Wednesday, August 31, 2016

August Birding Results

Pectoral Sandpiper, Whitesbog
In the month of August I went to Whitesbog 23 times and made 8 excursions to Brig. That's where the birds were that were reasonably close, so that's where I went. I could have possibly added some species this month had I been willing to "sod farm" down in Salem & Cumberland counties but the drive down there just seemed too long for no guarantees.

With Mike I made a trip to Cape May which was fairly dead and with Shari & Bob I spent a weekend in Delaware which was productive. But I found Whitesbog pretty much irresistible this month. It's quiet. It's calm. There are birds in the bogs, there are birds along the trail and there are birds in out of the way places that only the hard-core birders go. More than 1/2 of the 144 species I listed this month I had at Whitesbog.

Bobolink, Great Bay Blvd
Today, I managed to tear myself away from the bogs and took my 2nd ride of the month down Great Bay Blvd. The first one was in search of a White Ibis (which I found, though White Ibis is becoming a common rarity if you'll forgive the oxymoron) and today's trip was a search for shorebirds, of which there were a fair amount, but none, aside from a Pectoral Sandpiper, that I wouldn't expect this time of year. However, at the end of the road, just as I had started walking north, I came across a bird that said "Dickcissel" to me. Had I not been able to get some photographs, I would have called it that but something didn't sit right with me about the bird, so I didn't immediately list it. The two birds, out of their breeding togs look devilishly close to one another despite being in different families. Looking more closely at my photos at home and looking at different guidebooks, I saw that what I had was not a rarity, but an alternate-plumaged Bobolink. With the Pec, that made 2 county birds for the year, bringing the Ocean County list up to 227. (The extraordinarily rare Reddish Egret  [thanks Greg!] brought my life county list up to 276.)

