Wednesday, November 30, 2016

November Wrap Up

American Bittern, Brig
7 year birds added this month, a few of them oddballs. But as the year draws close to an end, I would expect to be only able to fill in around the edges until we take our Florida trip in a couple of weeks.

Black-headed Gull, Brig
I made more trips to Brig than I would have expected and they turned out to be fruitful with the American Bittern showing nicely twice and the Black-headed Gull lingering past Thankgiving.

The Ring-necked Pheasants I saw on the off ramp of the Parkway and the Muscovy Ducks in Ocean Grove are slightly sketchy but
a) eBird accepts them and
b) it's my list.

The Greater White-fronted Goose at Etra Lake, while not a year bird, was the one find I'd consider an accomplishment, since I went in search of rare geese and found one. Finding a Eurasian Wigeon instead of chasing one was also a positive for the month.

On the negative side are two chases that didn't work out. A couple of weeks ago I was walking around Manahawkin WMA on an extremely windy day when I got an alert that Becky had found a Harris's Sparrow at Double Trouble. In February that was a life bird. Now, it would have been a spectacular county bird to add to the list, but, it took me an hour to walk back to my car and drive up the Parkway and by that time the bird had disappeared into the brush and despite many good birders bushwhacking around the bogs it never turned up again. I went back two days later (the day after the winds were even more ferocious) but only one other birder was lucky enough to get a brief look at it.

Then on Saturday, while I was down at Brig on Mike's trip, an alert came through of a Northern Shrike at the Barnegat impoundments. I added shrike to the list this month at Sandy Hook, but this, again, would have been a county bird (though not a life county bird, since there was one a couple of years back at Whitesbog.)  It was all I could do not to abandon the trip and run up there as my phone kept pinging every other Ocean County birder's sighting of the shrike, but I didn't chase until the mid-afternoon post-trip and by then it was nowhere in sight. Nor was it the next day.

Red-tailed Hawk about to jump at Jumping Brook Preserve
Why my home county list obsesses me so I can't really say. Perhaps the "big frog in a little pond" theory.

I also added a new spot to bird, Jumping Brook Preserve, an old cranberry farm in New Egypt, smaller than Colliers Mills but similar habitat and with the advantage of no hunting.

One brief trip into NYC yielded me my FOS Fox Sparrow. Other than that, all the other birding was done in NJ. A count for the month of 136 species.

