Date: 12/6/18 10:51 am
From: Harry Armistead <harryarmistead...>
Subject: [MDBirding] Ferry Neck, December 1-5, 2018.
FERRY NECK, DECEMBER 1-5, 2018. Liz & Harry Armistead. Unplanned but this visit turns out to be quite social. Unrelatedly, lots of ruddy ducks.


DECEMBER 1, SATURDAY. Middletown, DE, 450 starlings. West of Route 301 near the MD/DE line, a bald eagle perched in a tree watching Canada geese at a nearby pond. Routes 481 X 309: 28 rock pigeons and 400 starlings. Route 33 west of Easton c, 1,000 Canada geese in a field plus 27 wild turkeys in their favored field across Route 33 from Town & Country. Bellevue Road, 1 gray squirrel.


Arrive at Rigby’s Folly at 4:10 P.M. Overcast, E5 or calm, 42 degrees F., high tide above normal. 1.9” in the rain gauge since Nov. 19. A very wet fall. Ruddy duck 150, bufflehead 60, horned grebe 2, a mere 65 Canada geese. 3 does in Field 1. A gray squirrel resting on top of the wood duck box. At Graul’s run into John Swaine and Ben Weems.


DECEMBER 2, SUNDAY. Fog all day, visibility ranging from 100 yards to 700 feet, then closing in again to 100 yards, calm or S5, 55-58, dropping to 56 at 6:30 P.M., occasional light rain. High tide up to the horizontal boards of the dock. Foggy and damp all day. Weather not conducive to great birding feats.


Early, before the fog lifts a little, yet am still able to see ruddy duck 170, bufflehead 35, horned grebe 7. Do a lot of paperwork: organize 2007 file (I’ve misplaced my writeups for 2007) and highlight the most interesting stuff on my 66-page fall 2018 report submitted to Ellison Orcutt, a regional editor for North American birds. Four gray squirrels. Three deer in Field 1. Cousin Lawrence Driggs visits.


I walk Woods 1 (between Field 3 and neighbor Ward’s property). This was my 1st “conservation project” when, c. 1950 I requested my mother to let the sapling loblolly pines grow, leave this narrow but long area alone. Consists mostly of the pines, many now c. 100 feet high, but there are also cherries, oaks, maples, and some big trumpet creeper vines as well as some attractive, berry-laden hollies, the latter on the west end near the cove. Pick up some trash that has drifted in from Poplar Cove.


Rather barren of birds today, but there are 2 does nearby in Field 4. Very open and parklike, but with some wet areas on its east end, where sweet gum predominates. There also was a breakthrough where farm machinery could travel between the neighbor’s and Rigby’s Folly, now hopelessly overgrown. An old apple tree used to be on the south side towards the east end.


The west end is attractive and merges naturally, without rip rap, into a little saltmarsh border with Spartina alterniflora on the edge of Poplar Cove, where, unfortunately, there is quite a bit of Phragmites on the north side. Our entire 4,200 feet of shoreline used to have this natural interface with saltmarsh between the somewhat higher, dryer land (clay soil) and the brackish waters.


Most residents of Irish Creek have had to install extensive rip rap due to the disappearance of the saltmarsh and the continuing erosion. As a result the few areas where needlerush (Juncus roemerianus) grew have disappeared, but there is still some Spartina patens, sea lavender, and a very few hibiscus.

I also walk the “new” hedgerow that is between Fields 3 and 4, that has some big crab apples (I call them hawthorns, perhaps incorrectly), oaks, pines, and sweet gum as well as many small, developing oaks. Has some Andropogon (broom sedge), Baccharis and Myrica, especially on the south edges.


This was another “conservation project”, when perhaps 35 years ago, for some reason, this hedgerow began to develop between the 2 fields, and we decided to “let it go”. Field 3, on its north side, long and narrow, is often planted at the Olszewskis’ request, in clover and turnips to attract deer.


