Date: 1/31/18 7:42 am
From: Harry Armistead <harryarmistead...>
Subject: [MDBirding] lower Eastern Shore, January 26-28, 2018.
LOWER EASTERN SHORE, January 26-28, 2018. Thousands of fowl. Ferry Neck, southern Dorchester County, Route 481.

My estimates below, those 1,000 or more, are not careful, thorough estimates.

JANUARY 26, FRIDAY. Red-shouldered hawk in Middletown, DE. A d.o.r.skunk Route 301 milepost 110. 75 tundra swans in the “swan field” S of Ruthsburg. A good 2,000 Canada geese in one of the Campers’ fields.

RIGBY’S FOLLY, arrive c. 2:30, fair, low 40s. A pair of adult bald eagles perched in a tree at Edwards Point. Mostly IN the cove: 430 Canada geese, 27 ring-billed gulls, 3 herring gulls. There is still LOTS of SAV (submerged aquatic vegetation) on the cove bottom, but it is only a few inches high. Nevertheless, the geese are actively feeding on it.

Sharp-shinned hawk 1, red-tailed hawk 1, turkey vulture only 1. One gray squirrel. There is a slight icy rim on the extreme east side of Poplar Cove, mostly in the intertidal zone, that receives little or no sun. It’s dried up a lot. The lawn is still firm enough to drive on. Some of the Olszewski family is hunting from the Field 1 blind.

JANUARY 27, SATURDAY. A blitz in Dorchester County, visits to 8 sites = a good scratch for the old Dorchester County itch. The hunting season is lurching to an end. Whole lotta skybustin’ goin’ on. Shooters flush some of birds I wouldn’t see otherwise. 7 A.M. - 5:45 P.M. 142.3 birding miles. Very low tidal waters today; lotsa mud. In a few sheltered places there’s the occasional small pile of old, unmelted snow, and some ice in wooded areas where the ditches don’t get no sun.

CAMBRIDGE. 35-42, clear, SW5-10, low tide, 7-9 A.M., covered from American Legion (upstream side of Malkus Bridge), to Sailwinds Park, the yacht club, Oakley Street, Great Marsh Point, Hambrooks, and Riverside Drive, a pretty thorough look-see, in contrast to somewhat brief coverage of other areas today:

snow goose 3,000 (Talbot side, seen in distance), Canada goose 500 (+ c. 1,500 on Talbot side in distance), tundra swan 5, American wigeon 36, black duck 1, mallard 125, canvasback 2,000, redhead 50, lesser scaup 550 (I always have the dickens of a time finding greater scaup hereabouts), surf scoter 0, bufflehead 60, common goldeneye 30, duck unIDd c. 1,000 way over on the Talbot side, double-crested cormorant 3 (on the bridge abutments), great blue heron 1, turkey vulture 1, bald eagle 1 immature, ring-billed gull 300, herring gull 75, unIDd, distant, flying gulls 600, great black-backed gull 0, rock pigeon 4, flicker 1, fish crow 2, starling 55, junco 9, red-winged blackbird 2, and, gray squirrel 10, the latter my personal best for Cambridge yard ‘poohs.

EGYPT ROAD. northern harrier 1, tundra swan 70, Canada goose 600, horned lark 1.

BLACKWATER N.W.R. Asterisks, *, are for birds I didn’t count, but included as the refuge official count January 18, probably similar to what is present today. Similar. But their count of blue geese was only 300; I did a pretty careful count, by tens, today and came up with 520, just like old times. 48, SW15-20, fair, tidal waters really low, fresh water high, 9:15-noonish. Lot of visitation today. The snow geese a spectacle.

snow (white) goose 2,801*, blue goose 520 (tried to do a careful count of blues), Canada goose 6,995*, tundra swan 450 (48*), gadwall 1 male (Pool 1), black duck 8 (64*), mallard 1,530*, shoveler 30 (2*), pintail 580*, green-winged teal 6 (0*), ring-necked duck 12 (70*), bufflehead 2 (0*), hooded merganser 6 (0*), common merganser 30 (156*), AMERICAN WHITE PELICAN 12 (resting to the south, close, on the mud as seen from Wildlife Drive Pool 3), great blue heron 2 (10*), GOLDEN EAGLE 1 immature (harassing an adult bald eagle as seen from Sewards c. 9:30 A.M.), turkey vulture 10, bald eagle 29, northern harrier 2, shorebirds 0 (0*), ring-billed gull 150, herring gull 3, and fish crow 4.

