Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Lakehurst NAES 6/13--Upland Sandpiper

Lakehurst Jump Circle
My annual trip to the Lakehurst section of the MDL Joint Base, looking for Upland Sandpiper in their only breeding grounds--the jump circle--in New Jersey. Last year I got skunked, but this year made up for it with at least 8 of the uppies showing well in the air and sounding off with their distinct "wolf whistle." The jump circle is 312 acres of grassland, divided into quadrants which are mowed and burned on a schedule that optimizes the breeding potential for the uppies, as well as for other grassland birds like Grasshopper Sparrow. John Joyce, the base naturalist, who does yeoman work keeping the military from harming the endangered species (animal and plant) that thrive on the base, said today that research shows that for unknown and peculiar reason, Upland Sandpiper prefers a round area to nest rather than rectangular, which leads me to wonder--How do birds know geometry?

We go to Lakehurst with a little list of target birds, Upland Sandpiper, of course, heading the list, but then we also want to see Grasshopper Sparrowü, Eastern Meadowlarkü, Horned Larkü , and one other that it looked like we were going to miss as we left the jump circle area after spending about 2 hours walking up and down the sandy roads. 

I was riding with Bob L, who had never been to Lakehurst and was thrilled with the birds he was getting. Bob & I met one day at Great Bay Blvd and in talking it turned out that he used to teach in the Woodbridge Public School system--a little time after I left but during the time my brothers were in school. Fortunately for him he never had them in any of his classes, else he might never have made it to retirement. Just as I said to Bob and his wife Kathleen that we'd done pretty well except for the one bird, and Kathleen said there was still time to find it, and I replied, not where we're headed next, the whole caravan of cars stopped and I knew it would only stop for a Common Nighthawkü so Kathleen was right. We all got killer looks as the bird flew over, vocalizing, and showing why this relative of Whip-poor-wills and Chuck-will's-widows has the "hawk" appellation. It seemed enormous and fast, much more like a raptor than a bird that "hawks" bugs. 

Common Nighthawk wasn't a year bird for since a few days ago Shari & I heard them flying over the house, but it is always great to get close up views of that bird. 

For the few hours we were on the base I tallied 23 species, but it was the 5 target birds that meant the most. 
Great Blue Heron 1
Turkey Vulture 2
Upland Sandpiper 8
Herring Gull 3
Mourning Dove 2
Common Nighthawk 1
American Kestrel 1
Eastern Kingbird 1
American Crow 1
Fish Crow 1
Horned Lark 3
Tree Swallow 2
Barn Swallow 1
American Robin 1
European Starling 3
Ovenbird 4
Grasshopper Sparrow 4
Field Sparrow 1
Song Sparrow 1
Eastern Towhee 2
Eastern Meadowlark 4
Red-winged Blackbird 1
Common Grackle 1

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