Category Archives: WMB

Wednesday Morning Birding Report, September 19, 2018

This Wednesday, Dave Weaver and I found cool, gray, blustery conditions that may have led to a lower than usual turnout of our Wednesday Morning Birding regulars. We had a good number of new folks, however, who were up for anything we might find. To take advantage of a high but falling tide, we went right to Bill Forward Pool on the Parker River NWR. The heavy rain of the day before had flooded the flats that would normally attract any shorebirds that were around, and there were none there. Ducks have started to pick up though, as there was a big flock at the south end of the pool that included lots of Green-winged Teal and a handful of Northern Pintails with the Mallards and American Black Ducks. Just as we arrived, we saw a Peregrine Falcon flying south along the dike, eventually landing on the dike that forms Bill Forward Pool. We got good looks at that handsome bird.

Yellowlegs with Great Blue Heron – Patti Wood

On the way to the beach at parking lot #7, we once again found House Finches. We only saw four this time, but it is strange that there have been House Finches there, and not anywhere else in particular, every time we’ve visited in the past several weeks. There were some Sanderlings and Semipalmated Plovers on the beach, and gulls all about, but no sea ducks to see. The sea was beautifully tumultuous in the stiff wind. It had a wintery vibe, but without the bitter temperature!

Sanderlings in flight – Patti Wood

As we had seen lots of egrets in the marsh near Stage Island, we tried going up on the hill there, to get a better look. As we approached, an immature Black-crowned Night-Heron took off. About 75 Great Egrets and 40 Snowy Egrets were lounging in the marsh, doing nothing but preening, which elicited comparisons to the US Congress. Hundreds of migrating Double-crested Cormorants either roosted on the marsh or worked in huge rafts of cooperative feeders. Little flocks of shorebirds consisting mostly of Semipalmated Sandpipers and yellowlegs dashed around the marsh as if to find some place to rest and feed, since so much of the good habitat was covered by the tide or rainwater. One Short-billed Dowitcher joined some Greater Yellowlegs to spice things up a bit. A Northern Harrier went by. We were glad the mosquitos that have been so wicked out there lately were not in abundance.

Juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron – Patti Wood

Egrets, Cormorants and Humans – Patti Wood

Short-Billed-Dowitcher vs. Greater Yellowlegs in flight – Mike Densmore

We decided that Sandy Point might be a somewhat birdless slog, so we hoped for the best with a stop at North Pool Overlook. There was very little there, though an Eastern Phoebe, a Red-Breasted Nuthatch, and a Gray Catbird kept us from total dejection. Still, you get the picture that this was not our birdiest WMB, and we moved on to think about the metaphysical reality that these times with fewer birds balance out the more exciting outings like last week’s WMB (when I happened to be away…). But it’s time for the fall migration of passerines to pick up, and even if this week was not that moment, we have faith it will come!

Greater Yellowlegs with fall Pickleweed – Patti Wood

Our list:
Canada Goose (~ 40) – Stage Island Pool (SIP).
American Black Duck (~ 30) – s. end, Bill Forward Pool (BFP).
Mallard – many; mostly s. end, BFP.
Northern Pintail (4) – s. end, BFP.
Green-winged Teal (~ 40) – s. end, BFP.
Double-crested Cormorant (~ 600+) – mostly in marsh north of SIP; several small flocks migrating.
Great Blue Heron (~ 15) – marsh n. SIP.
Great Egret (~ 75) – marsh n. SIP.
Snowy Egret (~ 40) – marsh n. SIP.
Black-crowned Night-Heron (1) – juvenile, flushed from shrubs across from SIP control structure.
Turkey Vulture (8) – over Bar Head.
Northern Harrier (1) – moving south over marsh n. SIP.
Semipalmated Plover (6) – parking lot #7 (seven) beach.
Greater Yellowlegs (~ 30) – various, including several small flocks overhead.
Lesser Yellowlegs (~ 10) – various.
Sanderling (~ 10) – seven beach.
Semipalmated Sandpiper (~ 30) – various.
Short-billed Dowitcher (1) – in small flock of G. Yellowlegs over marsh n. SIP.
Ring-billed Gull (~ 25) – mostly seven beach.
Herring Gull – many; mostly seven beach.
Great Black-backed Gull (~ 12) -seven beach.
Ruby-throated Hummingbird (1) – overhead; S-curves.
Belted Kingfisher (1) – The Wardens.
Northern Flicker (3) – roadside; S-curves.
Peregrine Falcon (1) – ad. perched on BFP dike.
Eastern Phoebe (3) – various.
Blue Jay (3) – S-curves.
Red-breasted Nuthatch (1) – flyby North Pool Overlook.
Gray Catbird (1) – NPO.
Northern Mockingbird (5) – various.
European Starling
House Finch (4) – seven.
House Sparrow (1)

Wednesday Morning Birding Report, September 12, 2018

Hello, Wednesday Morning Birders!

