Friday, May 12, 2017

Brig 5/12--Black-necked Stilt, Common Tern

Black-necked Stilt
Photo: Mike Mandracchia
Mike and I went down to Brig today, 5 days after our epic big day for the World Series of Birding. Naturally, the week after the WSB the rarities started showing up at Brig, so we wanted to see if we could refind them.

As usual this month, the day was gray, cold, and windy--a typical March day in May. We walked in the woods and down to the Gull Pond to start and, very much like Saturday, by the time we started on the wildlife drive, we had over 50 species. But, though we drove slowly and looked carefully, the two species we were hoping for were not seen.

Black-headed Gull
We did see, yet again, the long-staying Black-headed Gull, which continues to molt into alternate plumage. We were wondering if it might hang around to mate (gull hybridize shamelessly), perhaps with a local Laughing Gull.

We also relocated a Stilt Sandpiper by the observation tower, another supposed rarity. A birder friend of ours we met there had nine of them; we stopped sorting through the dowitchers and yellowlegs after we found one--no need to stand in the wind longer than necessary.

Common Tern
Our first year bird was found at the north east corner of the driver, the normal place to find Common Tern instead of the much more common Forster's (or Forester's as we saw it spelled in the sightings book today--Subaru sponsors those birds). Ever since Brig went through it's rebuilding over the fall and winter, there has been mild speculation about whether the Common Terns would return to that spot, now that the water control structure has been fixed. This was the affirmative answer.

With our first trip around we had well over 70 species. We stopped into the visitor's center and saw that early this morning someone had listed Black-necked Stilts, one of the rarities we were seeking. We had passed the spot listed probably 30 or 45 minutes later and didn't see them. The prospect of another 8 mile ride was not tempting, but the location on the drive was close enough for us to walk, so we just left the center and proceeded up the drive. We saw a couple of birders scoping up ahead about a quarter of a mile (they turned out to be folks we know) and once we were close enough a quick look through the binoculars found the birds. Great. Yay.

You tell me
Photo: Mike Mandracchia
Now came "Adventures in Identification." For the past few days a Ruff, a Eurasian rarity, has also been reported, same place and the stilts had been seen associating with it. (The bird is actually a female, called a Reeve, which leads to all kinds of confusion.) A male Ruff in breeding plumage is unmistakable. They have the eponymous ruff. A female is a much more difficult identification. They look sort of like Lesser Yellowlegs, sort of like Stilt Sandpipers, sort of a like a medium-sized generic shorebird. We saw a bird, it looked, under cloudy conditions with a stiff wind in our face, like a Reeve. Mike took some pictures of it. I listed it. Then, once we got home, I looked at his photo, looked at the photos of the bird taken previously and the pictures didn't match. And the problem is, we still can't really figure out what shorebird it is. It has to be something, but what? My first reaction is Willet, but it is too small (when seen with the dowitchers it was with). Or is it a Stilt Sandpiper? Bill doesn't curve. Not a yellowlegs, we're pretty sure. As Mike says, "Birds in molt are a pain."

I had 81 species for the day, which is pretty good for once around (instead of our 4 times around on Saturday). Mike had a few more that I missed--hearing and eyesight more acute than mine. Happy to get two year birds. Mystified by one.
Snow Goose 2 Probably injured
Canada Goose 20
Mute Swan 2
Wood Duck 3
American Black Duck 2
Mallard 8
Wild Turkey 1
Double-crested Cormorant 15
Great Blue Heron 2
Great Egret 12
Snowy Egret 7
Glossy Ibis 25
Black Vulture 1
Turkey Vulture 3
Osprey 6
Red-tailed Hawk 1
Clapper Rail 2
Black-necked Stilt 2 Long bubblegum legs, b&w birds with needle-like bills
American Oystercatcher 3
Black-bellied Plover 40
Semipalmated Plover 110
Whimbrel 12
Ruddy Turnstone 12
Stilt Sandpiper 1 Continuing. Prominent supercilium, slightly curved bill, barred flanks.
Dunlin 70
Least Sandpiper 210
White-rumped Sandpiper 1
Semipalmated Sandpiper 175
Short-billed Dowitcher 35
Spotted Sandpiper 1
Greater Yellowlegs 3
Willet 3
Lesser Yellowlegs 10
Black-headed Gull 1 Continuing. Hood really starting to come in. Red bill and legs.
Laughing Gull 15
Ring-billed Gull 2
Herring Gull 15
Great Black-backed Gull 5
Least Tern 2
Common Tern 2
Forster's Tern 25
Black Skimmer 30
Mourning Dove 1
Chimney Swift 1
Red-bellied Woodpecker 1 Heard
Peregrine Falcon 1
Great Crested Flycatcher 3 Heard
Eastern Kingbird 1
White-eyed Vireo 1
Blue Jay 3
American Crow 1
Fish Crow 1
Purple Martin 3
Tree Swallow 20
Bank Swallow 1
Barn Swallow 40
Carolina Chickadee 1
Tufted Titmouse 2
House Wren 2 Heard
Marsh Wren 1 Heard
Carolina Wren 1 Heard
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 2 Heard
Eastern Bluebird 1
American Robin 2
Gray Catbird 10
Northern Waterthrush 1
Common Yellowthroat 6
Yellow Warbler
3 Heard
Pine Warbler 1 Heard, parking lot
Seaside Sparrow 3
Chipping Sparrow 2
Song Sparrow 2
Eastern Towhee 5
Northern Cardinal 1 Heard
Red-winged Blackbird 25
Common Grackle 10
Boat-tailed Grackle 1
Brown-headed Cowbird 1 Heard
Orchard Oriole 1 Heard
House Finch 1
American Goldfinch 2

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