Friday, May 19, 2017

Great Bay Blvd 5/19--Saltmarsh Sparrow

A perfect day to take a hike along Great Bay Blvd--hot as a mofo but no wind or bugs. Low tide.

There are two different theories about shorebirds regarding the tides. Some say that high tide forces the birds to concentrate in "high" places. Others say that low tide gives the birds a place to feed. It depends on the spot. At Heislerville or Jamaica Bay, high tide forces the birds into the impoundments or the East Pond. Along Great Bay Blvd, low tide creates plenty of mud flats for the shorebirds to feed.

I have my routine for birding GBB alone. First I stop at Holly Lake and check it for herons and shorebirds--there were a few there today, but the only one I didn't see later was Killdeer. Then I stop at the mitigation bulwark at the north end of the road, where the WMA starts. Here, on the mud flats, you'll often find Black Skimmers in spring and I did. There were also plenty of shorebirds to sort through, including a household favorite, Ruddy Turnstones.

Then I slowly drive down the road, tallying egrets until I get to a big sandy parking lot where I scan for herons and shorebirds. Today there were a couple turnstones right on the pier and my only Tricolored Heron of the day out in the marsh. After that, I stop at the first wooden bridge, check the marsh and count the Barn Swallows that nest in the marina across the road.

Red Knots
At the north end of the 2nd wooden bridge I stop and check the mud flats to the east and west, plus the grove of trees on either side. Plenty of shorebirds there plus a Willow Flycatcher. Then, over the bridge and down to the inlet itself. I don't really look too much along this stretch of road since I know I'm going to cover it later in my walk. Today, the inlet was the place to be. I was looking for Saltmarsh Sparrow, and found a couple on the mud flats, one running around like a mouse. I wasn't quick enough to photograph it. But the real highlight for me was the big flock of Red Knots that were feeding imperturbably. There were some Dunlin, turnstones, and Least Sandpipers mixed in, but it was mostly knots. Not the thousands that come to feed on horseshoe crab eggs in along the Delaware Bay in Cape May, but still, a very impressive, happy sight for me.

Red Knots with Dunlin in breeding plumage
Seaside Sparrow

As I was walking back, Seaside Sparrows were buzzing and one was posted up long enough for me to fumble around with camera and get a picture. It seems to me I'm more interested in taking pictures of birds that I more often hear than see. The Willow Flycatcher that I found at the inlet path is another example.

Willow Flycatcher just north of the inlet
After I've done the inlet the exercise portion of the day starts. It is an approximate 3.7 mile round trip from the inlet to the southern edge of the first wooden bridge. The habitat can get a little monotonous--acres and acres of salt marsh, but today there were enough shorebirds in the marshes to keep my interest. I was surprised at how long it took me to find a couple of Greater Yellowlegs. The only birds I "should" have gotten that I didn't were oystercatchers and Little Blue Heron. Very often, I'll take a second look at the inlet, but today I didn't as I had run into Pete & Chris and they hadn't had anything there since I'd looked earlier.

I drive north fairly slowly, hoping for something that has been overlooked, but today I only added to the numbers of birds already seen. 1 year bird and 5 county birds for the day.
37 species
Double-crested Cormorant 5
Great Egret 20
Snowy Egret 5
Tricolored Heron 1
Black-crowned Night-Heron 1
Glossy Ibis 8
Osprey 7
Clapper Rail 6 Heard
Black-bellied Plover 15
Semipalmated Plover 30
Ruddy Turnstone 25
Red Knot 125 Large flock at inlet, a few scattered in the marshes along the road
Stilt Sandpiper 1 boat launch before 2nd wood bridge
Dunlin 35
Least Sandpiper 50 conservative estimate
Semipalmated Sandpiper 15
Short-billed Dowitcher 30
Greater Yellowlegs 2
Willet 10
Lesser Yellowlegs 1
Laughing Gull 40
Herring Gull 20
Great Black-backed Gull 4
Least Tern 3
Forster's Tern 7
Black Skimmer 16
Willow Flycatcher 2 One just north of 2nd wooden bridge, one at inlet path
Tree Swallow 5
Barn Swallow 35
Gray Catbird 3
Common Yellowthroat 6
Yellow Warbler
Saltmarsh Sparrow 2
Seaside Sparrow 8 scattered all along the drive and at the inlet
Song Sparrow 8
Red-winged Blackbird 50
Boat-tailed Grackle 75

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