Date: 3/28/17 10:44 am
From: Harry Armistead <harryarmistead...>
Subject: [MDBirding] Elliott Island Road, Bestpitch, Blackwater, Ferry Neck, March 24-27, 2017.

MARCH 24, FRIDAY. On the way there: 1 kestrel along Route 481 and 13 Tundra Swans next to the pond SE of Hope, plus, after missing any action there for weeks, I see an adult Bald Eagle by the nest in the sycamore just N of Route 309. Seven Wild Turkeys in their favorite field W of Easton and S of Route 33. In Poplar Cove from our dock: 2 RIVER OTTERS swimming S and hunting (diving a lot), plus 13 Horned Grebes. Brief visit to LUCY POINT = no gannets but 2 Common Loons. A White-footed Mouse in the kitchen trap next to the wall shared with the pantry. Fair, but hazy, SW<10, 54.

DEER COUNT, 6:40-7 P.M. In one of John Swaine’s fields, 13. 28 plus 3 Tundra Swans in the Campers’ main field. In Field 4 four deer and 6 Wild Turkeys. Seven deer in Field 1. Total = 52 deer.

MARCH 25, SATURDAY. LUCY POINT, a good visit 9:10-11:15, 55 degrees F., fair but haze cuts in at one mile, but visibility is improving, low tide, S 5 m.p.h. Complete list: Redhead 110, Common Loon 3, Horned Grebe 42 (some in breeding plumage), Northern Gannet 3, Bufflehead 155, Great Black-backed Gull 1 adult, Bonaparte’s Gull 2, Ruddy Duck 4, Forster’s Tern 2, Lesser Scaup 11, Herring Gull 9, Fish Crow 2, Red-breasted Merganser 2, Surf Scoter 3, Turkey Vulture 5, Canada Goose 8 (most have already blasted out of here for points north), Common Goldeneye 0, Double-crested Cormorant 2, and Carolina Wren 1.

Also: 2 sulphurs. Four boats. I count the waves from the wake of one boat and stop at 71. Please, DO, watch your wake. Later at LUCY POINT (3rd visit here today), 4:30-6:10, dead calm, like a glass surface, fair but very hazy, 74-78-74, visibility excellent, becoming overcast to the W, same birds as in the morning with the exception of 2 Ospreys, apparently setting up shop on the spindle, and 64 Northern Gannets (no plungedivers). One Buckeye. 210 very distant unIDd ducks. No sign of the Redheads.

From the dock: 15 Horned Grebes. In early afternoon a 2nd trip to LUCY POINT = no gannets. Some of the Horned Grebes have captured prey but I can’t ID it. No Diamondback Terrapin yet, but not from want of looking. Somewhat disappointed at there being no flight in spite of the very warm weather and slight S wind. At Ft. Smallwood today there is a record flight of raptors. No Laughing Gulls at Lucy Point. 69 degrees F. as late as 7:45 P.M. A Great Horned Owl calls from behind the garage. In recent years owls have been less frequently encountered. I don’t know why.

Also on the old place: Pileated Woodpecker 1, Bald Eagle 2 adults. Just one Gray Squirrel. In Field 4 at 6:14 P.M. 19 Wild Turkeys incl. 3 toms, one of them copulating. Oh, my. 27 deer in the field N of Bellevue Rd. X Ferry Neck Road at 6:24 P.M. Lusty Spring Peeper choruses in the Woods 4 vernal pool and the wet edges of Field 7.

MARCH 26, SUNDAY. In DORCHESTER COUNTY all day. EGYPT ROAD, 6:45-7:15: snow goose 600, blue goose 200 mallard 4, bald eagle 2, red-tailed hawk 1, and great blue heron 1. The geese are circling briefly to the E, hard to estimate, in the distance as if about to land in a field, but are not located later. Also, 2 sika deer that put on a show, approaching the car, jumping up and down repeatedly, comically, in place, and finally run off their big white rumps flashing.

