Date: 4/5/17 1:03 pm
From: Harry Armistead <harryarmistead...>
Subject: [MDBirding] Bestpitch, Elliott I. Road, Blackwater & environs, Ferry Neck, April 1-4, 2017.
BESTPITCH, ELLIOTT ISLAND ROAD, CAMBRIDGE, BLACKWATER, EGYPT ROAD, ROUTE 481 & FERRY NECK, APRIL 1-4, 2017. especially Bonaparte’s Gulls, gannets, turkeys.


APRIL 1, SATURDAY. A Woodchuck S of Wilmington on the W side of Route 1, my FURst (sic) of the year. ROUTE 481, 3.2 mi. N of the junction of routes 481 & 309 a flight of gulls all heading SW including a remarkable (for this inland locality) 120 BONAPARTE’S GULLS plus 185 Laughing and 280 Ring-billed gulls, these at c. 4:44 P.M. Also here or nearby: 3 Bald Eagles, 11 Turkey Vultures, and a Red-tailed Hawk: NW15+, 52 degrees F., overcast. A little farther along an adult Bald Eagle is in the sycamore nest.


C. 1/3 mi. N of routes 309 X 404 in a field are 210 Laughing and 45 Ring-billed gulls at 5 P.M. DEER SURVEY between John Swaine’s and to (including) Rigby’s Folly, 5:46-6:06 P.M.: in John Swaine’s field 25 (incl. just 1 buck; he’s got a good thing going), 15 N of Bellevue Road at its junction with Ferry Neck Road, 11 deer in a field next to Frog Hollow (plus one Bald Eagle), 10 in our Field 4 (plus a Gray Squirrel), and 4 in Field 2 plus 10 Wild Turkeys in Field 5 and a Great Blue Heron in Field 7. The deer grand total is thus: 65.


RIGBY’S FOLLY: ARRIVE AT 6:06 P.M. A male Osprey is on our nesting platform. Last year this nest failed. Lawn has been mowed for the 1st time. 1” in the rain gauge. Overcast, 56, NW15, cold, plenty of ground water … good. Clearing in the W towards sunset.


APRIL 2, SUNDAY. In DORCHESTER COUNTY all day. Over the Cambridge Wawa at bird thirty A.M. a Bald Eagle. S of Linkwood from Route 50 a field with 100 Laughing and 40 Ring-billed gulls at 7:04. And S of where the Chicamacomico River crosses Route 50 another field with 7 Bald Eagles and 18 Turkey Vultures, 7:13.


ELLIOTT ISLAND ROAD, the whole ten yards, from Vienna S to the 2 bifurcated ends. 7:30 - 1. Clear, 44-56, NW10, high tide, too high for my tastes, but subsiding with, mercifully, some mud at the finish. A sort of in between time of year, too early for the signature marsh nesters such as Marsh Wren, Willet & Seaside Sparrow, too late for some waterfowl, esp. swans. I have with me 2 students from Tom Horton’s Chesapeake Topics class at Salisbury University: Ryan Muir and Peter Soldano. Our complete list (a few of these seen before or after my time with Ryan and Peter):


Canada goose 6, American black duck 10, mallard 4, green-winged teal 32, canvasback 4 (compare with 3,625 back on March 6), bufflehead 26, red-breasted merganser 12, ruddy duck 60, common loon 2, double-crested cormorant 8, NORTHERN GANNET 6 (seen at great distance with the 32X scope from McCready’s Creek marina), great blue heron only 3, snowy egret 4, turkey vulture 30, osprey 22 (several males skydancing, carrying fish), bald eagle 21 (6 nests seen), northern harrier 5 (incl. a sub-adult male seen to carry nesting material twice and drop into the dense Juncus roemerianus marsh near the “moorhen spot”), red-tailed hawk 2, American kestrel 1, clapper rail 2, Virginia rail 4, common gallinule 0, killdeer 1, greater yellowlegs 14, dunlin 130 (3 separate flocks), Wilson’s snipe 3,