The full list for the month:
Species                      First Sighting
Canada Goose   Whitesbog
Mute Swan   Cape May Point SP
Wood Duck   Brig
American Black Duck   Whitesbog
Mallard   Whitesbog
Blue-winged Teal   Bombay Hook
Northern Shoveler   Bombay Hook
Hooded Merganser   Whitesbog
Wild Turkey   35 Sunset Rd
Pied-billed Grebe   Bombay Hook
Double-crested Cormorant   Great Bay Bvld
Brown Pelican   Island Beach SP
Great Blue Heron   Whitesbog
Great Egret   Whitesbog
Snowy Egret   Great Bay Bvld
Little Blue Heron   Brig
Tricolored Heron   Great Bay Bvld
Reddish Egret   Island Beach SP
Green Heron   Whitesbog
Black-crowned Night-Heron   Brig
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron   Brig
White Ibis   Great Bay Bvld
Glossy Ibis   Whitesbog
Black Vulture   Bombay Hook
Turkey Vulture   Whitesbog
Osprey   Great Bay Bvld
Northern Harrier   Brig
Sharp-shinned Hawk   Drained Pond,  Schoolhouse Rd
Cooper's Hawk   Whitesbog
Bald Eagle   Brig
Broad-winged Hawk   Whitesbog
Red-tailed Hawk   Lower Township
Clapper Rail   Brig
Black-necked Stilt   Bombay Hook
American Avocet   Brig
American Oystercatcher   Cape May Point SP
Black-bellied Plover   Brig
Semipalmated Plover   Whitesbog
Killdeer   Whitesbog
Whimbrel   Brig
Marbled Godwit   Bombay Hook
Ruddy Turnstone   Brig
Stilt Sandpiper   Whitesbog
Sanderling   Ted Harvey WMA
Dunlin   Bombay Hook
Baird's Sandpiper   Brig
Least Sandpiper   Whitesbog
White-rumped Sandpiper   Brig
Buff-breasted Sandpiper   Brig
Pectoral Sandpiper   Brig
Semipalmated Sandpiper   Whitesbog
Western Sandpiper   Brig
Short-billed Dowitcher   Great Bay Bvld
Long-billed Dowitcher   Brig
Spotted Sandpiper   Whitesbog
Solitary Sandpiper   Whitesbog
Greater Yellowlegs   Whitesbog
Willet   Great Bay Bvld
Lesser Yellowlegs   Whitesbog
Laughing Gull   Whitesbog
Ring-billed Gull   Brig
Herring Gull   Great Bay Bvld
Great Black-backed Gull   Great Bay Bvld
Least Tern   Great Bay Bvld
Gull-billed Tern   Whitesbog
Caspian Tern   Brig
Black Tern   Brig
Common Tern   Great Bay Bvld
Forster's Tern   Great Bay Bvld
Royal Tern   Cape May Point SP
Black Skimmer   Great Bay Bvld
Mourning Dove   35 Sunset Rd
Black-billed Cuckoo   Cloverdale Farm
Common Nighthawk   35 Sunset Rd
Eastern Whip-poor-will   35 Sunset Rd
Chimney Swift   Cranberry Bogs, Dover Rd
Ruby-throated Hummingbird   Cranberry Bogs, Dover Rd
Belted Kingfisher   Whitesbog
Red-headed Woodpecker   Cloverdale Farm
Red-bellied Woodpecker   Whitesbog
Downy Woodpecker   35 Sunset Rd
Northern Flicker   Whitesbog
Merlin   Whitesbog
Peregrine Falcon   Brig
Olive-sided Flycatcher   Cloverdale Farm
Eastern Wood-Pewee   Whitesbog
Willow Flycatcher   Great Bay Bvld
Eastern Phoebe   Whitesbog
Great Crested Flycatcher   Whitesbog
Eastern Kingbird   Cranberry Bogs, Dover Rd
White-eyed Vireo   Whitesbog
Red-eyed Vireo   Bombay Hook
Blue Jay   35 Sunset Rd
American Crow   Whitesbog
Fish Crow   35 Sunset Rd
Horned Lark   Leipsic
Northern Rough-winged Swallow   Cranberry Bogs, Dover Rd
Purple Martin   Whitesbog
Tree Swallow   Whitesbog
Bank Swallow   Cranberry Bogs, Dover Rd
Barn Swallow   Whitesbog
Carolina Chickadee   Whitesbog
Tufted Titmouse   35 Sunset Rd
Red-breasted Nuthatch   Whitesbog
White-breasted Nuthatch   35 Sunset Rd
House Wren   Cranberry Bogs, Dover Rd
Marsh Wren   Brig
Carolina Wren   Cranberry Bogs, Dover Rd
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher   Whitesbog
Eastern Bluebird   Whitesbog
American Robin   Whitesbog
Gray Catbird   Whitesbog
Brown Thrasher   Whitesbog
Northern Mockingbird   Cranberry Bogs, Dover Rd
European Starling   35 Sunset Rd
Cedar Waxwing   Whitesbog
Ovenbird   Brig
Northern Waterthrush   Whitesbog
Black-and-white Warbler   Whitesbog
Common Yellowthroat   Whitesbog
American Redstart   Whitesbog
Yellow Warbler   Whitesbog
Pine Warbler   Whitesbog
Yellow-rumped Warbler   Whitesbog
Prairie Warbler   Whitesbog
Saltmarsh Sparrow   Great Bay Bvld
Seaside Sparrow   Brig
Chipping Sparrow   35 Sunset Rd
Field Sparrow   Brig
Savannah Sparrow   Whitesbog
Song Sparrow   Whitesbog
Eastern Towhee   Whitesbog
Northern Cardinal   35 Sunset Rd
Blue Grosbeak   Cranberry Bogs, Dover Rd
Indigo Bunting   Cape May Point SP
Bobolink   Great Bay Bvld
Red-winged Blackbird   Whitesbog
Eastern Meadowlark   Bombay Hook
Common Grackle   35 Sunset Rd
Boat-tailed Grackle   Great Bay Bvld
Brown-headed Cowbird   Bombay Hook
House Finch   35 Sunset Rd
American Goldfinch   Whitesbog
House Sparrow   Wawa Rt 70 & CR 530

