Date: 3/10/17 7:58 am
From: Harry Armistead <harryarmistead...>
Subject: [MDBirding] Oodles of Bald Eagles, Blue Geese, Canvasbacks & Redheads.
FERRY NECK, BLACKWATER, TAYLOR’S ISLAND, and ELLIOTT ISLAND ROAD, MARCH 5-8, 2017. Lots of Blue Geese, Canvasbacks, Redheads & Bald Eagles.

MARCH 5, SUNDAY. On the way to God’s Country from PA. At Middletown, DE, 21 Fish Crows. A d.o.r. Striped Skunk at the MD/DE border, Route 301, and another fatality at Route 301, Milepost 118. Route 481: just one each of bluebird and kestrel. Arrive at Rigby’s Folly, Ferry Neck, Talbot County, 3:45 P.M. in time to see 3 Gray Squirrels on the way up the driveway and, from the dock: Ruddy Duck 280, Horned Grebe 6, Red-breasted Merganser 1, and Bufflehead 7.

Then it’s out to Lucy Point across our Field 1 (by car!), 4:30-6:10, where it is dead calm, clear, with excellent visibilty, and the crazy temperature swings from 34-42-30: REDHEAD 610 (but the flock is slowly swimming out-of-sight around Holland Point, so who knows how many are really in the area), Bufflehead 260, NORTHERN GANNET 19 (actively hunting though with no wind they have to work; only 1 plungediver seen), Horned Grebe 10, Surf Scoter 470, Ruddy Duck 65, Canada Goose 60, Tundra Swan 45, Long-tailed Duck 310, Herring Gull 9, Common Loon 2, Red-breasted Merganser 8, and Great Blue Heron 1.

Only 1 boat seen. Today is more like it, but still not as impressive as in the past when my early spring maxima for Surf Scoter and Long-tailed Duck have both been over 9,000. Things do change. I set the Raccoon trap but to no avail. Very low tide, exposed mud out to the end of the dock. The ditches, little ponds, and fields dried up considerably since last time.

MARCH 6, MONDAY. Bird in DORCHESTER COUNTY from 7 A.M. until 6:30 P.M., 111 birding car miles.

BALD EAGLE breakdown. 95 total (nice, but my personal best is 199): Egypt Road 19 (usually I see from none to 3 or 4 here; no roadkills or deer carcasses to explain this big uptick), Blackwater central areas 36, Hip Roof Road 1, Taylor’s Island 8, marshes at Transquaking River (Bestpitch) 7, Lewis Wharf Road 6, and Elliott Island Road 18. See adults on 6 nests, probably brooding small eaglets.

OAKLEY STREET and Cambridge waterfront from there upstream (east) to just past the old Route 50 bridge: 7-7:30. Most of the Canvasbacks are just W of the yacht club, seem largely indifferent to my offerings of corn, a big bucket’s worth: Canvasback 700, Lesser Scaup 600, Canada Goose 15, American Wigeon 50, Mallard 25, Surf Scoter 55, Long-tailed Duck 2, Fish Crow 8, Ring-billed & Herring Gull combo 400 (mostly sitting on the old bridge, n side), Double-crested Cormorant 7, Killdeer 1, and 1 Gray Squirrel. 30 degrees F., fair, NE5.

EGYPT ROAD: Gadwall 1, Wood Duck 6, Hooded Merganser 2 (these 3 species at the “Prothonotary Place”), Tundra Swan 12 (in a field), Wild Turkey 13, Sharp-shinned Hawk 1, Black Vulture 3, Canada Goose 36, Turkey Vulture 11, Red-tailed Hawk 1, Horned Lark 1, duck unIDd 80 (flying N in the distance), and Eastern Bluebird 4. 7:10 - 7:55.

BLACKWATER N.W.R., central areas, 8 A.M. - 1 P.M. After some of my numbers, in parentheses, are selected totals of the official refuge count done March 2, mostly along Wildlife Drive, Sewards, and the Route 335 bridge, but also including the rather distant Kuehnle Tract and several other areas, minor ones.

BLUE GOOSE 1,095 (I’d wager this is the highest Maryland total in decades; only a Ringler or Stasz would know for sure; result of a careful estimate counting by tens). Time was … there were far more Blues than Snows here, this being then one of 3 good places in the East to see good numbers of Blues, the others being Mattamuskeet, NC, and the Hopewell, VA, areas.