Counties birded:
New Jersey: Atlantic, Burlington, Cape May Mercer, Monmouth, Ocean.
New York: New York
Species                                    First Sighting
Greater White-fronted Goose   Etra Lake
Snow Goose   Brig
Brant   Sunset Lake
Canada Goose   Marshall's Pond
Mute Swan   Marshall's Pond
Tundra Swan   Bridge to Nowhere
Muscovy Duck   Fletcher Lake
Wood Duck   Lily Lake
Gadwall   Cape May Point SP
Eurasian Wigeon   Bridge to Nowhere
American Wigeon   Bridge to Nowhere
American Black Duck   Bridge to Nowhere
Mallard   Marshall's Pond
Northern Shoveler   Cape May Point SP
Northern Pintail   Cape May Point SP
Green-winged Teal   Bridge to Nowhere
Canvasback   Brig
Ring-necked Duck   Brig
Lesser Scaup   Brig
Harlequin Duck   Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Surf Scoter   Avalon Seawatch
Black Scoter   Avalon Seawatch
Long-tailed Duck   Sandy Hook
Bufflehead   Assunpink WMA
Hooded Merganser   Brig
Red-breasted Merganser   Sandy Hook
Ruddy Duck   Assunpink WMA
Ring-necked Pheasant   GSP MM 48
Wild Turkey   35 Sunset Rd
Red-throated Loon   Avalon Dunes
Common Loon   Sunset Lake
Pied-billed Grebe   Whiting WMA
Horned Grebe   Sands Point Preserve
Northern Gannet   Avalon Seawatch
Great Cormorant   Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Double-crested Cormorant   Marshall's Pond
American Bittern   Brig
Great Blue Heron   Bridge to Nowhere
Great Egret   Bridge to Nowhere
Snowy Egret   Bridge to Nowhere
Little Blue Heron   Brig
Black-crowned Night-Heron   Bayview Ave Park
Black Vulture   Crestwood Village
Turkey Vulture   Crestwood Village
Golden Eagle   Brig
Northern Harrier   Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Sharp-shinned Hawk   Bridge to Nowhere
Cooper's Hawk   Sandy Hook
Bald Eagle   Brig
Red-tailed Hawk   Marshall's Pond
American Coot   Brig
American Oystercatcher   Brigantine Island
Black-bellied Plover   Bridge to Nowhere
Semipalmated Plover   Avalon Seawatch
Killdeer   Field next to Lakewood Wawa
Marbled Godwit   Brigantine Island
Ruddy Turnstone   Avalon Seawatch
Red Knot   Avalon Dunes
Sanderling   Avalon Seawatch
Dunlin   Avalon Seawatch
Purple Sandpiper   Avalon Seawatch
Long-billed Dowitcher   Brigantine Island
Wilson's Snipe   Brig
American Woodcock   Sandy Hook
Greater Yellowlegs   Bridge to Nowhere
Willet   Brigantine Island
Lesser Yellowlegs   Brig
Parasitic Jaeger   Avalon Seawatch
Bonaparte's Gull   Forsythe--Barnegat
Black-headed Gull   Brig
Laughing Gull   Toms River
Ring-billed Gull   Riverfront Landing
Herring Gull   Riverfront Landing
Great Black-backed Gull   Riverfront Landing
Forster's Tern   Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Royal Tern   Avalon Seawatch
Rock Pigeon   Toms River
Mourning Dove   Assunpink WMA
Great Horned Owl   Sandy Hook
Belted Kingfisher   Bridge to Nowhere
Red-bellied Woodpecker   Bridge to Nowhere
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker   Bunker Hill Bogs
Downy Woodpecker   Bridge to Nowhere
Hairy Woodpecker   Central Park
Northern Flicker   Sandy Hook
Merlin   Sandy Hook
Peregrine Falcon   Brig
Eastern Phoebe   Jumping Brook Preserve
Northern Shrike   Sandy Hook
Blue-headed Vireo   Sandy Hook
Blue Jay   Whiting WMA
American Crow   Whiting WMA
Fish Crow   Bridge to Nowhere
Common Raven   Cranberry Bogs--Dover Rd
Tree Swallow   Cape May Point SP
Carolina Chickadee   Whiting WMA
Black-capped Chickadee   Sandy Hook
Tufted Titmouse   Assunpink WMA
Red-breasted Nuthatch   Whiting WMA
White-breasted Nuthatch   Whiting WMA
Brown Creeper   Sandy Hook
Winter Wren   Etra Lake
Marsh Wren   Forsythe--Barnegat
Carolina Wren   Lakewood
Golden-crowned Kinglet   Whiting WMA
Ruby-crowned Kinglet   Brig
Eastern Bluebird   Whiting WMA
Hermit Thrush   Avalon Dunes
American Robin   Lakewood
Gray Catbird   Lily Lake
Northern Mockingbird   Lakewood
European Starling   Lakewood
Cedar Waxwing   Assunpink WMA
Lapland Longspur   Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Snow Bunting   Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Common Yellowthroat   Forsythe--Barnegat
Palm Warbler   Avalon Seawatch
Pine Warbler   Whiting WMA
Yellow-rumped Warbler   Bridge to Nowhere
American Tree Sparrow   Sandy Hook
Chipping Sparrow   35 Sunset Rd
Field Sparrow   Cranberry Bogs--Dover Rd
Fox Sparrow   Central Park
Dark-eyed Junco   Whiting WMA
White-throated Sparrow   Whiting WMA
Savannah Sparrow   Avalon Dunes
Song Sparrow   Bridge to Nowhere
Swamp Sparrow   Cranberry Bogs--Dover Rd
Eastern Towhee   Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Northern Cardinal   35 Sunset Rd
Red-winged Blackbird   Assunpink WMA
Common Grackle   Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Boat-tailed Grackle   Bridge to Nowhere
House Finch   Great Bay Bvld. WMA
American Goldfinch   Bridge to Nowhere
House Sparrow   Avalon Seawatch