Friday, August 26, 2016

Brig 8/26--Buff-breasted Sandpiper

Buff-breasted Sandpipers at the dogleg 
I went back to Brig this morning to try again for Buff-breasted Sandpipers because it really bugged me that yesterday I couldn't find them. I decided that I would be as patient as I could be and that I would look at every sandpiper that I could see in the area before the observation tower on the south dike. I parked the car on the road and walked the about a 3/4 of a mile along the SW Pool, looking for activity. I saw, up ahead, the refuge's truck parked and directly across from it a lot of shorebirds feeding in the short grass. I know the driver and got there just as he was pulling away. We exchanged greetings and he told me that there were two buffies out there, pretty distant. I set up my scope and started to scan. I found: Pectoral Sandpipers, Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Least Sandpipers, Short-billed Dowitchers, starlings, geese, gulls, and skimmers. I stood there for almost an hour scanning left and right, looking at each bird no matter how distant and I couldn't find the Buff-breasted Sandpipers. When I had first arrived some shorebirds took flight. For all I know, the buffies were in that flight.

I shouldered my scope, finally, and walked back to the car, figuring that I could scan as I drove and that a 2nd loop later might have a happier result. Then a text came in that there were ELEVEN Buff-breasted Sandpipers at the dogleg. I had been thinking that spot would be my next opportunity to find one. All summer I have been bemoaning its flooded state, but yesterday I noticed that a good portion of it was "dry." That is if you consider mud that's probably a foot deep "dry."

It is almost 4 miles from where I was to the dogleg. 4 miles is a long drive at 20 mph (5 miles over the speed limit, I know) and especially aggravating when, in front of you someone is tooling along at 10 in the middle of the road and doesn't have the brains that God gave geese, so he doesn't get out of your way until you're practically up his tailpipe. I ran into (almost) 3 of these fools.

Anyway, I made it to the dogleg, got out the scope and immediately found 3 birds, than another, and when I moved to another area, another 4 for a total of 8. I only need one. 8 Buff-breasted Sandpipers is a lot. The most I've ever seen at one time before was 3 and those were my lifers 10 years ago. I wish I could have photographed them better but they were fairly distant. Big in the scope, small in the camera.

It wasn't the way I had hoped to find them but find them I did. For the rest of the drive I played leap frog with one of the cars that had been in front of me. He was a photographer (naturally) so when he stopped at the dogleg to take pictures of egrets in the cedars, I didn't bother to tell him about the much more interesting birds in the grass because he wouldn't be able to photograph them. We met up again at the sluiceway where yesterday I had the Black Terns. Mostly there were dowitchers there today and 4 Caspian Terns. I walked up the rode to see if there was anything more interesting and then came back. He rolled down his window and asked me if I had seen the Whimbrels. I told him I seem to have missed them. I scoped for a couple of minutes, didn't see any Whimbrels (hard to miss, even for me) and then realized that what he though were Whimbrels were actually Glossy Ibis.  40 of them. I briefly entertained catching up with him and disabusing him of his i.d., but thought better of it.

I was walking on Jen's Trail when I got a voicemail about an appointment back at the house that I had forgotten about. I had plenty of time to get home, but there went the 2nd loop. Consequently, about half the drive I didn't survey. I still wound up with 47 species, only 2 less than yesterday.
Canada Goose  100
Mute Swan  3
American Black Duck  1
Mallard  10
Northern Shoveler  6
Double-crested Cormorant  5
Great Blue Heron  3
Great Egret  30
Snowy Egret  20
Tricolored Heron  2
Black-crowned Night-Heron  5     
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron  2     in trees across Gull Pond
Glossy Ibis  40
Osprey  10
Semipalmated Plover  3
Killdeer  2
Least Sandpiper  5
Buff-breasted Sandpiper  8    
Pectoral Sandpiper  10
Semipalmated Sandpiper  45
Short-billed Dowitcher  100
Greater Yellowlegs  20
Lesser Yellowlegs  
Laughing Gull  200
Herring Gull  100
Great Black-backed Gull  5
Gull-billed Tern  1
Caspian Tern  5
Forster's Tern  20
Black Skimmer  8
White-eyed Vireo  2     Heard, one on Jen's Trail, the other upland area
American Crow  1     Heard
Fish Crow  8
Purple Martin  2
Tree Swallow  25
Barn Swallow  1
Carolina Chickadee  2
Tufted Titmouse  2
Carolina Wren  1     Heard, parking lot
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  1
Gray Catbird
Brown Thrasher  1
European Starling  50
Eastern Towhee  1     Heard, upland area
Northern Cardinal  2     Heard, upland area
Red-winged Blackbird  100
American Goldfinch  1

