Date: 3/1/18 10:53 am
From: Harry Armistead <harryarmistead...>
Subject: [MDBirding] lower Eastern Shore, February 18-26, 2018.
LOWER EASTERN SHORE: Ferry Neck, Blackwater N.W.R., Cambridge, Hooper’s Island, Route 481 - FEBRUARY 18-26, 2018. influxes of duckses (since last time). Also of horned grebes & double-crested cormorants. Unless indicated otherwise, sightings are at our stamping grounds, Rigby’s Folly.

SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 18. MIDDLETOWN, DE, 20 fish crows. ROUTE 301, mile 101.5 thirty deer off to the west. Mile 99.3 twenty-two tundra swans. South of RUTHSBURG sixty-five tundra swans in the big fields complex they favor there. Six more in the pond near routes 481 X 404. A d.o.r. skunk and calling New Jersey chorus frogs S of CORDOVA. Look for the pink-footed goose in Caroline County on the way down, to no avail.

RIGBY’S FOLLY. In Field 2: 100 Canada geese plus 230 more in the cove. Out at Lucy Point, 4:45-6:15 a good show, dead calm: canvasback 1,000, bufflehead 1,200, red-breasted merganser 7, long-tailed duck 750, American wigeon 2, bald eagle 2, redhead 14, common loon 3, tundra swan 82, surf scoter 60, horned grebe 17, Canada goose 250, and, the ONLY gulls, 2 herring gulls. Most of these birds far out in the Choptank River mouth and my estimates very general. Only 1 boat in sight. I am in good company; sitting on its haunches, regarding me with its stare for most of this stay, an eastern cottontail at the entrance to its warren under a big brush pile, 50’ away. I just hope that I acquitted myself O.K., in s/his’ estimation.

FEBRUARY 19, MONDAY. Spend time organizing our 2017 tax files. overcast, calm or SE<5, fog developing, visibility sometimes just 200 yards, 42-49 (but 52 at 10:15 P.M.), a little raw, mist but not enough to quality as sprinkles. Look at the eagle nest in our woods from 20 angles but am unable to see any bird in it. There is some small amount of whitewash in the shrubbery underneath the nest. May be that the nest is so deep that an incubating bird is not visible. Three bucks and 3 does in Field 4, running to Field 2.

Doesn’t get much more squirrely ever hereabouts: 11 grays and one fox squirrel (latter on the E side of Field 4). 3 red-breasted mergansers course by just off the end of the dock. Elegant fowl. See a pileated woodpecker in rowing flight from the end of the dock. Lots of surface water. All the vernal pools are full up. In Field 7 The Pond extends across 90% of it. Five northern flickers near the driveway bend, probing in the earth. Three bluebirds in Field 4, a female investigating the nesting box. Micheal O’Brien of the DVOC (not to be confused with the Cape May Michael O’Brien) told me he has found bluebird eggs as early as March 1, I think in NJ. The earliest egg date in the “Yellow Book” is March 12.

FEBRUARY 20, TUESDAY. overcast, fog, 53-68, fair/clear by 11 A.M., S10-15, 61 degrees F. at 10:36 P.M. 11:30-noon from the dock, 310 Canada geese in the cove plus 460 more out on Irish Creek, tundra swan 2, horned grebe 11, bald eagle 1 adult, red-breasted merganser 6, bufflehead 55, black vulture 5, turkey vulture 7, gray squirrel 1, and a flock of 55 RING-NECKED DUCKS flying back and forth, a new property high, looking I guess for some fresh water to land on. Go elsewhere, guys.

Later on a cloud in the perfect silhouette of a gray squirrel sitting on its haunches facing SE. A herring gull dips into the water caching a 6-7” herring (menhaden?), takes it over to the sloping osprey platform on the other side of the cove and starts to eat it; a minute or so later an an adult bald eagle comes by, steals it, takes off with the gull in pursuit, and lands on another osprey platform on the N side of Irish Creek. 5 northern pintails at rest on Irish Creek. Sharp-shinned hawk 1.

Out to Lucy Point again, 2-2:30 P.M., clear but haze cuts in at c. 1-2 miles, sunny, SW10-15, 60-62: REDHEAD 570, tundra swan 88, lesser scaup 6, canvasback 5, bufflehead 30. Doze off a couple of times and when the redheads flush in unison the roar that makes easily wakes me up. How many persons can say they were awakened by redheads? Only one patent tonger in sight but it’s late in the day.

