Saturday, September 10, 2016

Sandy Hook 9/10--Mourning Warbler

Mourning Warbler, the one I didn't count
I spent the last couple of days on field trips led by Scott Barnes at Sandy Hook. I avoid the hook in summer (traffic, crowds) but once migration starts up it can be a great place to be. I can't get up there as early as I would like (dawn) but I did manage to be there around 7 today to start birding before the official trip began.

Yesterday (a "Half-day Friday" trip) as the group walked along the Road to Nowhere, we came to Tom Brown's banding station. He had called Scott to tell him he had an interesting bird, which turned out to be juvenile Mourning Warbler, always a much sought-after bird in NJ. Unfortunately for me, the rules of listing forbade me from putting the bird on my year list (and county list). You can only list "free" birds. So while it was interesting to see the bird in hand, I couldn't "count" it.

The Tennis Courts
Today, however, another Mourning Warbler was discovered at the Tennis Courts in Fort Hancock. Unless you were to scrape away the dirt to find the asphalt surface, you would never know that the army officers once played tennis here because it is completely overgrown. Which makes it a great birding spot. Part of our group (including Bob Auster) found the bird while I was
with some others. I walked back with Bob, stumbling a few times in gopher holes but we couldn't scare up the bird. Later, though, the whole group made a concerted effort and finally the warbler, notoriously secretive, liking the ground more than the trees, popped up on a branch for all (or almost all) to see. Photography was not an option.

Considering the heat (which birds, unlike me, don't like) and the southwesterly winds, we did all right, traveling from Spermaceti Cove, where we had a Baird's Sandpiper fly over plus good looks at Willets (western), oystercatchers, and Royal Terns, up to Fort Hancock and then the "death march" on the fisherman's trail to the tidal cut, where we had a Caspian Tern (rare for the hook at this time) along with 14 Piping Plovers.  I had also had that Sandy Hook rarity anomaly, Black-capped Chickadee in a couple of spots. For unexplained reasons, everywhere else in Monmouth County (and now up north past the Raritan River) Carolina Chickadee is the default chickadee but Sandy Hook has an isolated population of Black-caps. With all the Carolinas I see virtually every day, it is a nice change o pace to see and hear a few Black-caps.

59 species
Canada Goose  40
Double-crested Cormorant  15
Great Blue Heron  3
Great Egret  1
Snowy Egret  1
Osprey  3
Sharp-shinned Hawk  1
Cooper's Hawk  1
Bald Eagle  1
Red-tailed Hawk  1
American Oystercatcher  15
Black-bellied Plover  1
Semipalmated Plover  1     Heard f/o Spermaceti Cove
Piping Plover  14
Killdeer  2
Sanderling  12
Baird's Sandpiper  1     F/O Spermaceti Cove
Least Sandpiper  3
Semipalmated Sandpiper  2
Spotted Sandpiper  1
Greater Yellowlegs  2
Willet  6
Lesser Yellowlegs  1
Laughing Gull  50
Ring-billed Gull  2
Herring Gull  20
Great Black-backed Gull  10
Caspian Tern  1     Large tern with black cap  & huge red bill
Common Tern  100
Forster's Tern  1
Royal Tern  5
Mourning Dove  5
Belted Kingfisher  1
Downy Woodpecker  1     Heard
American Kestrel  1
Merlin  3
White-eyed Vireo  5
Blue Jay  1     Heard
American Crow  2     Heard
Tree Swallow  100
Barn Swallow  2
Black-capped Chickadee  5     

Red-breasted Nuthatch  1
House Wren  1     Heard
Marsh Wren  1     Heard Spermaceti marsh
Carolina Wren  2     Heard
American Robin  1     Heard
Gray Catbird  10
Northern Mockingbird  1
European Starling  25
Cedar Waxwing  1     Heard
Mourning Warbler  1     Dull olive back yellow wash on chest thin eye ring
Common Yellowthroat  1
American Redstart  1
Seaside Sparrow  1
Eastern Towhee  2
Red-winged Blackbird  3
Baltimore Oriole  2
American Goldfinch  1     Heard

Least Sandpiper, tidal cut

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