BONAPARTE’S GULL 120 (seen from the Vienna launching ramp dipping and skimming over Nanticoke River c. 1/3 mile downstream; the most I’ve ever seen in the county), laughing gull 20, ring-billed gull 30, Forster’s tern 8 (not quite in fully-developed breeding plumage), rock pigeon 8, mourning dove 10, belted kingfisher 0, northern flicker 1, blue jay 1, American crow 12, fish crow 6, tree swallow 12, brown creeper 1 (a surprise; working an ornamental tree right in Vienna),


Carolina wren 4, eastern bluebird 2, American robin 30, northern mockingbird 5, European starling 40, pine warbler 1 (singing all the way down in the pine woods at Fishing Point), Savannah sparrow 1, slate-colored junco 1, northern cardinal 3, red-winged blackbird 200, eastern meadowlark 3, common grackle 70, boat-tailed grackle 3 males (McCready’s Creek), house finch 2 (Vienna), and house sparrow 6.


NON-AVIAN TAXA: 1 Red Fox right in Elliott village; another d.o.r., requiescat in pavement, on Lewis Wharf Road attended by 5 or 6 Turkey Vultures. Three Gray Squirrels in Vienna. Four Painted Turtles in a little pond on the N side of the rough road in to Langrells Island. Butterflies: 1 American Lady, 2 Cabbage Whites, 6 sulphurs (assumed to be Orange Sulphurs ?).


BESTPITCH, TRANSQUAKING RIVER area 1-2 P.M.: Bald Eagle 6, Turkey Vulture 33, Red-tailed Hawk 2, Northern Harrier 3, Mallard 2, American Wigeon 4, Green-winged Teal 10, Greater Yellowlegs 5, Lesser Yellowlegs 3, SOLITARY SANDPIPER 1 and a Sika Deer d.o.r. Clear, 56, NW10, tide high but falling, exposing some mud at last. Painted Turtle 1.


BLACKWATER N.W.R., 2:30-5, clear, NW10, 47-49. Complete list: snow goose 3 (2 ad., 1 imm.), Canada goose 10, tundra swan 1 adult, gadwall 24 (Pool 1), American wigeon 4 (Pool 1), American black duck 6, mallard 40, northern shoveler 140, green-winged teal 95, ring-necked duck 40 (Pool 1), double-crested cormorant 6, AMERICAN WHITE PELICAN 40 or so (all the way over on the S side of “Lake Blackwater”),


great blue heron 3, great egret 1, glossy ibis 1, turkey vulture 26, osprey 14 (several skydancing), bald eagle 16 (my lowest total this year here), northern harrier 2, red-tailed hawk 2, Virginia rail 1, American coot 1, greater yellowlegs 6, dunlin 55, laughing gull 20, ring-billed gull 50, Forster’s tern 6, American crow 6, fish crow 4, tree swallow 40, Carolina wren 2, eastern bluebird 4, American robin 10, northern mockingbird 2, European starling 30, song sparrow 2, northern cardinal 1, red-winged blackbird 50, common grackle 30, brown-headed cowbird 2, house sparrow 3.


NON-AVIAN TAXA: A few Cabbage Whites and sulphurs. 26 Painted Turtles, 18 Redbelly Sliders.


EGYPT ROAD: 59 Wild Turkeys incl. 7 pompous, displaying toms, struttin’ ’n’ stridin’, stylin’ ’n’ profilin’, 5:23 P.M.


CAMBRIDGE (Oakley Street and east to east of the old Route 50 bridge). Laughing Gull 3, NORTHERN GANNET 44 (many of them plungediving, some within 100 feet of the new bridge; none seen upstream, on the E side, of the old bridge), Canada Goose 12 incl. 1 on an Osprey nest platform that it has occupied for a couple of weeks), Mallard 14, Canvasback 6 (just 2 males), Horned Grebe 11, Ruddy Duck 130, Surf Scoter 160, Double-crested Cormorant 280 (most in the vicinity of the new bridge), Lesser Scaup 940, Osprey 8, Bufflehead 8, Common Loon 1, Bonaparte’s Gull 5, American Wigeon 0, and hundreds of gulls (many perched on the bridge; mostly ringbilleds).