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Fletcher Lake 11/27--Muscovy Duck (Established Feral)

Muscovy Duck with young
I wouldn't have known about this population of Muscovy Ducks if Bob Auster hadn't told me about it last week. Muscovy Ducks (which seem to have nothing to do with Moscow) are a Central & South American bird that are often seen in parks, sometimes as hybrids, and in an array of plumages. Normally I wouldn't "count" these ducks but at this location in Ocean Grove they are a breeding population (see photo above) and while they are mostly white, that is good, because they don't appear to be hybridized (too much). Technically, on eBird this is a life bird, but I've seen them ever since I started noticing birds on Martha's Vineyard in the 70's where a small flock used to reside at the West Tisbury pond.

Today I thought it would be amusing if Shari and I drove up there to seek them out and then look for other waterfowl on the coastal lakes. After a quick stop at Shark River, where Brants and Buffleheads predominated, we found Fletcher Lake. Hiding beneath a bush was a white bird that Shari first took for a gull but then we saw that it was a big white duck. Others started to appear, including the family group that clinched the "breeding" rule for me.

I eventually counted 16 ducks, all very white with some just having a little black atop their heads. I'm sure if we had poked around some more we'd have found the 30 or so Bob had last week, but we weren't out for the record. As for Bob, he's happy not to be the last one listing these goofy ducks.
Kind of any ugly duck
We hit the other lakes south of there, finding the usual array of geese, ducks, gulls, and coots, with 3 Lesser Scaups being the highlight on Lake of the Lilies in Pt. Pleasant. I was kind of hoping to add Egyptian Goose at Spring Lake today to make it two oddball, quasi-legit waterfowl for the day, but they were not to be found.

For those with a literary bent, the duck above reminds me of T.S. Eliot's "young man carbuncular." 

Thursday, November 24, 2016

GSP MM 48 11/24--Ring-necked Pheasant

On our way down to Brig on this Thanksgiving Day I saw, on the off-ramp of Exit 48, two Ring-necked Pheasants grazing on the grass. This isn't the first time I've seen pheasant in this area. There are no WMAs around the area that I know of, so, according to my eccentric personal rules of listing, these birds are "wild" (they're living on their own) and thus countable, despite being "rare" in Atlantic County. Now, if I could just find a couple on the side of the road of Rt 539 as I have in the past, I could list them for Ocean County too. Shari, unfortunately,  was driving so she missed the birds, which were on a hillside out of her line of sight.

We went to Brig for a quick trip (really can't be anything else with 7/8 of the drive closed) mostly to see what kind of waterfowl (or waterflow, as they say in Ohio) we could find and we weren't disappointed, starting with the entrance pond where we found Ring-necked Ducks, a wigeon, and a pair of Wood Ducks. Many Green-winged Teal were present, as were hundreds of Brant, and our first Snow Geese of the season.

Appropriately, Shari is roasting a duck for our Thanksgiving dinner.
No turkeys were found today--I was hoping one would wander onto the lawn.

Our list from Brig:
33 species
Snow Goose  200
Brant  500
Canada Goose  150
Mute Swan  1
Tundra Swan  2
Wood Duck  2     Entrance Pond
American Wigeon  1
American Black Duck  200
Mallard  25
Northern Pintail  20
Green-winged Teal  60
Ring-necked Duck  6
Great Blue Heron  4
Northern Harrier  1     Gull Pond
Cooper's Hawk  1
Bald Eagle  4     one sub-adult and two juveniles off drive, one adult in tree at Gull Pond
Red-tailed Hawk  1     Entrance Pond
American Coot  8     Gull Pond
Greater Yellowlegs  50
Lesser Yellowlegs  5

Herring Gull  100
Great Black-backed Gull  10
Mourning Dove  2     Atop Visitor's Ctr
Red-bellied Woodpecker  1     Heard
Blue Jay  2
American Crow  1
Carolina Chickadee  2
American Robin  5
European Starling  9
Dark-eyed Junco  2
White-throated Sparrow  5
Northern Cardinal  1     Entrance Pond
Red-winged Blackbird  20

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

A Typo I Just Noticed

A typo in a newspaper is there for a day and then it's gone. A typo in a book is hidden when the book is closed. Even a typo on a billboard can be pasted over or just redone. The typos I love best are in metal (or neon) because they're usually so expensive to redo that they are allowed to live on forever. Or else, and worse, no one ever notices. The eye usually sees what it expects to see. That's why proofreading is so hard--so hard that practically no one does it anymore depending on spell-check which is, at best, 50% effective. Spell-check is useless with homonyms.