Snow Goose (regular whities) 1,650 (2,360), Tundra Swan 345 (753), Ring-necked Duck 170 (Pool 1; 182), Northern Shoveler 225 (214), Mallard 120, Gadwall 8, American Wigeon 6, American Black Duck 12, Northern Pintail 8, Bufflehead 1 (Pool 1), American Coot 9, Great Blue Heron 38 (34 of them in flight over the small [well, maybe NOT so small] colony in the pines by the Marsh Edge Trail), AMERICAN WHITE PELICAN 40, Green-winged Teal 105 (264), Common Merganser 2, Black-bellied Plover 2, Killdeer 22, Forster’s Tern 16 (2), Dunlin a mere 7, Red-tailed Hawk 1 adult, Northern Harrier 1 adult male, Hooded Merganser 3 (36), Savannah Sparrow 2, Fish Crow 2.

NON-AVIAN TAXA & details. Calling: 1 Southern Leopard Frog, 4 or 5 New Jersey Chorus Frogs. Tidal waters lower than I’ve ever seen them. Clear, SE10+, 35-45 degrees F. Fresh water levels high. It is nice to see someone walking, on a leash, their Beagle, my favorite dog breed.

HIP ROOF ROAD: American Black Duck 4. SMITHVILLE ROAD: Red-tailed Hawk 1, American Black Duck 6.

TAYLOR’S ISLAND, 1:20-3. Not much. Tundra Swan 210, Northern Gannet 6, American Robin 70, Rock Pigeon 43 (most on the roof of the Taylor’s Island Family Campground [TIFC] store with 2 Gray Squirrels nearby), Bufflehead 8, Surf Scoter 10, Horned Grebe 4, Turkey Vulture 55, Red-tailed Hawk 2, Common Loon 1, Great Blue Heron 1, Red-winged Blackbird 220 (95% females), Common Grackle 12. Mallard 2, Forster’s Tern 1, Canada Goose 105, American Kestrel 1, and Mourning Dove 14. Along the W edge of the little pond on the way in to TIFC 14 Painted Turtles are basking. Down Punch Island road a ways is a nice Fox Squirrel. I pull up RIGHT NEXT to it and after regarding me for a few seconds it scampers off. Clear becoming partly cloudy, SE15+, 49-51

TRANSQUAKING RIVER/BESTPITCH. 3:30 P.M. When the waters out or low the open area on the south side E of the river is nice and muddy, as it is today. Green-winged Teal 104, Greater Yellowlegs 1, American Black Duck 6, Northern Harrier 3, Killdeer 3, Black Vulture 8, Turkey Vulture 28, Mallard 2, Great Blue Heron 1, and Canada Goose 40. 50 degrees F., SE15, partly cloudy.

LEWIS WHARF ROAD, 4 P.M., offers a great view up and down Nanticoke River by a little muddy launch area used by a few commercial fisherman and anglers with profuse (unfortunately) growths of Japanese Knot Weed on either side of the launch place. Slate-colored Junco 9.

ELLIOTT ISLAND ROAD, 4:10-6:30. Short-eared Owl 0, Boat-tailed Grackle 0, CANVASBACK 3,625, Lesser Scaup 75, Ruddy Duck 200 (these last 3 species in Fishing Bay where the road goes along the bay edge after the sharp, right-angle left turn to the south), Gadwall 6, American Wigeon 4, American Black Duck 160, Mallard 8, Green-winged Teal 120, Bufflehead 4, Northern Harrier 6, Greater Yellowlegs just 2, Wilson’s Snipe 3, Savannah Sparrow 2, and Eastern Meadowlark 1. Two Sika Deer at dusk. 51-52-46, SE15, fair then mostly overcast (i.e., unfair, but get used to it) with occasional very light sprinkles, tide very low but rising. 32 species. One angler from Salisbury on the shore near the cans with 2 lines set for White Perch using bloodworms for bait.

MARCH 7, TUESDAY. Take it easy, recover from yesterday, and enjoy the pleasures of relaxing solitude. In Poplar Cove are 14 Tundra Swans (5 of them young), all dozing. Rest up dudes, it’s a long way to Nunavut. In Field 2 then flying to Field 1 some 300 blackbirds: 50% Red-winged Blackbirds, 50% European Starlings. Do some clipping of overhanging vegetation on the driveway. A Belted Kingfisher over the cove. To see a White-throated Sparrow in full fig foraging in the fresh green grass among small purple and white flowers is lovely sight.