DECEMBER 3, MONDAY. Best birding day this time. 52, calm, mostly overcast becoming fair, becoming NW5. 0.25” in the rain gauge since Dec. 1. Naturalist Anna Stunkel arrives in late morning, a friend from the Kiptopeke Hawk Watch, where she’s just completed, with distinction, her 3rd fall. I catch a 1.5’ northern watersnake, but don’t notice it is badly injured near the tail, get its blood on my favorite sweater and preppy L. L. Bean trousers. As I grab it it writhes actively and seems very lively. I release it on the moss in the sun near the base of the dock. A few minutes later, it has disappeared. Only 2 gray squirrels.


Best birds: ruddy duck 1,225 of the little dears, Canada goose 1,500, bufflehead 200, horned grebe 12, surf scoter 2, common goldeneye 5, pileated woodpecker 1, black scoter 26, golden-crowned kinglet 2 (1 a killer view a few feet away at eye level), common loon 2, red-breasted nuthatch probably at least 4.


A noticeable raptor flight: bald eagle 6, sharp-shinned hawk 1, red-tailed hawk 4, red-shouldered hawk 1, turkey vulture 30, black vulture 18, plus, best of all, an immature female peregrine falcon, a 1st winter record for Rigby’s Folly. The black vulture and black scoter counts may (or may not) be new property highs. I haven’t made a complete analysis of sightings over the years.


Anna and I spend an hour and a half scanning out into the Choptank from Lucy Point. No gannets. Good views of a red bat there at 4:00 in good light, the sun behind us, plus 2 other unIDd bats. At dinner we make inroads on some upstate New York wine, St. Lawrence Red, given to Anna by our mutual friend, Don Metzger, a pilot and distinguished member of St. Lawrence Seaway Pilots Association, and a splendid raconteur. Liz and I also get started on devouring the contents of a big sack of little neck clams, compliments of Rudy Cashwell, generous Virginia Eastern Shore fellow with many talents and accomplishments..


Feeder birds this visit: red-breasted nuthatch, Carolina chickadee, northern cardinal, northern mockingbird, slate-colored junco, white-throated sparrow, red-bellied woodpecker, purple finch, house finch, blue jay, American goldfinch, tufted titmouse. We only have 2 Droll Yankee feeders deployed, plus seed cast on the ground. No suet. But lots of deer corn on the ground, too, popular with the squirrels, and many birds.


DECEMBER 4, TUESDAY. mostly overcast, NW15, 42-43 all day but dipping to 39 by 8:30 P.M. cold. not conducive to field work. Six gray squirrels in the yard. Four deer in Field 1. Sharp-shinned hawk 1 flying below eye level in the hedgerow break by the driveway bend. Cedar waxwing 22. Anna Stunkel gives us her excellent print of an adult red-headed woodpecker, suitably inscribed.


Anna leaves. I show her the eagle nest in Woods 5 that has been there for 4 years, then she leaves me off to walk back to the house. After walking a couple of 100 yards I look up and in Woods 2 there is a new eagle nest in a tall loblolly. YES!!


This one is 28 paces from where our 1st eagle nest was c. 10 years ago. Only about 25 feet off of the driveway. Laurence Driggs and his H.S. friend Daniel Dent visit. When they leave I show them both nests. Dinner at Ben and Frances Weems’, where we make a serious dent in Rudy Cashwell’s several 100 remaining little neck clams.


DECEMBER 5, WEDNESDAY. Overcast, 31 degrees F. (but no ice here), NW5. Six gray squirrels, all of them very jumpy, streak to trees as soon as they see me. Usually I can walk around the yard, and, to my delight, they pay me scant attention. But it’s also fun to see them jet for the safety of the trees like a lightning bolt. The toast of the treetops. Perhaps today they sense I haven’t yet had my morning coffee.


Quick & dirty estimates from the dock: ruddy duck 500, Canada goose 500, horned grebe 3, bufflehead 50. Fourteen tundra swans fly over, in full cry, flying northwest, the only ones seen here this visit. On the way out (leave by 8:39) show Liz the new eagle nest. A d.o.r. gray squirrel near Frog hollow, never to scamper again.


North of Cordova 2 adult and 1 immature tundra swans in a field, the same locale and, I bet, the same birds seen on Dec. 1. Route 481: a group of 50 mourning doves on the wire. Route 301 milepost 109 a bald eagle. Another west of Route 301 near the MD/DE line watching a flock of Canada geese, the same scene as seen December 1.


Best to all. - Harry Armistead, Philadelphia.

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