Looking through some old photos today, I came across this sign which is at the entrance to the Magee Marsh boardwalk, one of the great bird migration spots in North America. Take a read: (if you click the photo, the picture will open up larger in another screen).

Find the typo yet? I'll show you in a minute, but first I want to quibble with the grammar. The definition of "premier" is "first in position, rank, or importance." So something is either "premier" or it isn't. It can't be "one of" though it seems to be a common phrase and like many common phrases, it is a non sequitur. Like "unique," "premier" shouldn't be modified.

However, the howler is below:
I'm sure the swamp had abundant waterflow (which would be two words so even spell-check would have picked this one up) but the word they were trying to set in metal is waterfowl. When I took this picture, the sign had been there for about 12 years.

Only today, just glancing at the picture, did the word pop out at me. It is a curse carried over from 30 years in the printing business where I was always looking for mistakes--mine, the customer's, or the vendor's. I think when I read the sign originally, I was dwelling on the idea of a swamp the size of Connecticut and my eyes moved along the rest of the lines without really reading. And besides--it ain't my job anymore!

Addendum: rereading the sign yet again, I find that the verb should be "scattered" not "scatter." Well, Ohio has bigger problems than grammar and spelling.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Etra Lake 11/19--Greater White-fronted Goose

Greater White-fronted Goose, Etra Lake
Sometimes I look back a year in my eBird lists to see where I was birding this time of the season. A year ago yesterday found me at Etra Lake in Mercer County where there was some excitement about a putative Barnacle Goose that turned out to be a hybrid (pfeh), but it did remind me that Etra Lake does attract rare geese and has the added benefit of not having to avoid hunters.  So this morning, fairly early, I drove up there, arriving around 7:45; not early enough, apparently, because instead of the hundreds of geese I was expecting to sort through, there were only about 20 on the water. You really have to get there early, just after sunrise, to catch the geese before they take off for the nearby corn fields. There were 4 species of ducks to look at and a Belted Kingfisher. Then I took a walk along the soccer fields, through the farm field and back around the arboretum, where I was very happy to find a Winter Wren, a really tough bird for me to track down and only the 2nd one I've seen this year.

As I was walking back I swung over to a peninsula that sticks out into the middle of the lake to see if any other ducks were in sight. Some Canada Geese started to fly in (I'd tallied around 60 up to the point; some on the lake, but most in the air). They were honking but in the arrhythmic honks I hear a squeaky squealing call that I didn't recognize. Looking up I saw for a moment the orange bill and white face of Greater White-fronted Goose. The bird was descending onto the lake and after I found a clear space in the brush I quickly relocated it.

Sibley says, "Most birders who find rare birds are looking for rare birds." I've always been ambivalent about this statement. True, I've found rare birds, and in a sense, I'm always looking for them, but the exciting rarities that I've found have always been surprises. This is one of the few times when I actually went looking (as opposed to chasing) for a rare bird, knowing that the location had a history of interesting waterfowl. I did feel a certain sense of accomplishment.

I then went to Assunpink (where the hunters seemed shoulder to shoulder) and found little of note (absolutely no waterfowl on Assunpink Lake) and then took a walk along the  northern section of the Union Transportation Trail where the most interesting bird was a Sharp-shinned Hawk.