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Brig 8/25--Black Tern

Black Tern hiding behind a Caspian Tern
Black Tern, center
Go for one bird, find another. I planned not to go to Whitesbog this morning for a change. I was thinking instead of looking around either Barnegat or Tuckerton, or both. A text came in, though, at 7 A.M. about 2 Buff-bellied Sandpipers in the SW Pool at Brig (where Bob & I had the Baird's last week), so instead I scooted down there. I was at the pool about an hour and a half after the initial report. Despite assiduous scanning and walking up and down the dike for about a 1/4 mile, I could only find Pectoral Sandpipers, yellowlegs, and semis. Another pair of birders stopped alongside the road and were equally unsuccessful, so I at least had the consolation that it wasn't just me who couldn't find a bird. With a sigh and a grumble I continued on the 8 mile, one way drive. "You can't go wrong at Brig," I told myself, but the stench of failure filled the car (or was that just low tide?)

Snowy Egret on the rocks
At the first sluice gate beyond the observation tower, I stopped to scan the rocks for terns and possibly turnstones. I saw a big white blob laying across the rocks and didn't at first know what to make of it. It turned out to be a Snowy Egret, lounging on rip-rap. I've never seen an egret "relax" in such a manner:

Tricolored Heron
Further along the south dike I saw a photographer snapping away. I don't usually stop to see what photographers have but as there were no Ospreys in sight and she pointed down to the mud flats, I pulled over. She was very excited and asked if she was looking at a couple of Reddish Egrets. To quote my favorite Hemingway line: Wouldn't it be pretty to think so?

Instead she had a couple (actually 3, there was another a little farther up the channel) Tricolored Herons, all juveniles, showing their tri colors very nicely. She was in heaven as it was a life bird for her. So I pulled out my scope and focused in on one so she could admire it, as she only had a camera and no bins.

We both continued along the drive, she well ahead of me as I stopped to scan for anything unusual at my usual spots (the first turn, the NE corner, the dogleg). I didn't come up with anything. I was happy, though, to see that the dogleg is about halfway drained with a little grass coming up through the mud. This is usually a reliable spot for "grasspipers." Supposedly, there were also two buffies there too, or else the same two from the other side of the pools.

At the sluiceway where the Red-necked Phalarope, American Avocet, and White-faced Ibis have all been seen, my photographer friend was stopped along with another birder. They looked interested. There were lots of different species out on the flats, so I pulled out my scope. The birder was looking through the Short-billed Dowitchers, hoping for a Long-billed. I scanned them all and didn't see anything promising, though my opinion is certainly not authoritative. There were 3 Caspian Terns on the flats and my two companions were saying that this was where a Black Tern had been of late. I didn't see one because, if you look at the picture above, the little tern was hiding behind the Caspian behemoth but eventually it was spotted and while my digiscope photos are not award winning, they did reveal the reason I was having such a hard time keeping track of where the tern was: There were actually two and I was seeing one or the other every time I changed the angle or height of the scope.
Two (count 'em, two) Black Terns with Caspian Tern, Forster's Terns, Herring Gull and Short-billed Dowitchers
So that changed the tenor of the day. I at least had a year bird and a good bird for Bird A Day. I'm probably going back to Brig on Saturday, maybe buffies will still be around. I see, from eBird, that they were seen again in the SW Pool this afternoon. 

I took a walk along Jen's Trail, the first half of which I spent fending off flies, but as I was coming around the last leg of the 1/4 mile trail, the flies disappeared and one spot had 5 species of warblers. Whether they were migrants or residents who haven't left yet I have no way of knowing. All 5 species I saw nest at Brig. 