These all from 5:30-6:45 when it is calm with great light from behind the observers. 58-61, clear. Three Gray Squirrels. On the N side of the bridges (Talbot County side), mostly to the W, are approximately 1,000+ unIDd ducks, probably, mostly Lesser Scaup, but who wants to stop on that bridge and “risk a catastrophe”?


APRIL 3, MONDAY. A day to recover from yesterday’s efforts. Sleep in until 9:25. LUCY POINT,11:45-1:45, fair becoming mostly overcast, 61-66, SW15 (therefore: hard to see any birds sitting in the chop), visibility good otherwise, high tide. Doze a little in the afternoon warmth. Complete list:


NORTHERN GANNET 236 (spectacular plungediving; not a good day to be a herring in the Choptank River mouth, or in a gannet’s mouth), Horned Grebe 13 (by now most are in breeding plumage), Green-winged Teal 5 (flybys; definitely migrating), Bufflehead 30, Herring Gull 1, Bonaparte’s Gull 3, Forster’s Tern 4, Osprey 14, Bald Eagle 3, Turkey Vulture 7, Sharp-shinned Hawk 1, Cooper’s Hawk 1, Common Loon 3, Black Vulture 1, Barn Swallow 1, American Crow 1, Long-tailed Duck 1 male (compare with 6,700 on April 1, 1988), Double-crested Cormorant 3, and, amazingly, Surf Scoter 0 (compare with 3,310 on April 8, 2001, or, 1,710 on April 3, 1999 !!).


Also: One Orange Sulphur. Boats: 2 dredgers, 2 pleasure craft. One of the dredgers is the ‘USS Herndon’, the first time I’ve seen her outfitted as a dredger. There’s interaction between the Bonaparte’s Gulls and the terns with the 3 loons. Hanging out together mostly. Cooperative feeding? The larids make the fishes go down somewhat, the loons make them go up, to everyone’s advantage, presumably.


BELLEVUE, 6:15-6:37 P.M., 59, overcast, S15. Complete list: Northern Gannet 7 (incl. 2 going up the Tred Avon River past the ferry route), Bald Eagle 2, Osprey 4, Forster’s Tern 1, Turkey Vulture 13, Horned Grebe 6, Double-crested Cormorant 1 adult (within the enclosed marina area), Bufflehead 7, Ruddy Duck 1, Great Blue Heron 1, Mallard 2, Herring Gull 1, and American Crow 1. Nearby up PLAINDEALING CREEK: 105 Ruddy Ducks at 6:41 P.M.


DEER: In the 2.7 mi. route between John Swaine’s place and Rigby’s Folly I replicate, 6:38-6:59 P.M., the search for deer done on Saturday (q.v.): At John Swaine’s 1 (field N of Bellevue Road; plus 3 Wild Turkeys), near Heron Point Road 3, at the Campers’ field (east field) 18, and 5 in our Field 4 (plus 6 Wild Turkeys) for a grand total of 27.


A female-plumaged Red-breasted Merganser is in Poplar Cove all day, diving actively. Also, an additional Sharp-shinned Hawk. 2 Spring Azures. Overnight low of 55 degrees F. this morning. No Canada Geese at the old place today.


APRIL 4, TUESDAY. Mostly overcast, 60 at start, SW10. Gray Squirrel 1. Something continues to empty the feeder next to the Magnolia grandiflora at night. All the way from the yard, from the comfort of my car, 45 Northern Gannets are seen, many plungediving. But I gotta leave and do not go to Lucy Point for a complete tally. (Why, oh why, oh why DIDN’T I go?; it would have taken what, 15 minutes at most?; could have been hundreds of gannets; “For all sad words of tongue or pen,/The saddest are these; ‘It might have been’ “ - John Greenleaf Whittier; might have been a thousand?).


