Sunday, May 15, 2016

WSB 5/14--Least Tern, Common Tern, Chuck-will's-widow, Black-billed Cuckoo, Acadian Flycatcher, Saltmarsh Sparrow

Snow Goose, West Creek
Found by Mike toward the end of our big day
I was getting nervous. It was 2:20 A.M., about a half hour before the Ocean Wanderers (Pete, Mike, & John) were due to pick me up to start our big day for the World Series of Birding and the whip-poor-will was silent. It is a tradition of long standing (going back to last year) that we start out with the whip-poor-will screaming, Pete pretending to not hear it, and a lame rejoinder from me.

Then at 2:25 the whip started singing in the cherry tree next door, the song reverberating through the neighborhood. The guys pulled up, Pete and I had our repartee and with the dulcet tones of the whip-poor-will ringing in our ears, we set off on our great adventure.

As we normally do on big days, we made our first stop at the end of Beach Avenue in Manahawkin, a stretch of road that ends in the marshes, far away from traffic noise, where we could hear Chuck-will's Widow, and 3 owls.  Those are the night birds we expect hear. We were surprised to hear a Yellow-billed Cuckoo at 3:45 A.M. Pete's calling must have awakened him. Later, as the sky was lightening to a murky gray, we all heard the little machine-gun rattle of the resident Sedge Wren. Beach Avenue is just about the only place in Ocean County (and one of the few places in New Jersey) where you can find this bird.

Just after we heard the Sedge Wren the chucks got active and we saw them flying very near over the road and then over our heads. Before yesterday I had seen one chuck, torpid in Bryant Park, so to see them hunting for bugs was a thrill and probably the highlight (in low light) of the day.

We then drove to the next road over, Stafford Avenue, which leads to the Bridge to Nowhere and looks like the Air Force has been using it for bombing practice. We saw egrets and ibises, heard a lot of birds and John picked out from the tall reeds a Saltmarsh Sparrow, a very hard bird for me to find. Thanks John!

We have a rough itinerary that Pete makes up, but as we were driving north on Rt. 9 he remembered a road we had looked into last year, Taylor Lane, just as we were passing it, so Mike U-turned and we deviated slightly from the program. It was a good move as we added some warblers and heard our first Acadian Flycatcher of the year.

We added more species to the list along Lower Shore Road and Collinstown Road, scanned the Barnegat impoundments and got American Black Duck, a hard bird in spring, did a circuit of Waretown Lake where we had a few birds including Eastern Wood-Pewee, and looked at the feeders at Wells Mill Park for hummingbirds.

Our next section of Ocean County was away from the shore and on our way there we stopped at my house in the hopes that the Pine Siskins that have been hanging around the thistle feeder were still there, but they seem to have finally moved on. We were hoping for turkeys too, always here when I don't necessarily "need" them, but they weren't in evidence until Pete said that he was hoping to "talk turkey" with them and one responded by gobbling from the woods. Perfect timing. We also heard a Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Shari later told me she had finally seen one at our feeders later that day) so the stop added two more birds to the list.

We next drove the 5 mile length of Success Road at Colliers Mills, found Grasshopper Sparrow, the Red-headed Woodpecker, Blue Grosbeak, and a few more birds we "needed." The only new bird there for me was a Black-billed Cuckoo we heard loudly calling. A stop at FREC produced little and there was nothing at Butterfly Bogs, the water too high to hold any shorebirds like Solitary Sandpiper.

We started picking off onesies like Killdeer in the field next to the Lakewood Wawa on Rt 70 (had to stop to refuel on coffee anyway) and the Bald Eagle that nests in the cell tower on Hooper Avenue. Then it was back to the coast again as we drove down Great Bay Blvd.

I've been looking for Black-crowned Night-Heron in the county all year and Mike finally found for us in the marshes. I returned the favor by spotting a Yellow-crowned Night-Heron below the first wooden bridge. We had to turn around and coast back over the bridge so everyone could get a look. Fortunately, there was no oncoming traffic to complicate our viewing.

At the end of the road we had Common Tern as well as Caspian Tern and driving back Pete heard a Least Tern. I don't really like counting terns or gulls by ear so I was happy when Pete spotted the species resting on a mud pile in the marsh.

We drove up a couple of the Dock Roads. At the end of the road of Dock Road in West Creek Mike found the very late Snow Goose pictured above. We then drove over to LBI but the pickings were slim. By then steel-gray clouds had moved in and after 18 hours of birding we headed back to my place to fill out the WSB checklist. We had 125 species for the day. As always, we missed "easy" birds like Belted Kingfisher and Savannah Sparrow, but that notwithstanding, we had a great day, easily the most birds I've listed in a 24 hour period. In lieu of listing every species, in my obsessive-compulsive way, pictured below is official checklist sent into NJ Audubon.

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