Date: 2/12/18 11:04 am
From: Harry Armistead <harryarmistead...>
Subject: [MDBirding] lower Eastern Shore, February 8-10, 2018. 68 white pelicans.
FERRY NECK, ELLIOTT ISLAND ROAD, BLACKWATER N.W.R., CAMBRIDGE, FEBRUARY 8-10, 2018. big white birds, incl. 68 white pelicans. Boy … are THEY big! Humongous even.

FEBRUARY 8, THURSDAY. Adult bald eagle at its nest, Route 485, S of Wilmington, DE, mile 0.5. On the S side of Middletown, DE, a red-shouldered hawk on a wire (will see one, same place Feb. 10). Route 481, Queen Annes County, MD, eastern bluebird 2, American kestrel 1. Route 309 just N of Route 404, 220 tundra swans and 27 horned larks (a flock) on one side, 215 tundra swans on t’other, all grazing in fields. John Swaine’s farm: 275 Canada geese in one field, 75 in another.

RIGBY’S FOLLY: arrive 2:40 P.M., fair, NW15, 33 degrees F., lots of surface water, low tide at 5:33 P.M. with exposed mud extending out 20’ from the shoreline at the base of our dock. In Woods 4 a gray squirrel next to its drey in a loblolly pine. In Field 6: 500 Canada geese, in Field 4 275 CGs. Two gray squirrels in the yard including “snowshoes” (white paws and legs) and along the drive next to Field 4, 3 more squirrels, including one with the same pelage patterns as “snowshoes”, so … there is a guild of gray squirrels with these atypical markings.

Near Field 4: 4 deer (does) and 6 wild turkeys. The turkeys flush in labored, ponderous flight, taking off and flying up at a 45 degree angle. Out at Lucy Point 4:15-4:45 P.M.: tundra swan 101, actively feeding on SAV, in company with 475 Canada geese that aren’t, perhaps because the SAV is too deep for them to reach. Also: horned grebe 2 and bufflehead 40. Ben Weems comes over and delivers copies of Times literary supplement and New York review of books, that he’s finished with.

FEBRUARY 9, FRIDAY. The nice waitress at Denny’s: “Haven’t seen you in a while.” She’s the one whose father was a soft clam dredger out of Matapeake. She’s never heard of Elliott Island, but the marvelous hash browns take some of the sting out of that.

ELLIOTT ISLAND ROAD, mostly the big marsh segment, 7:45 A.M. - 2:15 P.M., 27-38, then 41, then up to 45, S5-15, eventually 20, high tide becoming low, hazy, mostly overcast, but with wan sunshine, skim ice in ditches, puddles, fields, protected areas. Just take my time today, could care less if I miss hermit thrush or flicker, or other basic landbirds. Some respectable numbers of expected species. 43 species.

respectable numbers: American black duck 252 (mostly at the Moorhen spot), canvasback 1,750 (additional 800 or so ducks in distant flight over the Nanticoke, perhaps 2 mies away, probably cans, too. ?), ruddy duck 950, great blue heron 22, bald eagle 36 (including 2 seen through the trusty old 32X scope a few miles away way over on the other side of Fishing Bay near the mouth of Blackwater River in a courtship chase), northern harrier 13, greater yellowlegs 41 (at the Moorhen Spot), Carolina chickadee 11 (mostly at Langrell’s Island).

unrespectable numbers, not disgraceful, but unimpressive, to say the least. Face it, this is still a bleak time of year: tundra swan 0, lesser scaup 6, hooded merganser 2 females, Virginia rail 2, blue jay 1, brown-headed nuthatch 1 (Langrell’s Island), American robin 1, myrtle warbler 4, cardinal 1, boat-tailed grackle 1 male.

From McCready’s Creek, 8 oyster dredgers (I think they’re called patent tongers) in sight plus 2 more in the marina there unloading. A gray squirrel dead on the road shoulder, killed today, near the entrance to Weston Farms. 4 deer. Lots of marsh fires, at least 13 separate areas, some right next to the road with the shoulder grasses burning, and areas with Phragmites and Spartina cynosuroides have flames leaping as high as, oh, I’d say 10 feet. When the fires go through marsh there is gray smoke, when through hammocks white. The fires seem to activate the harriers. Next to Fishing Bay, the area where there are lots of American hackberries, there is some low lying Opuntia cactus.

