Friday, June 16, 2017

Bombay Hook 6/16--Little Egret, American Avocet, LITTLE GULL

Little Egret looks pretty much like a Snowy Egret
until you see those TWO plumes sticking up
When Shari & I lived in Brooklyn, the trip to Brig was long, at least a couple of hours each way, but we always did it in one day. When we moved down here, much closer to Brig (45 minutes), we realized that Bombay Hook in Delaware, about 2 1/4 hours away, could be done as a day trip, but up until today, when because of some musical festival in Dover we couldn't find a motel room to reserve, we never had. And we really wanted to go there because there were two cool birds that had been hanging around for over a week and we didn't want to miss them.

I chased Little Egret in New Jersey a couple of months ago and missed it in Heislerville, so another one showing up in Delaware was a second chance I didn't want to pass up. And it is "another" because the Jersey bird, I'm told, is possibly a hybrid, since it had a couple of blue spots on its plume and head that this bird clearly does not have. We arrived around 10:30 and went straight to the Raymond Pool, the first pool on the meandering drive and saw 3 small white egrets, one of which, we were convinced was the Little Egret, (absence of yellow lores) but it wasn't wholly convincing. Another birder there had seen many of them, he said, in Taiwan (hey, that's why it's a big deal rarity here) and when he took a close look he nixed the bird. Meanwhile, we did see, very distantly in our scopes, a LITTLE GULL, the other rarity we came for and a life bird. Little Gull shows up in NJ on fairly regular basis, but almost always in places I don't go and usually in big flocks of gulls where my chances of finding it are small. Here, it was the only gull we saw all day. It was far back at the edge of the pool and in our scope we could see enough of detail to call it a Little Gull, but it wasn't the most satisfying of looks for a life bird.

Meanwhile, after having our Little Egret sighting smashed to smithereens we continued on to the next pool, the Shearness. We saw a large flock of Snowy & Great Egrets very close to the road but now Little Egret mixed in. However, just ahead of us, the birder who knew whereof he spoke, signaled to us to drive up about 50 yards. There, nestled in the phragmites with about 6 snowies, was our bird. We'd seen one in France 10 years ago but this was our ABA bid.
In the middle--look for the plumes
Meanwhile, what normally would have been the two birds we especially look for at Bombay Hook, American Avocet and Black-necked Stilt, were instead, duly noted.

We drove around the other pools (Bear Swamp and Finis) and had lunch, then went back out to see what else we could pick up. At the Raymond Pool the Little Egret was back and close enough to get decent photos of it, especially photos showing the the two (as opposed to the Snowy Egret's one) breeding plumes. The Little Gull was still sitting at the back edge of the pool, too far for photography. Shari wondered if we could see it better from the observation tower that was back there. That seemed like a good idea and another birder there though it was two, so we drove all around the pool (it's one way on that section) to get back to the observation tower. Shari & I started down the road and were immediately met by a cloud of Greenhead Flies. We walked a few yards and Shari, being the more sensible one in this marriage turned back, figuring, "this is a bird, not God." I, of course, really wanting to see the bird better, ran the gauntlet of greenheads, followed soon by the other birder and it was a good thing she was there, spitting out flies with me, because I was disoriented and couldn't find the bird from our new position. I was look way too far out when it was actually comparatively close to us. Comparatively. It was still too far to get a decent photo, but I did see it's blotchy head, small bill, and dark, carpal bar on the wing. This is the best photo I could get:
It really isn't much to look at and neither, truth be told, is the Little Egret. They're not "wow" birds. They're white, slightly different birds than usual, and the real thrill goes to the birder who picks them out. All the rest of us are just chasing and checking but that's the game we play.

The one other notable bird was practically the first bird of the trip--we heard a Northern Bobwhite as soon as we got out of the car at the visitor's center. In NJ, bobwhite listings are looked at askance; in Delaware it is just another bird on the expected list.

It was a good trip despite the greenheads, which seemed particularly vicious, maybe because on the first day you encounter them you're just not prepared for the onslaught. After our 2nd trip around, where we managed to get the list up to 52 species, we drove the few miles into Dover and had dinner at our favorite Indian restaurant, Flavors of India, which is part of a Motel 8 on Du Pont Highway. Highly recommended.

Canada Goose 25
Mute Swan 2
American Black Duck 1
Mallard 15
Northern Bobwhite 1 Heard parking lot
Great Blue Heron 6
Great Egret 65
Little Egret 1
Snowy Egret 30
Glossy Ibis 15
Turkey Vulture 1
Bald Eagle 3
Red-tailed Hawk 1
Clapper Rail 1 Heard
Black-necked Stilt 5
American Avocet 1
Killdeer 2
Semipalmated Sandpiper 50
Greater Yellowlegs 8
Willet (Eastern) 1
Forster's Tern 1
Black Skimmer 2
Red-bellied Woodpecker 1 Heard
Downy Woodpecker 1 Heard Finis
Great Crested Flycatcher 1 Heard
Eastern Kingbird 2
Red-eyed Vireo 1 Heard Finis
Fish Crow 1
Purple Martin 20
Tree Swallow 5
Barn Swallow 1
Carolina Chickadee 1
Tufted Titmouse 1 Heard Finis
Marsh Wren 10
Wood Thrush 1 Heard
American Robin 3
Gray Catbird 10
Brown Thrasher 1
Ovenbird 1 Heard. Finis
Common Yellowthroat 15
Yellow Warbler
1 Heard
Field Sparrow 5 Heard
Eastern Towhee 1 Heard
Scarlet Tanager 1 Heard
Blue Grosbeak 2
Indigo Bunting 1
Red-winged Blackbird 30
Common Grackle 4
Brown-headed Cowbird 2
American Goldfinch 6
House Sparrow 4

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