Date: 4/19/17 2:20 pm
From: Harry Armistead <harryarmistead...>
Subject: [MDBirding] Ferry Neck & Dorchester County, April 11-17, 2017.
FERRY NECK & DORCHESTER COUNTY (Hurlock, Cambridge, Egypt Road, Blackwater), APRIL 11-17, 2017. Liz & Harry Armistead. Loblolly Pine pollen covers everything. Trees seem a couple of weeks ahead of schedule.


DEDICATION. These notes are dedicated to the memory of Chandler S. Robbins, 98 (1918-2017), ornithologist extraordinaire, champion bander, author, and lecturer, who pioneered the North American Breeding Bird Survey (now in its 51st year), state atlassing, and other standardized bird surveys that reveal trends in continental bird populations to a level never achieved previously. See also comments under April 15.


FLICKER HEARD FROM. Several mornings, early, a flicker drills on the metal cap of the west chimney. Heard from our bed, it sounds remarkably like a telephone ringing. “The chimney is ringing. Would you mind answering it, Dear? Probably just another flicker robo call.”


BELLEVUE BUZZARDS. Sounds like a Triple A team, but refers to Black Vultures that breed again in the old barn of Megan Greene and Chris Berg, several years running. They’re back this year with 2 eggs laid sometime in early April.


CHOPTANK RIVER BLUES. If it could sing, what would come out of the Mouth of the Choptank River might be an old-time blues phrase: “If you don’t think I’m sinkin’ just look what a hole I’m in.” Here are some counts from there of past Aprils with my highs of this April’s 7 visits in parentheses. Furthermore, bear in mind, these older counts were the result of shorter visits than in recent years, the latter usually lasting more than one hour. The following counts aren’t necessarily the highest ever for here in the spring.


Horned Grebe 383, April 19, 1980 (24); Common Loon 40, April 20, 1984 (14); Lesser Scaup 225, April 4, 1993 (0); Long-tailed Duck 6,700, April 1, 1988 (0); Bufflehead 600, April 11, 1992 (30); Laughing Gull 55, April 9, 1993 (3); Herring Gull 620, April 7, 2002 (7); Surf Scoter 2,560, April 13, 1990 (660); Red-breasted Merganser 75, April 17, 1966 (0); Bonaparte’s Gull 30, April 5, 1980 (4); Canvasback 330, April 1, 2001 (0); Common Goldeneye, no significant April counts but 135 on March 29, 1987 (0); Ruddy Duck 300, April 2. 1999 (0).


However, two bright spots are record numbers of Redheads here (up to 1,130) and Northern Gannets (as many as 445). Irish Creek is even more dead than the Choptank.


BALD EAGLE NEST just SE of the S junction of I-95 and I-495 S of Wilmington, in a deciduous tree close to the Russell W. Peterson natural area. An adult eagle is seen each time we pass, April 11 and April 17. Another nest in the Sycamore along Route 481, Queen Annes County, MD, has an attendant adult April 11.


APRIL 11, TUESDAY. Arrive at the family place, Rigby’s Folly, Ferry Neck, Talbot County, MD, at 3:45 P.M. Eleven deer and 2 Wild Turkeys in Field 4. The lawn has been mowed today. Go out to LUCY POINT soon afterwards, 4:32-5:55, clear, 82-86, SW5, visibility O.K. but haze cuts in at about 1 mile, but viz improving during the stay, high tide and rising. Big wrack of Loblolly Pine pollen next to the rip rap. Horned Grebe 24, Northern Gannet 2, Osprey 4, Turkey Vulture 2, Bufflehead 18, Great Blue Heron 1, Common Loon 1, Ring-billed 1, Herring 1 & Laughing 3 gulls, Forster’s Tern 2, and American Crow 2. No cormorants, geese, or Diamondback Terrapin. Two boats.


DEER CENSUS. In the stretch from Deep Neck X Ferry Neck roads to Rigby’s Folly. 6:45-7:22 P.M. FNR X Bellevue roads, 2 does in field to SE. John Swaine’s NW field, 7 does & 2 Wild Turkeys. In John’s S field: 16 does. In Campers’ NE field 17 does. In our Field 4 ten does & 7 Wild Turkeys (2 of them Toms). Grand Total: 52 deer.


