On Sunday Deb and I went birding together. It had been a while since she’s been able to get out, so she was missing out on a lot of new spring arrivals; I suggested we head out to the Dunrobin area which has been very productive so far this spring. We got lucky on some of the back roads where we spotted a Red-tailed Hawk perching on a telephone pole right next to the road and a pair of bluebirds checking out a bluebird house in the same area. Savannah Sparrows were singing on fence posts, an Eastern Meadowlark was singing on a telephone wire right above the road, and Turkey Vultures were soaring overhead.
On Saturday morning I headed out west to Dunrobin again, stopping in at Sarsaparilla Trail first, as usual. I tallied 18 species on my walk, more than I’ve seen there on a single visit so far this year; highlights include Ring-necked Ducks, a pair of Bufflehead, three female Hooded Mergansers, Golden-crowned Kinglets, one Common Grackle, four Purple Finches, four Tree Swallows, and one Eastern Phoebe. Both the Tree Swallows and the phoebe were new for Sarsparilla this year, and both were flycatching over the large pond. I first noticed the phoebe when it landed in the dead tree closest to the observation dock, although it quickly flew off to a more distant snag. Surprisingly, I didn’t see or hear a single sparrow at Sarsaparilla. The juncos seemed to have disappeared and the Swamp Sparrows and White-throated Sparrows haven’t arrived yet.
The warm, summer-like weather continued on Thanksgiving Monday. This time I headed west to Constance Bay to look for the Nelson’s Sparrows that had been reported in the grass at the mouth of Constance Creek. First, though, I stopped in at Sarsaparilla Trail to look for Fox Sparrows, a species I usually find here in the fall with flocks of Dark-eyed Juncos and White-throated Sparrows. I only saw one junco and heard one White-throated Sparrow attempting to sing, and at the boardwalk I found two Swamp Sparrows and two Song Sparrows. The Fox Sparrows hadn’t arrived yet.
On the pond a male Northern Shoveler and a male Ring-necked Duck were welcome additions to the usual mallards and Canada Geese that congregate here. I had never seen a shoveler here before, and was happy to add it to my Sarsaparilla Trail list. A flock of Pine Siskins flew by overhead, and two hawks – probably accipiters – flew from tree to tree at the north end of the marsh, too far away to identify. Continue reading
I had less luck at Shirley’s Bay on Monday. I only observed 18 species, and both shorebird and warbler numbers were down. The three Red-necked Phalaropes were gone, but this time I saw a couple of Killdeer, a couple of Spotted Sandpipers, and a single Sanderling. In the woods I encountered one singing Eastern Wood-Pewee, two Red-eyed Vireos, two Black-and-white Warblers, and one of each of Northern Parula, Magnolia Warbler, Palm Warbler and Black-throated Green Warbler. A little disappointed with the variety, I headed to the Bill Mason Center next where I hoped to find some interesting insects.
The following weekend I headed out to the west end. My goal was the Morris Island Conservation Area, but I decided to stop in at the Bill Mason Center first while I waited for it to warm up. Although the morning was sunny, it was cool enough to need a jacket. Few birds were singing as I entered the marsh. I heard no Swamp Sparrows, Common Yellowthroats, or Yellow Warblers, although I saw two Yellow Warblers on my walk. I also saw a Rose-breasted Grosbeak and a couple of robins in the marsh, but no rails or grackles or Red-winged Blackbirds. The blackbirds have left their nesting territories and can be found in large flocks in cornfields and other agricultural areas, returning to roost in nearby wetlands at night.
On the last day of July Bob Bracken, Chris Lewis, Mike Tate and I went out to do some dragon-hunting. We started off at the Bill Mason Center where the birds seemed to be more plentiful than the odonates. We found robins, waxwings, Swamp Sparrows, Song Sparrows, one Yellow Warbler, at least half a dozen Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, a Northern Flicker and an Alder Flycatcher in the marsh; in the woods we heard a Veery, a Hermit Thrush and an Eastern Wood-pewee. The best bird of the day, however, was a juvenile Marsh Wren which responded to Bob’s pishing by hopping onto the boardwalk rail!
I took the Monday following my Mom’s wedding off work to rest after the long drive home. However, “rest” to me means getting up early and going exploring! It was a bright, warm day, so I decided to look for dragonflies in the west end. A stop at the bridge on Huntmar Road produced one Northern Rough-winged Swallow and one American Redstart as well as the usual Common Yellowthroats, Swamp Sparrows and Red-winged Blackbirds in the marsh. I also heard one Veery and one Least Flycatcher singing in the woods. I didn’t walk as far as I would have liked, given the weekday traffic and narrow shoulders; instead I quickly returned to the car and drove over to Thomas Dolan. Along the way I came across one singing House Wren, a couple of Eastern Meadowlarks, and an Eastern Bluebird, making for a wonderful start to the day.
Before heading to the Bill Mason Center, we made a quick stop along Constance Bay Road near the intersection of Dunrobin Road. The grassy fields here are a good spot to find Eastern Meadowlarks, Upland Sandpipers, Savannah Sparrows, and Bobolinks. The Bobolinks weren’t back yet, but we could hear a couple of meadowlarks singing in the distant fields. We also saw a Northern Harrier gliding over the fields before it dropped to the ground to seize whatever prey it had been hunting. I was especially eager to see an Upland Sandpiper, a species I’ve only seen once before years ago in the east end. We found a shorebird sitting on a post at the very back of the field, and although the heat shimmer made identification tricky, it didn’t have the long neck of an Upland Sandpiper.