Friday, March 24, 2017

Raritan Bay Waterfront Park 3/24--Iceland Gull, American Pipit

Iceland Gull
The last time Shari & I were at this park was more than 11 years when a Western Grebe was regularly showing up in Raritan Bay. It always shows us as good rare gull location, but I've never had the impetus to drive up to South Amboy to look. You have to time the tides right and besides, gulls are not my forte. Some guys I know can stand on a windy beach for hours, patiently sorting through the gulls, looking for the one that is whiter, or has a red beak instead of black, or is just otherwise different. I'm not one of those guys.

So when Scott announced a 1/2 day trip there we took the opportunity to search for rare gulls. Admittedly, I was hoping for a lifer, like Little Gull. Instead, we had to "settle" for the rare, but not unexpected, Iceland Gull, sitting on a sandbar with an mixed flock of Herring & Ring-billed Gulls. The more common gulls did not seem to appreciate its presence. Shari, of course, considered it a "trash" bird, having seen the hundreds in Iceland.

American Oystercatcher
I don't bird Middlesex County very often, especially not its shoreline, so today I built up the county life list with some birds that I wouldn't think twice about in Ocean, like Brant, Bufflehead, and Killdeer. Shari, of course, was very happy to get her FOY American Oystercatchers. She got Eurasian Oystercatcher in Iceland before she ever got its American cousin.

The other new bird for the year was a quick flyover, American Pipit, making its little "pipit" call as it zoomed overhead the group as we stood on the walkway. Not the most satisfying way to get a year bird, but often the only way you're going to get a pipit.

I did get some disappointing news this morning. One of the Associate Naturalists on the trip was my friend David, who last I saw in Cape May when we saw the Tufted Duck. Thought we saw the Tufted Duck. I hadn't heard, but David informed me that the duck we were looking at, "upon further review," turned out to be a Lesser Scaup and not the rarity at all. Distance, lighting, wishful thinking...There is a real, actual Tufted Duck down there, still. We just didn't see it. So I had to remove that one from the year list, leaving me with 151 species so far.

The birds we did see (or hear) today:
29 species
Brant 300
Canada Goose 50
American Black Duck 20
Mallard 2
Greater Scaup 30
Long-tailed Duck 4
Bufflehead 10
Red-breasted Merganser 3 distant
Red-throated Loon 12
Common Loon 10
Horned Grebe 4
Northern Gannet 2
Great Cormorant 1
Turkey Vulture 1
Red-shouldered Hawk 1
American Oystercatcher 5 on beach
Killdeer 3
Sanderling 12
Bonaparte's Gull 3 Beach
Ring-billed Gull 50
Herring Gull 200
Iceland Gull 1
Great Black-backed Gull 3
Mourning Dove 1
American Crow 1
American Robin 1
European Starling 4
American Pipit 1 Heard. Flyover.
Song Sparrow 1 Heard

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