8:45 P.M. Full moon rising over Woods 1 with a Spring Peeper calling in that direction plus numerous Fowler’s Toads also sounding off. Orion in the western sky. 0.2” in the rain gauge. Has dried up some since last visit.


APRIL 12, WEDNESDAY. 64-83, calm in P.M., fair. LUCY POINT, 10:30-11:30, 73, viz O.K., NW5 increasing to 10+, hazy: Bufflehead 26, Common Loon 4, Bald Eagle 3, Osprey 8, Red-tailed Hawk 1, gulls none, Double-crested Cormorant 23, Horned Grebe 8, Forster’s Tern 1, Turkey Vulture 9, and Barn Swallow 3 plus 1 sulphur and a Tiger Swallowtail. 4 boats and 1 large dredge.


There is a CAROLINA WREN NEST with 2 eggs in the fold of our folding, canvas-type, “director’s chair”, the previous earliest date for eggs of this species here being April 14. Other quixotic nests of this wren (are there any other kind?) were in a bike’s basket in the garage, on top of the front door sill, inside the top of a silvery Propane gas tank, in the transom of my boat, nestled among some flowers in a planter on the ground, and, my favorite, inside my right hand white waterman’s boot that was standing upright.


At the mouth of Poplar Cove: 43 Diamondback Terrapin, FOY. Bald Eagle, 8, a good count, even these days. Osprey 20, Gray Squirrel 4. A Muskrat swims under the dock while I’m out at the end. American Lady 2. 6 sulphurs. FOY Snowy Egret. Thousands of Periwinkles on the muddy margins of Poplar Cove. Get my first tick of the year, right ankle. A White-footed Mouse has been trapped in the kitchen, N side. An Osprey chases a Bald Eagle.


A 2nd visit to LUCY POINT, 4:40-5:10, 83, dead calm, fair, about the same as in the morning but with 2 Northern Gannets, a Northern Watersnake, 2 Diamondback Terrapin, and an Eastern Cottontail. 2 boats, the big dredge is gone. I almost said “the usual suspects”, an over-used phrase. Was watching ‘Casablanca’ the other day and towards the end Claude Rains says: “Round up the usual suspects.” Perhaps the origin of this phrase, back in 1942. Makes me cringe when I hear it now, but not as much as when I hear anything having to do with much-vaunted Tuscany. Or a seamless interface. (“The usual suspects made a seamless interface into the Tuscan landscape.” ugh!). Rabbits become SO tame in the spring I bet I could catch one with a dip net.


APRIL 13, THURSDAY. In DORCHESTER COUNTY. HURLOCK WASTEWATER TREATMENT PLANT, 7:45-9:15, clear, NW 10-15, 54-57, complete list: MUTE SWAN 1 female, Tundra Swan 2 adults, Ruddy Duck 150 (exact count), Northern Shoveler 48, American Black Duck 2, Mallard 14, Song Sparrow 3 (2 singing along Ennals Road), Great Blue Heron 2, Lesser Scaup 1 male, Bufflehead 1 female, Canada Goose 9, Red-bellied Woodpecker 2, Carolina Wren 2, Tree Swallow 10, Killdeer 2, YELLOW PALM WARBLER 1 (in top of a tall oak), Laughing Gull 40, Bonaparte’s Gull 13, Field Sparrow 1 (singing, Ennals Road), Mourning Dove 1, Turkey Vulture 20, Horned Lark 1, Chipping Sparrow 1, Northern Mockingbird 2, Common Grackle 8, Bald Eagle 2 (1 ad., 1 imm., low over the cells), Green-winged Teal 6, Ring-billed Gull 11, Red-winged Blackbird 22, Tufted Titmouse 1, Common Grackle 8, American Crow 5, European Starling 16, Greater Yellowlegs 4.


NON-AVIAN TAXA: Southern Leopard Frog 3, Green Frog 1, turtles 24 (probably Redbelly Sliders). Spring Azure 1. Dogwoods are blooming.


CAMBRIDGE, from Hambrooks & Oakley Street to just east of the old bridge, 9:45-10:30: Osprey 16, Song Sparrow 2, Mallard 20, Northern Gannet 2, Lesser Scaup 1 male, Surf Scoter 12, Bald Eagle 2, Canada Goose 12, Double-crested Cormorant 11, Ruddy Duck 66, Great Blue Heron 2, Common Loon 1, Fish Crow 9, Purple Martin 4 (in a martin house out on a dock), American Coot 1 (in the marina). HUGE cruise ship docked: “American Constellation’.