SWAN HARBOR - BAYVIEW DRIVE. 12:15-12:45, 48, SW15, low tide and letting out more, fair. sanderling 20 (1 small group flushed by a sharp-shinned hawk), dunlin 95, tundra swan 560 (most distant and to the south), Canada goose 1,600 (likewise), surf scoter 90, bufflehead 14, and common goldeneye 4 but no bald eagles. Not many gulls.

HOOPER’S ISLAND. 1-2:30, 43-51 degrees F. Disappointing. Was hoping for a big redhead flock or two, but, none seen. Bleak. Canada goose 60, tundra swan 75, mallard 20, lesser scaup 70, long-tailed duck 1 male, bufflehead 115, common goldeneye 10, common loon 0, horned grebe 0 (this is usually a good place for these last 2 even in mid-winter, but the cold spell must have driven them south), bald eagle 0, great blue heron 0, kingfisher 0. Unusual: a d.o.r. large red fox on the south side of the causeway, just south of Narrows Ferry Bridge. Real low tidal waters.

Didn’t see THAT much more today than on January 12, when the visibility was 100 yards or less, most everything ‘bout near froze up, too. Stop as on Jan. 12 for the delicious soup at Hooper’s Island General Store (big limas, chunks of ham, corn & dumplings) and purchase Great storms of the Chesapeake by David Healey (History Press, 2012, 158 pages, $19.99). Has a Cecil County bias but a great book anyway. The store a surprising locale in which to find literature.

TRANSQUAKING RIVER (BESTPITCH), Griffith Neck Road side. 55 degrees F., SW20, 3 P.M. The low open area, favored by green-winged teal (but not today) on the south side empty, nice and muddy, but no water or shorebirds either. ring-billed gull 180, herring gull 17, turkey vulture 63 (as with those at Lewis Wharf, getting ready, one supposes, to roost), northern harrier 1, bald eagle 6, eastern bluebird 6, hairy woodpecker 1, no ducks at all.

LEWIS WHARF ROAD. 3:30 P.M., clear, 57, SW20, Nanticoke River real low, clouds overspreading from the west. turkey vulture 39, bald eagle 2, black duck 2, great black-backed gull 1 adult, black vulture 2, ring-billed gull 1, red-winged blackbird 42 (38 females, 4 males). Sometimes LOW numbers of some species may be worth noting.

ELLIOTT ISLAND ROAD. 3:45-5:45 P.M., 55 dropping to 44 degrees, becoming mostly overcast, SW20, VERY low tide, LOTS of mud, tide starting to make up some at the end. One moth after dusk, the only one all day (and night). 2 regular deer, 3 sika deer (1 a nice stag).

Canada goose 35, tundra swan 0, black duck 26, mallard 1 male, canvasback 2,200 (in Fishing Bay where the road first goes out, west, to the edge of upper F.B., the usual place), lesser scaup 200, bufflehead 36, ruddy duck 200, great blue heron 6, turkey vulture 8, bald eagle only 6,, northern harrier 6, greater yellowlegs 10, ring-billed gull 95, herring gull 4, short-eared owl 1, and red-winged blackbird 80. Disappointing the see just one owl, and that one distant and briefly. Green-winged teal 0.

After such an energetic day it is usually a struggle to make the 60 miles back in the darkness to Rigby’s Folly and collapse. But today is Mozart’s birthday; one of the stations plays his 25th piano concerto plus a couple of movements of his Jupiter (no. 41) symphony. But not enough of an “NPR moment” for me to linger in the yard to hear the last 2. I’m tired.