BUCKTOWN: tundra swan 21 in a field, 2 bluebirds, 1 harrier.

BLACKWATER N.W.R. 3 - 5:15 P.M., weather ain’t changed much from this mornin’. Tidal waters real low, fresh water levels … right up there. Just take it easy and dipsy doodle around here making scant effort to count stuff … except for the white pelicans, blue geese, and common mergs. The refuge did a survey yesterday and their numbers are in parentheses; mine, such as they are, aren’t. The point is: what a difference a day can make. An “X” indicates species I don’t make no effort, none, to estimate. I am tired, but not in the same way, rest assured, as Madeline Kahn in ‘Blazing saddles’.

AMERICAN WHITE PELICAN 68 (26) (in 3 groups as seen from Wildlife Drive X Pool 3, some of them in ponderous flight), blue geese 160 (550), common merganser 610 (1,037) (the ones I see are from the Route 335 X Blackwater River bridge, many real close, actively diving), American wigeon 2 (0), northern shoveler 8 (21), snow goose (whities) X (3,700), Canada goose X (6,353), mallard X (2,193), northern pintail 0 (2,085), ring-necked duck 65 (105; they favor Pool 1), tundra swan X (just 39), American coot 2.

I think the official refuge count covers a slightly different area than just Wildlife Drive. Their count results are in the 3-ring binder at the Visitor Center in back of where visitors write in what they’ve supposedly seen. Always worth a gander.

COUNTING WHITE PELICANS. Often, although huge, they clump together so close it is hard to figure out how many there are. One can see little crests on top of their heads sometimes when not much anything

else of some of the birds is visible. I try counting these crests in the mostly obscured birds. Even so I often get a different figure each time. I go with my highest count and even then think I may have missed one or two.

When they fly then a really accurate count is possible. Most of the time at Blackwater they’re just sitting there. Occasionally they are spread out as they feed and hunt dipping their bills in the water. I think the all-time high count for the refuge is 145 by Paul Baicich. I can remember when the all-time number of records for MD (and VA) was only 3 each … ever. Their breeding range has extended east a bit and now includes Wisconsin.

At Denny’s, where I like to finish a vigorous day with their country fried steak covered with delicious white gravy, and garlic bread, I’m sitting absorbed in today’s Washington Post, when Henry Gootee of Gootee’s Marine spots me, comes over to say hi. We talk a while and I go say hi to the Missus. Henry took such good care of my boat, ‘the Mudhen’ for many years. A real gentleman. I sold the boat in 2016 and am in need of a boater to now take me to the Dorchester islands, or, what’s left of them.

On the way back to the house a red fox along the side of Route 329 near Royal Oak in the darkness.

FEBRUARY 10, SATURDAY. Leave Rigby’s Folly at 7:23. Eight gray squirrels: 4 in the yard at the feed, 2 by the bend of the driveway (chasing each other; it’s better to be chased than unchased), 1 next to Field 2, another Field 4. The tempfurature, ofurcast skies, relative poohmidity, and, with apologies to Anna Stunkel, the scampermetric pressure, must have been aligned just right - a harmonic convergence - to result in seeing this many of the little things in so short a period of time. Forsooth. (fursooth?)

CAMBRIDGE, 8:30-12:30, calm, 44-49, overcast, sprinkles begin at 11:15, then at the end steady rain. fog developing, and winds beginning to come from the SE at 5+ m.p.h. But, generally excellent conditions. Run into Mike Walsh and his group of the Tri-County Bird Club. There is also a group from Montgomery County. I visit 8 places, in the order visited: Sailwinds Park, the base of High Street-Long Wharf Park, the yacht club, Oakley Street, Great Marsh Point, Hambrooks Bay, Riverside Drive, and finally the American Legion (upstream side of Malkus Bridge). A good, slow look-see. 32 species, complete list:

snow goose 3,000 mas o menos (on Talbot side of Choptank River), Canada goose 116, tundra swan 0, American wigeon 40, American black duck 0, mallard 62, canvasback 563, redhead 1 male, canvasback X redhead hybrid (I think) 1 male, lesser scaup 855, surf scoter 41, white-winged scoter 6, long-tailed duck 24, bufflehead 145, common goldeneye 48, common merganser 17 (high altitude flybys), ruddy duck 0,

