Friday, April 28, 2017

Heislerville WMA 4/28--Semipalmated Plover, Stilt Sandpiper, White-rumped Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Least Tern, Black Skimmer

Semipalmated Plovers with Least Sandpipers
All those birds...and not the one I went for.

The holy grail of New Jersey heronry--a Little Egret--was found yesterday at the Heislerville WMA impoundments. I got the alert around 11:30 while I was on Island Beach. I knew I should go right then. Today, everyone else in the group of day-late birders I was standing with had a good excuse--work commitments, or a meeting, or a doctor's appointment--everyone but me, because mine was simply "I didn't feel like driving 85 miles."

Little Egret is an old world egret. A few turn up in North America, but this is the first one in NJ. There are a couple of birders in the state who have made it practically a life mission to find one. Those weren't the guys who found it, but they often said, Heislerville would be the spot.

Typical shorebird flock at Heislerville
So this morning, knowing I'd probably fail, I drove down there. I figured if nothing else, I'd get some new shorebirds for the year list. I'd stand around and wait and wait and chat until I couldn't stand it anymore and then I'd bird. And this plan worked out well because the weather was fine, the bugs weren't much of a problem, the conversation was pleasant, and just standing there at the edge of the impoundment scanning the huge flocks of shorebirds I added Semipalmated Plover, Stilt Sandpiper (rare this time of year), Least Tern (early, thus "rare") & Black Skimmer. The plovers were obvious, the stilts not too difficult to pick out, the skimmers distant but obvious once I looked in the right direction and the terns a surprise because I was looking at them for a while before I asked someone if those could be Least Terns, only to find out that, had I been paying attention to the conversation around me, I'd have realized they'd been discussing them while I was following the birds with my binoculars.

After about 2 1/2 hours of nothing doing I decided the bird was a one-day wonder and hoisted my scope on my shoulder, walking back to the car. Waiting for a bird to show is like holding a losing stock. You have to cede hope to reality: You're not going to make money; You're not going to see the bird.

Before I left I looked at a big flock of dowitchers and Least Sandpipers (many more than I was expecting) and found scattered among them a few Semipalmated Sandpipers. No big deal, but new for the year and, with the other shorebirds around them, they were more obvious than when they're just by themselves. Walking back to my car, I fell into conversation with another birder I know who was scoping the flocks and she was kind enough to show me a White-rumped Sandpiper, a bird I have no confidence in identifying. That will always be a toughie for me--looking through thousands of birds for the one oddball just doesn't fall into my wheelhouse.

In truth, I didn't really care that much about not seeing the Little Egret. It isn't an amazing looking bird--what makes it so sought after is that it looks so much like a Snowy Egret that those who seek it, have to protect against their own bias of wanting the rarity so badly. 99.9% of the small white egrets you see are going to be either Snowy or juvenile Little Blue. Besides--I've seen the species in France he said sourly.

39 species
Canada Goose 20
Mute Swan 25
American Black Duck 2
Mallard 3
Ruddy Duck 10
Double-crested Cormorant 125
Great Blue Heron 1
Great Egret 15
Snowy Egret 10
Black-crowned Night-Heron 25
Glossy Ibis 6
American Oystercatcher 2
Semipalmated Plover 26
Killdeer 2
Stilt Sandpiper 2 Curved bill eye stripe about the size of Lesser Yellowlegs
Dunlin 2000
Least Sandpiper 100
White-rumped Sandpiper 1
Semipalmated Sandpiper 3
Short-billed Dowitcher 500
Greater Yellowlegs 500
Willet 5
Lesser Yellowlegs 100
Laughing Gull 10
Herring Gull 100
Great Black-backed Gull 2
Least Tern 2 Tiny terns
Forster's Tern 20
Black Skimmer 32
Red-bellied Woodpecker 1 Heard
Fish Crow 2
Barn Swallow 5
European Starling 2
Ovenbird 3 Heard
Common Yellowthroat 1 Heard
Song Sparrow 1 Heard
Northern Cardinal 2
Red-winged Blackbird 5
Boat-tailed Grackle 3

No comments:

Post a Comment