Saturday, August 8, 2015

Brig 8/8--Red Knot, White-rumped Sandpiper & a Black Swan Event

 Can't count it
It's August, which means it's shorebirding time at Brig. Except, for the 2nd year in a row, the water is high, very high, in the impoundments, due to an arcane project that could have and should have been done months ago but wasn't. Theories as to why abound. Mine is: the "contractor" that Forsythe's head biologist refers to is a college kid on summer break and this is the only time the kid can do the work.

In any case, as I said to Scott this morning, if you want shorebirds, look right. The channels on the outside of the road remain tidal and this morning there was plenty of mud to check for those of us on the NJ Audubon field trip.

Least Sandpiper on the road.
I arrived very early and was on the dikes at 6:50. Semipalmated Sandpipers were by far the most abundant bird on the flats, but I did find a few Least Sandpipers on the road itself. I've seen reports of 400 Least Sandpipers today, possible I'm sure, if one were to look at every peep on the flats. Down that road lies madness.

When I was on the north dike I ran into Dave who was out with in Utah/Nevada last week. He was scoping the swans and I jokingly asked him if he'd seen the Black Swan, which has been reported there for at least a month. And he had. Not that I've looked very  hard for this exotic which can't be counted, but it was good to finally see it and to see it fly. This tells me that it is an escape and not a release by a bored owner. I was also surprised to find that the swan had white under the wings. The Mute Swans--notoriously nasty birds--with which it was associating didn't seem to mind its presence.

Little Blue Heron (imm)
Other birds of interest I found on my solo trip were Blue Grosbeak (start of road to Gull Pond), Indigo Bunting (Gull Pond), Swamp Sparrow (Jen's Trail) and the first of a few immature Little Blue Herons (I forget where).

Despite the adverse conditions we were able to find quite a few shorebirds, including Whimbrel, Ruddy Turnstone, some handsome Black-bellied Plovers still in breeding plumage, and at least one Long-billed Dowitcher, distinguished by voice as well as morphology, from the many dowitchers of the short-billed persuasion.

But it was on the 2nd go-round that the really interesting shorebirds turned up, in quick succession, on the north dike. First Scott found a lone sleeping Red Knot hanging out with the dowitchers, bookended by Black-bellied Plovers. We scoped this bird for a long time before it woke up long enough to give us a profile of its bill and confirm its identity. As soon as we had that bird inked on the list, Linda, a little up the road, called out that they had a White-rumped Sandpiper mixed in with the semis. White-rumped Sandpiper is a tough one. I doubt I'd call one by itself because it looks so much like a semi, but, with semis to compare it to, it is fairly easy, since it looks like someone inflated a semi with a bicycle pump then extended its wings and bents its beak. A rather gruesome description but I think that give you the "giss" of the bird.

Our final project was to find the continuing White-faced Ibis that has been there since we were out west. Now, having looked at a few hundred WFIBs in Utah and Nevada, and having it already on my NJ list a few times, I can't say I was dying to find this bird. However, I dutifully scanned 55 GLIBs without success. Scott scanned the same 55 GLIBs and found the one WFIB (so I guess, really my count of GLIBs should be 54). The only decent field mark on this bird was its red eye, which, because the bird was vigorously preening itself, was hard to see for more than a moment at a time. However, everyone on the trip got their moment and the bird become #60 on my day list.

My day list:
Canada Goose  100
Mute Swan  15
Wood Duck  2     Exit Pond
Mallard  10
Double-crested Cormorant  15
Great Blue Heron  4
Great Egret  75
Snowy Egret  15
Little Blue Heron  3     
Black-crowned Night-Heron  2
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron  1     North Dike
Glossy Ibis  55
White-faced Ibis  1     
Osprey  10
Cooper's Hawk  1
Clapper Rail  3
American Oystercatcher  2
Black-bellied Plover  10
Semipalmated Plover  25
Greater Yellowlegs  8
Willet  2
Lesser Yellowlegs  1
Whimbrel  2
Ruddy Turnstone  2
Red Knot  1
Least Sandpiper  4     
White-rumped Sandpiper  1
Semipalmated Sandpiper  1000
Short-billed Dowitcher  100
Long-billed Dowitcher  1
Laughing Gull  100
Ring-billed Gull  1
Herring Gull  10
Great Black-backed Gull  4
Least Tern  2
Gull-billed Tern  4
Caspian Tern  8
Forster's Tern  50
Royal Tern  2     South dike
Black Skimmer  75
Mourning Dove  1
Peregrine Falcon 1
Eastern Phoebe  1     Gull Pond
Eastern Kingbird  2
Blue Jay  1     Heard, upland trail
American Crow  2
Purple Martin  15     mobbing COHA
Tree Swallow  200
Barn Swallow  25
Gray Catbird  2
European Starling  10
Field Sparrow  1     Heard, near road to Experimental Pool
Seaside Sparrow  1
Song Sparrow  4
Swamp Sparrow  1     
Northern Cardinal  1
Blue Grosbeak  1     
Indigo Bunting  1    
Red-winged Blackbird  25
American Goldfinch  4

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