Wednesday Morning Birding Report, October 17, 2018

This week’s report was prepared by Dave Weaver. Thanks Dave!

Susan Yurkus, Dave Williams, and I led this week’s edition of Wednesday Morning Birding out of Joppa Flats Education Center on to Parker River National Wildlife Refuge on Plum Island. Skies were partly cloudy, temps in the 50s, and  winds WSW-W/10-15 mph. Apologies for the brevity of this report, but too much else going on at this point for anything more.

Our list:
Mute Swan (2) – ads flying north over The Wardens.
Gadwall (1) – Stage Island Pool (SIP).
American Wigeon (~ 25) – pannes & SIP.

American Wigeons and American Black Ducks – Bob Minton

American Black Duck – common.
Mallard
Northern Pintail (~ 15) – SIP.
Green-winged Teal – common; SIP.

Ducks abound above Stage Island Pool – Patti Wood

Common Eider (~ 15) – Bar Head.
White-winged Scoter (7) – Emerson Rocks.
Red-breasted Merganser (6) – Bar Head.
Red-throated Loon (1) – parking lot #7 (seven), ocean.
Common Loon (3) – seven, ocean.
Double-crested Cormorant – a few small flocks migrating.
Great Blue Heron (1) – marsh south of parking lot #1.
Great Egret (~ 20) – various.
Turkey Vulture (~ 15) – kettling over Bar Head.
Northern Harrier (1)
Cooper’s Hawk (2)

Juvenile Cooper’s Hawk – Bob Minton

Red-tailed Hawk (2)
American Coot (1) – SIP.
Greater Yellowlegs (~ 20) – various.
Semipalmated Sandpiper (1) – small pannes.
Ring-billed Gull (1) – seven, beach.
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Rock Pigeon – Plum Island Bridge.
Merlin (1) – north end of S-curves.
Eastern Phoebe (2) – The Wardens.

Eastern Phoebe – Patti Wood

Eastern Phoebe – Bob Minton

Blue Jay (6) – various.
Common Raven (1) – fly by north of The Wardens.
Tree Swallow (1) – SIP.
Black-capped Chickadee (1) – Hellcat.
Hermit Thrush (1) – Hellcat.
American Robin (2)
Northern Mockingbird (5) – various.
European Starling
Yellow-rumped Warbler (7) – Hellcat.
Eastern Towhee (1) – Hellcat.
Chipping Sparrow (1) – The Wardens.
Clay-colored Sparrow (1) – The Wardens.
Savannah Sparrow (5) – The Wardens.

Savannah Sparrow – Patti Wood

Grasshopper Sparrow (1) – probable; The Wardens.
Song Sparrow – common; The Wardens.
White-crowned Sparrow – juveniles, common; The Wardens.
American Goldfinch (1) – The Wardens.

White-crowned Sparrow immature – Barbara Merrill

Monarch Butterfly, which were abundant this week – Patti Wood

With the fall season upon us, the salt marsh of Plum Island is assuming, in my humble opinion, the most beautiful colors of the year. Come join us and witness them for yourself.

All the best!
Dave Weaver

Wednesday Morning Birding Report, October 10, 2018

This Wednesday seemed like a mix-up with some summer day, as it was so bright and sunny, nearing 85 degrees by the end of our outing.  We went straight to the Parker River National Refuge’s parking lot #7. The idea was to try to see birds around the pile of boulders and cobble called Emerson Rocks before they were submerged by the tide. Emerson Rocks is what is left of a drumlin that the glacier left far enough off shore that the sea has removed small sediments, leaving stones that attract seabirds in winter. The pile also forms a protected area for seabirds to patrol for stray mollusks and fishes. Some of the first wintering seabirds were around. The sight of two Common Loons in basic plumage announced the season. Northern Gannets patrolled the deeper water offshore, along with distant and scattered scoters, none of which had white on the wings, so they were likely either Black or Surf Scoters. We await flocks of eiders and scoters foraging by the rocks though, and they were really only hinted at by two Common Eiders nearby.

Semipalmated and Black-bellied Plovers – Patti Wood

A knot of Dunlin, some Semipalmated plovers, and Sanderlings huddled on the beach, and more “SEPL’s” dashed by in a tight flock, joined by three Black-bellied Plovers. On dry land, several Northern Mockingbirds seemed to be in a skirmish in the shrubbery near the road, as they chatted at each other, and hurried back and forth. We kept hearing little chips coming from invisible warblers and sparrows. From the beach platform, we could see lots of dabbling ducks on Stage Island pool; most were clearly not Mallards or American Black Ducks. Vultures and a Northern Harrier went by. It all forced one to spin, trying to keep track.

