|American Avocets, Bombay Hook|
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.