Friday, May 20, 2016

Cattus Island SP & Great Bay Blvd WMA 5/20--Black Skimmer, Canada Warbler

Black Skimmer between two Laughing Gulls. Black-bellied Plover in background at Great Bay Blvd.
Indefatigable pishing brought me my first year bird today. Sheer stubbornness brought me my second.

Cattus Island was in the middle of two errands I had to run this morning. I was there early enough for it to be relatively free of dog-walkers and runners, so I walked through the woods, pishing my heart out. I was pishing so long and so hard that I was getting light-headed and I was getting rewarded with only Common Yellowthroats, which were seemingly in every bush and behind every phragmite stalk. I was muttering "Yay" ("yet another yellowthroat) when I saw a bird pop up on a branch and said to myself, "That's different." And it was. After watching it infuriatingly flit from branch to branch and hide behind every just-emerging leaf, I finally was able to get good enough looks to know that it wasn't a yellowthroat, and it wasn't my first impression of Magnolia Warbler, but was indeed my FOY Canada Warbler, a migrant I don't get very often.

All the other birds at the park were expected, but a few, like Acadian Flycatcher, Saltmarsh Sparrow and Marsh Wren are always welcome.
35 species
Great Egret  2
Snowy Egret  1
Osprey  5
Willet  2
Herring Gull  10
Mourning Dove  5
Black-billed Cuckoo  1     Heard, blue trail
Belted Kingfisher  1
Downy Woodpecker  1
Northern Flicker  1
Eastern Wood-Pewee  1     Heard, blue trail
Acadian Flycatcher  1
Great Crested Flycatcher  3     heard
Fish Crow  2
Tree Swallow  10
Barn Swallow  1
Carolina Chickadee  3
House Wren  4
Marsh Wren  1     Heard
Carolina Wren  1     Heard, parking lot
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  2
Eastern Bluebird  2
American Robin  5
Gray Catbird  6
Ovenbird  1
Common Yellowthroat  25
Yellow Warbler  2
Pine Warbler  1     Heard, parking lot
Canada Warbler  1
Saltmarsh Sparrow  1
Eastern Towhee  5
Northern Cardinal  2
Red-winged Blackbird  20
Common Grackle  1
American Goldfinch  10

After lunch I decided to go back to Great Bay Blvd. I wanted Black Skimmer and that's the best place nearby (nearby being 30 miles away) to find them. I think today was the 4th, maybe the 5th trip I've made down there looking for them. Everyone else has seen them it seems. It was low tide around 2 o'clock, perfect conditions to expose the sand bar at the first bridge where they hang out with terns and sandpipers. At first, when I got there, I didn't see any skimmers, but 3 three black & white birds with their beaks tucked in didn't look like anything else I could think of. The picture above is pretty good representation of my view.  I scoped them and waited and eventually one of them lifted its head and I had my second year bird for the day. 

Short-billed Dowitcher
Great Bay Blvd at low tide is terrific for watching shorebirds--you can get really close to them without them taking much notice. 
Birds I wasn't expecting, though turned up. First, at the fenced in trailer north of the second wooden bridge, with annoying, solar-powered beeping machine (monitoring what and beeping why an ongoing mystery) I saw a bird with a black and white back jump out of the grass and onto the hurricane fence. My first reaction was towheee, but I've never seen a towhee down there, though it is a good spot for sparrows. Upon closer examination, I realized the bird was a Rose-breasted Grosbeak. I've certainly never seen one of those down there!

Magnolia Warbler (note the diagnostic two-toned undertail)
After walking around the beach at the inlet, where a small group of Red Knots were mixed in with the Dunlins, I walked the road up to the south end of the wooden bridge. There are a few trees there and I saw some yellow birds zipping through the leaves. I looked (always look) and saw that they weren't the expected Yellow Warblers or yellowthroats. The first one I saw had striped flanks and gray head and back and I thought I was seeing my second Canada Warbler of the day. Watching it longer and taking many photographs of leaves and twigs I soon realized I had a Magnolia Warbler. Two, actually. That's a new warbler for the road to me, as was the female Hooded Warbler which was also in the same tree. I'm doing much better with warblers this year than I usually do. Improving my skills or just lucky?

I ran into some guys who were just getting off work from the Rutgers Facility, one of whom I know. They asked if I'd seen anything good and when I told them about the warblers they were polite, but I could tell they thought the old guy didn't know what he was talking about, since Hooded Warbler, especially, wouldn't normally be found in that habitat. But in migration, any bird can be anywhere.

I was pretty much birded out by that time so I drove fairly quickly north up the road and didn't add any countable birds to the list as I sometimes do. I did, however, see these two domestic-type ducks in a puddle by the side of the road. One is obviously a male. The other I can't sex, but that's what I call a BLACK duck.

Not counting those two oddballs, I had 41 species along the 5 mile road.
Double-crested Cormorant  1
Great Egret  15
Snowy Egret  10
Black-crowned Night-Heron  1
Glossy Ibis  1
Turkey Vulture  1
Osprey  2
Clapper Rail  2     Heard
Black-bellied Plover  30
Semipalmated Plover  20
Greater Yellowlegs  1
Willet  15
Whimbrel  3
Ruddy Turnstone  20
Red Knot  7
Dunlin  150
Least Sandpiper  1
Semipalmated Sandpiper  25
Short-billed Dowitcher  30
Laughing Gull  25
Herring Gull  20
Great Black-backed Gull  15
Least Tern  1
Gull-billed Tern  1
Forster's Tern  10
Black Skimmer  3
Fish Crow  1
Tree Swallow  5
Barn Swallow  15
Gray Catbird  2
Northern Mockingbird  1
European Starling  2
Common Yellowthroat  6
Hooded Warbler  1     
Magnolia Warbler  2     
Yellow Warbler  2
Seaside Sparrow  10
Song Sparrow  2
Rose-breasted Grosbeak  1     
Red-winged Blackbird  40
Boat-tailed Grackle  30

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