Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Sandy Hook 3/9--American Oystercatcher, Eastern Phoebe

American Oystercatcher
We met Bob Auster at Sandy Hook this morning and birded north from B lot and Plum Island. Sometimes you "request" a species of the birding gods and it is as if just by asking the bird appears. I said that I'd like to see our first Eastern Phoebe of the year when we crossed the road to Plum Island and within a minute Bob found one in a tree. (Maybe Bob is one of the birding gods.) I had also said as we were scanning the sand bars that American Oystercatcher would be a good bird for the day and soon I found one walking the beach in front of a flock of Brant. And those were our two year birds for the day, in the first spot we looked.

But that doesn't mean that we didn't find any more interesting birds. We next stopped at Spermaceti Cove, walking out on the new boardwalk where we were able to get better looks at oystercatchers (to Shari's delight), and we also found a couple of goldeneyes. At first there was one hen and we naturally defaulted to Common Goldeneye, by far the most likely species. But then Bob found a second goldeneye swimming with the other and it just didn't look "right" to him and we spend a long time comparing and contrasting the two birds, wondering if one of them was the much, much rarer Barrow's Goldeneye. 

As you can perhaps see from these mediocre photos that I took, the bird on the left seems to have a rounder head, with a lighter colored bill and less white on the flanks, making us wonder if it was a Barrow's. I think I could confidently call a drake Barrow's from the facial pattern, but a female is just to dicey for me, especially since I have seen exactly one Barrow's Goldeneye in my life (coincidentally, at Sandy Hook). Still, I send the photo to a couple of expert friends of mine and we'll see if we actually stumbled upon something exciting.

Moving on from there we walked along the Road to Nowhere and came upon a nice flock of waxwings (yet another of my requests) and at the ferry landing we heard a Killdeer calling but couldn't find it, at first. I looked up onto the peaked roof of the chapel and there it was. I've never seen one do that.

We hit a few more spots, including the newly rebuilt hawkwatch platform at the start of the fisherman's trail. It is a pretty wobbly construction. I'm sure it's safe, but trying to use your scope up there is useless because anyone taking a step, starting on the first riser, shakes the whole platform as if you were in a boat. We did enjoy watching a huge flock of Northern Gannets plunge dive into the ocean as well as just loaf in the water. After walking a few more paths at the north end of the hook we called it a day--almost 7 hours of birding produced 42 species.
Brant  100
Canada Goose  75
Mute Swan  2
American Black Duck  15
Mallard  4
Surf Scoter  15
Black Scoter  10
Long-tailed Duck  10
Bufflehead  20
Common Goldeneye  2    
Red-breasted Merganser  20
Common Loon  4
Horned Grebe  3
Northern Gannet  150
Great Blue Heron  1
Black Vulture  1
Turkey Vulture  9
Cooper's Hawk  1
American Oystercatcher  8     
Herring Gull  100
Great Black-backed Gull  5
Rock Pigeon  5
Mourning Dove  2
Eastern Phoebe  2
American Crow  2
Fish Crow  10
Carolina Wren  2     Heard
American Robin  50
Northern Mockingbird  10
European Starling  10
Cedar Waxwing  10
Yellow-rumped Warbler  15
American Tree Sparrow  1
Dark-eyed Junco  1
White-throated Sparrow  1
Song Sparrow  25
Northern Cardinal  10
Red-winged Blackbird  100
Common Grackle  20
House Finch  10
House Sparrow  20

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