Friday, March 31, 2017

Brig in the Rain 3/31--Black-headed Gull

Black-headed Gull
I went birding with Mike today. Apparently our motto is, "Once we make plans, neither rain, nor sleet, nor big rocks falling from the sky will prevent us from birding." Because it was raining lightly at 7 A.M. and gray as a gull's back when he picked me up and it went downhill from there, until, on the last leg of our trip around Brig the words "torrential" and "of biblical proportion" spring to mind.

Our original plan to go to Cape May was scotched and we decided to start local at Colliers Mills, hoping to find a reported meadowlark there. We even had a picture of the stump in the field where the meadowlark was last seen. However, yesterday that field was burned, as it is annually, and on the stump, instead of a meadowlark, was an American Kestrel (not a bad consolation prize). Chances of a meadowlark in burned stubble with a nearby kestrel? Zero.

We drove up to Success Lake and back, hit four bodies of water within the WMA and came up with a very respectable 40 or so species considering the conditions. We then drove over to New Egypt where aside from a gazillion starlings we added a few easy birds like mockingbird and grackle, and one relatively hard one, White-crowned Sparrow, which seems to gravitate to one thicket just to the side of the cattle fields. Despite the flooded fields, there were no shorebirds or ducks occupying the puddles.

The weather was obviously not going to improve, so we headed down to Brig, figuring we could do almost all our birding within the dry confines of the car. Duck numbers are way down, as one would expect for this time of year, but the shorebirds are starting to pick up. We had both yellowlegs, Dunlins (which actually are more of winter bird there), a couple of oystercatchers, and a very close Wilson's Snipe.

But the highlight of the day, the bird the made the trip worthwhile, was the Black-headed Gull we found right on the road of the south dike. This is probably the same rarity (at least on this side of the Atlantic--in Europe they're common as rats) that has been hanging around the refuge since late last year, but it is the first time in 2017 that we managed to find it. And, happily, instead of being a distant bird, hard to pick out, it was right in front of us, easy to study, easy to photograph.

There was also one interesting raptor, far out on the NE corner, which was probably a Bald Eagle (we had a couple), but which we tried to make into a golden. Mike pulled out the scope, though I doubted that in the murk he'd be able to make anything out at the distance it was. Horizontal rain discouraged his efforts.

Still, I came away with 46 species for our waterlogged tour around the dikes and something like 72 for the wet but satisfying day.

Our Brig list:
Snow Goose 200
Brant 60
Canada Goose 20
Mute Swan 1 Exit Pond
Gadwall 25
American Black Duck 20
Mallard 4
Northern Shoveler 7
Green-winged Teal 10
Bufflehead 30
Hooded Merganser 6
Red-breasted Merganser 15
Double-crested Cormorant 50
Great Blue Heron 2
Great Egret 20 Exact count
Snowy Egret 8
Osprey 5
Northern Harrier 3
Bald Eagle 2
American Oystercatcher 2
Killdeer 1 Heard
Dunlin 100
Wilson's Snipe 1
Greater Yellowlegs 5
Lesser Yellowlegs
Black-headed Gull 1
Ring-billed Gull 3
Herring Gull 50
Great Black-backed Gull 3
Mourning Dove 1 Heard parking lot
Peregrine Falcon 1
Eastern Phoebe 1
American Crow 1
Fish Crow 1
Tree Swallow 20
Carolina Chickadee 2
Tufted Titmouse 2
Chipping Sparrow 1 Heard parking lot
White-throated Sparrow 7
Savannah Sparrow 1
Song Sparrow 2
Swamp Sparrow 1 Heard Gull pond
Northern Cardinal 2 Heard
Red-winged Blackbird 15
Boat-tailed Grackle 1
House Finch 1 Heard parking lot

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