel. That gave us, with the Peregrine on its hacking tower, the falcon hat trick.

I think the last day bird we added was Pied-billed Grebe at the exit ponds. By then I was pretty much birded out. On the way home, on Rt 539 just outside Warren Grove, we came upon 4 Wild Turkeys feeding on the side of the road in the gloaming, so I made one Ocean County list for the day.

Our list for one 8 mile trip along the dikes:
52 species
Canada Goose  50
Gadwall  5
American Black Duck  10
Mallard  5
Blue-winged Teal  4
Northern Shoveler  25
Green-winged Teal  50
Bufflehead  25
Pied-billed Grebe  1
Double-crested Cormorant  10
Great Egret  10
Snowy Egret  50
Glossy Ibis  30
Turkey Vulture  3
Osprey  10
Northern Harrier  1
Bald Eagle  1
American Oystercatcher  4
Black-bellied Plover  5
Greater Yellowlegs  100
Dunlin  300
Short-billed Dowitcher  1
Ring-billed Gull  1
Herring Gull  20
Glaucous Gull  1     
Great Black-backed Gull  2
Forster's Tern  5
Mourning Dove  2
American Kestrel  1     
Merlin  1
Peregrine Falcon  1
Blue Jay  2     Heard
Fish Crow  5
Purple Martin  1
Tree Swallow  3
Carolina Chickadee  2     Heard
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  1
Eastern Bluebird  1     
American Robin  5
Common Yellowthroat  1     Heard, north dike
Pine Warbler  1
Eastern Towhee  1     Heard, upland portion
Chipping Sparrow  2
Field Sparrow  1
Song Sparrow  1
Northern Cardinal  2
Red-winged Blackbird  26
Common Grackle  1
Boat-tailed Grackle  1
Brown-headed Cowbird  1     Heard
House Finch  2
American Goldfinch

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