Sunday, September 4, 2016

Willowbrook Road 9/4--Wilson's Phalarope

Willowbrook Road sod farm
So far the post tropical depression cyclonic whoop-dee-do named Hermine, churning around in the mid-Atlantic has been a spectacular nothing, so this morning, instead of rain and wind and patio furniture blowing around the yard, I awoke to a pleasant, breezy morning. I decided to do a little sod farming since yesterday's attempt produced nothing and then get my walking in on the Union Transportation Trail's northern end. 

The first two sod farms I checked again had nothing on them (if you exclude Starlings) but the third one, on Old York Road, had, in the back, one Buff-breasted Sandpiper along with dozens of Killdeers and a few Least Sandpipers, along with a Merlin and a Cooper's Hawk, each of which kept everything shuffling around the field.

The fourth field was also devoid of birds, so I drove around it to the parking lot of the UTT and walked my 4 miles (2 down, 2 back), with Blue Grosbeaks being the only notable birds of my jaunt. Before I got in the car I checked the alerts and saw that a Wilson's Phalarope was still being seen on yet another sod farm, one I'd never been to in central Monmouth County. My path was clear even if the driving directions Google gave me weren't. It took me on the most haphazard route I could imagine but I arrived at the eBird coordinates without making any wrong turns. There was no one around and a huge, desolate looking field in front of me. 

A minute later a car pulled up with a couple of birders and we began to scan the seemingly empty field. It wasn't, of course. It was full of birds: Killdeer, Killdeer, Killdeer, Killdeer, Killdeer,  Killdeer, crow, crow, crow, Killdeer... I looked east, they looked west, west looked better, so we walked down the road a piece and before long one of those guys called out that he had the bird. 

Part of the reason I went was that the report said the phalarope was feeding close to the road. Now it was about as far back as it could get, in with a bunch of Buffies, beyond the large flock of Killdeers, but, with a scope, obviously a Wilson's Phalarope. Phalaropes are know to feed crazily in the water, spinning around to stir up food. Finding a phalarope on dry (very dry) land is exceptional. Yet, the bird was still quite active, running in a frenzy back and forth, stirring up, I guess, bugs, and quashing any possibility of digiscoping it. 

So I survive in the Bird A Day competition one more day with this rarity. I actually have 3 birds to go if nothing unusual shows up this week. Tomorrow is not going to be a wash out but it would still have to be a great bird for me to chase very far. 

My little list for the day
    27 species
Turkey Vulture   10
Cooper's Hawk   1
Red-tailed Hawk   1
Killdeer   76
Least Sandpiper   4
Buff-breasted Sandpiper   7
Wilson's Phalarope   1
Rock Pigeon   20
Mourning Dove   26
Red-bellied Woodpecker   1
Merlin   1
Blue Jay   2
American Crow   29
Fish Crow   3
Carolina Chickadee   5
White-breasted Nuthatch   1
Carolina Wren   1
American Robin   4
Gray Catbird   4
Northern Mockingbird   1
European Starling   250
Common Yellowthroat   1
Chipping Sparrow   2
Song Sparrow   1
Blue Grosbeak   3
Red-winged Blackbird   5
American Goldfinch   10

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