This quotation is rather lugubrious in this context. It comprises the ending of An untold story: the Roosevelts of Hyde Park by Elliott Roosevelt (Putnam, 1973) and is certainly poignantly relevant to the problems in the marriage of FDR and Eleanor.


Forster’s Tern 1. A Northern Flicker drills the chimney cap 5 times, loud, a bit off-putting to hear this in our bedroom. No, 0, deer seen along last night’s deer census route. A little bit of rain last night. Leave Rigby’s Folly at 8:15 A.M.


Getaway breakfast at Denny’s. I am able to detect all 7 differences on the 2 place mat illustrations. Wish I’d done this well on the SATs. An immature Bald Eagle over Cordova. Just N of the junction of routes 404 X 309 are 20 Bonaparte’s Gulls and 2 Bald Eagles. Along Route 481: Barn Swallow 2, American Kestrel 1, Cabbage White 2, and 2 sulphurs plus an adult Bald Eagle attending the nest in the sycamore.


NEW JERSEY BLACK RAILS. In New Jersey Audubon, Autumn-Winter 2016-2017, p. 12, “Black Rail survey” by Mike Allen and Nellie Tsipoura. In a 1988 survey Kerlinger and Sutton found Black Rails in 26% of 65 land-based survey sites in southern NJ. Others found them in only 6% of the sites studied there in 2015-2016. “ … researchers along the Atlantic Coast estimated the eastern subspecies … had declined by a worrying 75% between 1989 and 2009.” In 2015-2016, 388 NJ points were investigated and Black Rails found at 28. Considering how they are doing in MD I am surprised they found them in this many places.



VEGETATION: dandelions: spangling some areas by the thousands with a lot gone to seed, good for goldfinches and Bobolinks. shad bush: blooming at full speed, the first ones over a week ago. daffodils: starting to fade. mustard: going great guns in the fields and road shoulders. skunk cabbage: finally busting out in low areas along Route 301. forsythia: has been fading for a while. In Philadelphia our volunteer peach tree is in full blast, as is the andromeda, attracting bees.


SIGNS, the song of the open road: “Be prepare (sic) to stop”. I be prepare. “Not trash” next to the windshield cleaner wells at the Middletown Wawa. East of Cambridge on Route 50 a tire place has the slogan: “This is the best place to take a leak.” There are signs declaring this is Work Zone Safety Month; their slogan is “We have families, too.” There are also many signs saying “End road work”, possibly a source of confusion to those thinking it means to abolish road work. I wish I had invented orange and white barrels, road cones, and concrete Jersey blocks.


Denny’s has some good slogans on its takeout bags: “A diner booth is the world’s smallest neighborhood”, “A diner is a restaurant with an untucked shirt”, “A diner is the original social network”, “Great food with a side of conversation”. I worry about the Easton Denny’s that is underpatronized. The Cambridge Denny’s is often crowded.


FIELD MARSHAL 1st VISCOUNT LORD ALANBROOKE (1883-1963). His 2 names are for some reason run together in his later life. Whatever. Known in his earlier life as simply Sir Alan Francis Brooke. A birder of prominence. Chief of the Imperial General Staff. In that capacity I cannot imagine he did much KP. “Hey, Field Marshal, you messed up big time cleaning the trays. Drop and give me 40; start pushing a little Crimea away. When I say jump, ask how high on the way up.” He was an important, contributing presence in the great Yalta WWII conference.


Although he didn’t exactly goof off on company time, he did spend some of the conference birding. From the Guns at last light by Rick Atkinson (p. 509, Henry Holt, 2013, 877pp.): “Yalta, the Prime Minister (Churchill) would harrumph, was surely ‘the Riviera of Hades’. Perhaps only Brooke was happy: ‘I picked up a great northern diver [common loon], scoters, cormorants, and many gulls and diving ducks,’ he told his diary. ‘And also dolphins feeding on shoals of fish.’ “ Bill Burt tells me that Brooke was an important, pioneering bird photographer.


Best to all. - Harry Armistead, Philadelphia.

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