Northern Mockingbird – Mike Densmore

We climbed up onto the tower overlooking Stage Island Pool, to work to identify some of the many eclipse ducks, meaning they had none or few of the marks that make them easy to identify in their colorful “alternate plumage.” The wind vibrated our scopes, the birds dabbled furiously, and some were definitely…well… “that one is a Gadwall!” The tiny ones were Green-winged Teal. “Ok, that group are American Wigeons, and that other group has the elegant necks of Northern Pintails.” Not one was going to make it easy. At least a Northern Harrier put on a show and rousted more drab ducks from the edges. While duck i.d. was more challenging than it will be when they molt into the courting plumage they sport for winter, it was good to see so many ducks finding food and cover in a managed pool on Plum Island.

Following a tip from Mary Margaret Halsey and Doug Chickering, we scurried down to Sandy Point in search of pipits. Arriving in the parking lot, we were cheered by a Yellow-rumped Warbler foraging in a shrub by the privy.

Yellow-rumped Warbler – Bob Minton

After enjoying this bird, we trotted out to the end of the boardwalk to find pipits. It didn’t take long. Little passerines flew about, saying “pipit” in high notes that cut through the sound of wind, surf, and chatting birders. It’s not a big sound, but is unmistakable. Then we spotted some of the birds walking about in the flat areas among the wrack and low vegetation. An effort to describe American Pipits ensued. “A sparrow with a warbler bill” was suggested. “A ‘warblerized’ thrush” said another. These ephemeral migrants are in good supply this fall, and gave us a good show.

American Pipits – Patti Wood

Next we went on to check on things at Hellcat, where few birds were about. A late Snowy Egret fished, and a young Red-tailed Hawk flew over. Many more dabbling ducks sat silhouetted on Bill Forward Pool.

Red-tailed Hawk – Patti Wood

We cut short our usual lingering ending of the outing on Hellcat Dike, and hurried over to the Wardens, where we could walk out to the dike that impounds North Pool, temporarily open to visitors in celebration of National Wildlife Refuge Week. It was rather hot by then, but the breeze from the west kept us cool, and it was lovely to poke around in the sparse cover for sparrows and other migrants. We found Yellow-rumped Warblers (heard), Song Sparrows, and Savannah Sparrows, but just as easily could have dug up a Clay-colored Sparrow or a White-crowned Sparrow as they are being seen on the Island now. A Belted Kingfisher boldly announced her right to fish at North Pool, at least until ice comes and pushes her south.

Belted Kingfisher – Mike Densmore

Canada Goose (25) – Stage Island Pool (SIP) – ~ 15, South Pannes – ~10.
Gadwall (8-10) – SIP.
American Wigeon (20+) – SIP.
American Black Duck – common.
Mallard – common.
Northern Pintail (15+) – SIP.
Green-winged Teal – common.
Common Eider (2) – Emerson Rocks
Scoter sp. (~12) – parking lot #7 (seven) ocean
Common Loon (2) – Emerson Rocks
Northern Gannet (4) – seven ocean
Double-crested Cormorant – common. Many large, migrating flocks.
Great Blue Heron (3) – North Marsh.
Great Egret (20+) – various, but concentrated between Cross Farm hill and Stage Island.
Snowy Egret (1) – North Pool from Hellcat Dike.
Turkey Vulture (8) – various.
Osprey (1) – North Pool.
Northern Harrier (1) – SIP.
Red-tailed Hawk (2) – Hellcat Dike and North Pool Overlook.
Black-bellied Plover (3) – seven beach.
Semipalmated Plover (20+) – seven beach.
Greater Yellowlegs (2) South Pannes.
Sanderling (5) – seven beach.
Dunlin (~20) – seven beach.
Semipalmated Sandpiper (1) – flyover Wardens.
Ring-billed Gull (at least 1) – seven beach.
Herring Gull – common.
Great Black-backed Gull (~5) – seven beach, Sandy point.
Rock Pigeon – “university streets” neighborhood.
Belted Kingfisher (1) – North Pool.
Eastern Phoebe (1) – North Pool Dike.
Blue Jay – common. Migrants?
American Crow (2)
American Robin (4) – Hellcat.
Northern Mockingbird – common. At least six at seven.
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing (2) – roadside.
American Pipit (8+) – Sandy Point near boardwalk. Probably many more.
Yellow-rumped Warbler (4) – various.
Savannah Sparrow – (1) – Wardens.
Song Sparrow (5) – various.
Northern Cardinal (2) – North Dunes thickets.