FEBRUARY 21, WEDNESDAY. overcast, fog, becoming fair, then overcast mostly again, then clear, 57-68, 64 at 9 P.M., 61 at 10:19 P.M. Warm, SW10-15. School of small minnows seen from the dock. Locally driveways are called lanes, docks called piers.

From the dock in the morning: red-breasted merganser 1 male, bufflehead 33, lesser scaup 2, ruddy duck 2, killdeer 1, great black-backed gull 1, red-bellied woodpecker 1 female, horned grebe 10, and bald eagle 1 adult. In Field 1 are 310 Canada geese; doesn’t look like there is anything there to eat, but they seem to be finding lots. Gray squirrel 6 in the yard and 5 more along the driveway. In Field 2 are 7 deer (2 of them bucks).

TWILIGHT RAMBLE, 6:17-6:30 P.M., drive real slow with the windows down from the house to Frog Hollow, a crepuscular prowl of just 1 mile. Liz and I hear spring peepers, lots of them, at 7 spots, plus see an eastern screech-owl, an eastern cottontail, a gray squirrel (up very late), a bat, a mouse, and a few moths. Standing water everywhere, good for the peepers. 68-66 degrees F., clear, S10.

FEBRUARY 22, THURSDAY. E10-15, lows 50s falling to mid or low 40s, overcast, raw, some mist, tidal water low, fresh water real high. BLACKWATER N.W.R., 12:45-2:15, not a high-powered visit, but: BLUE GOOSE 1,150, snow goose, oh, maybe 3,000, AMERICAN WHITE PELICAN 68, northern harrier 1, bald eagle 8, lots of pintails and mallards, common merganser 0, a few green-winged teal, a flock of 1,000 combination starlings, cowbirds, common grackles, and red-winged blackbirds, American robin 50. EGYPT ROAD some New Jersey Chorus Frogs calling. ROUTE 33 west of Easton 7 wild turkeys at both 11:15 and 4:15 (usual field across from Town & Country). In one of JOHN SWAINE’S FIELDS: 1,000 Canada geese.

Main goal today is to get driver training for a Pleasant Day bus to be used during the BNWR Eagle Festival on March 17. “Oh, I am a wagon driver, boys, Bill Ely is me name./Year in year out I travel the road at the heavy transport game./I keep me wagon rollin’ boys however tired I feel./I been servin’ up me twenty-one years behind the steerin’ wheel.” - Ewan MacColl truck driving song.

FEBRUARY 23, FRIDAY. 4 gray squirrels, 11 wild turkeys in Field 5, 110 Canada geese in Field 7. TRAVELERS REST, a Red-shouldered hawk. EASTON BYPASS, the field to the west S of Oxford Road, 31 deer (where I once saw over 110 one time).

CAMBRIDGE, 1:25-4:45, a good, long look-see with counts made at 10 places, calm, 44-47, misty, visibility initially 0.5 mi. then after 3 becoming excellent, for miles, overcast. If some totals seem suspiciously exact it’s because they are a combination of exact counts with estimates. For instance, to choose an extreme example, numbers recorded of lesser scaup, 1,409 total, are: 95, 5, 1, 3, 10, 630, 115, 200, 40, 200, 70 and 40. Complete list, 32 species:

snow goose 2,000. blue goose 11. Canada goose 590 (2 appropriate, dominate, an osprey nest platform; have been there for a while). tundra swan 2. American wigeon 40. unIDd ducks (very distant) 1,000. American black duck 0. mallard 80. canvasback 555. redhead 1 male. hybrid duck 1 (see notes below). lesser scaup 1,409. surf scoter 929. long-tailed duck 61. bufflehead 163. common goldeneye 11. red-breasted merganser 0. ruddy duck 3.

red-throated loon 1. common loon 2. horned grebe 2. double-crested cormorant 67. great blue heron 1. bald eagle 1 adult. red-tailed hawk 1 immature. American coot 2. ring-billed gull 105. herring gull 157 (c. 85% adults, and of those majority in immaculate breeding plumage). great black-backed gull 18. gull unIDd 400. rock pigeon 19. mourning dove 4. fish crow 2. American robin 25. northern mockingbird 1. European starling 14. song sparrow 3. common grackle 58.

