Sunday, May 1, 2016

Ocean County 4/29--Sedge Wren, Wood Thrush, Northern Parula, Yellow Warbler, Bank Swallow, Red Knot, Semipalmated Sandpiper

Semipalmated Sandpiper & Semipalmated Plovers
at Great Bay Blvd: both county birds
At 5:45 on a dank morning, Mike picked me up to start a day of Ocean County birding. It wasn't really a scouting run for the WSB because a lot will change in two weeks, but our first stop, Beach Avenue, was the same as it will be on May 14. It was after dawn when we got there, so no owls were calling. However, we did confirm that the location still holds Sedge Wren, a real rarity in the state, and an excellent tick to start the day.  We walked in a about 100 feet and the little bird started its machine gun call. We both heard it twice and though we saw a small bird jumping around in the reeds, we couldn't be sure that was the wren or a yellowthroat. But we know it's there for the count.

Along the road we also heard our first Wood Thrushes of the year. They sang their ethereal song a few times, but stopped by the time we were heading back out 40 minutes later. We had 26 species along the road. Note all the "heard" birds. When you're trying to amass a large number of species, you don't usually have the luxury of looking.
26 species
Mourning Dove  1
Red-bellied Woodpecker  1     Heard
Northern Flicker  1     Heard
Great Crested Flycatcher  1     Heard
White-eyed Vireo  2
Blue-headed Vireo  1     Heard
Blue Jay
 1     Heard
Carolina Chickadee  1     Heard
Tufted Titmouse  1
House Wren  1     Heard
Sedge Wren  1     Historical location at end of road. Heard loud ticking call. 
Carolina Wren  1     Heard
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  1     Heard
Wood Thrush  2     Heard
American Robin  5
Gray Catbird  6
Ovenbird  5     Heard
Black-and-white Warbler  2     Heard
Common Yellowthroat  7
Chipping Sparrow  1
White-throated Sparrow  3
Eastern Towhee  2
Northern Cardinal  3
Red-winged Blackbird  1
House Finch  2     Heard
American Goldfinch  1

We then made the 2 minute drive over to Stafford Avenue, which leads to the Bridge to Nowhere, which will also probably be our 2nd stop on the WSB. Here I added two more warblers to my year list, thanks to Mike's keen ear. We took some time to look for them and Mike actually saw the parula, but I had to wait for the next day, down in Belleplain, to add it to my retinal list for the year. Again, a lot of "heards." 
21 species
Mute Swan  5
Gadwall  2
Great Egret  13
Willet  2
Herring Gull  12
Forster's Tern  1
Mourning Dove  2
Downy Woodpecker  1
Carolina Chickadee  1
Tufted Titmouse  1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  4
American Robin  1
Ovenbird  2     heard
Common Yellowthroat  1
Northern Parula  1     heard, buzzy callYellow Warbler  1     heard swee swee swee
Seaside Sparrow  1     Heard
Song Sparrow  1     Heard
Swamp Sparrow  1
Northern Cardinal  2
Red-winged Blackbird  10

After a Wawa stop (it would be interesting to know how much Wawa makes off of birders in NJ) and look around Barnegat that didn't yield anything new, we drove over to Cloverdale Farm, where Mike had never been, hoping that the Prothonotary Warbler I found on Saturday was lingering. Alas, we couldn't add it to our list, but over the bogs we did have 4 species of swallows including my FOY Bank Swallow, a difficult bird for the county, which is surprising, in light of all the sand pits dug out of the pine forests.
26 species
Canada Goose  2
Mallard  5
Great Egret  1
Turkey Vulture  2
Greater Yellowlegs  3
Mourning Dove  2
Red-bellied Woodpecker  1     Heard
Downy Woodpecker  1
Eastern Phoebe  1     Heard
Blue Jay  1     Heard
Northern Rough-winged Swallow  6
Tree Swallow  5
Bank Swallow  1
Barn Swallow  5
Carolina Chickadee  1     Heard
White-breasted Nuthatch  1     Heard
Eastern Bluebird  1     Near Visitor's Ctr
American Robin  5
Brown Thrasher  1
Pine Warbler  1     Heard
Chipping Sparrow  1     Heard
White-throated Sparrow  1
Northern Cardinal  2
Red-winged Blackbird  10
Common Grackle  5
Brown-headed Cowbird  1     Heard

From there, we got on the parkway and, despite the increasingly gloomy, cool day and high winds, drove down to Tuckerton to see what the shorebird situation was along Great Bay Blvd. It was good, with 10 species, with big numbers of Black-bellied Plovers plus a Red Knot mixed in with some dowitchers and my first Semipalmated Sandpiper of the year. The Semipalmated Plovers we saw were not new for the year, but they did increase the county list. Keeping the scope upright, never mind steady, in the wind was a challenge. It was April 29th and it felt like late January, except I wasn't dressed for it. 

We spent a little over 2 hours there and listed 35 species:
Brant  140
Canada Goose  3
Mallard  1
Bufflehead  7
Common Loon  1
Double-crested Cormorant  10
Great Blue Heron  1
Great Egret  16
Snowy Egret  12
Glossy Ibis  1
Osprey  5
Clapper Rail  2     Heard
American Oystercatcher  5
Black-bellied Plover  135
Semipalmated Plover  10
Greater Yellowlegs  5
Willet  3
Red Knot  1
Sanderling  2
Dunlin  25
Semipalmated Sandpiper  1
Short-billed Dowitcher  5
Herring Gull  125
Great Black-backed Gull  1
Forster's Tern  13
Mourning Dove  2
American Crow  2
Fish Crow  1     Heard
Tree Swallow  1
European Starling  1
Common Yellowthroat  1     Heard
Savannah Sparrow  1
Song Sparrow  2
Red-winged Blackbird  25
Boat-tailed Grackle  50

It was either nail your shoes to the ground or go inland, so up Rt 539 we went as a drizzle started, first to New Egypt where nothing new for the year was in the fields (though we did tack on Northern Mockingbird and Black Vulture for our day list), then over to Colliers Mills. The grasslands along Success Road haven't recovered enough from their annual burning to have any Grasshopper Sparrows in them, but history is on our side there, and while we know where the Red-headed Woodpeckers are nesting, none were in evidence. We drove all the way up to Success Lake, where we hit little pockets of warblers in a couple of swampy spots. I, however, was happiest with the birds we found nearest the parking lot--Northern Waterthrush and Spotted Sandpiper--because they were both county birds (state birds, country birds--we saw them in T&T).
30 species
Canada Goose  2
Turkey Vulture  6
Red-tailed Hawk  1
Killdeer  1
Spotted Sandpiper  2
Mourning Dove  2
Red-bellied Woodpecker  1     Heard
Hairy Woodpecker  1     Heard
White-eyed Vireo  1
Blue Jay  1     Heard
Northern Rough-winged Swallow  1
Tree Swallow  1
Carolina Chickadee  1     Heard
Tufted Titmouse  1     Heard
Carolina Wren  2
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  6
American Robin  5
Gray Catbird  1
Brown Thrasher  1
European Starling  15
Ovenbird  1     Heard
Northern Waterthrush  1
Black-and-white Warbler  4
Common Yellowthroat  4
Pine Warbler  2
Yellow-rumped Warbler  2
Prairie Warbler  1
White-throated Sparrow  1
Northern Cardinal  1
Red-winged Blackbird  10

We always have a "number" before we start the day. Today's was 80. We smashed that with a total of 93. Last year on the WSB, in lousy weather similar to today's we had 109, but started earlier and ended later, so I'm optimistic (there's something I rarely say) about our big day in 2 weeks.

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