Saturday, September 24, 2016

Sandy Hook 9/24--Philadelphia Vireo

On Thursday Scott sent out a notice that he was doing a "flash" field trip to Sandy Hook today. The predicted winds were propitious for migration and it was supposed to be a fine autumnal day. I left the house around sunrise and it was until I was about 10 miles up the Parkway that I realized that steely skies didn't mean the dawn had stalled. And then it started to drizzle and continued as I drove into the park. I was wearing a t-shirt, still in summer mode. The temperature was 60 with a wind-chill of I'd say 40, so I was definitely underdressed. I was going to be cold and wet it seemed. Fortunately, Lisa Fanning offered me an extra rain jacket which really saved me from a miserable first few hours.

We started off on Plum Island, not really expecting much because the predicted winds hadn't panned out but we immediately started to see migrants like Blue-headed Vireo, Nashville Warbler, and Ruby-crowned Kinglet, all month birds. A short ride up to Spermaceti Cove yielded the continuing Red-breasted Merganser hen, oystercatchers and a lone Dunlin. We walked around the bike path and the Road to Nowhere. What appeared to be a flycatcher silhouetted high in the bare branches of a tree turned out to be a female Scarlet Tanager. By this time the weather had warmed a little, the clouds dissipated, and there was a glimmer of sunlight.  By the time we'd eaten lunch conditions were 180 degrees from what we had in the morning. We all drove up to Battery Potter and walked in the garden where the warblers were starting to show themselves and then Bob found a vireo almost directly overhead which turned out to be a Philadelphia Vireo. I haven't seen one of those in 4 years. I've never seen one in NJ so I was ticking like a clock: Year bird, Jersey bird, county bird, month bird.

We moved over to the tennis courts (both these spots are heavily overgrown woodlots that, back in the halcyon days of Fort Hancock were actually a garden and tennis courts for the officers) where we tried to kick up a Connecticut Warbler (and where, a couple of weeks ago we had Mourning Warbler) but were only able to find more common warblers in ones or twos.

Finally, as the weather was sunny but cool, the remaining group made the "death march" on the fisherman's trail to the false hook, a walk of about 1/4 mile through deep sand. We were at first disappointed to have made all that effort to find high tide, non-birders in the way, and not much in the way of birds except gulls, but a little looking produced a Whimbrel and a Lesser Black-backed Gull. Finally, a walk to the Salt Pond turned up a previously reported Red-headed Woodpecker, one that had flown over a group of birders earlier in the day. It was perched up in a skinny dead tree and all the group was able to get on it for about 30 seconds before it flew off north. Red-headed Woodpeckers are rare in Monmouth County. I have to admit I was a little ho-hum about it since 'round here they aren't that hard to find if you know where to look and I know where to look. Still, another Monmouth County bird for my list.

So a day that started off looking bleak turned out to be just fine. Some were disappointed in the low numbers of each species, but I take the attitude of "I only need one." I'm not trying to break any records for most parulas seen. There was much discussion on how to pronounce this bird's name and much disagreement. A cursory search of the Internet shows you can pronounce it just about any damn way you want:

My day list totaled 60
Canada Goose  20
American Black Duck  2
Red-breasted Merganser  1     Continuing
Double-crested Cormorant  25
Great Blue Heron  5
Great Egret  1
Snowy Egret  1
Osprey  4
Northern Harrier  1
Cooper's Hawk  2
American Oystercatcher  23
Black-bellied Plover  3
Semipalmated Plover  3
Killdeer  1
Whimbrel  1
Sanderling  2
Dunlin  1
Laughing Gull  50
Herring Gull  60
Lesser Black-backed Gull  1
Great Black-backed Gull  5
Royal Tern  5
Rock Pigeon   10
Belted Kingfisher  4
Red-headed Woodpecker  1     Salt Pond
Downy Woodpecker  1
Northern Flicker  2
Merlin  2
Peregrine Falcon  1
Eastern Phoebe  2
White-eyed Vireo  1
Blue-headed Vireo  1
Philadelphia Vireo  1
Red-eyed Vireo  2
American Crow  1
Tree Swallow  2
House Wren  1
Carolina Wren  1     Heard
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  1
American Robin  2
Gray Catbird  5
Northern Mockingbird  4
European Starling  2
Cedar Waxwing  15
Northern Waterthrush  1
Black-and-white Warbler  2
Nashville Warbler  1
Common Yellowthroat  2
American Redstart  6
Northern Parula  5
Magnolia Warbler  1
Black-throated Blue Warbler  1
Black-throated Green Warbler  1
Wilson's Warbler  1
Song Sparrow  1
Eastern Towhee  2
Scarlet Tanager  1
House Finch  10
American Goldfinch  2
House Sparrow  5

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