HYBRID duck. pale blue-gray bill w/ not much of a black tip, but otherwise like a male American wigeon’s. longish black tail, longer than a male AMWI’s. head mostly green but lower sides blackish suffused with dirty white. bill slightly longer than a wigeon’s. folded wings grayish with some whitish towards the back. breast pinkish suffused with rufous. white vertical mark at tail base like a male American wigeon. slightly bigger than a wigeon. gray vermiculated sides (therefore, could a randy male gadwall, notorious for its vermiculation, be part of the mix?;

it’d take a Kortright, Bellrose, Baldassarre, or Sibley to say for sure; when it comes to MONgrelizin’ and misCEGenatin’ waterfowl are the sine qua non; they’re open for business). Seen at very close range for half an hour. Most obvious characters, to me, are from a mallard X American wigeon heritage. ? But where the Hell does that vermiculation come from? I’d like to see what<> would say about this odd duck. Someone is probably out there who has already diagnosed this bird. ? I’d like some answers, dammit.

Also: gray squirrel 4. At the Sailwinds Park pool with the sculpted Canada geese 2 girls, young teens, with a dip net scoop up some of the goldfish they attract with chips, leaving behind 5 small bags empty of Doritos and their like. I assume they have a legitimate reason for being here. ?

FEBRUARY 24, SATURDAY. Overcast, 53-51, calm, fog limiting visibility early on to c. 1000’. Four slate-colored juncos. Eight gray squirrels in the yard plus 2 more near Waterthrush Pond. Two house finches at the feed. On the W side of Field 4 a cafe-au-lait-colored white-throated sparrow, with the emphasis on au-lait, a sort of washed-out isabelline color, whitish suffused (I like the word suffused) with pale reddish-brown, the likes of which I ain’t seen before, in company with 11 normal WTSPs and 3 song sparrows. This abnormal bird would blend in in the Nevada deserts or the Sahel.

Poke around at the head of Poplar Cove, pick up trash, flotsam and jetsam, bric-a-brac, and put in a white plastic bucket that had drifted in there.

BELLEVUE, 4 P.M., NE5, 50 degrees F., light rain, overcast: ruddy duck 18, horned grebe 2, canvasback 160, bufflehead 12, Canada goose 668, common grackle 37, mourning dove 3, lesser scaup 2, common goldeneye 3, and roosting vultures - turkey 9 & black 8 - plus a gray squirrel. DEEP NECK (adjacent to Ferry Neck), roam, ramble, and meander here some late in the day. Osprey Point: redhead 375, canvasback 75, horned grebe 1. An 3 adjacent fields between Kastenhuber and Cedar Grove roads - 3,000 Canada geese, 6 wood ducks, and a gray squirrel. In JOHN SWAINE’S FIELDS: 170 Canada geese and 2 deer. Back on FERRY NECK at Edwards Point: 24 ruddy ducks.

FEBRUARY 25, SUNDAY. BLACKWATER N.W.R., guided bird tour, 7:50-11:30, with 6 of us: Liz Armistead, Bill & Jill Wallis, and Jodi & Wayne Holland; surprised anyone showed what with the weather, visibility down to 100 yards with light rain much of the time early on, gradually improving, greatly, 52-57, overcast, calm becoming NW10, fresh water very high, tidal water low. 52 species. Liz and I trapped, detained, 6:30-7, on the Easton bypass due to an accident. Complete list, spend less time counting or estimating than usual, instead concentrating on pointing stuff out and commentary with, attending to, the participants:

snow goose c. 2,000 (refuge count Feb. 27: 2,851). blue goose only 11. Canada goose c. 3,000. tundra swan 250. wood duck 2. gadwall 14. American wigeon 6. American black duck 6. mallard 180. northern shoveler 160. northern pintail 250. green-winged teal 350 (most roosting, uncharacteristically, way out on the Blackwater River). redhead 70. ring-necked duck 45 (Pool 1). lesser scaup 40. common merganser 95. ruddy duck 2. double-crested cormorant 3. American white pelican 0. great blue heron 8. black vulture 4. turkey vulture 9. bald eagle 12. northern harrier 1. red-tailed hawk 1. American kestrel 1. Virginia rail 3. American coot 9. greater yellowlegs 6. dunlin 180. ring-billed gull 500. herring gull 5. great black-backed gull 7 (Cambridge).

