Monday, May 17, 2010

How the South played out...

After weeks of scouting by Bert and I, Team Lagerhead finally arrived at the Millville Wawa to fuel up and start the southern portion of our WSB run. Our arrival time of just before 1pm was on schedule and even early, so I knew that the part of the run I was responsible for was going to fit in the daylight hours we had left. I had the advantage of doing a similar route as last year, so I was able to gauge our progress by cross checking our time against last year's time at several key spots. This allowed me to remain relatively relaxed and allow a maximum amount of time at each spot and utilize every last minute of daylight for birding. It was now just a matter of getting the birds to cooperate. It was a warm day and winds were gusting 25mph plus as we started our Southern run.

First stop was a Barn Owl nest and we scored a bonus N. Harrier and Horned Lark near there for the second year in a row. We next ran through Bevans WMA and picked up all our Southern Breeders in reasonably quick order considering the wind. We added Carolina Chickadee, White-eyed Vireo, Kentucky Warbler, Prothonotory Warbler, Blue Grosbeak, and Orchard Oriole to our growing list and were now ready to work on shorebirds, etc. We stopped at the only spot I had Bobwhite all week and after 10 minutes of whistling we got an answer and were off to Heislerville. Here we hoped to clean up on shorebirds, but things were pretty sparse for some reason. We did get White-rumpled Sandpiper and some common shorebirds, but missed Black Skimmer and Yellow-crowned Night Heron and the hoped for Curlew Sandpiper. We had hoped for more! We then headed straight to the campground where we got our Red-headed Woodpecker after a bit more searching than we had hoped to do.

We now headed straight to West Cape May still on schedule where 3-4 spots for Cattle Egret failed to produce and a quick sky watch for Mississiippi Kite or Merlin was unsuccessful. We went to our sea watch spot at the point and were starting to get frustrated when we saw no tern flock as expected. We were quickly cheered however by the sightings of Brown pelican, Gannets, Royal Tern and Red-breasted Merganser. All of those are tough to get birds. We went to the State Park to look at our Piping Plover Nest and also added Gadwall there, then off to Cove Pool where we added Pectoral Sandpiper and Blue-winged Teal, but missed Snipe and Green-winged Teal there. Our next stop was Cape May Harbor where a Bufflehead was right in front of the parking area, but the Ruddy Duck was a no show. We located the Ruddy Duck all the way across the harbor by the Canyon Club Marina then we were off to Ocean Drive where we found a single Saltmarsh Sparrow which reluctantly allowed us to view him after a bit of marsh tramping by Zach.

At this point we started heading back North working our way up to end our day at Brig. We next stopped along Stone Harbor causeway where we found both Little Blue and Tricolored Heron in just 1-2 minutes as well as Whimbrel and Peregrine Falcon! We stopped at Nummy Island where we got nothing new, then went to 113th street where we got Purple Sandpiper and a bonus of Red-throated Loon offshore. That's a bird we didn't have even once all week while scouting, and we were only able to spot it because the wind had died completely and the ocean was as flat as glass. We then headed up to Townsend's Inlet getting Yellow-crowned Night Heron at a roost along the way. At the inlet we found the Common Eider, but couldn't find the Harlequin Duck (our youth team had it there before us) or the Long-tailed Duck. A scan of the ocean produced nothing new, but we did get a roosting adult Lesser Black-backed Gull though. Our last stop before heading to Brig. was the overlook at JFK Bvd in Sea Isle City where we found the Surf and Black Scoters that had been there all week. We even put a quarter in the parking meter while we scanned there!

We arrived at Brig. at 7:20pm a bit ahead of schedule and went right to the gull tower to scan. We had some good luck from there even though it was crowded because of a team doing a "big sit" up there. We quickly located our missing Black Skimmers as well as Gull-billed Tern, Caspian Tern, and a Shoveler and had a Nighthawk flying around us eating the hordes of insects that were eating us. We had a bonus of a Marbled Godwit, but never did find the Bar-tailed Godwit that was hanging out there for 3 days. Heading around the dike produced nothing new except for an Am. Wigeon from the North Dike. At dusk we had our usual Chucks and Whips from the exit road as well a Nighthawk (3 species of nightjars at one time!) before dashing South to our first night spot at Tyler rd. We needed King Rail and conditions were perfect, but the marsh was silent. After almost 40 minutes and lots of clapping we finally got our bird and went to our last spot for the day at Turkey Point. The Marsh here was so loud with calling clapper rails it was hard to hear anything else. We waited as long as we could wait and still make it to the finish on time in the hopes of hearing a Black Rail. While Bert and Paul finished our list in the van, Zach and I waited and waited. Finally around 10:45the marsh grew silent and we heard a Black Rail vocalize about 4-5 times not to far away! We used up our last few minutes hoping for a Nelson's Sparrow with no luck and headed for the finish line (an hour away from here) to see how would make out in the totals. We knew we had had a great day, but would it be good enough???


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