While David Moon continues to enjoy his holiday, David Larson joined me for this week’s Wednesday Morning Birding. After a bit of misting, we had a rain-free rest of the morning. Skies remained overcast, temps were in the upper 60s, and there were light winds out of the northeast. Aside from the rather thick humidity, it wasn’t a bad morning at all. In fact, when all was said and done, it was a bonanza morning!

With an 08:19 low tide, our first stop was the boat ramp at Joppa Park. Unfortunately, the tide had risen enough to cover most of the mud flats by the time we arrived on the boat ramp, so there were next to zero shorebirds, but many gulls and two rather special terns… Along with many Ring-billed and Herring Gulls, two Caspian Terns graced us with their presence. One, in particular, gave us a great show, landing out on the flats and preening, and then giving us a close flyby. This tern at 21 inches is our largest tern—in-between a Ring-billed Gull and a Herring Gull in size. Still in most of its breeding plumage, this bird’s bright red bill and black cap were very distinctive. You can see in Mike Densmore’s photo below, a little white creeping into this bird’s forehead en route to its nonbreeding (winter) plumage. Oh, there was a single Black-bellied Plover and a Greater Yellowlegs along with a flock of “peeps” flying by, but that was about it for shorebirds. A Turkey Vulture teetered and tottered right above us, and there were three Great Blue Herons up to their “ankles” in the incoming tide.

Caspian Tern – Mike Densmore

Turkey Vulture – Bob Minton

We drove slowly by the pannes on Parker River National Wildlife Refuge to no avail and made our way to North Pool Overlook where it was also very light on birds. A Northern Mockingbird welcomed us to the overlook parking area perched on a sign. There were a few Tree Swallows and several Barn Swallows overhead, and a sentinel-like Great Blue Heron stood its post in the pool wary of our presence, but ever on the lookout for prey.

Northern Mockingbird – Andrea LeBlanc

Great Blue Heron – Bob Minton

We spent the balance of our morning on the Hellcat and Bill Forward Pool dikes, watching, watching, and watching. There was a lot to observe. There were many Black-bellied Plovers in varying states of molt; a large number of Semipalmated Plovers; a lone Spotted Sandpiper foraging in the Bill Forward Pool very close to the Hellcat dike; Greater Yellowlegs were seen in both Bill Forward Pool and the North Pool from the Hellcat dike along with some Short-billed Dowitchers; and a few Lesser Yellowlegs were present. With patience, we sorted out a couple of Baird’s Sandpipers, and there were five White-rumped Sandpipers in the mix. About 10 Least Sandpipers and a multitude of Semipalmated Sandpipers rounded out the representative four species of “peeps,” the only peep missing being a Western Sandpiper. An honest attempt was made to try to make a Long-billed Dowitcher out of a couple of the Short-billeds, but the Daves weren’t totally convinced…

Spotted Sandpiper (nonbreeding plumage) – Mike Densmore

Greater Yellowlegs – Mike Densmore

White-rumped Sandpiper – Andrea LeBlanc

The show at Hellcat also included great looks at a juvenile Northern Harrier coursing over the Phragmites and mowed grass along Bill Forward Pool dike, actively hunting and apparently having success with an occasional drop to the ground onto some unsuspecting critter, a small rodent of one sort or another.

Northern Harrier (juvenile) – Mike Densmore

Also while standing on Hellcat dike, we were entertained by a bit of a feeding frenzy involving three species of birds, each species a member of a different family. These three species—Double-crested Cormorant, Snowy Egret, and Greater Yellowlegs—will oftentimes gather and work together to “terrorize prey,” chasing and herding mummichogs (aka mud minnows) into a cul-de-sac, all then partaking of these nutritious morsels. In Andrea LeBlanc’s photo below, you can see a small fish about to go down the hatch of a cormorant. Quite the scene!

Feeding Frenzy – Bob Minton

Feeding Frenzy – Andrea LeBlanc

On a tip offered by a passing birder, we moved from the Hellcat dike around the corner to the “Area Closed” sign on the Bill Forward Pool dike where we had better looks at birds in the south end of the pool. There, we could readily observe 100+ loafing Black-bellied Plovers, many standing on one leg with their heads tucked. Beyond the plovers in the flooded vegetation, there were a number of American Black Ducks and Mallards along with about 30 Green-winged Teal. Dr. Larson with his super-duper scope found the bird the passing birder had told us about—there in the midst of the Black-bellied Plovers was a preening Hudsonian Godwit! Oh, my, what a treasure!! Everyone got to see this large shorebird, and, of course, being as uncommon a species as it is, many were able to claim a “life bird!” While now and then losing track of this bird, in relocating it, we realized that in the background on a vegetated mudflat was an even larger shorebird—amazingly enough, a second species of godwit, a Marbled Godwit! The latter eventually moved into the flock of Black-bellieds and interacted a bit with the Hudsonian Godwit. Suffice it to say, it was a wonderful treat seeing these two large, long-recurved-billed sandpipers. Now, what do you suppose the chances are?? Two more “lifers” for most of those present.

