Saturday, February 18, 2017

Brig 2/18--American Bittern, Eastern Towhee

American Bittern
Bob, Me, Pete, Lauren, Mike, & Hank
Official meeting of the Orange Hat Society at the Gull Pond
Photo: Marylou Norman
I drove down to Brig with Mike & Pete for their delayed tour of the newly reopened dikes. There we met 3 other members of the Orange Hat Society. Because getting shot tends to cut down on the number of birds you can see, prudent birders own an orange hat to wear in winter when birding anywhere hunting might also be taking place (though I sometimes think it just makes you a better target for a frustrated hunter) and often as not, that becomes your default winter hat. Mike & Pete and I all had on our orange hats, Hank showed up with his, turned to Bob, who changed his black baseball cap for the hat in his trunk. All eyes turned to Lauren, who turned her camo hat inside out and voila! 6 orange hats.

The highlight of the trip came early--before the actual start of the trip, when we drove down to the Gull Pond. Pete spotted an American Bittern close to the road, standing in a little patch of reeds, pretending that we couldn't see it. Bitterns are not considered rare--they're just hard to see. Hank pulled up behind us after we'd moved past the bittern. He'd driven right by it. I walked over with him, looking through the reeds, not seeing the bird until there it was. A year bird for all four of us. Unfortunately, by the time the other two members of the OHS showed up the bittern had wandered off. It's frustrating, because you know it's there; it's probably standing a foot behind the reeds and you can't see it, but you know it's there.

A great many Snow Geese and Brants populated the waters of Turtle Cove. My counts are lower than the actual numbers since estimating how many specks in the water off toward Atlantic City are Brants is just not worth the guessing; I don't, generally, count specks.

I also don't, generally, count chip notes, (as opposed to songs) unless it is a very distinctive chip note--like say the "chwink" of an Eastern Towhee, which we heard in the upland section of the Wildlife Drive.

Diversity wasn't great today; the passerine numbers were low, the waders were at two (bittern and Great Blue Heron) and the shorebirds numbered one (Dunlin). Still, two year birds, 44 species altogether at the refuge (a couple more, Boat-tailed Grackle and Common Loon, were seen at nearby Motts Creek) found with good friends in weather that warmed to the point where we were all shedding layers (and hats) is a non-complaints day.

Snow Goose 750
Brant 370
Canada Goose 150
Mute Swan 6
Tundra Swan 18
Gadwall 2
American Wigeon 30
American Black Duck 230
Mallard 40
Northern Shoveler 5
Northern Pintail 40
Green-winged Teal 5
Canvasback 75 There has been a big flock here off and on all winter.
Ring-necked Duck 7 Exit Pond
Bufflehead 8
Hooded Merganser 10
Common Merganser 3 Lily Lake
American Bittern 1 Gull Pond
Great Blue Heron 3
Turkey Vulture 13
Northern Harrier 2
Bald Eagle 3
Red-tailed Hawk 2
American Coot 1 Gull Pond
Dunlin 1
Herring Gull 155
Great Black-backed Gull 2
Peregrine Falcon 2
Blue Jay 3 Heard
American Crow 5
Carolina Chickadee 2
Tufted Titmouse 1 Heard
Carolina Wren 2 Heard
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 1 Refuge Overlook
Eastern Bluebird 1
American Robin 1
White-throated Sparrow 2
Song Sparrow 1 Heard
Eastern Towhee 1 Heard
Northern Cardinal 1 Heard, parking lot
Red-winged Blackbird 3
Common Grackle 1 Gull Pond
House Finch 1 Heard, parking lot
American Goldfinch 1 Heard

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