Friday, August 21, 2015

Gordon Rd Sod Farm 8/21--Baird's Sandpiper, Buff-breasted Sandpiper

Middle of August and a birder's interests shift to the sod farms of Mercer & Monmouth Counties. In the four years we've living here the "hot" farm shifts around. This year, so far, it appears to be the one on Gordon Road off Route 539, putting just over the border into Mercer County. Lots of reports were coming in yesterday and with last night's rain I was hoping that rarities would still be attracted to the muddy fields.

After my morning walk in Colliers Mills (where I found only the expected birds), I drove up to Gordon Road. There were 4 or 5 birders there already scoping and scanning the gullies of the field. I pulled over and joined in but found nothing rare or exciting in the least. David pulled up with his son A.J. and asked about the Ruddy Turnstone, which would really be unusual so far inland. "Haven't heard about that one." It was on an eBird alert, but I haven't caught up with the 21st century with my communications devices. In any case, it wasn't there. While David & I caught up, the other birders drifted off to check the field from Rt 539, something I wasn't anxious to do, it being a busy road with trucks blowing by you at speed. I asked David about the sod farm up the road, the first one Shari & I ever visited, but he said it was pretty much dead there. So, I figured I'd pack it in and try another day when, like a messenger at the end of a play, a birder returned to announce that at least one of the rarities had been found from the county road.

We zipped over there to where the field was mostly a dirt lot with farm equipment. Many peeps and plovers were running around picking at the ground, undisturbed, mostly, by the coming and going pickup trucks. Kirsten announced that she thought she had a Buff-breasted Sandpiper, which would be a lifer for her. I looked, David looked, it looked like a buffie, though pretty distant.Then I found the turnstone, standing next to a huge tractor tire. I can safely say I never saw that juxtaposition before. The bird I was really interested in seeing, because it is a much more difficult bird for me to confidently i.d., was soon found fairly close in on the dirt. When I looked in David's scope, though, I only saw a Pectoral Sandpiper...not a bad bird, a rarity for those parts, but not the bird I wanted. The bird I wanted, the Baird's Sandpiper, was in front of the Pec. I found it in David's scope and in mine. This might be the 2nd time I've seen both Buff-breasted and Baird's in the same field and what I've noticed is that Buff-breasted Sandpiper stands erect, while Baird's has a horizontal profile. It's a good, quick filter when sorting through many little birds running around hither and yon.

So, 4 rarities in a morning is not a bad day of birding. I'll have to keep checking the fields--American Golden Plover is due in.

Here's what you can find in a field in central Jersey after a storm:
14 species
Great Blue Heron  1     f/o
Semipalmated Plover  2
Killdeer  25
Spotted Sandpiper  1
Solitary Sandpiper  1
Ruddy Turnstone  1     
Baird's Sandpiper  1    
Least Sandpiper  10
Buff-breasted Sandpiper  1     
Pectoral Sandpiper  1    
Semipalmated Sandpiper  5
Rock Pigeon   1
Fish Crow  1     Heard
American Robin  2

All the rarities were too far away to get a decent photo.

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