Sunday, April 16, 2017

Sandy Hook 4/16--Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Bank Swallow, House Wren

American Oystercatchers, Spermaceti Cove, Sandy Hook
Somehow this year I hadn't been to Sandy Hook yet, so when Bob told me Scott was running an Easter Sunday trip, I put my Ocean County list in abeyance and joined what I thought was a surprisingly large group. The weather was unseasonably warm, reaching the mid-80's, but with a stiff breeze coming off the water, which was really blowing the raptors around.

I got two new swallows for the year: a few Northern Rough-winged Swallows swooping around the parking lots and one Bank Swallow at the very end of the trip while we saying our goodbyes that I managed to see "naked eye" well enough to i.d. on my own. The only other year bird for the day was a House Wren which we heard singing along the bike path--never got a visual on it.

However, I reported 3 reputed rarities today and held off on another. While we were walking to Spermaceti Cove we heard the "gronk" of a Common Raven and turned around to see the huge black corvid being chased by a couple of crow sp. Later we saw two of them perched up on a utility pole and got good scope views of them. Speculation is that they're nesting somewhere on the Hook.

Along the bike path we saw a couple of Black-capped Chickadees, the Sandy Hook anomaly since the range maps will show you that you're still in Carolina Chickadee territory. Why and how this population stays on the Hook and never ventures forth off it remains a mystery.

Finally, we had a report from another birder that he had found a Tricolored Heron on Spermaceti Cove. We had been there a couple of hours earlier, but as Tricolored is rare for the county we went back down there for lunch. When we arrived another birder was just saying out loud that she had a heron that she didn't know what it was and when she described it, "yellow feet, gray back, white body," I told her that was the Tricolored. Of course, she couldn't tell me where she was seeing it as it flew off, but Bob was able to locate it standing in shallow water and we all got a chance to see it. It brought my Monmouth County life list up to exactly 250 species.

The bird I'm not listing is Anhinga. While I was eating my lunch, I heard Linda saying something about an Anhinga, but I thought she was just fooling around. "No, no, really." so I got up, looked into the blue sky, saw nothing for a while until my random sweeps with the binoculars found a soaring bird very high up, looking to like a flying cross. Bob was on the bird too and was convinced it was an Anhinga, a bird normally in Florida. I've seen lots of Anhingas, as has Bob and of course, Linda, but I couldn't recall ever seeing one fly that high up. Why would I bother scanning the sky for them when in Florida you can find them perched in trees 20 feet away? Scott wasn't sure, Carol wasn't sure, and I wasn't going to list a NJ lifer based on seeing a flying shape among the floaters. Bob's a hawk watcher, he's comfortable identifying specks of birds. I need a more satisfying look for a lifer, even if it is only a state lifer.

The birds added up to 63 species, the biggest group probably being raptors. We got some nice looks at a relatively low-flying Broad-winged Hawk, another bird that drives me nuts at hawk watches when all you see is a swirling kettle of silhouettes. Aside from some Yellow-rumped Warblers and Palm Warblers (the latter I missed), there was a dearth of those songsters, but kinglets, gnatcatchers, and some sparrows still hanging in there made up for their absence.

Brant 100
Canada Goose 7
American Black Duck 3
Surf Scoter 4
Black Scoter 3
Bufflehead 10
Red-breasted Merganser 10
Horned Grebe 2
Double-crested Cormorant 17
Great Blue Heron 3
Great Egret 11
Snowy Egret 1
Tricolored Heron 1
Black-crowned Night-Heron 3
Black Vulture 1
Turkey Vulture 16
Osprey 4
Northern Harrier 1
Sharp-shinned Hawk 2
Cooper's Hawk 2
Bald Eagle 1
Broad-winged Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 3
American Oystercatcher 10 Spermaceti Cove
Killdeer 2
Greater Yellowlegs 1
Laughing Gull 2
Herring Gull 200
Great Black-backed Gull 2
Mourning Dove 4
Belted Kingfisher 1 Horseshoe Cove
Northern Flicker 1
American Kestrel 1
Merlin 3
American Crow 1
Fish Crow 1
Common Raven 2
Northern Rough-winged Swallow 4
Tree Swallow 1
Bank Swallow 1
Barn Swallow 1
Black-capped Chickadee 2
House Wren 1 Heard
Carolina Wren 1 Heard
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 4
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 3
American Robin 5
Brown Thrasher 1
Northern Mockingbird 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler 3
Chipping Sparrow 1 Heard
Field Sparrow 2
White-throated Sparrow 1 Heard
Savannah Sparrow 2
Song Sparrow 2
Eastern Towhee 4 Heard
Northern Cardinal 2 Heard
Red-winged Blackbird 15
Common Grackle 5
Boat-tailed Grackle 10
Brown-headed Cowbird 1 Heard
House Finch 2 Heard
American Goldfinch 1 Heard

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