Sunday, May 10, 2015

WSB 5/9--Common Tern, Eastern Screech-Owl, Veery, Grasshopper Sparrow

Pete, John, Mike, & Larry at the Barnegat Impoundments
Photo: Karmela Moneta
Yesterday, I was the junior member of the Ocean Wanderers team, competing in the "Limited Geographical Area" category of the World Series of Birding. Our LGA was Ocean County. Ocean County is big and does not feel limited, but then, the real masochists do the whole state. I was honored that Pete asked me to join the team; it meant that he thought I could at least hold my own.

Or maybe he just wanted an easy whip-poor-will. The guys picked up me a little before 3 A.M. with the idea that we'd add whip-poor-will to the last fast and not have to go some other place to find it. I was  nervous that that would be the night the whip went silent, but I needn't have worried. As they pulled up at least two were singing and the one in my backyard was so loud the dead could have heard it. They'd already added Northern Mockingbird in Mike's backyard, so we were 2 to the good.

After the requisite stop at Wawa, we drove down to Beach Avenue in Manahawkin. As soon as we got out of the car Chuck-will's-widow was calling, and after a little encouragement from Pete we heard the first of a couple of Eastern Screech-Owls. In the distance we heard a Great Horned Owl.

The other bird to get a Beach Avenue is Sedge Wren. I've heard it there before with Mike on a Christmas Count, and yesterday morning I heard it click as well, but so faintly that it was only good for the competition, not my personal list. (I like to hear tough ear birds twice.)

There was heavy fog in the area, especially where we were along the coast, and then a light (unpredicted) rain started to fall. The winds had not been conducive for a good migration flight, so Pete was pessimistic that we'd be able to get 100 species. I told him that my personal best was 101 species in a day (at King Ranch, in Texas) and that I'd like to break that record, so that became the bogey for the day.

I won't attempt to give a play-by-play of the day. We ranged all over the county and hit some spots twice. The next year bird for me was found just after dawn along Stafford Avenue which runs down to the Bridge to Nowhere. We heard the ethereal song of the Veery in the woods along the road. I say this every time I mention Veery, so I'll say it again: it sounds like a theremin (look it up).

After a stop for breakfast at Wawa and a ride down a dirt road Pete & I thought was promising on Friday, we drove up to the Barnegat Impoundments, hoping for the White-faced Ibis. We added Glossy Ibis and some shorebirds to the list, but not the rarity. Karmela saw us from her balcony and took the photo above.

We then abandoned the shore for the nonce and drove up to Colliers Mills where we found Grasshopper Sparrow in it customary spot in the open field along Success Road. There was a dearth of warblers along the road, but we added a few birds when we emerged out on Rt 571. The next part of the day gets a little blurry in memory but I do remember bluebird at FREC and lunch at a Wawa in Jackson.

It was then down to Tuckerton--Great Bay Blvd. We found a Tricolored Heron, which was a good save, since the one that had been hanging around at the Bridge to Nowhere was nowhere in sight on the day it was needed. At the inlet we knew we weren't going to find many shorebirds since every inch of beach was occupied by fishermen. One of the big problems with this world is that it is not managed with birder's priorities in mind. But over the water Mike pointed out 3 Common Terns and that was a good bird to add to the list, since we weren't planning on much ocean viewing, due to the fog and the fact that getting to Island Beach State Park is such an ordeal with the road construction going on before it.

Common Eider first year male
We drove around Lower Shore and Collinstown Roads again where we heard my state/county year Blue-headed Vireo. It was then over to Long Beach Island (we may have stopped at a Wawa again, I don't remember) where we found our rarity (lingering category) of the day. Barnegat Light State Park was too socked in to do any useful birding, so we did the bayside instead. On a small grassy island off the Bayview Marina Mike spotted the proverbial odd duck. First reaction was that it was barnyard duck, but then we all came to see it was a first year male Common Eider. You rarely see them sitting on land. Eiders should be long gone by this time, but we had the photographic evidence to back it up. Karmela had seen this same bird earlier in the week--but I thought she'd seen it in Barnegat.

With the fog closing in again and not much possibility of adding any "dickie" birds we decided to bag it around 7 o'clock. While we were sitting on my patio filling out the official form we added to more birds to the list: Wild Turkey (a hen was picking at the ground in woods) and a Sharp-shinned Hawk that blew through the backyard. We finished with 109 species, which, even with a couple of birds I can't really count, breaks my day record easily.

I have no idea where we end up in whatever standings they keep for the WSB--I don't even know what "par" is for our county. Don't care really. It isn't a competition unless I'm winning.  The team's list reproduced below (thanks to Shari for the bookkeeping help reconciling our lists):

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