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Posts Tagged ‘Mute Swan’

Last summer, my time in New York ended with 93 species on my state list and I wanted to get that number to 100.  Derek and I decided to go for it when I discovered that you can get to Staten Island without driving through Manhattan.  Our destination on Tuesday, July 14, was Wolfe’s Pond Park, less than three hours away, which had a species list in eBird making it appear that I could get seven new birds without even trying.  We should have known that nothing would be easy in the hot July weather, but we did accomplish our goal.  I now have 102 species of birds for my New York list, including the birds in the two photos below.

Mute Swan at Staten Island's Wolfe's Pond Park

Mute Swan at Staten Island’s Wolfe’s Pond Park

I’ve never liked Mute Swans.  They are non-native and aggressive towards our native waterfowl.  This particular swan, though, appeared to have become gentle and tame due to handouts from picnickers at the park.  This Snowy Egret had more self-respect and flew every time we got near, making me work to get a decent photo.

Snowy Egret at Wolfe's Pond Park

Snowy Egret at Wolfe’s Pond Park

We alternated big days and easier days, so it was off to nearby District of Columbia on Wednesday.  Derek has assured me that birders who care about lists consider it the same as a state and he wanted to see me get to 50 species.  We saw several birds at Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens that were still on their wintering grounds when we visited the park on my visit in April 2019.  My favorite was this Green Heron, a species that I’ve seen many times.  However, I’ve never been closer and I couldn’t take my eyes off this bird as he stalked his prey and didn’t seem to care at all about our presence.

Green Heron at Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens

Green Heron at Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens

The gardens at Kenilworth are very pretty.  There were more visitors here than most of the places that we visited, but we felt safe.  We were impressed by the consideration and social-distancing displayed by park visitors.  Everywhere in DC people seemed to take appropriate actions to stay safe from the spread of coronavirus.  Many wore masks outside and we even saw young children wearing masks.

Derek at Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens

Derek at Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens

Edwin B. Forsythe NWR in New Jersey had a lot of birds that I wanted to see – Gull-billed Tern, Willet, Seaside and Saltmarsh Sparrows – and I was excited about our visit there, but we had been putting it off waiting for the right day.  We were rewarded for our patience.  The daily temps had been hitting the high 80’s, but a high of 77 was forecast for Thursday, so we took advantage of the break from the heat and spent several hours at Forsythe NWR.  Flies bit us again, as at Bombay Hook, but otherwise the day was perfect.

One of two beautiful American Avocets at Forsythe NWR, flagged by eBird as rare

One of two beautiful American Avocets at Forsythe NWR, flagged by eBird as rare

I have seen hundreds of Willets, but this species has both a western and an eastern subspecies.  It’s expected that they will be split into two separate species sometime in the next few years.  Western Willets winter in Florida and on the East Coast and can arrive as early as June, so I did not have a single sighting that I could be absolutely certain was an Eastern Willet.  My quest was finally accomplished at Forsythe NWR where Eastern Willets breed in the saltmarsh.

Eastern Willets

Eastern Willets

We saw several species of terns – Gull-billed, Least, Caspian, Common, and Forster’s.

Common Tern

Common Tern

Black Skimmers are in the same family as gulls and terns, but their feeding style is distinct.  These graceful birds fly low over the water and literally skim the surface with their long lower mandible.  When it strikes a small fish, the upper mandible snaps shut, capturing the fish.

Black Skimmer, one of the world's three skimmer species

Black Skimmer, one of the world’s three skimmer species

Marsh Wrens were difficult to see, but there were probably dozens of them in the saltmarsh.

Marsh Wren

Marsh Wren

We saw many Osprey during my trip.  They appear to be as common along the Atlantic coast as they are in Florida.

Osprey nest in the marsh

Osprey nest in the marsh

We spent a few minutes walking Jen’s Trail (in a wooded part of the NWR) after the wildlife drive and added a gnatcatcher and a phoebe to my New Jersey list, but I still had only 99 species when we left Forsythe NWR.  Number 100 ended up being Rock Pigeon on a highway overpass just before dark.

A Great Egret stands out due to its size and color, but the saltmarsh is teeming with unseen wildlife.

A Great Egret stands out due to its size and color, but the saltmarsh is teeming with unseen wildlife.

After our day at Forsythe NWR, it got really hot with daily highs hitting the mid-90s and limiting our birding to morning and late afternoon.  With our other goals accomplished, Derek was on a mission to help me get my Maryland list to 100.  He promised (threatened?) that I could get an injured Snow Goose, but I declined the opportunity to list a bird that would have been farther north on breeding grounds were it not for an injury leaving it unable to fly.

Center for Maryland Agriculture and Farm Park

Center for Maryland Agriculture and Farm Park

On Friday, we found a Yellow Warbler and a Willow Flycatcher at a retention pond.  We looked for Horned Larks at a known location and were successful on our second try.  Derek is participating in the Maryland breeding bird atlas surveys so we were thrilled to find recently fledged juveniles, proof of breeding.  Later, we looked for Grasshopper Sparrows at the Center for Maryland Agriculture and Farm Park.  It was a confusing place and by the time we figured out where the sparrows had probably been seen by others, it was nearly dark.  Singing Eastern Meadowlarks were a nice consolation prize.

A Ring-billed Gull flies overhead at Ferry Point Park

A Ring-billed Gull flies overhead at Ferry Point Park

Saturday was my last day in Maryland and I still needed nine new birds if I were to reach 100 species.  We decided that the Eastern Shore of Maryland would provide our best opportunity.  At the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center, I added Red-headed Woodpecker and Brown-headed Nuthatch to my growing list along with Great and Snowy Egrets.  Now we needed gulls.  We joked that neither of us had ever had to work to find gulls before, especially common species like Laughing and Ring-billed Gull.  On to Jackson Creek Landing where we picked up Laughing Gull.  Next to Ferry Point Park where it took more effort than expected, but we finally found Ring-billed, Herring, and Great Black-backed Gulls.  My Maryland list was then at 99, but it was hot and we needed a break.

A Grasshopper Sparrow singing atop a post in the goat pen

A Grasshopper Sparrow singing atop a post in the goat pen

Late that afternoon, we tried for Grasshopper Sparrows for the third time. The first time, a few days earlier, mowers were cutting the sparrow field as we arrived.  Our second try had been at a different location, Center for Maryland Agriculture and Farm Park, the previous evening.  We headed there again and walked directly to the field where we thought the sparrows were breeding.  There is a nice path around the field, but you can’t even see it from the parking area.  Derek’s hearing is much better than mine and it wasn’t long before he heard the sparrows.  We saw one on a post in the goat pen adjacent to the field that the sparrows must have used for their nesting territory.  What a nice bird for my Maryland #100 and a lovely end to my visit.

Goats at Center for Maryland Agriculture and Farm Park

Goats at Center for Maryland Agriculture and Farm Park

I was very happy that Derek got new birds for his lists, too, 21 state birds and 132 county ticks (birds seen for the first time in a county) including county birds in all eight states we visited.  The focus on our state and county lists gave us direction and enabled us to see new wildlife and landscape.  While it’s currently not safe to travel many places for birding, I am very grateful for this experience.

 

 

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