Hudsonian Godwits nest near the southern shores of Hudson Bay and are long-range migrants, wintering in southern South America—many on Tierra del Fuego and on coastal Chile. Marbled Godwits are Canadian and US prairie nesters, who winter along southern coastal US and into northern South America.

We became so caught up in watching the godwits, we ran into overtime. Not one complaint was heard! By the by, what did I say in my Tuesday WMB reminder email?? Something like, “If you’ve been doing this long enough, you know that there is oftentimes a surprise just around the corner. Come help us find tomorrow’s prize!” Well, Dave Larson and I were only too happy to accommodate! Caspian Tern, Hudsonian Godwit, and Marbled Godwit!! Not too bad for “a surprise just around the corner!”

Please join David Moon and me next week to see what else might be in store…

Warmest regards!
Dave Weaver

Our list:
Joppa Park boat ramp —
Double-crested Cormorant – a few.
Great Blue Heron (3)
Turkey Vulture (1)
Black-bellied Plover (1)
Greater Yellowlegs (1)
Bonaparte’s Gull (1)
Ring-billed Gull – many.
Herring Gull – many.
Great Black-backed Gull (3)

Plum Island (Parker River NWR) —
American Black Duck (~ 10) – mostly Bill Forward Pool.
Mallard – common; mostly BFP.
Green-winged Teal (~ 30) – BFP.
Wild Turkey (~ 8) – roadside across fm lot #1.
Double-crested Cormorant (~ 125+) – ~ 25, BFP; ~ 100+, migrating flock
over BFP.
Great Blue Heron (2) – 1, BFP; 1, marsh w. BFP.
Great Egret (~ 20) – various.
Snow Egret (5) – BFP.
Osprey (1) – atop Pines nesting platform.
[Northern Harrier (1) – over marsh, s. mainland side of PI bridge.]
Northern Harrier (1) – juv., hunting over BFP dike.
Black-bellied Plover (~ 100) – BFP.
Semipalmated Plover – common, BFP.
Killdeer (3) – BFP.
Spotted Sandpiper (1) – BFP, near Hellcat dike.
Greater Yellowlegs (~ 50) – BFP & N. Pool fm Hellcat dike.
Lesser Yellowlegs (3) – N. Pool fm Hellcat dike.
HUDSONIAN GODWIT (1) – s. end BFP among Black-bellied Plovers.
MARBLED GODWIT (1) – s. end BFP among Black-bellied Plovers; both
godwits at one point within same scope view.
Semipalmated Sandpiper – common; BFP.
Least Sandpiper (~ 10) – BFP.
White-rumped Sandpiper (5) -BFP.
Baird’s Sandpiper (2) – BFP.
Short-billed Dowitcher (~ 25) – BFP & N. Pool fm Hellcat dike.
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Peregrine Falcon (1) – ad; first seen perched just w. of hunting shack
n. refuge entrance & then atop dead birch near BFP blind.
American Crow (3)
Tree Swallow (~ 12) – North Pool Overlook.
Barn Swallow (3) – NPO.
Northern Mockingbird (1) – NPO.
Cedar Waxwing (1)
Song Sparrow (2) – Hellcat dike.

Wednesday Morning Birding Report, September 5, 2018

Hello, Wednesday Morning Birders!

In David Moon’s absence while on holiday, Susan Yurkus joined me in coleading this week’s Wednesday Morning Birding program. Buoyed by Tom Wetmore’s early-morning report of two sandpiper’s of interest at North Pool Overlook, we headed there directly in hopes of seeing a Buff-breasted Sandpiper and a Baird’s Sandpiper — and see them, we did (thanks, Tom!)! Yes, we had good looks at these two uncommon pipers normally seen in drier habitats. Yes, good looks until a Cooper’s Hawk made a strafing run across the pool and put all shorebirds into the air. The “Coop” was unsuccessful in its foraging mode and landed in a nearby cherry tree—it was an adult bird and judging by its size, a female. While at the overlook, a Belted Kingfisher perched atop the island cedar.

