Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Whitesbog 8/12--Phalaropes

Every year has a few memorable birding days and today was one. I drove over to Whitesbog yet again this morning. After all, I hadn't been there since Sunday morning. Some interesting species had dropped by in the interim. Red Knot was found yesterday and that is a really rare bird for the area. We had storms last night so I was curious as to what stayed around and what came down in the storm.

When I drove onto the dikes I saw 3 birders in the far corner of the 2nd bog so I headed toward them--look for the birders, not the birds. They turned out to be Greg & Jim and another birder I hadn't met yet, Ernie. They'd had no luck with the Red Knot, but had seen a Short-billed Dowitcher, a supposed rarity for the county. I'd seen it driving up to them.

We set up our scopes and scanned around, finding the usual species for this time of year--both yellowlegs, Spotted and Solitary Sandpipers, Least & Semipalmated Sandpipers, egrets, ibises and a few Gull-billed Terns. Greg & Ernie walked up to the cut in the breached dike and after a while called over that they could use some help on an unusual bird Ernie had found. Greg had it in his scope and it only took me a moment to say "Wilson's Phalarope." I'd seen over 5000 of them last month in Utah, so I was pretty confident in the i.d. Lousy picture:
It was a delicate shorebird with yellow legs, very white on the breast and flanks, with a needle-like bill and a black line behind the eye. It ran around wildly on the mud flats as phalaropes will do. We all look for a good while, and check Sibley a few times,  before we were confident in our identification, According to eBird, this is the first sighting of Wilson's Phalarope in Burlington County. Greg put the word out on Jerseybirds.

We followed the bird for a good while then lost it then refound it, we thought, at the other end of the bog, in with a group of Greater Yellowlegs. Just before we broke up (the 3 other guys were going to drive to that side of the bog, I was going to start my walk) I found another WIPH close by, but it disappeared behind some high tufts of grass. Eventually we all got a look at it. So now we thought we had 2 Wilson's.

When we had all reconvened on the opposite side of the bog and found the phalarope with the feeding yellowlegs, we all quickly realized it wasn't the same bird we'd thought we'd seen. It was smaller, had a shorter bill, had buff stripes on the back and a large black eyepatch. I'd seen about 7000 Red-necked Phalaropes in Utah, and here was one more. Needless to say, this bird has not been recorded at Whitesbog either (though it has been seen in the county near the Delaware River). Then, after a few minutes, a Wilson's Phalarope flew in an joined the Red-necked. I think it is a second Wilson's because it looks so different than the first one we saw, but I can't be certain. In any case, as I always say, "I only need one." Here's an excellent comparison photo from Greg:
Wilson's (L), Red-necked (R)
Photo: (c) Greg Prelich
By now, other birders were joining us. I was happy to see David and his son and especially happy when the Red-necked turned out to be a lifer for him. David lives quite a distance from Whitesbog, so I asked him where he was when he got the alert. "I didn't," he said, "We were coming here anyway." As Branch Rickey said: Luck is the residue of design.

So while the Red Knot had taken flight, it was replaced by two great birds. Yet the other rarities that are common at Whitesbog--Pectoral Sandpiper, Little Blue Heron, were not to be found and the one bird I really want to find, Stilt Sandpiper, I still haven't found. Which only gives me another reason to go back tomorrow to Burlington County's mini-Brig.

My day list:
30 species
Canada Goose  15
American Black Duck  5
Mallard  25
Great Egret  11
Snowy Egret  1
Green Heron  1
Glossy Ibis  8
Turkey Vulture  1
Cooper's Hawk  1
Semipalmated Plover  20
Killdeer  15
Spotted Sandpiper  2
Solitary Sandpiper  3
Greater Yellowlegs  25
Lesser Yellowlegs
Least Sandpiper  10
Semipalmated Sandpiper  2
Short-billed Dowitcher  1     Possibly two. 
Wilson's Phalarope  1     
Red-necked Phalarope  1     2nd bog. WIPH flew in a few minutes later for comparison. 
Gull-billed Tern  6     Exact count of birds seen in one scope sweep 
Mourning Dove  1
Eastern Kingbird  2
American Crow  2
Purple Martin  2
Tree Swallow  2
Barn Swallow  5
Song Sparrow  1
Eastern Towhee  1     Heard
Red-winged Blackbird  1

No comments:

Post a Comment