Wednesday Morning Birding Report, October 3, 2018

Plum Island is known for bird migration, so when it is time for fall migrants, we kind of expect some. When we hear of big movements of warblers and we can hardly find a nuthatch, it’s a bit tough, and pretty unusual. This Wednesday, Dave Larson and I teamed up for WMB, hoping that the thickets that have been very quiet lately might have some bird activity. Birding got going nicely on our way out to the island with two Peregrine Falcons on the evacuation siren just past the bridge, both adults–a male and female. I would like to think they were the pair that bred under the Route 1 bridge over the Merrimac River, but I have no proof.

Peregrine Falcons (Pair?) – John Linn

While we were looking at the falcons, we got word of exciting passerines, including a Connecticut Warbler, in the S-curves. We found Jared Keyes there, and while we didn’t find his warbler, we did find lots of birds, including some Blackpoll Warblers and a Clay-colored Sparrow. The rest of the week has produced plenty of migrants for patient birders on Plum Island. The banding station was hopping this morning after a northeast flow set in last night. There were at least three Red-bellied Woodpeckers, a Northern Flicker, and a Downy Woodpecker, when we often find no picids. A veritable flock of calling and foraging Eastern Towhees was very busy crossing the road near the first tall oaks in the S-curves.

Red-breasted Nuthatch – John Linn

At Hellcat, the water is higher than it was for shorebird season, and waterfowl have been increasing, this week including five Northern Shovelers. Most of these birds were down at the south end of Bill Forward Pool. The road there was not as birdy as the S-curves had been, and we don’t use the boardwalks with our large group, so we used our bit of remaining time to investigate Jared’s report of American Pipits near the boardwalk at parking lot #1. No pipits, but Northern Gannets were patrolling offshore, and a beautiful Merlin dashed down and perched for a time atop a stake on the beach. Sanderlings in fine basic plumage ran back and forth with the waves on the beach, and we enjoyed the beautiful surf on a smooth sea being ridden by a surfer with a free Wednesday morning.

Full-rubbered Surfrider – Barbara Silver

Sanderlings – Mike Densmore

Our List:
Gadwall (1) – Bill Forward Pool (BFP).
American Black Duck – common.
Northern Shoveler (5) – BFP.
Green-winged Teal (15) – BFP.
Northern Gannet (4) parking lot #1 ocean.
Double-crested Cormorant – common.
Great Blue Heron (2) – BFP and North Marsh.
Great Egret (10) – various.
Osprey (1) over S-curves.
Northern Harrier (2) North Field; 1, S-Curves marsh; 1.
Cooper’s Hawk (2) Hellcat Rd. ;1, S-Curves; 1.
Greater Yellowlegs (~12) – various.
Sanderling (6) parking lot #1 beach.
Herring Gull – common.
Great Black-backed Gull – (~12) various.
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Belted Kingfisher (2) – S-Curves; 1, Gatehouse area; 1.
Red-bellied Woodpecker (3) – S-Curves.
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (1) – Hellcat parking lot.
Downy Woodpecker (1) – Hellcat Rd.
Northern Flicker (1)  – S-curves.
Merlin (1) – parking lot #1 beach.
Peregrine Falcon (2) – adults, one male, one female, Plum Island Turnpike, atop Seabrook Warning Siren.
Eastern Phoebe (4) – Mostly in North Field.
Blue Jay  – common.
American Crow (7) – various.
Common Raven (1) – S-Curves.
Black-capped Chickadee (6) – S-curves.
Red-breasted Nuthatch (2) – S-cures; 1, Hellcat Rd.; 1.
American Robin – common.
Gray Catbird – common.
Northern Mockingbird (1) – Hellcat.
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing – common.
Common Yellowthroat (1) – S-curves.
Blackpoll Warbler (2) – S-curves.
Yellow-rumped Warbler (1) – S-curves.
Eastern Towhee  – common.
Clay-colored Sparrow – (1) S-curves.
Song Sparrow – common.
White-throated Sparrow  – common.
Northern Cardinal – common.
Red-winged Blackbird – (1) Hellcat dike.
Purple Finch (1) Hellcat Rd.
House Sparrow