Drive to Holland Point, hoping to meet the new owners, but they are not there. I leave my card with the caretaker, with whom I have a nice talk. It’s a 7.0 mile drive, and, typical of Talbot County, less than half a mile from our Lucy Point to there by water. Do see 360 Redheads and a blackbird flock of c. 200, half redwings and half grackles.

LUCY POINT, 2 - 3:53 P.M., fair becoming mostly overcast, 57-59, SW15+ with considerable chop, making finding birds difficult, even though the wind is diminishing. Unhelpful haze cuts in at about 1 mile out. Spend about 1/3 of this period dozing in the sporadic sunshine. No scope this time: Northern Gannet 3, Common Goldeneye 1, Red-breasted Merganser 17, Tundra Swan 45, Bufflehead 74 (close in), Great Blue Heron 1, Eastern Bluebird 1, Canada Goose 30, Ruddy Duck 1, Horned Grebe 2, Ring-billed Gull 9, Surf Scoter 5, and unIDd duck 39. One workboat and 1 skipjack, the latter under sail.

Drive the fields again, staying in the middle, totaling 1.9 miles from 4 - 4:45: American Robin 95, starling 150, Red-winged Blackbird 150, all in Field 2. An Eastern Bluebird near the nest box on the pole of Field 4. American Crow 2 in Field 6. An unIDd sparrow flushes from the turnips in Field 3 (the Clover Field); now that might have been something interesting. The fields all have fresh growth of grasses, 1”-3” high, but, as usual, lack the field birds I’d have wished to see: larks, Killdeer, pipits, and their ilk. The Hawthorns or Crab Apples or whatever they are, are on the verge of bursting into white bloom, early. From the dock at 5 P.M.: Horned Grebe 2 and a Common Loon dealing with a Hogchoker.

MARCH 8, WEDNESDAY. Catch a large Raccoon in the big Havahart trap overnight, no doubt the culprit that has been emptying feeders, sometimes knocking them off of the “shepherd’s crooks”. Dangle a partially-opened can of sardines in olive oil, trying to get at this they step on the plate that triggers the trap closure. Years ago I caught 10 Raccoons with the same trap in a two-week period at our home in Philadelphia, where they had been tearing the garbage bags apart, and relocated the ‘coons to distant areas.

In spite of the problems they cause, such as breaking into the Maryland house via the roof for 4 consecutive winters - I once opened up a side panel in the guest room and there was a mother ‘coon and 3 youngsters - they are attractive, smart-looking creatures. The photograph of one by Dave Harp, looking out from a tree cavity, on the cover of this March’s issue of Tidewater Times, is guaranteed to melt most hearts.

4 Gray Squirrels, including an errant individual with white paws and legs that I’ll call Snowshoes. Never seen that before. Overcast, some rain, clearing apparent in the NW, winds NW15 and building, 52, verging on nasty. American Robins are feasting on something in the English Ivy (berries?). Leave at 7:30 A.M.

4 Wild Turkeys in one of John Swaine’s fields, 8 more opposite Town & Country, in their favorite field south of Route 33, W of Easton. A get away breakfast at Denny’s. I like to sit in a booth on the S side that overlooks a wide, overgrown, sumpy ditch, sometimes inhabited by sparrows. I’m used to seeing Bag Worms (Thyridopteryx ephemeraeformis, name is about as long as their bags, at least in size 18 font) on Eastern Redcedars. There are some in the ditch vegetation that has no cedars, but, instead cattails, Panicum, Black Cherries, young Red Mulberries, honeysuckle, and blackberry brambles.

Just up the road from Route 404 and off of Route 309 are 37 Tundra Swans feeding on winter wheat, 8 of them youngsters, plus a Horned Lark, and an adult Bald Eagle watching the swans from its perch. Along Route 481: Canada Goose 110, Killdeer 3, Rock Pigeon 12, an adult male Northern Harrier, Horned Lark 1, Eastern Bluebird 4, Mourning Dove 4, American Kestrel 1, and a pair of Bald Eagles near their nest in a Loblolly Pine, a nest I hadn’t noticed before. On the bridge over the Sassafras River, Route 301, is a large, dead Striped Skunk. And so it goes.

I experience a certain sadness as the winter birds, especially waterbirds, leave, perhaps a mild form of seasonal affective disorder. That sort of thing used to hit me in fall, especially in late September. Once at Cape May at that time of year c. 1960 a close friend asked me: “Harry, what’s wrong?” I didn’t know what was wrong. I just felt kind of blue.

Best to all. - Harry Armistead.

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