EGYPT ROAD: 11-11:35. Bald Eagle 5, Red-tailed Hawk 1, Common Yellowthroat 4, Tufted Titmouse 4, Wild Turkey 3, Osprey 2, Field Sparrow 7 (all of them singers), and, in the distance, perhaps 3 miles to the east, maybe near Bucktown, a high, circling kettle of 40 AMERICAN WHITE PELICANS. Through binoculars they look dark and I assume they are cormorants, but with the 32X scope can just barely pick out their whiteness. Most impressive.


BLACKWATER N.W.R., 11:35-2:15, NW10+, Fair 63-67, tidal waters low, fresh waters high. Partial list: Snow Goose 1 adult (Pool 1; disabled), Tundra Swan 1 adult (Pool 1), Gadwall 4, American Black Duck 4, Northern Shoveler 54, Green-winged Teal 90, Ring-necked Duck 1 male (Pool 1), Pied-billed Grebe 1 (Pool 1), AMERICAN WHITE PELICAN 13 (10 circling overhead at close range [massive, ponderous, majestic]; 2 on the S side of Blackwater River; 1 nearby, probably the disabled individual), Great Egret 5, Cattle Egret 1 (Pool 5), Osprey 16, Bald Eagle 23, Virginia Rail 1, American Coot 5 (Pool 1), AMERICAN AVOCET 1 (Pool 3), Greater Yellowlegs 6, Lesser Yellowlegs 1, Least Sandpiper 30, Dunlin 70, Caspian Tern 1, Forster’s Tern 4, Tree Swallow 60, Common Yellowthroat 4, Pine Warbler 4.


NON-AVIAN TAXA: Black Swallowtail 1, Clouded Sulphur 3, Snapping Turtle 1, Redbelly Slider 7, Painted Turtle 1 (rescued from the road, Key Wallace Drive), Muskrat 1. At the recently-opened Harriet Tubman center there are over 50 cars. Good visitation the several days I’ve been nearby. Combined with the Egypt Road flock, a grand total of 43 pelicans in the general area.


Back at Rigby’s Folly, LUCY POINT, 6:05-6:50, 65, NE5+, clear, viz excellent, nothing much new: Northern Gannet 6, Surf Scoter 70, Bonaparte’s Gull 1, Double-crested Cormorant 18. The last tree (a pine) on “Cook’s Point Island” is down. It won’t be long until the remaining sod tump washes away. Novelist John Barth writes of Cook’s Point in one of his novels. Otherwise, on the old place: 2 Eastern Cottontails, 3 Gray Squirrels.


APRIL 14, FRIDAY. LUCY POINT: 12:15-1:20: Surf Scoter 660, RED-THROATED LOON 2, Common Loon 14, Bufflehead 22, Northern Gannet 6, Double-crested Cormorant 9, Horned Grebe 16, Bonaparte’s Gull 4, Osprey 14, Cooper’s Hawk 1, Bald Eagle 1, Forster’s Tern 2. Butterflies: American Lady 1, Cabbage White 2, sulphur 6, Spring Azure 1. 6 boats & 1 jet ski. Visibility excellent, high tide falling, 61-65, W5, fair but mostly cloudy, then clearing.


Visitors arrive, daughter Anne, her husband Derek & daughter Alexis; daughter Mary and her sons David and Lucas.


APRIL 15, SATURDAY. Liz and I attend the memorial service for Chan Robbins in Laurel. Talk briefly with Jay Sheppard, John Weske, Jan Reese, Jeff Effinger, Danny Bystrak, Joan & Paul Sykes, Sam Droege, Deanna Dawson, George & Jane Robbins, Woody Martin, and a few others. Joan & Paul came all the way from Georgia yesterday, are returning today. I was surprised, somewhat astonished, really, and greatly flattered, back in 1978 when Chan and Fred Scott recommended me to be the Middle Atlantic Coast Regional Editor of American Birds, after Fred stepped down after 23 years. I don’t know if I was their first choice. I did it 1979-1993, writing c. 265,000 words in aggregate, a great learning experience that enabled me to get to know so many people, and so much about birds of our region.


