Friday, December 11, 2015

Assunpink WMA 12/11--A Few "Good" Birds

I put on my blaze orange hat and  blaze orange vest and went up to Assunpink where it's open for hunting. There is always a great sense of anticipation right before you start birding--I could find anything here. Maybe a year bird, maybe a rarity. The bird list is thrillingly blank. So it was a little deflating when I ran into Bob D at my first stop by the burnt house. Bob birds Assunpink more than anyone and if there are interesting birds to find there, he's usually the first to find them. And Bob said there was nothing of note this morning. And so far he was right because where we were standing was the place that is usually reliable for White-crowned Sparrows and there were none in sight. So far I had 4 species: Grackles (at least a hundred in the stubble field) a Mourning Dove on a wire, a junco, and a White-throated Sparrow I heard singing. My fallback reasoning for a barren day of birding is "Well, at least I'll get my exercise in," and that's what I was already thinking.

We chatted for a while and then I continued north to the lake, expecting to only see the Ruddy Ducks that Bob had. At this point in the year the game changes from "year birds" to "month birds" because me finding a year bird this late is pretty unlikely. So I was delighted that, while scanning the flock of ruddies, I found my first Redhead of the month and season. Redheads are very dramatic looking ducks and I don't find them all that often so I was pleased.

Now began the exercise portion of the trip. I walked around the west side of the lake, finding the usual expected species plus a good look at a Belted Kingfisher that I was finally able to track down after hearing its rattle off and on for a half hour.

I drove down to the model airplane field to look at the east side of the lake, in the vain hope that the Trumpeter Swans of the last couple of years had just flown in, but of course, there were only a couple of mutes there. However, I was surprised to see a dark bird fly across the path. It struck me as a Gray Catbird, a species known as "half hardy" meaning some will stay the winter (and so far, with this warm weather, I'm surprised more haven't been reported). A little vigorous pishing brought the bird into view:
Gray Catbird
I put away the scope and then walked the big half-circle road that hugs the east side of the lake. Two relatively hard to find woodpeckers were along here: Hairy Woodpecker and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. Along with the many sparrows & goldfinches, this was enough to keep my interest. So, considering that I thought it would just be a 3 mile walk and a short list, I wound up with 4 month birds, all of them "goodies" for this time of year. The complete list:
29 species
Canada Goose  12     f/o
Mute Swan  6
Redhead  1     
Ring-necked Duck  4
Ruddy Duck  46
Pied-billed Grebe  2
Great Blue Heron  2
Turkey Vulture  1
Ring-billed Gull  41
Mourning Dove  1
Belted Kingfisher  2
Red-bellied Woodpecker  5
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker  1
Downy Woodpecker  2
Hairy Woodpecker  1
Blue Jay  15
Carolina Chickadee  10
Tufted Titmouse  2
Carolina Wren  1     Heard.
Eastern Bluebird  3
American Robin  2
Gray Catbird  1     
Yellow-rumped Warbler  2
Dark-eyed Junco  1    
White-throated Sparrow  15
Song Sparrow  2
Northern Cardinal  2     Clarksburg-Robbinsville Rd
Common Grackle  100     
American Goldfinch  15

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