Friday, October 23, 2015

Great Bay Blvd WMA 10/23--Nelson's Sparrow, Clay-colored Sparrow

A walk along Great Bay Blvd WMA (aka: the Boulevard of Broken Asphalt) from the inlet to the middle of the 2nd bridge yielded 12 sparrow species, including Nelson's Sparrow (my Ocean County nemesis bird), Clay-colored Sparrow (in the same spot I found one last year) and Vesper Sparrow (another county bird). I emphasize walk, because birding by car, looking for these sparrows would be impossible since they flush and hide so readily. It is difficult enough walking along the road to see them before they dive for cover.

The Nelson's was at the inlet. I finally managed to see one (possibly two or the same one twice) posted up in the reeds long enough to give a me a look at it's bluish bill and blurry breast streaks. A few Saltmarsh Sparrows helped with the comparison.

At the old concrete boat launch before the last bridge there were a number of different species, including junco, song, field and one sparrow that stood out, for a few moments before it was lost in the underbrush, a Clay-colored Sparrow. This is the same spot that I saw one last year. I first mistook it for Field but it didn't feel right for that sparrow and once I consulted Sibley's I knew I had the more desirable bird.

Vesper Sparrow
The areas right before the wooden bridges are the best places to seek out the sparrows--there is enough gravel and sand for them to feed while you scope from a discrete distance. At the foot of the first wooden bridge I came across another small flock, mostly juncos, white-throated, and song, but on the bridge itself I saw a Vesper Sparrow, with an eye-ring like a whitewall tire and white outer tail feathers. It flew off and behind me before I could attempt a picture, but, happily, on my way back down the road I found it again, feeding on the side of the road. The sun was directly behind the bird so my photos are not great, but the eye-ring is clearly apparent, as is white malar streak that wraps around to form a sort of "U."

Brant have returned
I didn't see any night-herons of either persuasion at the usual roost by the first wooden bridge. Perhaps it too late in the season. Only Great Egrets were in the marsh and not in the great numbers that were there earlier in the year. Surprising not to find any Great Blue Herons. Finally, Brant have returned. A big flock was off the sand bar in the bay as well as a smaller flock close to the beach.

For the walk and drive I managed 36 species, so  one third of what I saw belonged to the sparrow family.

The list:
Brant  240
Mute Swan  2
American Black Duck  2
Double-crested Cormorant  4
Great Egret  20
Northern Harrier  2
Black-bellied Plover  7
Killdeer  1
Greater Yellowlegs  45
Dunlin  26
Ring-billed Gull  2
Herring Gull  40
Great Black-backed Gull  15
Royal Tern  1
Mourning Dove  9
American Crow  4
Golden-crowned Kinglet  1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  2
American Robin  1
Gray Catbird  1     Heard, inlet
European Starling  100
Yellow-rumped Warbler  30
Nelson's Sparrow  1
Saltmarsh Sparrow  3
Seaside Sparrow  1
Chipping Sparrow  3
Clay-colored Sparrow  1
Field Sparrow  2
Dark-eyed Junco  8
White-throated Sparrow  3
Vesper Sparrow  1
Savannah Sparrow  3
Song Sparrow  10
Swamp Sparrow  1
Red-winged Blackbird  1     South end of first wooden bridge
Boat-tailed Grackle  35

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