Monday, February 27, 2012

Woodcocks and Rusty Blackbirds

Gale force winds on Saturday deferred birding to Sunday, hitting mostly local sites.

Falls Twp Community Park held four Iceland Gulls - this time I was sure they were all Iceland since some gull flock flushing by dog walkers made it such that I could see all their heads and bills at some point. No Glaucous, but approximately six adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls.

I visited the nearby Silver Lake Nature Center in adjacent Bristol PA - a place I didn't even know existed until I was scouting around for Rusty Blackbird reports on Sunday morning - and it was a nicely maintained wooded area with trails bordering wetlands and Silver Lake itself. An area across the road that I didn't explore was labeled as swamp/wet woodland. In places the habitat was rather reminiscent of the Ramble in Central Park, complete with traffic noise. Walking the trails there was the normal semi-suburban species: Downy/Hairy/Red-bellied Woodpeckers, one Northern Flicker, one Carolina Wren, Chickadees and Titmice. The Hairy was actually a year bird for me. Then in the phragmites near the stream I picked up Red-winged Blackbirds and then the first Rusty Blackbird. I had good timing here since a moving flock of 25 Rusty Blackbirds came past me near the observation deck, and one or two males were actually singing. Most birds were in or near breeding plumage. After they went past I never saw them again, so I was quite lucky - and 25 was flagged as a high count by eBird. 25 Rusties is probably more than I've seen in the last 5+ years combined, and perhaps my highest count ever. This is a species that is in fairly rapid decline in the north east. Icing on the cake was a Fox Sparrow (also first-of-year) in with the White-throated Sparrows.

This place is certainly worth another look as spring picks up, although it remains to be seen if it's a migrant hotspot - Bristol is dense suburbia but nothing is as dense as Manhattan.

The afternoon was spent in an out-and-back push to Point Pleasant where two visits failed to come up with the Razorbill in the inlet (seen earlier in the day) and the ocean was also quiet with two species of Loons, one fly-by Gannet and a mere handful of Long-tailed Ducks.

The end of a pretty good birding day was at dusk at my traditional Woodcock spot in Central NJ where I listened to at least 3 males peenting (one was so close I almost jumped), making display flights, and making the grumbling call while flying around the area, sometimes chasing each other. Probably the mild winter would make for a strong breeding season this year, since most would have survived to spring.

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