In this and other respects Chan was a mentor, and much later, also a mentor for George, who accompanied Chan to Campeche. At his memorial service I have never seen so much memorabilia, hundreds of photographs and objects, including Chan’s government-issued, battered, binoculars that he used (the only ones) for 70 years or so.


LUCY POINT, 4:50-5:10, brief visit, a Red Fox runs over the rip rap right in front of me, real close. When I say in a normal, conversational voice “I guess you didn’t even notice me” it does an about face, runs back in the direction it came, and is seen by Anne & Derek about a minute later running down the east edge of Field 1. Northern Gannet 1, Bufflehead 4, Horned Grebe 1, Common Loon 4. 78, fair, SW5, viz good, high tide. Two Cope’s Gray Tree Frogs call, half-heartedly. The Olszewskis are here, tidying up their blind on the W edge of Field 1 and strew a lot of oyster shells from the dock, the random, white pattern of the shells on the cove bottom reminding me of the dappled white of Dogwood blossoms. Two Wild Turkeys in the yard. 71 degrees F. at 8 P.M.


APRIL 16, SUNDAY. Successful Easter egg hunt. Two FOY Chimney Swifts. A pudgy Fowler’s Toad on the front porch steps, my FOY, seen, that is. Cute. LUCY POINT, 9:57-11:37, Northern Gannet 6, Common Loon 3, Bufflehead 4, Forster’s Tern 2, Bonaparte’s Gull 1, Osprey 6, Great Egret 1 (FOY). Butterflies: Spring Azure 1, sulphur 2, Tiger Swallowtail 1, Cabbage White 4. Fourteen boats, opening of rockfish season? Clear, SW5, 71-74, viz good, high tide rising. Doze a little in the sun. The bottom of Poplar Cove is barren, ain’t no trace hardly of the luxuriant SAV present the previous 2 summers. The Ospreys on our nest platform copulate, a 10-second event. I mean, really. Have they no shame? There are 3 young children present.


APRIL 17, MONDAY. 2 adult Red Foxes running out the driveway. 1 deer in Field 4. 2 Gray Squirrels. Leave Rigby’s Folly at 6:34 A.M. Head on over to Fort Smallwood Park in Anne Arundel County, are there 9:40-11:15, but the rain, a cool 60 degrees F., and overcast skies shut down any potential raptor flight. Hob nob with Hal Wierenga and we see: Osprey 12 (hunting not migrating), an adult Bald Eagle, c. 20 migrating rough-winged swallows, Horned Grebe 1, Common Loon 6, Barn Swallow 3, Fish Crow 4, Bufflehead 8, 30 cormorants, and a Caspian Tern. I spot an Orchard Oriole nest left over from last year.


On the way back to PA it is always amusing to pass by Red Toad Road off I-95. Wisteria, viburnum, and lilacs are in full bloom. The oaks are almost past the catkins stage, so popular with warblers, but the lion’s share of warblers are going to miss that this spring.


LOCAL NEWS. I subscribe to the ‘Easton Star Democrat’ mostly to learn local news, although it has good coverage of sports and some syndicated columnists and opinion pieces not found in the ‘Philadelphia Inquirer’. In the March 23 issue, pages A1 & A6, an article ”Kitten rescued from Chesapeake Bay” caught my attention. “A well-known local waterman played the hero”, rescuing a kitten he noticed swimming under the Annapolis bridge March 17. Calvert “Butterball” Thompson, Jr., caught it in a dip net, then placed it with the rescue organization Chesapeake Cats and Dogs. The article has a color photograph of the kitten (snuggling with a lady, Buffy Fox), dubbed Poseidon, or Poe, for short, plus another b&w shot as well as one of rescuer Butterball. The thinking is that someone threw the kitten into the Bay from the bridge.


ITALY’S FIRST GREAT HORNED OWL. Heard calling in Rome on the soundtrack of ‘Gladiator’ that I watched recently, for the 5th time. Neither Joaquin Phoenix nor Connie Nielsen seemed to notice. Early in the movie a European Robin catches Russell Crowe’s eye. It was nice to see how this pleased him.


Best to all. - Harry Armistead, Philadelphia.

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