My walk around Etra Lake Park & Arboretum yielded the following 23 species:
Greater White-fronted Goose  1     
Canada Goose  250     Big flock flew onto lake around 9:30 with GWFG among them
American Black Duck  25
Mallard  20
Green-winged Teal  3
Hooded Merganser  5
Great Blue Heron  2
Belted Kingfisher  1
Red-bellied Woodpecker  3
Blue Jay  15
Fish Crow  2
Carolina Chickadee  2     Heard
Tufted Titmouse  3
White-breasted Nuthatch  3
Winter Wren  1
Carolina Wren  6
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  1
American Robin  20
European Starling  1
Dark-eyed Junco  10
White-throated Sparrow  15
Song Sparrow  2
American Goldfinch  2     Heard

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Barnegat Light SP 11/13--Lapland Longspur

Lapland Longspur, Barnegat Light SP
On Friday I went to Barnegat Light SP, hoping to get its specialties but came back with only one--a lone drake Harlequin Duck. Today, I wasn't planning on going back, but on the way to Manahawkin WMA I thought, "What am I going to see there that I haven't already seen," and when the answer came back nothing, I continued on Rt 72 and drove north on LBI to return to the Light.

Glad I did, though I wasn't feeling that way at first. I was only doing a little better than Friday (4 Harlequin Ducks and one drake Surf Scoter among the remnant rocks of the old 8th St jetty), when I met my friend Becky coming up the beach. She told me she had sighted a couple of really attractive birds, told me where to look, and I was off down the beach. Of course, I had no luck. I was standing at the edge of the dunes, brooding, thinking that at least if I hadn't seen Becky my day would have been ruined later, after I saw her eBird list instead of right now, when I saw her returning to the main jetty. "Well," I thought, "she seems to be a bird magnet today, let's go back there." Sure enough, as I was walking back toward her, she called me from the jetty. I started to run in the sand, put my scope down, and climbed up on the jetty. She had spooked the bird she wanted me to see by calling, but after a few minutes of rock hopping (I must have really wanted this bird, because I hate walking on the jetty) we were able to re-locate a very pretty Lapland Longspur. Lapland Longspur is a bird I very rarely see in NJ (or anywhere else for that matter) so I was extremely happy to add it to the year list. Then, while we were still standing on the rocks a white bird with black patches on it wings zipped by, chittering: A Snow Bunting, first one I've seen in the county this year. It went by so fast I wasn't sure of what I'd seen, but once Becky played me its vocalization, I knew what I'd had.

Finally, a largish flock of shorebirds flew over the jetty and landed on the rocks of the old one (it was fairly low tide, so those old jetty was visible). Scoping into the glare I saw that they were Purple Sandpipers, so that pretty much swept the table of the 4 truly cool birds you can get at Barnegat Light, save Common Redpoll which is very rare.

I made a couple of my usual stops on the bayside afterwards and then, still needing birds and exercise I decided to drive all the way down to Holgate and walk around a mile on the beach to see what I could come up with. That's about a 20 mile drive at 35-45 MPH, but at least the traffic lights are all just blinking orange. Down there I wasn't doing well on the bayside at all, but the beach had copious amounts of Sanderlings along with a few turnstones, Dunlins, and Black-bellied Plovers. For the day I had 36 species (birding a beach is pretty much like birding a desert--you don't get the variety you'd get in a marsh or forest) and the day list looks like this:

Checklists included in this summary:
(1): Barnegat Lighthouse SP 8:53 AM
(2): Bayview Marina 11:48 AM
(3): Bayview Ave Park 12:05 PM
(4): Holgate  1:01 PM

652 Brant -- (1),(2),(3),(4)
16 Canada Goose -- (2),(3)
6 American Black Duck -- (3)
12 Mallard -- (2)
9 Northern Pintail -- (3)
4 Harlequin Duck -- (1)
1 Surf Scoter -- (1)
27 Black Scoter -- (1)
170 Bufflehead -- (3),(4)
1 Great Cormorant -- (1)
2 Double-crested Cormorant -- (1)
1 Great Blue Heron -- (2)
1 Red-tailed Hawk -- (1)
4 Black-bellied Plover -- (4)
8 Ruddy Turnstone -- (4)
300 Sanderling -- (4)
4 Dunlin -- (4)
15 Purple Sandpiper -- (1)
3 Laughing Gull -- (1),(4)
18 Ring-billed Gull -- (1),(2),(3),(4)
1325 Herring Gull -- (1),(2),(3),(4)
52 Great Black-backed Gull -- (1),(2),(4)
3 Forster's Tern -- (1)
30 Rock Pigeon  -- (2)
16 American Crow -- (1),(2),(3),(4)
20 Fish Crow -- (2)
1 American Robin -- (1)
5 European Starling -- (1)
1 Lapland Longspur -- (1)
1 Snow Bunting -- (1)
1 White-throated Sparrow -- (1)
1 Savannah Sparrow -- (1)
2 Northern Cardinal -- (1)
2 Common Grackle -- (1)
2 Boat-tailed Grackle -- (2)
1 American Goldfinch -- (1)

