Monday, August 25, 2008

Brigantine NWR, August 24th

Did a little birding at Brigantine/Forsythe NWR at Oceanville NJ. Somewhat of an ill-timed visit since we managed to get there both at high tide and at noon. There were a lot of shorebirds in the impoundments, but heat shimmer and high contrast light made identification a challenge. The best birds of the trip were Black Tern - several in the north-east corner of the impoundments, one or two Northern Harriers hunting the saltmarsh, and a single Cattle Egret hunting along the road, still in breeding plumage. Otherwise it was largely the usual suspects:

Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Cattle Egret
Glossy Ibis
American Black Duck
Northern Harrier
Black-bellied Plover
Semipalmated Plover
Greater Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs
Spotted Sandpiper
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
Short-billed Dowitcher
Forster's Tern
Least Tern
Black Tern
Black Skimmer
Eastern Kingbird
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow
Seaside Sparrow

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Jamaica Bay, August 16th

I made an early morning trek across the Verrazano Bridge to Jamaica Bay WR in search of shorebirds and some decent photographic opportunities. If anything the water in the East Pond was even higher than on my previous visit, but there was some exposed mud at the south end which is where I started. Shorebird numbers were fairly low, and diversity even lower, with the most novel shorebirds being a single Short-billed Dowitcher and two Spotted Sandpipers. Semipalmated Sandpipers, Semipalmated Plovers, Least Sandpipers and a few Lesser Yellowlegs dominated the activity. I have a lot of photos of those so I gave up early and went to the north end.

Here the water was even higher than on my previous trip - the Sharp-tailed Sandiper one - and the water was up to the edge of the phragmites in most cases. Really quite remarkable conditions for mid-August, when they normally have the pond drawn down. However I was able to pull out a distant Red-necked Phalarope (always a good bird here), a few White-rumped Sandpipers, and two fly-by juvenile Gull-billed Terns. The situation was so odd that I was standing in about 6 inches of water looking at shorebirds and taking photos of White-rumped Sandpipers while looking back toward the phragmites. Thankfully nobody attempted to go past the cove, sparing some exposed mud for roosting and feeding shorebirds. You'd probably sink up to your neck in that section anyway.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Griggstown Preserve, August 10th

A late summer visit to Griggstown after several weekends bogged down with house-hunting revealed no great surprises. Song Sparrows, Field Sparrows and a few Indigo Buntings were in evidence. The Red-winged Blackbirds had moved off breeding territories although a few appeared to be staging at the cherry trees over toward Canal Rd. Also there were two Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, chasing each other. There were a few Bobolinks - either all females/juveniles or the males had already molted. I'm not sure if they bred here this year, but at the very least they were using it in late summer - a promising sign. Other species were several Eastern Bluebirds including juveniles (despite the wet and cold spring), Barn Swallows, House and Carolina Wrens, Common Yellowthroat, Brown Thrasher, Eastern Towhee, Orchard Oriole and heard Baltimore Oriole. A loud begging juvenile Red-tailed Hawk was making its way around the edge of one of the fields and there was also a large (female?) immature Cooper's Hawk being far more unobtrusive.

Very little singing, as you might expect, apart from a Song Sparrow or two and an Indigo Bunting.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Sharp-tailed Sandpiper and Red-necked Stint at Jamaica Bay

At 6:40am on Sunday morning (Aug 3rd) I was the first birder at the north end of the East Pond at Jamaica Bay. Almost the first bird I set my eyes on was very unusual - the structure of a Pectoral Sandpiper but heavily barred with barring going well into the flanks. The overall color and pattern reminded me more of breeding plumage Stilt Sandpiper or Western Sandpiper. Another birder turned up but ironically set up so that when I tried to point out the bird to him I was right in his line of sight, and the "mystery" bird flew before I could get him on it.

Ten minutes of thinking later, I decided the most likely candidate was full alternate plumage White-rumped Sandpiper, something I doubt I've seen very much of, even though the structure of the bird was much more Pectoral-like. I was wrong with the initial ID, but I was never comfortable with it anyway.

30 minutes later there were a few more birders and the mystery bird turned up again, in better light, and for a little longer look. There was a rufous cap and partially rufous scapulars, and when it took flight there was only a weak pale wing bar and a strong dark line through the upper tail coverts and the tail. Very Pectoral-like. This wasn't a White-rumped Sandpiper - this was a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper. An adult, in full breeding plumage - probably a little worn and darker because of that.

An amazing way to start the day. We saw the bird a couple more times after that. As of writing (8/4) it had been found the following morning (Monday).

After another 90+ minutes Jim Schlick did find the nominal target, a Red-necked Stint, which was the whole reason I went down to Jamaica Bay in the first place. Views were distant (east side of the pond viewed from the west side) and in bad light, but this bird glows in the right light given that it's in pretty much full breeding plumage. The Sharp-tailed remains more special for me, given that it's the first rarity that I've found.

Other, still interesting, birds present were two Wilson's Phalaropes, White-rumped Sandpiper and several Stilt Sandpipers. Other peeps were numerous, and there were some yellowlegs and Short-billed Dowitchers. I didn't see a Pectoral Sandpiper but these were reported by others.