Sunday, May 1, 2016

Heislerville WMA 4/30--Black-crowned Night-Heron, Ruff, Curlew Sandpiper

Heislerville Rookery: Cormorants with Black-crowned Night-Heron
The really interesting birds were about 20 minutes away in Cumberland County at the Heislerville impoundments. Is it just a coincidence that now that Brig is virtually shut down that the rarities are showing up here or some kind of cosmic justice? A Ruff (to be technical, this bird is probably a female, thus a Reeve) was discovered there last week and happily it hung around until Saturday for our group to enjoy. More amazingly, the next day (or perhaps the day after) a Curlew Sandpiper showed up and we were able to view both (though not at the same time as some had) from the one spot, not far away from the parking lot. This was only the 2nd Ruff Shari & I had seen and our first in NJ. It wasn't much to look at; unlike a male Ruff, which has the eponymous collar in an array of colors, a Reeve (or if this is a male, a juvenile or one out of breeding plumage) looks pretty much like a yellowlegs without the yellow legs and distinguished by color (brown, instead of gray) and a slightly curved bill. Still, a great bird to see, since they rarely show up in the U.S. The Curlew Sandpiper is a bit more common (there was one at Brig last year) but to have it in the same pool with the Ruff was amazing. While it gave good scope views, my camera was not capable of getting a clear shot, given the distance and murky viewing conditions. But I think this photograph gives an idea of what it is like to look for a rarity among a flock of shorebirds.

The Curlew Sandpiper is the bird sitting down on the island in the middle of the photo, right below the bird taking wing. The other birds in the picture are Dunlins, Semipalmated Sandpipers and Semipalmated Plovers. And there were hundreds of the first two species to sort through, yet, somehow, when we first got there, I picked out the Curlew Sandpiper right away. I was given the general direction it was in.

Shari wandered over to the other side of the road to look at the rookery and came back to tell me that Black-crowned Night-Herons were sharing the island with the other birds. So I finally got my Black-crowned Night-Herons. It only took exactly 4 months. Yeesh.

27 species, almost all of them seen:
Canada Goose  5
Mute Swan  3
American Black Duck  1
Double-crested Cormorant  25
Great Blue Heron  1
Great Egret  24
Snowy Egret  3
Black-crowned Night-Heron  12
Turkey Vulture  1
Osprey  1
Bald Eagle  3
Black-bellied Plover  1
Semipalmated Plover  10
Greater Yellowlegs  25
Lesser Yellowlegs
Ruff  1     Reeve, probably. Continuing
Curlew Sandpiper  1     Slightly larger than SESA, with buff/red breast. 
Dunlin  500
Semipalmated Sandpiper  500
Short-billed Dowitcher  20
Herring Gull  10
Great Black-backed Gull  1
Forster's Tern  2
Fish Crow  1     Heard
Tree Swallow  1
Barn Swallow  1
Red-winged Blackbird  1

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