Longspur in flight

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Sandy Hook 11/12--Northern Shrike

Officer's Club just after sunset
Shari, Mike, and I drove up to Sandy Hook late this afternoon, intending to do some owling. Just as we arrived, passing B lot, we got a nice surprise when we got the "giss" of Bob Auster crossing the road from Plum Island. We turned around, found him in the parking lot and accosted him. Even though he'd been at the Hook since early this morning, he agreed to join us on our quest, which was great since Bob has had some recent luck with owls there.

We started up at the Boy Scout Camp with the sun still up and though we searched assiduously, we could not come up with any owls; we were particularly looking for Saw-whet and the camp is a good place for them (Bob's heard them there) but they were in evidence today. We were going to try the tennis courts and the Officer's Club in the north part of Fort Hancock. Driving up there we lost Bob, who called me to tell us to turn around and come to the North Beach pavilion--we'd all seen Jason's giant red pick up truck, but he'd only managed to flag down Bob. And what he had was worth backtracking for.

It took a while for us all to get on it, but there, out in the brush just before the beach, was a Northern Shrike, a rare bird in NJ and especially rare at the Hook. While shrikes have been reported on and off for the last month there (same shrike or multiple migrating birds?) it is the first time in 10 years that they have. While the views were distant, the bird was unmistakable, especially with a nearby mockingbird for comparison. So that was a completely unexpected year bird.

By the time we all said our goodbyes to Jason the sun had just about set and it was back to the tennis courts to try for owls. After walking around for about 5 minutes as the temperature dropped we heard at first one distant Great Horned Owl, then another very close by and finally, probably in the Officer's Club itself, a female clucking in response to the male. We walked around the perimeter of the courts (for those of you unfamiliar with Sandy Hook, you'd never know that this overgrown acre once had tennis courts for the officers) to see if we could actually locate the hooter. After a time, Mike found a shape in the trees, backlit by the nearly full moon, that appeared to be our owl. It is hard enough to direct people to a bird in a tree in daylight. In moonlight it is next to impossible, but somehow I managed to happen upon the shape and just as the thought flipped into my mind as to whether that was the bird the shape flew about 10 feet and lost itself deeper in the branches.

We knew with 3 owls hooting that there was no chance for a Saw-whet to make itself known unless it had a death wish, so we drove back down to the Boy Scout Camp and when we had no luck there, to the Horseshoe Cove parking lot, where again, no little owls made any noise at all.

Still, 3 owls and a shrike is plenty of reward for some early evening birding. My little list from the Hook:
15 species
Brant  X     Heard
Canada Goose  X     Heard
Black Scoter  200
Cooper's Hawk  1     Boy Scout Camp
Herring Gull  20
Great Black-backed Gull  1
Great Horned Owl  3     Tennis Courts. 
Northern Flicker  1     Boy Scout Camp
Northern Shrike  1     North Beach pavilion 
American Crow  1
Golden-crowned Kinglet  1     Boy Scout Camp
American Robin  2
Northern Mockingbird  1     North Beach Pavilion
Yellow-rumped Warbler  1     Boy Scout Camp
Song Sparrow  1     North Beach pavilion

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Brig 11/8--American Bittern, Golden Eagle

American Bittern, Brig
Mike & I made an election day swing through 3 coastal counties today. We started off down at the Avalon Seawatch (Cape May County), where the highlight was a Parasitic Jaeger (year bird for Mike); flying south we saw nothing but hundreds of Black Scoters. 3 Purple Sandpipers were dancing away from the waves on the jetty.

We then drove down to the Avalon Dunes to look for shorebirds on the beach and found a good mixed flock of mostly Dunlins, with quite a few Red Knots mixed in, as well as Sanderlings and Black-bellied Plovers. I find it odd that I see way more Red Knots in the autumn than I do in spring but then, I go looking for them this time of year.

