Saturday, August 12, 2017

Whitesbog 8/12--Buff-breasted Sandpiper

It's that happy time of year when the bogs are drawn down at Whitesbog and the shorebirds arrive to feed on the mud flats and shallow pools. I've been walking the dikes around the bogs almost every day for the last week. You can usually find 9 or 10 species of shorebirds on the 3 drained bogs, but it is the rarities that sneak in that are the real attraction. 2 years ago on this date, Greg, Jim, Ernie, and I had a spectacular day when both a Wilson's Phalarope and a Red-necked Phalarope appeared in the middle bog. Last year on this date Jim found a White Ibis in the lower bog and I was lucky enough to be nearby to see it. So you know where I was going to be today.

The day started off a little rainy, but by the time I got to Whitesbog it was merely murky. Jim was already there for a couple of hours by the time I arrived. We "met" on the breached dike between the middle and upper bogs, talking across the little channel and coming up with the expected species, plus 3 Short-billed Dowitchers which are considered a rarity in the mostly inland county of Burlington. After about a half hour of scoping, I was ready to walk around and said "The entertainment value of this section is just about played out." It couldn't have been a less prescient statement. I was about halfway down the dike when Jim called me back--he had a Buff-breasted Sandpiper in his scope. I ran back to the breach and set my scope up again. Normally, I'd just look in Jim's scope to get the bird and the location and then find it in mine (it's never really official until you see it in your scope) but I wasn't about to walk through 2 feet of water to get to his side, so I tried to follow his directions, but since a drained bog is pretty much a huge expanse of undifferentiated mud, grass and flattened water lilies, it wasn't easy for him to give me any landmarks. Somehow, probably through random chance, the bird popped up in my scope and I got long, satisfying looks at this very sharp looking juvenile bird.

Unlike most of the rarities that we find at Whitesbog which are just rare for the county, a buffy is always rare anyplace in NJ. This one seemed to be about a week or so earlier than normal for the state, but one, I see, has already been reported last week in central Jersey. Soon a couple of other friends showed up and we were able to watch the sandpiper as it actively fed in both bogs. We'd lose it for a while then find it again in a completely different spot in one of the bogs. It really is amazing how birds at Whitesbog seem to pop up int he bogs like myrmidons. A little channel of shallow water will suddenly have a flock of dowitchers feeding on it when a moment ago there were no birds. Or, 5 Black-bellied Plovers appear on a sandbar, stand there for 20 minutes, then just as mysteriously disappear. Sometimes I think there's a backstage area at Whitesbog where theybirds are out of sight until a stage manager give them a cue to make an appearance.

Now, today happens to be Jim's birthday, and what better birthday present for a birder than a rarity? Two years ago with the phalaropes was a fortuitous event, last year with the ibis was a coincidence, but three years in a row--that's a tradition.

I didn't stay as long as I normally do, nor did I walk as much today as I like, so I only had 27 species for the 3 hours or so that I was there; my usually number is in the low 30's. For the month, so far, though I have 61 species. It pays to go back almost every day because you never know what new arrivals you might find.
Canada Goose
Pied-billed Grebe
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Green Heron
Turkey Vulture
Cooper's Hawk
Bald Eagle
Red-tailed Hawk
Black-bellied Plover
Semipalmated Plover
Least Sandpiper
Buff-breasted Sandpiper
Pectoral Sandpiper
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Short-billed Dowitcher
Spotted Sandpiper
Solitary Sandpiper
Greater Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs
Laughing Gull
Gull-billed Tern
Forster's Tern
Mourning Dove
Common Nighthawk
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Least Flycatcher
Eastern Phoebe
Great Crested Flycatcher
Eastern Kingbird
White-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Purple Martin
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow
Carolina Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Gray Catbird
Cedar Waxwing
Black-and-white Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Pine Warbler
Prairie Warbler
Chipping Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
Eastern Towhee
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Orchard Oriole
American Goldfinch

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