mourning dove 2. red-headed woodpecker 1 adult. northern flicker 1. American crow 8. horned lark 1 (Egypt Road). tree swallow 9 (spring arrivals). Carolina chickadee 1. tufted titmouse 1. Carolina wren 2. eastern bluebird 8. American robin 12. northern mockingbird 2. European starling 80. myrtle warbler 4. Savannah sparrow 2. song sparrow 6. white-throated sparrow 8. northern cardinal 2. red-winged blackbird 90. common grackle 90. brown-headed cowbird 8. house sparrow 6.

NON-AVIAN TAXA: fox squirrel 1. striped skunk 1 (d.o.r. “attracting”, if one can believe that, 2 turkey vultures and an immature bald eagle; bon appetit, guys). Lots of New Jersey chorus frogs, a few along Egypt Road, and lots, lusty choruses even, in the ditch areas of Key Wallace Drive. Bill & Jill Wallis give me a $10 “tip”. This happens once in a while and I tell the donors I will deposit it in the donations box of the Visitor Center, and, in fact, do just that (just in case you are wondering).

HOOPER’S ISLAND, 11:50 A.M. - 12:50 P.M., only one stop, at the S end of Narrows Ferry Bridge, N end of Middle HI, where the several experimental rock jetties are. The SNOWY OWL, present for several days, is right there on the next-to-northernmost jetty along with 5 PURPLE SANDPIPERS, allowing extended views of all of these. Present then: Liz Armistead, Bill & Jill Wallis, Dale Murphy, Linda & Jeff Millington and a few others (photographers). The owl is photographed and briefly, half-heartedly, harassed by a ring-billed gull. Light rain ceases, ceiling lifts, visibility becomes very good, overcast, high 40s, high tide, 48-49, calm or SW up to 15. The owl rather heavily barred, plumage suffused slightly with washed-out buff in spots. Some feathering, esp. on the tail, a bit ragged.

Also seen on HI (some, *, by other than Liz and me): surf scoter 45, common goldeneye 6, mourning dove 2, robin 2, turkey vulture 2, horned grebe 6*, common loon 2, redhead 200*, red-shouldered hawk 1 adult (photographed)*, bufflehead 60, double-crested cormorant 14, long-tailed duck 4, tundra swan 165 (migrating north), bald eagle 2 adults (1 carrying a lengthy segment of nesting material), starling 120, sanderling 1, and Canada goose 110. Up at Meekins Neck: 4 sika deer.

FEBRUARY 26, MONDAY. From our dock: horned grebe 13, canvasback 26, bufflehead 18, Canada goose 260. In the yard: 6 gray squirrels, later 3 more on the driveway. On the way out: a fox squirrel scampers across Field 7 & just offshore from this field 1,100 REDHEADS with much smaller numbers of other ducks, CGs, and tundra swans mixed in. Wild turkey 11 in Field 4. Leave by 9 A.M. Overcast, calm, 50 degrees F.

ROUTE 481, Queen Annes County: 11 A.M., group of 290 tundra swans and nearby: 1,050 snow geese, 15 blue geese, 1 horned lark, 1 adult red-tailed hawk, this all S of Ruthsburg. S of Hope a few minutes later at 11:10: snow goose 950, blue goose 20, ring-billed gull 1,000, American kestrel 1, and horned lark 2. ROUTE 301, milepost 110, 11 deer. 49 degrees F.

HOME in time to catch Chris Witt’s excellent presentation on adaptations and physiology of high altitude birds, especially hummingbirds, a talk of the Science and Art Club of Germantown at Germantown Friends School. Back when he was a teen, Chris was a valuable addition with several other youngsters in my Chevrolet Suburban when we would do 4 or 5 consecutive coastal Christmas Bird Counts. I was in loco parentis, with the emphasis on loco, as in “just plain loco”. Now Chris is Associate Professor at the University of New Mexico. Oh … I’m still here, do the laundry, take out the trash, and … go birding sometimes.

Best to all. - Harry Armistead, Philadelphia.

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