BLACKWATER N.W.R., 8 on the “guided birding tour”: Bill & Jane Hill, Terri McPalmer, Mark Rubin, Pam Smith, Dan & Marianne Spiegel. 7:15 A.M. - 1:30 P.M. (official tour 8-noon). 59 species, but a few birds listed below seen before or after the official tour. Overcast, 43-48, raw, cold, penetratsio, E 15+ m.p.h., visibility 0.25 mi. at start improving to c. 5 miles. Tidal waters low, fresh waters high. Complete list:

Canada goose 12, blue goose 1 adult, tundra swan 40, gadwall 8, American black duck 6, mallard 30, northern shoveler 110, northern pintail 2, green-winged teal 140, ring-necked duck 60 (Pool 1), bufflehead 4 (Pool 1), hooded merganser 8, ruddy duck 6, AMERICAN WHITE PELICAN 41, great blue heron 5, black vulture 27, turkey vulture 22, osprey 4, bald eagle 28, northern harrier 1, red-tailed hawk 1, American coot 4, greater yellowlegs 6, dunlin 40, Wilson’s snipe 1, ring-billed gull 40, Forster’s tern 18,

mourning dove 6, belted kingfisher 2, red-headed woodpecker 2 (PS), northern flicker 1, blue jay 2, fish crow 4, American crow 8, tree swallow 70, barn swallow 1, Carolina chickadee 2, Carolina wren 2, marsh wren 1, eastern bluebird 8, American robin 30, northern mockingbird 2, European starling 8, myrtle warbler 3, pine warbler 1, chipping sparrow 12 (harmless), Savannah sparrow 2, song sparrow 1, white-crowned sparrow 1 immature, slate-colored junco 1, northern cardinal 4, red-winged blackbird 225, common grackle 25, brown-headed cowbird 1 female, house sparrow 1 female.

NON-AVIAN TAXA, and commentary: spring peepers (JH), eastern cottontail 1, gray squirrel 1. The Visitor Center feeders do not throng with birds, but at one time there is one each of 5 species - song & white-crowned sparrows, red-winged blackbird, common grackle, and the cowbird - all in the field of view of my binoculars, and 10X at that, simultaneously. On these tours I concentrate on talking and getting folks on the birds, so my counts/estimates are often approximations, consequently suffer somewhat.

BLACK VULTURE JAMBOREE. 27 today seen simultaneously from one point on Wildlife Drive is the most I’ve ever seen on the refuge. Usually see just 1-4 or so, sometimes none. To put this into one context here are the totals from the 4 organized Dorchester County bird counts in 2016, all multiparty efforts. May 5, 5 observers in 5 parties: 17. May 14, 14 observers in 9 parties: 51. September 17, 26 observers in 10 parties: 32. December 19 (Christmas Bird Count), 14 observers in ? parties: 60.

BUCKTOWN, 1:38 P.M: sika deer 1, rock pigeon 8, house sparrow 1 female. BESTPITCH & GRIFFITH NECK ROAD, 1:50-2:25, 50-51, overcast,, high ceiling, E15: bald eagle 6, northern harrier 2, turkey vulture 20, red-tailed hawk 1, green-winged teal 100 (I know what you’re thinking, but this is an exact count), and 1 deer.

LEWIS WHARF ROAD, 2:39-3:06, 52, NE15, overcast: mourning dove 51, bald eagle 4, red-tailed hawk 1, double-crested cormorant 11 (sitting on a dock), red-breasted merganser 10, ruddy duck 4, turkey vulture 11, and northern harrier 2.

ELLIOTT ISLAND ROAD (only from Henry’s Crossroad X Lewis Wharf Road on S to the end). 3:15-7. 52-58-43. overcast. NE15. tide high becoming below normal low, nice and muddy for the teal and shorebirds. cool. 41 species. Complete list:

Canada goose 6, American black duck 36, mallard 6, blue-winged teal 2, green-winged teal 90, canvasback 140, lesser scaup 18, surf scoter 2, bufflehead 6, common goldeneye 8, ruddy duck 48 of the little dears, double-crested cormorant 2, great blue heron 6, turkey vulture 12, osprey 9, bald eagle 18 (one adult with a bad, dangling right leg; 7 nests seen), northern harrier 5, greater yellowlegs 38, lesser yellowlegs 13, dunlin 20, LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER 2, Wilson’s snipe 3,

laughing gull 2, herring gull 1, ring-billed gull 12, Forster’s tern 0, mourning dove 4, belted kingfisher 1, tree swallow 40, Carolina wren 1, eastern bluebird 4, American robin 9, northern mockingbird 2, European starling 14, myrtle warbler 1, Savannah sparrow 4 (+ 1 hors de combat, in fact worse than that, dead, on the grassy road shoulder), song sparrow 4, slate-colored junco 2, red-winged blackbird 130, common grackle 45, boat-tailed grackle 4 males, and brown-headed cowbird 50.