For the day I had 49 species--one loop plus a little bit of walking down to the Gull Pond. 
Canada Goose  75
Mute Swan  3
Mallard  17
Double-crested Cormorant  15
Great Blue Heron  1
Great Egret  50
Snowy Egret  25    
Tricolored Heron  3     
Black-crowned Night-Heron  2
Glossy Ibis  21
Osprey  10
Cooper's Hawk  1
Clapper Rail  2
Black-bellied Plover  1
Semipalmated Plover  6
Pectoral Sandpiper  10
Semipalmated Sandpiper  50
Short-billed Dowitcher  35
Greater Yellowlegs  2
Willet  1
Lesser Yellowlegs  5
Laughing Gull  200
Herring Gull  100
Great Black-backed Gull  2
Least Tern  5
Gull-billed Tern  1
Caspian Tern  3
Black Tern  2     
Forster's Tern  50
Black Skimmer  14
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  1
Eastern Kingbird  1
Blue Jay  1     Heard, entrance
American Crow  4
Fish Crow  5
Tree Swallow  25
Carolina Chickadee  3
Tufted Titmouse  1     Heard, Akers trail
House Wren  1     Heard, Gull Pond road
Gray Catbird  3
European Starling  20
Ovenbird  1
Black-and-white Warbler  1
American Redstart  1
Yellow Warbler  1
Prairie Warbler  1
Field Sparrow  1
Song Sparrow  1     Heard
Red-winged Blackbird  150

Monday, August 22, 2016

Bombay Hook 8/20--Black-necked Stilt, Marbled Godwit

American Avocets, Bombay Hook
At least once a year, Shari & I like to make a trip to Delaware to bird Bombay Hook & Prime Hook. This year we had the added pleasure of Bob Auster's company. We had extolled the great birding at the two hooks to him so much that I was afraid they, like Whitesbog, might not live up to our descriptions but they both fulfilled our expectations.

We weren't at Bombay Hook more than 15 minutes before we came upon two huge flocks of American Avocets feeding in Raymond Pool. In New Jersey, if there are a few avocets in one spot, birders come running from miles around. At Bombay Hook, they're as common as Semipalmated Sandpipers are at Brig. It was great fun to watch the avocets feed, moving together in a large oval, swishing their bills in the water to find little fish.

We went around the 3 main pools--Raymond, Shearness, & Bear Swamp--& had lunch near Finis Pool. Then we did it again. At our 2nd look at Shearness there was a large flock of shorebirds, terns, geese, you name it, out on a sand bar and indefatigable Bob was determined to check out every bird searching for his target bird of the trip. After a while he yelled out "Stilt!" and I came running up the road. In his scope he had found his lifer Black-necked Stilt.  It is so much more rewarding to find a lifer on your own. Black-necked Stilts are not rare in the Delaware impoundments, but you don't find huge flocks of them as you do avocets, and it is easy to miss the bird. The next day, in the same place, Bob & I saw what we took for another avocet, only to have Shari point out that it was indeed a stilt, probably the same one as the previous day's. Too bad both times the bird was too far away for photography.

On our second trip around Raymond Pool the avocets had moved closer (see above) and there were a couple of birders there who were looking at each & every sandpiper (and there were thousands) trying to tease out a Western Sandpiper. Or White-rumped Sandpiper. These are birds I've seen this year and this month, and while I'm always happy to build up the trip list, the lighting and the distance wasn't going to give me a satisfying look even if one was found.

Now, Marbled Godwits are a different story. Marbled Godwits are big. And there were two  of them in among the avocets. I no more than plunked down my scope and found them. Again, a little too far for photography, but great bird nonetheless. (Now, if I only get them for Ocean County this year.)

On Sunday we drove down to Prime Hook and along Prime Hook Beach Road we had a fantastic amount of birds, including at least 6 White Ibis, another Marbled Godwit, Black Skimmers and Ruddy Turnstones. Prime Hook itself didn't have much in the way of shorebirds, but we did pick up Blue Grosbeak and Indigo Bunting. Fowler Beach Road was closed; it seems a lot of work is being done to the weather damaged roads and for reasons I don't understand, that has moved the water around so that some impoundments, like Broadkill Marsh, are very dry, while others, like along Prime Hook Beach Road, have more water than they usually do.

Water got in the way of our next stop. Shari & I like to go to the DuPont Nature Center in Mispillion--it is where we get her oystercatchers. There is a sign at the beginning of the road that says "WATER ON ROAD" and usually there are a few puddles. But this time there was no distinction between the bay and road and after we watched a couple of cars go through the water up to their wheel wells we decided not to risk it.