That concerto … I’m somewhat of a Philistine, presumptuous perhaps, but I may be able to occasionally recognize brilliance, and I’d say that concerto qualifies, big time. Makes the drive easy. During the day nice to listen between stops to 89.5, 90.9, and/or 91.5 (WJBC Baltimore). Dyana Neal, the mid-day announcer for WJBC, has a voice, sense of timing, and emphasis so that if she only read the phone directory it would be a pleasure to listen to. She rocks. DON’T retire Dyana.

JANUARY 28, SUNDAY. Overcast, steady but light rain, warm, fog, light winds. Just overnight with the rain the place has become a swamp. Five gray squirrels at the feed. Leave at 7:49 A.M. Another GRSQ near Jeff Trainor’s A-frame house. South of Route 33 (west of Easton) near Town & Country a group of 37 wild turkeys at 8:19, the most I’ve seen there; one of their favorite fields (but if I remember someone once saw a group of 98 on the St. Michaels Christmas Bird Count). Breakfast at Denny’s again; my waitress the daughter of a clammer who worked out of Matapeake. Two Gray Squirrels at Cordova. Strangely, no Canada geese in ANY of the fields … so far.

An adult bald eagle perched above its nest in the sycamore near routes 404 X 481. 95 tundra swans in the distant pond west of there and 225 Canada geese (CG) in an adjacent field. Elsewhere along Route 481, 1 American kestrel; c. 2,300 snow geese plus 23 blue geese, 8 tundra swans, and 7 ring-billed gulls 1.3 mi. S of routes 481 X 304; 230 blackbirds (65% starlings, 30% red-winged blackbirds & 5% common grackles) a bit farther north; at 9:57 another blackbird flock, 230 (95% female red-winged blackbirds with a very few cowbirds and grackles the remainder) just S of the juncture of 481 & 301.

Route 301. Milepost 102, 300 CGs; milepost 105 100 CGs; milepost 120 125 CGs. At MIddletown, DE, only 2 fish crows, 75 CGs. Along Route 495 in DE northbound at miles 0.5 and 9.5 single bald eagles at their respective nests, both on the right side. Along the Blue Route (I-476) in Pennsylvania an aseasonal d.o.r. WOODCHUCK, a fat one.

With some frequency I see roadkill ‘chucks weeks before they usually emerge from hibernation. DON”T rush the season Field Fatties!!! don’t. Often I see them in Philadelphia along Kelly and Lincoln drives, sitting on their haunches, eating grass, sometimes with backs turned to the rush of traffic only 2 or 3 feet behind them. Oblivious.

HOMEMAKER BALD EAGLES. It is nice to see adult bald eagles perched resolutely by 3 of their nests in the steady rain on Sunday as well as three incubating on nests in Dorchester County on Saturday. The first eggs should be in the nests by now. The only eagles I have ever seen that could be considered cute have been in such circumstances. Forgive such wishy-washy sentimental thoughts.

NOTES FROM A WOULD-BE, curmudgeonly, EDITOR. The classic style table of contents seems to be going the way of the word “application” … down the tubes. An example: the contents pages of Chesapeake Bay magazine, Jan./Feb. 2017 issue. What the contents are is displayed on pages 5-6 and has 11 components: 5 photographs, a color sketch, a map, and 4 lists. Attractive visually, but I prefer a straight-through list. Have to look all over Robin Hood’s barn to find out what’s inside. Back and forth from the map to the photographs, lists. Interspersed with what’s on p. 6 is advertising.

Picked up a freebee on Saturday: Maryland hunting quarterly, Winter, 2017, 60 pages. Interesting advertising. Good article on sika deer. Maryland’s animals and Chincoteague’s ancestors all derive from Japan’s Yakushima Island. Research by the U. of Delaware is summarized. Sikas’ choices of browsing are more varied, and therefore more to their advantage, than those of white-tailed deer (pp. 54-56). Pages 31-35, “Migratory game bird hunting rules & regulations” detail 58 dos, don’ts, and definitions, but say nothing about the size of bag limits or the dates of the various hunting seasons.

Best to all. - Harry Armistead, Philadelphia.

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