North part of E.I.R. towards dusk: sika deer 1, white-tailed deer 16. Later, W of Vienna: 12 deer. Almost all the shorebirds are foraging together in one place (where I almost always see nothing). It is nice to see the snipe probing in the mud, the hump-backed dowitchers probing a few feet away, in prime habitat for them, and in the water.

MARCH 27, MONDAY. RIGBY’S FOLLY, fair, 47 degrees F., SE5, some fog. A tom turkey gobbling in the Olszewski Trails area and 5 hens nearby on the driveway, that head off towards the tom. Be careful what you wish for. 6:47 A.M. Getaway breakfast at Denny’s, where I’m the only customer. ROUTE 481, my favorite little seasonal wetland area just north of Rt. 481 X 309 has become overgrown with small trees. Formerly it was a good place to look for teal and a few shorebirds. However, a Great Egret stands out above the brush today. Five deer S of Ruthsburg. A Muskrat swimming in a wet ditch near there. Visibility a quarter mile or so all the way back to Pennsylvania.

ROADKILL DU JOUR. This trip there are 7 roadkill Virginia Opossums seen. Raccoon comes in 2nd with just one. No other species, except the Savannah Sparrow mentioned above.

SOME BITTERN LORE. “ … On Thursday, August 24 [1944], as three columns from the French 2nd Armored Division made ready for battle some 24 miles southwest of Paris … Soldiers finished shaving … then shouldered their weapons and swaggered into formation, ‘booming like bitterns throughout the wood,’ as an American colonel later wrote, ‘pounding their chests and screaming, ‘En avant!’ ‘ “ as quoted on page 171 of the Guns at last light by Rick Atkinson (Henry Holt and Company, 2013).

Perhaps sounding as Eurasian Bitterns, whose call I’m not familiar with. If they sounded like American Bitterns this would not be the battle cry I’d pick. I’d go with the cry of the Red-tailed Hawk. Our bitterns sound like what I imagine a dogface grunt GI would sound like as he sustains a wound.

a Field guide to the guide: identifying the many varieties of Roger Tory Peterson’s premier book “a Field guide to the birds” by Scott F. Bastian (published by the author, 2016, 78 pages). This remarkable book shows that only the 1st edition, 1st printing, 1934, of RTP’s guide lists “Bob-pumper” in its index. By the 2nd printing (also 1934) and later this was corrected to “Bog-pumper”, a colloquial name for American Bittern.

I was lucky enough to chance by a copy of the 1st ed., 2nd printing that I bought at the Walnut Book Store, 9th & Walnut Streets, Philadelphia, on August 21, 1969, for $1.50, now worth c. $400 if, as with mine, even if it is missing its jacket but in good condition. A 2nd printing, 1st ed. in good shape with the jacket might bring $1,800.

However, my 2nd printing has some blemishes: 4 items pasted into the inside of the front covers (boards), including a poem about Veeries, and the name and address of the owner, Herbert Brown, who lived in my old neighborhood at 107 W. Moreland Ave., with the date of purchase of “Nov. 10th 1934”, not too long after the book’s printing. In the binding crease opposite the verso of the title page I also wrote in penciled small characters when and where and how much was this copy when I bought it.

I consider that Brown’s pasted stuff actually, to me, adds to the value and interest of my copy. An old Cassinia directory lists Herbert Brown as joining Philadelphia’s Delaware Valley Ornithological Club in 1936, but Cassinia online does not show an obituary for him or any articles by him.

Only the 1st & 2nd printings of the 1st edition show shading on the neck of Whistling Swan and on the folded wings of the egrets (but Reddish Egret isn’t illustrated). Mine has the shadings so I know, along with the index’s “bog-pumper”, that it’s a 2nd printing. RTP didn’t have a species account of American Robin, stating only that it’s “The one bird that everybody knows” (p. 107) and chose not to illustrate Eastern Bluebird either. A 1st edition, 1st printing, in good condition with the jacket (dust cover) Bastian states might bring $5,000, or more.

When I purchased several copies of the 4th edition (1980) Peterson was at Sessler’s Book Store and autographed mine and hundreds of others, even though he’d recently broken his wrist. So many were autographed that the late Sidney (“Sid”) Lipschutz quipped to me facetiously that there might be so few unsigned ones that they might be rare enough so they’d outvalue the signed copies.

I consider RTP’s illustrations in these earlier guides to be the ultimate in capturing the essence of the birds, their gestalt, their stylized, generalized

appearance, and like them better that his more “painterly” birds in his later editions.

Best to all. - Harry Armistead, Philadelphia.

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