We worked our way north and made another trip around Bombay Hook. The skies were getting grayer and grayer and the weather cooling considerably. I kind of pushed us along hoping to make the circuit of the three main pools before the rain started and we timed it just about perfectly, as the skies opened up just as we returned to the visitor's center. It did not, however, make for a very pleasant ride back to New Jersey with returning Delaware shore traffic and torrential rain all the way up to our house.

For the weekend we had 75 species, not bad considering we did little in the way of passerine searching.
Species                First Sighting
Canada Goose   Bombay Hook NWR
American Black Duck   Bombay Hook NWR
Mallard   Bombay Hook NWR
Blue-winged Teal   Bombay Hook NWR
Northern Shoveler   Bombay Hook NWR
Pied-billed Grebe   Bombay Hook NWR
Double-crested Cormorant   Bombay Hook NWR
Great Blue Heron   Bombay Hook NWR
Great Egret   Bombay Hook NWR
Snowy Egret   Bombay Hook NWR
Little Blue Heron   Bombay Hook NWR
Tricolored Heron   Bombay Hook NWR
Black-crowned Night-Heron   Bombay Hook NWR
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron   Bombay Hook NWR
White Ibis   Prime Hook NWR
Glossy Ibis   Bombay Hook NWR
Black Vulture   Bombay Hook NWR
Turkey Vulture   Bombay Hook NWR
Osprey   Bombay Hook NWR
Cooper's Hawk   Frederica
Bald Eagle   Bombay Hook NWR
Red-tailed Hawk   Bombay Hook NWR
Clapper Rail   Bombay Hook NWR
Black-necked Stilt   Bombay Hook NWR
American Avocet   Bombay Hook NWR
Black-bellied Plover   Bombay Hook NWR
Semipalmated Plover   Bombay Hook NWR
Killdeer   Bombay Hook NWR
Marbled Godwit   Bombay Hook NWR
Ruddy Turnstone   Prime Hook NWR
Sanderling   Ted Harvey WMA
Dunlin   Bombay Hook NWR
Least Sandpiper   Bombay Hook NWR
Semipalmated Sandpiper   Bombay Hook NWR
Short-billed Dowitcher   Bombay Hook NWR
Greater Yellowlegs   Bombay Hook NWR
Lesser Yellowlegs   Bombay Hook NWR
Laughing Gull   Bombay Hook NWR
Herring Gull   Bombay Hook NWR
Least Tern   Bombay Hook NWR
Caspian Tern   Bombay Hook NWR
Forster's Tern   Bombay Hook NWR
Royal Tern   Bombay Hook NWR
Black Skimmer   Prime Hook NWR
Mourning Dove   Prime Hook NWR
Belted Kingfisher   Prime Hook NWR
Downy Woodpecker   Bombay Hook NWR
Eastern Wood-Pewee   Bombay Hook NWR
Eastern Phoebe   Prime Hook NWR
Great Crested Flycatcher   Prime Hook NWR
Eastern Kingbird   Bombay Hook NWR
White-eyed Vireo   Prime Hook NWR
Red-eyed Vireo   Bombay Hook NWR
Blue Jay   Bombay Hook NWR
Fish Crow   Prime Hook NWR
Horned Lark   Whitehall Crossroads - Leipsic
Tree Swallow   Bombay Hook NWR
Barn Swallow   Bombay Hook NWR
Carolina Chickadee   Prime Hook NWR
Tufted Titmouse   Prime Hook NWR
White-breasted Nuthatch   Prime Hook NWR
Carolina Wren   Bombay Hook NWR
Gray Catbird   Bombay Hook NWR
European Starling   Prime Hook NWR
Seaside Sparrow   Bombay Hook NWR
Field Sparrow   Bombay Hook NWR
Eastern Towhee   Bombay Hook NWR
Blue Grosbeak   Prime Hook NWR
Indigo Bunting   Prime Hook NWR
Red-winged Blackbird   Prime Hook NWR
Eastern Meadowlark   Bombay Hook NWR
Brown-headed Cowbird   Bombay Hook NWR
House Finch   Prime Hook NWR
American Goldfinch   Bombay Hook NWR
House Sparrow   Bombay Hook NWR
Bald Eagle, Bombay Hook