Buff-breasted Sandpiper – John Linn

Cooper’s Hawk – Mike Densmore

With high tide having been at 8 a.m. on the Merrimack River, we made tracks for Hellcat and Bill Forward Pool before the tide receded to the point of the Joppa mud flats being exposed prompting shorebirds to depart from the Hellcat pools for more productive feeding grounds. We spent a bit of time looking for a reported Least Bittern in the marsh to the west of the Bill Forward Pool dike, but to no avail. The pool yielded three Baird’s Sandpipers and five White-rumped Sandpipers. Recall, of the five so-called “peeps,” Baird’s and White-rumped are the two long-winged and largest of the peeps. These are the pipers with particularly long primary flight feathers, which extend beyond the tail feathers and will actually cross each other. The long primary flight feathers are indicative of a long-range migrant. When I was in Tierra del Fuego in Chile in December 2013, Baird’s and White-rumped were quite common on their wintering grounds. That’s a long haul from nesting grounds in the high Arctic.

Baird’s Sandpiper – Mike Densmore

Also present in and around Bill Forward Pool and in the North Pool seen from the Hellcat dike, were some Short-billed Dowitchers and a number of both Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs. A few of us picked out a couple of Least Sandpipers tucked back in the usual corner of grassy flats in the North Pool. And, of course, there were a few Semipalmated Sandpipers and Plovers in the mix. While we were standing there, four Black-bellied Plovers came calling and winging into Forward Pool. Love that plaintive call “PEEoooeee.” Two Ospreys could be seen perched atop the Pines nesting platform.

Short-billed Dowitchers – John Linn

Short-billed Dowitcher – Andrea LeBlanc

A few of the group paid a short visit to the beach at parking lot #7 and saw a single Piping Plover and two Sanderlings. In the vicinity of the parking area were about 10 Cedar Waxwings and a couple of Northern Mockingbirds, but, overall, there was little in the way of land birds on this day. Parking constraints pushed us to parking lot #6 from where we walked to the Stage Island Pool water level control structure. There weren’t many shorebirds, perhaps because of a combination of the falling tide and simply the fact that the major share of the migration is over. But, we did get good looks at a couple of Lesser Yellowlegs and a number of Greater Yellowlegs along with a few Semipalmated Sandpipers and a lone Least Sandpiper. Twenty-five or so Mallards, mostly juvenile birds, were loafing on the flats just across the pool from us. A couple of Great Egrets were also present. A juvenile Bald Eagle was spotted aloft over Plum Island Sound.

Great Egret – Andrea LeBlanc

Double-crested Cormorant (juvenile) – Patti Wood

Great Egret – Patti Wood

Great Egret & Greater Yellowlegs – John Linn

A visit to the blind at Bill Forward Pool yielded zero in the way of shorebirds. That was disappointing! A lone Song Sparrow flitted across our field of view as we searched in vain for shorebirds.

Next week, David Larson will join me for Wednesday Morning Birding. We hope to see you at Joppa! C’mon down!
All the best!
Dave Weaver

Here’s our list:
Canada Goose (~ 20) – Bill Forward Pool.
Mallard (~ 30) – mostly Stage Island Pool.
Double-crested Cormorant (~ 50) – various.
Great Blue Heron (3) – 1, BFP; 1, N. Pool fm Hellcat dike; 1, SIP.
Great Egret (~ 25) – various.
Osprey (4-5) – 2, Pines platform; 2, platform n. SIP; 1 overhead Hellcat.
Bald Eagle (1) – juv seen over PI Sound from SIP.
Cooper’s Hawk (1) – ad, probably female; strafed North Pool Overlook
putting up Buff-breasted and Baird’s Sandpipers.
Black-bellied Plover (6) – BFP.
Semipalmated Plover (~ 6) – BFP
Piping Plover (1) – seven beach.
Greater Yellowlegs (~ 30) – some N. Pool fm Hellcat dike; mostly SIP.
Lesser Yellowlegs (~ 10) – ~ 9, N. Pool fm Hellcat dike; 1, SIP.
Sanderling (2) – seven beach.
Semipalmated Sandpiper – some, various.
Least Sandpiper (3) – 2, N. Pool fm Hellcat dike; 1, SIP.
White-rumped Sandpiper (5) – BFP.
Baird’s Sandpiper (4) – 1, NPO; 3, BFP.
Short-billed Dowitcher (8) – 3, BFP; 5, N. Pool fm Hellcat dike.
Ring-billed Gull (2)
Herring Gull (~ 6)
Rock Pigeon (2)
Mourning Dove (1)
Belted Kingfisher (1) – perched atop NPO island cedar.
Peregrine Falcon (1) – flyby over dunes headed south between lots #1 & 2.
Eastern Phoebe (1) – SIP.
Blue Jay (1)
American Crow (1)
Tree Swallow (~ 5)
Barn Swallow (1) – NPO.
Gray Catbird (1)\
Northern Mockingbird (2) – lot #7.
Cedar Waxwing (~ 10) – vicinity of lot #7.
Song Sparrow (1) – BFP blind.