Our next stop was up in Atlantic County to look for Marbled Godwits on Brigantine Island, a spot where they, along with Western Willets and American Oystercatchers inexplicably gather in large numbers. Why that spot, under the bridge, when there are hundreds of surrounding marshlands that look pretty much like that spot we cannot figure out. But they were there, in goodly numbers, along with a few other sandpipers. I counted 185 oystercatchers and took a picture for Shari of just some of them:

Even though all of the wildlife drive at Brig is closed on weekdays, the road to the Gull Pond is still open and that is where we found (well, actually Mike found) our two best birds of the day. The American Bittern was in the channel on the east side of the road where one often is. One is probably always there, but they are so perfectly camouflaged that finding one is a thrill. It's a real "Where's Waldo" bird. Sometimes we were looking straight at it, knew it was there, yet still had to strain our eyes to find it. I can't tell you how many pictures I took of phragmites when I thought I was aiming the camera at the bird, but I did get a few decent ones like the shot above. We stayed watching it a long time, marveling at how perfectly it matched the surrounding reed and laughing as a breeze moved the stalks and the bittern swayed with them.

We'd seen quite a few Bald Eagles during the day--a couple driving, one at Avalon, and two immature birds flying over the Gull Pond Road. Mike spotted another eagle down the road a bit that didn't seem right to him. I got on the bird but raptor spotting is not my forte because looking into a cerulean sky I see birds and floaters and sometimes the floaters distract from the birds. However, I did view this one long enough to see why Mike might think it was a Golden Eagle--head smaller than tail and more of a dihedral than a Bald Eagle ought to have. However, had I been alone I would not "call" the bird myself because it was so high up. However, after Mike consulted some field guides he was positive of his identification and I of course, defer to him. Especially for a year bird.

Our last stop was in our home county of Ocean at The Bridge to Nowhere. We hoped to refind the Eurasian Wigeon that I spotted there last week but came up empty. However, we heard the great swooping sound of swans in flight and turned around to see 5 of them fly by us. At first, we dismissed them as more Pond Pigs but then they started to call--whistle actually-- and we knew we had our FOS Tundra Swans. A great bird to end the day.

For our travels we finished with around 70 species. There are a couple left off this list (like Great Black-backed Gull) because I'm a location birder and I wasn't about to make a list for a bird I saw on a light pole on a causeway. The birds I did count and list are below:
Brant   28
Canada Goose   25
Mute Swan   18
Tundra Swan   5
Wood Duck   2
Gadwall   2
American Wigeon   3
American Black Duck   11
Mallard   48
Northern Pintail   5
Green-winged Teal   3
Black Scoter   300
Ruddy Duck   5
Red-throated Loon   3
Common Loon   1
Pied-billed Grebe   1
Northern Gannet   10
Double-crested Cormorant   5
American Bittern   1
Great Blue Heron   3
Great Egret   2
Snowy Egret   1
Little Blue Heron   1
Turkey Vulture   3
Golden Eagle   1
Northern Harrier   1
Bald Eagle   4
Red-tailed Hawk   1
American Coot   15
American Oystercatcher   185
Black-bellied Plover   10
Marbled Godwit   20
Red Knot   50
Sanderling   10
Dunlin   201
Purple Sandpiper   3
Long-billed Dowitcher   1
Greater Yellowlegs   202
Willet   50
Lesser Yellowlegs   5
Parasitic Jaeger   1
Laughing Gull   1
Ring-billed Gull   1
Herring Gull   19
Royal Tern   1
Rock Pigeon   1
Red-bellied Woodpecker   1
Peregrine Falcon   1
Blue Jay   3
American Crow   30
Carolina Chickadee   3
Red-breasted Nuthatch   5
Carolina Wren   6
Golden-crowned Kinglet   1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet   1
Eastern Bluebird   3
Hermit Thrush   3
American Robin   3
Northern Mockingbird   1
Palm Warbler   1
Yellow-rumped Warbler   20
Dark-eyed Junco   3
Savannah Sparrow   1
Song Sparrow   7
Swamp Sparrow   2
Northern Cardinal   2
Red-winged Blackbird   5
American Goldfinch   1
House Sparrow   3

And one more picture of the bittern: