Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Holly Lake 3/29--Snowy Egret

Snowy Egrets
Holly Lake is really just a pond, and a drained one at that, all but hidden on Great Bay Blvd about a mile north of where the WMA starts. When it was full, there would be, at most, a couple of swans in it, maybe a Mallard. But now that it is mostly mud flats, with water toward the back, it is worth stopping and taking look. This morning there was a good variety of ducks on it, including 60 Green-winged Teal. After a few minutes of scoping, I continued onto the WMA, where the tide was coming in, so there wasn't much room for shorebirds. I did manage to find a couple of yellowlegs, about 30 Dunlin, and a couple of Black-bellied Plovers. Great Egrets are back in good numbers. I listed 20 and there were probably more. Two Ospreys were on a platform. The inlet itself was empty of birds.

It was dank and murky, with a wet wind. Normally, I'll walk from the inlet up to the first wooden bridge and back, but the marshes along there looked empty when I drove by and I just didn't feel like it. So I drove back north, figuring I'd hit a couple of other spots and maybe, as predicted, the sun would come out and I'd find a more productive place to walk. As I was driving by Holly Lake I took another look through the little opening where the culvert is. It is amazing, as Mike has pointed out, how, after a while, you can recognize a bird just by shape or behavior. I saw two white birds dancing at the back of the pond. "Those aren't Great Egrets," I said to myself. I pulled over, pulled out the scope, but even in my binoculars I could see the "golden slippers" of Snowy Egrets. They weren't there on the first pass. Nor was the Greater Yellowlegs standing on the mud flats in front of me, nor the Killdeer behind it. So, now Holly Lake is going to be a two stop spot.

Laughing Gull
I drove up to the Barnegat Municipal Dock, where the gulls like to sit in the parking lot. As I was hoping, there were a few Laughing Gulls there. Now they're on my county list. There were also at least 4 Horned Grebes out in the bay, one of them already having pretty much molted in breeding plumage. Much too far, and still too gray, for photography.

I decided to drive up to Cloverdale Farm to get my walk in, now that I had a couple of list birds. Just as I was about to make the left onto the dirt entry road, the sun came out. The most interesting bird I saw there was a Common Raven, supposedly rare in the county. It was harassing a Red-tailed Hawk before it it went on its way, flying right over me, a huge corvid with a big beak and wedge-shaped tail. What called my attention to it was the "gronk!" I heard overhead. At first I looked up, searching for a Great Blue Heron. No heron, only an aerial battle.

Speaking of aerial contests, I also saw two Belted Kingfishers going at it with each other. Whether they were male and female doing a mating ritual, or two males fighting over territory I couldn't determine through the little window I had in the trees, but the rattling they made was extraordinary.

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