Saturday, March 18, 2017

Jackson 3/18--Pectoral Sandpiper, Chipping Sparrow

Pectoral Sandpiper, Patriots County Park
Photos: Peggy Cadigan

Today was the 2nd of the 5 Jackson (the Jackson 5?) trips that Mike is leading. Seven of us convened at the Jackson Memorial HS then headed down the road to FREC, where Mike & I had been just yesterday. I'd said yesterday to Mike it would be interesting to see if anything new flew in overnight and the very first bird we saw and heard (and hearing here is important) was a new one for me for the year: a Chipping Sparrow.

Chipping Sparrows,  per se, are no big deal; in a couple of weeks there might be 10 of them hopping around on my lawn. But so far this year, I've had no luck with them, and I usually get them much earlier. Once earlier this year, we had an odd sparrow at our feeder that I couldn't quickly identify before it flew off--looked like a chippie to me. Turned out to be a female House Sparrow. We hardly ever get House Sparrows here. Then, a couple of weeks ago I had a sparrow with a rufous cap beneath the feeders. While my photos weren't perfect for a chippie, I couldn't think of anything else that would be likely in our backyard, so I listed it as such. An eBird reviewer corrected me and of course, once I looked at the pictures again I could clearly see that it was a Swamp Sparrow. The first Swamp Sparrow we've ever had in the backyard in the 5 1/2 years we've been here. The habitat of our backyard is all wrong for Swamp Sparrow, yet, there it was.

So, when we saw this sparrow in the murk & distance in a tree at FREC we couldn't quite figure out what it was until it sang. If singing is what you want to call a little whir that sounds a miniature machine gun. That made it a positive id of Chipping Sparrow and now I probably won't stop seeing them until November.

The good idea behind Mike's course for the Jackson Community School is to visit the same location 5 times late winter through late spring to see how the bird life changes: what goes, what arrives, in what habitats and why. So today we bounced from location to location on our circuit: FREC to Butterfly Bogs, Lake Enno (which was closed because someone "forgot" to open the gate), a stop at the Wawa on County Line Road, Jackson Mills Pond to Prospertown Lake and finally a run through Colliers Mills.

However, "a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds," and since two very unusual birds for Jackson were reported yesterday on the soccer fields of Patriots County Park we took a run over there even though it really isn't in the "curriculum." It was only about a 5 minute drive from the exit of Colliers Mills and once we found the right field (#5) Mike quickly got some Wilson's Snipes plus a Pectoral Sandpiper in the scope. The fields are closed for the winter and with the recent snow and rain, there are wet areas--just perfect for both shorebirds. Pectoral Sandpiper is rare this time of year (though I have seen them in winter out in New Egypt in the magic cattle fields) but there was no mistaking the bird with its diagnostic "vest" ending abruptly at the belly. Plus, we were fortunate that Peggy Cadigan was on the trip with us and she has kindly provided the photos documenting this entry. (Clicking on a photo will enlarge it.)
Wilson's Snipes, Patriots County Park
(note how different they can appear depending up stance)
Hairy Woodpecker, FREC

Brown Creeper, FREC

My list for day totaled 45 species. Others had more, others had less.
32 Canada Goose
7 Tundra Swan --Colliers Mills
3 Wood Duck
--Colliers Mills
6 American Black Duck
8 Mallard
28 Ring-necked Duck
6 Bufflehead
7 Hooded Merganser
10 Common Merganser --Prospertown Lake
1 Pied-billed Grebe --Butterfly Bogs
2 Great Blue Heron
15 Killdeer--Patriots County Park 
1 Pectoral Sandpiper
2 Wilson's Snipe
2 Ring-billed Gull
8 Herring Gull
4 Mourning Dove
1 Belted Kingfisher 
--Colliers Mills
4 Red-bellied Woodpecker
2 Downy Woodpecker
1 Hairy Woodpecker
1 Merlin 
--Colliers Mills
3 Eastern Phoebe
9 Blue Jay
2 American Crow
5 Fish Crow
8 Carolina Chickadee
5 Tufted Titmouse
3 White-breasted Nuthatch
1 Brown Creeper
2 Carolina Wren
3 Golden-crowned Kinglet
33 American Robin
1 Northern Mockingbird
28 European Starling
1 Chipping Sparrow
1 White-throated Sparrow
2 Song Sparrow
1 Eastern Towhee
3 Northern Cardinal
17 Red-winged Blackbird
2 Brown-headed Cowbird
1 House Finch
2 House Sparrow 

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