Saturday, February 11, 2017

Return to Brig 2/11--Rough-legged Hawk

A small portion of the Snow Geese on SW Pool
Snow Geese with 3 blue morphs
Snow Geese with Blue Goose morph
After many months of deprivation, the wildlife drive at Brig finally opened this morning. No balloons, no ribbon cutting, no brass bands, just an almost word of mouth announcement late yesterday afternoon that the whole 8 mile loop would be ready for traffic this morning.

Which would have been great had Mike known a little earlier, since he cancelled the Brig trip he had scheduled, under the impression that the whole drive, including the short portion we'd been using for the last few months, was still closed for the laying on of crushed concrete onto the road surface.

He, Pete, & I had planned a birding day starting at Barnegat Bay in Brick, where there is a huge raft of Redheads present. A couple of Redheads in New Jersey is always a notable bird. But these numbers--today the conservative estimate was 150, nowhere near the 240 Pete counted last week--are ridiculous. The counts people have been getting the last week or so are probably unprecedented in modern NJ birding history.

However, instead of heading north afterwards, as we had originally planned, we instead went to Brig where we met up with Hank Burk, who hadn't heard about the cancellation. We had a grand time circling the impoundments twice. The road was nicely "paved" in crushed concrete, crushed finer than I had imagined it would be, and a couple of the water control structures had been rebuilt, so now that we know they can control the water, we can criticize how they control the water.

There were huge flocks of Snow Geese spread around the refuge and most of the duck species were well represented,  but the real excitement took place in  flurry of activity at the Gull Pond. Pete found a distant dark, large raptor with a dihedral (eliminating eagle) hovering over the tree line at the same time that Mike called out Orange-crowned Warbler in the trees around the parking area. I was lucky enough to find the raptor and get a decent look at it since Pete quickly identified it as a Rough-legged Hawk, then was able to turn around and with some help (all I had to do was interpret which bend in the tree Hank was talking about) got on the warbler. Mike, unfortunately, never got on the hawk (no good deed goes unpunished); it wasn't until late in the day, at the Bridge to Nowhere that he made up the deficit when Pete spotted another one just as we were leaving. I, too, was happy to see this big hawk as it made my YTD count in Ocean County 110, vaulting me, temporarily I'm sure, into the county lead on eBird.

The only disappointment for the day, a very minor quibble since we all have the bird for the year, was that we missed the reported Eurasian Wigeon that was on the north dike before the dogleg. But just to be able to search for a bird at the dogleg was a great pleasure for all of us.

For the two trips around I wound up with 44 species:
Snow Goose 2500 conservative estimate
Brant 500 Conservative estimate
Canada Goose 39
Mute Swan 8
Tundra Swan 21
Gadwall 30
American Wigeon 12
American Black Duck 1000
Mallard 75
Northern Shoveler 5
Northern Pintail 100
Ring-necked Duck 2 Gull Pond
Greater Scaup 100 Turtle Cove
Lesser Scaup 1 Gull Pond
Bufflehead 8
Hooded Merganser 20
Common Merganser 20
Great Blue Heron 2
Turkey Vulture 1
Northern Harrier 4
Bald Eagle 4
Red-tailed Hawk 3
Rough-legged Hawk 1
Ring-billed Gull 6
Herring Gull 10
Great Black-backed Gull 3
Red-bellied Woodpecker 1 Heard
Downy Woodpecker 1
Hairy Woodpecker 1
Peregrine Falcon 2
Blue Jay 2 Heard
American Crow 3
Carolina Chickadee 5
Tufted Titmouse 2
Red-breasted Nuthatch 1
Brown Creeper 1
Golden-crowned Kinglet 1
Eastern Bluebird 1
American Robin 115
Cedar Waxwing 10
Orange-crowned Warbler 1 Continuing at Gull Pond.
Song Sparrow 2
Red-winged Blackbird 5
American Goldfinch 2

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