Friday, November 13, 2015

Dr. John Birding 11/13

I was in the right place, but it must've been the wrong time
                                                                                                                                 --Dr. John

This morning, before I met up with Mike, I saw a report from Cape May of Franklin's Gull, a rarity from the west, flying by offshore. "Yeah, well, a Cape May fly by does me no good," I said to myself. 

Then, just as I got to Mike's place I saw an alert for a Franklin's Gull down at Brig. That immediately determined our destination for the day. The alert came at 9:52. By 10:52 we were hitting the dikes. And saw no gull we could even consider was a Franklin's. There were perhaps 6 Ring-billed Gulls floating way off the dike where the Franklin's had been reported. In fact, there was a dearth of birds in the impoundments. It was more like a February day when all the water is frozen than a mid-autumnal windy morning. We were working hard to dig out species. By the time we were 3/4 around we had approximately 25 species, half what we'd normally have. 

Then another alert came in: Franklin's Gull on Lake of the Lilies in Pt. Pleasant. In Ocean County, no less. Our theory was that the gull was working it's way north up the coast. That theory was soon exploded when Mike started to read more reports off his phone: 8 off Holgate, again in Ocean County; 2 more in Ocean County; one at Sandy Hook; 180 down at Cape May; 5 in Hunterdon County. Another in Mercer. Morris County. Middlesex County. Franklin's Gulls on the Hudson River. I even saw reports, when I got home of Franklin's Gulls off the shores of Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island.  In essence, there were Franklin's Gull everywhere but where we were. Some storm in the mid-west, which brought us 1/10 of an inch of rain yesterday, had swept up a big flock of rare gulls and dumped them off the mid-Atlantic coast.

So there we were, in one of the premiere birding locations in NJ, which had really very little interesting, where the one exciting bird had apparently used it's wings, while all around the state one of the great gull irruptions of all time was occurring. As Mike would say, "That's just not right." 

We soldiered on at Brig, making a 2nd loop as well as walking the Leed's trail. Toward the end of our 2nd go-round, near the exit ponds we found a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, always a good bird and Mike's first one of the year, so that was a reward for persistence. The last species we saw was Mourning Dove, breaking our remarkable streak of not seeing a MODO at Brig in the last 7 trips. In all we managed to pull out an even 50 species. But there is a big, frustrating hole in the day list. 

Brant (Atlantic)  75
Canada Goose  125
Mute Swan  1
Tundra Swan  10
Wood Duck  2
Gadwall  20
American Wigeon  50
American Black Duck  500
Mallard  25
Blue-winged Teal  1
Northern Shoveler  20
Northern Pintail  500
Green-winged Teal  25
Bufflehead  50
Red-breasted Merganser  3     Turtle Cove
Pied-billed Grebe  2
Double-crested Cormorant  10
Great Blue Heron  4
Great Egret  10
Snowy Egret  1
Turkey Vulture  2
Northern Harrier  2
Bald Eagle  2
American Coot  10
Black-bellied Plover  2
Greater Yellowlegs  6
Dunlin  50
Ring-billed Gull  20
Herring Gull  25
Great Black-backed Gull  2
Mourning Dove  3
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker  1     Near exit ponds
Downy Woodpecker  1     Upland
Blue Jay  4
American Crow  5
Carolina Chickadee  2
Carolina Wren  3     Heard
American Robin  2
Yellow-rumped Warbler  35
White-throated Sparrow  2
Vesper Sparrow  1
Savannah Sparrow  6
Song Sparrow  2
Swamp Sparrow  2     Heard, Leeds Eco-trail
Eastern Towhee  4
Northern Cardinal  2
Eastern Meadowlark  1
Rusty Blackbird  3
Common Grackle  1
American Goldfinch  1     Heard, Experimental Pool

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