horned grebe 4, double-crested cormorant 2, great blue heron 1 (in full nuptial plumage), turkey vulture 1, bald eagle 1 adult (perched RIGHT NEXT TO a house, in a cypress, by the pond at Chelsea Drive), Cooper’s hawk 1 (views on 3 occasions, flying and perched), American coot 2, ring-billed gull 445, herring gull 150, great black-backed gull 11 (most gulls sitting on the old bridge span; these numbers probably too low), fish crow 1, American robin 9, northern mockingbird 2, European starling 160, song sparrow 3, slate-colored junco 3, and common grackle 6 plus 3 gray squirrels.

THE HYBRID. Perhaps the same bird present a year ago. Looks like a typical male redhead, but the sides are almost white, not gray, the profile is slightly more canvasback-like, the whitish ring on the bill looks like a redhead’s, is neat, not larger as it would be for a Common Pochard, which for a while is what it was thought it might be a year ago.

[mostly off topic] SUPER BOWL. As mentioned above, nice to see an eagle at its nest as I motored south while the Philadelphia Eagles victory parade was going on elsewhere. Our 3 children, 3 grandchildren, their friends, and others we know were all there for the parade, carefully, painstakingly, estimated by a team of crowd experts of Manchester Metropolitan University at 700,000, on a very cold, windy day.

Philadelphia’s population was 1,556,600 in 2013, but of course many came from the suburbs and elsewhere. The 5-county PA metropolitan area combined with the city has c. 4,000,000 folks. Then there’s several million (?) more from nearby NJ counties. So, perhaps 1 person in 9, or more, from this area were there.

Good turnout, eh? Liz and I watched the Super Bowl at Mary’s place with her 2 boys. Mary has an official Eagles sweatshirt with Jay Ajayi’s name, 86, a black running back with dreadlocks from, where else?, Great Britain. When the game was over Mary broke out her champagne.

After a few minutes she and I took to nearby Market Street, with some of the champagne, to see the celebrations. Fun giving high fives to lots of strangers, hear the shouting and dancing, and see victory riders going by, honking like crazy, some in a red convertible flying big flags.

A Bald Eagle, a beautiful adult named “Challenger”, 28 years old, is flown sometimes at the games, has appeared in the World Series. Challenger, named to commemorate the tragic space shot, is a rescue, lost from a Louisiana nest in 1990, has appeared at some 350 public events. There are at least 2 Bald Eagle nests within the city limits.

Sometimes I feel the game MVP should be from the losing team. Patriot’s quarterback Tom Brady threw for an incredible 505 yards. But after the game neither he nor coach Belichick went over to congratulate their Eagles counterparts.

Massive gatherings I have been to include one of the Flyers’ victory parades and the gargantuan 1969 anti-Vietnam War demonstration in Washington, where, in the midst of crowds as far as one could see, including the entire Cleveland Orchestra, I saw a Brown Creeper working its way up a tree in the Mall. I regret missing the Eagles’ victory parade.

What made this so special were the second stringers stepping up after 7 or 8 key players were injured during the course of the season, enabling the Eagles to end with a 16-3 record. That’s a deep bench, although at the time no one really expected it. The prejudices were that the Eagles were mostly has beens, not yets, and the injured.

But they beat the best. And the parade went off well. This team doesn’t have a great hot dog, huge egos, arrogance rating. Nice to see such players excel. The game MVP quarterback, Nick Foles, wants to become a minister.

In the playoffs the Eagles beat the Falcons in what I call the Raptor Bowl. Ted Turner, of Georgia, is environmentally friendly, I suppose is responsible for variously naming Atlanta’s sports teams, the Falcons, the Hawks, and the Thrashers. Then there are (or in some cases have been) the Sea Hawks, Orioles, Cardinals, Mighty Ducks, Raptors, Red Wings, Blue Jays, Pelicans, Penguins, Black Hawks, Delmarva Shorebirds, Rufous-browed Peppershrikes (just kidding) et al. It doesn’t hurt our advocating birds to have pro sports teams named for them.

Best to all. - Harry Armistead, Philadelphia.

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