Date: 5/28/19 8:02 am
From: Harry Armistead <harryarmistead...>
Subject: [MDBirding] Ferry Neck, May 25-27, 2019, a little more about Dick Kleen.
FERRY NECK, MAY 25-27, 2019. whimbrel watch weekend. a little more about Dick Kleen.

No whimbrel in spite of perfect weather conditions and being here at the prefect time of year at the right time of day. Whimbrel launch from their Eastern Shore of Virginia staging area, usually in late afternoon, in the 4th week of May, and fly NNW in a rather narrow flight line right over our area, flying nonstop for 5 days and nights to NW Canada and Alaska. They’ve bulked up on fiddler crabs, adding 30% or more to their normal weight , somewhat analogous to marathoners who do carbohydrate loading.

My position is at the edge of our lawn on the south side of Field 1 (the “Big Field”) where I sit for 4 hours late May 25 afternoon and 4.5 hours late May 26 afternoon. This gives a 180 degree view facing south that I scan hundreds of times, hoping to see these charismatic shorebirds. In the past an effort such as this is sometimes successful. On about half the days when I have “intercepted” a whimbrel flight I’ve just lucked onto it without even trying.

Most notably, on May 25, 1990, Liz and I were walking casually out to the driveway bend after sunset when 2 large flocks totaling c. 595 whmbrel went over calling. On c. 6 or 7 other occasions I’ve been lucky to see flocks of these terrific birds, always in the period May 24-27.

On another occasion, May 27, 1996, Liz and I saw flocks of 15, 90 and 60 between 5:30 and 6 P.M. For the past few years when I have done intensive watches my field of view is only a half mile wide, except in the sky higher up above the treelines.

Even though most spring whimbrel have a pretty narrow flight line one has to be lucky to be in just the right place. Probably only a few minutes each spring when happening on these terrific birds is possible. They move through pronto, aber schnell!

William & Mary and The Nature Conservancy folks do a watch at this time of year at Box Tree Marsh (near Machipongo) Virginia, when they count the birds as they lift off for the start of their heroic flight to the Arctic.

In the fall there is a tradition of shooting shorebirds in Martinique, Guadalupe, Barbados, and perhaps elsewhere in the Caribbean. Some whimbrel, navigating through or on the edge of hurricanes, arrive, say, at Barbados, only to be shot. It was a heartbreak for me to see live shorebird decoys in Barbados incl. a captive Hudsonian godwit.

But for what it’s worth, here is what I DO see, the 1st # being May 25 (30 species), the 2nd May 26 (29 species). May 25: 4:33-8:33 P.M. May 26: 3:53-8:23.

Canada goose 1,0. mallard 0,2. mourning dove 1,2. yellow-billed cuckoo 1,0. chimney swift 0,4. double-crested cormorant 0,1. great blue heron 2,2. great egret 0,2. snowy egret 3,2. cattle egret 17,15. green heron 2,1. glossy ibis 7,0. turkey vulture 2,2. osprey 8*,8. bald eagle 2,0. red-bellied woodpecker 1,1. pileated woodpecker 0,1. red-tailed hawk 1,0. great crested flycatcher 3,2. eastern kingbird 2,0. blue jay 1,2. American crow 5,4. fish crow 2,2. tree swallow 2,0. purple martin 7,20. barn swallow 5,8. Carolina chickadee 0,1. Carolina wren 2,4. eastern bluebird 1,2. American robin 0,1. northern mockingbird 2,3. European starling 0,2. cedar waxwing 6,2. house finch 2,0. chipping sparrow 1,1. common grackle 40,40. northern cardinal 3,5. indigo bunting 1,1.

* several carrying fish, one fish being a “puffer” species I think locally is called a “blow toad”, or, “chicken of the sea”. To the extent I’ve been able to see, almost every time I see an osprey carrying a fish it is a menhaden.

OTHERWISE: MAY 25, SATURDAY: arrive at 2:45 P.M. 0.8” rain since May 18. 3 snowy egrets in Field 4, where I’ve never seen them before. I think they are feeding on Fowler’s toad tadpoles in the wet areas there. The wet spring continues. gray squirrel 4, deer just 1, eastern cottontail 2 (1 a very small youngster), Cope’s gray tree frog calling, Fowler’s toad on the lawn, diamond-backed terrapin 1. 77-70, clear or fair, becoming mostly overcast, SW10-15.

Off Edwards Point 4 adult Canada geese and 3 small goslings. I suspect the goslings are from the “osprey” platform on the other side of the cove, which now, finally, has no incubating mother goose. 4 painted turtles in the Woods 4 vernal pool.

MAY 26, SUNDAY: butterflies: silver-spotted skipper, tiger swallowtail, red-spotted purple, question mark, pearl crescent, and hackberry emperor (3). A few bluets seen from the dock for the past week (a damselfly). eastern cottontail 3, gray squirrel 3 (incl. a snowshoes variant), common watersnake, an 8” five-lined skink on the front porch, a doe and a buck in Field 1, and several calling Cope’s gray tree frogs (that seem to sometimes herald coming rain; 3 brief showers this afternoon).

81-79-77, some thunder in late afternoon, much distant, diffuse lightning after sunset, winds S or SW, mostly overcast, fair on occasion, overcast in the evening.

MAY 27, MONDAY. clear, NW15, 70- . Like a fine summer day in New England, low humidity. A mother raccoon and 1 young one on the NW side of the lawn. A cattle egret in Field 1. An immature bald eagle soaring over Anderby Hall Road. Do a fruitless whimbrel watch from the dock for an hour before we leave at 9:25.

A very small baby eastern cottontail right in Easton. Two d.o.r. (requiescat in pavement) snapping turtles on the north outskirts of Easton and nearby several pairs of Canada geese and at least 12 small goslings.. A d.o.r. gray squirrel at Cordova. Yet another roadkill, a raccoon, somewhere along Route 301.

More on DICK KLEEN. In some iterations of my previous report I neglected to mention that Ron Ketter was at the commemorative event at Blackwater. He didn’t say anything. I happened to notice, too late in some instances.

Jan Reese reminded me that Dick gave a big collection of St. Michaels High School yearbooks to the St. Michaels Library. This was actually on my punch list of things to mention, but I neglected to. Jan says Dick arranged for the yearbooks to come in to that library in perpetuity. The yearbooks are on the right as one enters from the main entrance and near the staff check-out check-in counter.

In 1955 and 1956 Dick and several of his students found Maryland’s first herring gull nests out on the remnants of Sharps Island, 3 and 7 nests respectively. This is mentioned on page 158 of Stewart & Robbins.

Taking some of Dick’s bands my mother and I went out there and banded a few of the fuzzy young gulls, some of which I had to swim after to catch. It took a while for us to cover the 11 miles from Rigby’s Folly in a klunky old wooden skiff “powered” by a 2.5 h.p. Elgin outboard.

Back in the 1980s, I think it was, several of us noted over 1,000 herring gull nests at Easter Point, Smith Island, MD, recording the nest contents of every one of them in one morning. How is THAT for a change in a species’ status in our state?!

Best to all. - Harry Armistead, Philadelphia.

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