Saturday, January 9, 2016

Brig 1/9--Gadwall, Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, Lesser Scaup, Common Merganser, Cooper's Hawk, Greater Yellowlegs, Eastern Meadowlark

Snow Geese with Atlantic City as a gray silhouette
Common Merganser (drake)
What a difference a thaw makes. I went on NJ Audubon's monthly Brig trip with Mike & Pete today and with most of the water open, the ducks were back. I added 5 ducks to the list, the most interesting being Common Merganser, which is a relatively  hard bird to find at Brig. With one Red-breasted Merganser and lots of hoodies, we accomplished the merganser hat trick.

Bald Eagle (adult)
Shore-bird wise Brig was not as accomodating with only a good flock of Dunlins and one FOY Greater Yellowlegs. Of the raptors, a Cooper's Hawk soaring over the parking lot was new for the year. Eagles, while not new, are always welcome even if I do act blasé about them to new and non-birders. One adult was posing on an Osprey platform and was too cooperative not to take a photo.

But the real highlight of the trip around the dikes came when we stopped for a huge mixed flock of birds at the entrance to Jen's Trail, at the start of the upland section of the drive. While we were all sorting through the robins and waxwings, finding one dreaded (to some) Brown-headed Cowbird, Hank Burk turned around to the field behind us and and pointed out a huge flock of Eastern Meadowlarks, flying from a tree into the tall grass and back. An occasional meadowlark is an event. A flock of 30 (conservatively) is amazing for this beaten down species. None of us had ever seen that many at one time. I can probably go a full year without seeing that many.

We did a second loop, spending some time waiting for a smaller Snow Goose to lift its head and turn into a Ross's Goose. After about 10 minutes it did look up, but it was just a small Snow Goose. We were about 3/4 of the way around the drive when all our phones pinged. Rare bird alert. The story continues above this entry.

Meanwhile: my list for Brig:
48 species
Snow Goose  2000
Brant  250
Canada Goose  300
Mute Swan  3
Tundra Swan  50
Gadwall  20
American Wigeon  15
American Black Duck  500
Mallard  25
Northern Shoveler  1     North dike
Northern Pintail  20
Ring-necked Duck  3     Exit Ponds
Lesser Scaup  2     Near end of drive before Jen's trail.
Bufflehead  20
Hooded Merganser  25
Common Merganser  4     Gull Pond
Red-breasted Merganser  1     Bay, from north dike
Ruddy Duck  2
Great Blue Heron  3
Turkey Vulture  1
Northern Harrier  4
Cooper's Hawk  1
Bald Eagle  5
Red-tailed Hawk  1
American Coot  10
Greater Yellowlegs  1
Dunlin  60
Ring-billed Gull  50
Herring Gull  100
Great Black-backed Gull  15
Downy Woodpecker  2
Peregrine Falcon  1
Blue Jay  1     Heard, upland section
American Crow  10
Carolina Chickadee  1     Heard, upland section
Carolina Wren  1     Heard, upland section
Eastern Bluebird  2
American Robin  300
Northern Mockingbird  1     Entrance to Jen's Trail
Cedar Waxwing  20
Yellow-rumped Warbler  25
Eastern Towhee  1     Heard, parking lot
Red-winged Blackbird  10
Eastern Meadowlark  30
Boat-tailed Grackle  3
Brown-headed Cowbird  1     entrance to Jen's trail
House Finch  2
American Goldfinch  2     Heard

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