Date: 10/24/19 9:16 am
From: Harry Armistead <harryarmistead...>
Subject: [MDBirding] part 1, Sept. 25-Oct. 8, 2019, lower Eastern Shore, mostly Virginia.
lower Eastern Shore, esp. Virginia, September 25-October 15, 2019.

raptors, high water, good food, & good company. part 1, Sept. 25-Oct. 8.


ABBREVIATIONS: BCNH = black-crowned night heron. cormorant = double-crested cormorant. CVWO, Coastal Virginia Wildlife Observatory. ESVNWR, Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge. KSP, Kiptopeke State Park, esp. the hawkwatch platform. RAMP, Ramp Lane at ESVNWR. ROUTE 600 a.k.a. Seaside Road. SHIPS, the 9 concrete ships at KSP as seen from the end of Route 704. YCNH = yellow-crowned night heron.


DRAMATIS PERSONAE (not intended to be a complete list. Just some of the people I bumped into, some very briefly, glimpsing them in their evanescence, as it were): Bob Ake & Joyce Neff, Bob Anderson & Thuy Tran, Curtis & Lynn Badger, Nancy Barnhart, Joe Beatty, Arun Bose, Ed & Peggy Bowen, Ned Brinkley, Rudy Cashwell, Dave Clark, Shirley Devan, Sue & Wes Earp, Lynn Davidson & Hal Wierenga, Todd Day, Jen Elmer, Kit Fechtig, Dave Fischer, Betsy & Chris Foster, Dale & Katie Garst, Wes Hetrick & Rose Leong, Gerri Howe, Mike Iwanik, Roberta Kellam, Reese Lukei, Kevin & Pam McGann, Don Metzger, Scott Mewborn, Jeff & Linda Millington, Jill & Lance Morrow, Paul & Heidi Nasca, Michael Parker, Sue Rice, Bob Rineer, Debbie Robbins, Will Russell, Duane Schilling, Dave Shanahan, Scott Smith, Peter Smithson, Dan Southworth, Brian Taber, Steve Thornhill, Mike Tove & family, Phyllis Williamson.


CVWO FALL STAFF: Anna Stunkel, hawk counter. Michael Ferrara, monarch tagger. Megan Murante, educator. These three are excellent: congenial, confidant, knowledgeable, composed, and great company. They work so well with the public, and with each other. A good crew, the A Team.


ALL RAPTOR TOTALS are those of Anna Stunkel, CVWO Hawkcounter extraordinaire at KSP. Her prompt reports, with full details, are found at hawkcount.org<http://hawkcount.org> or via www.aba.org<http://www.aba.org> “birding news”, or VA-BIRD.


APOLOGIA PRO VITA SUA. One of the main reasons I do these writeups is for my own memory and record, A SORT OF PERSONAL DIARY. I think I’ll enjoy reading them when I become older and feebler than I am now. They also get the sightings on the record soon after they are made.


SEPTEMBER 25, WEDNESDAY. Arrive at Rigby’s Folly 4:40. No rain since Sept. 23, very dry & the drought will continue 3 more weeks. Sit on our dock 5:20-7:20: laughing gull 51, Canada goose 43, osprey 1, bald eagle 1 adult, wood duck 1, royal tern 2 and great egret 2 plus gray squirrel 2, diamond-backed terrapin 5, and Fowler’s toad 1. Not much, really.


SEPTEMBER 26, THURSDAY. red-spotted purple 2, monarch 2, common wood nymph 1, gray squirrel 2 (1 way out on flimsy, high-up, willow oak branches after the little acorns), and deer 1. leave 9:25. EGYPT ROAD, black racer 1, bald eagle 2, eastern bluebird 3, great blue heron 1.


BLACKWATER N.W.R., cormorant 17 immatures, Caspian tern 3, bald eagle 6, lesser yellowlegs 7, greater yellowlegs 2, killdeer 11, least sandpiper 7, great egret 5, great blue heron 5, Forster’s tern 79, American black duck 1, pine warbler 1, chipping sparrow 8, Canada goose 16, and mallard 4 plus monarch 4, painted turtle 31, red-bellied cooter 4, and cloudless sulphur 9. fresh waters low, tidal average. At Sewards causeway a snakehead and another at DeCoursey Bridge.


MARDELA SPRINGS: A d.o.r. striped skunk. Arrive at KSP where I will be for 17 days. KSP: A NORTHERN WHEATEAR is down by the SHIPS where it is observed by a small mob, good scope views, well-photographed, the 3rd local record. Found by Kathy Spencer. Now THAT is a good way to begin my visit. A wheatear is also seen Sept. 28-29 a little south of the junction of Machipongo Rd. & Route 600 on the westside by Paul & Heidi, Elisa & Nick Flanders, and probably others. Perhaps photographs can determine if it was a different individual. I’m betting it is. 185 pelicans are on the ships.


SEPTEMBER 27, FRIDAY. Am on the platform 9:45-2:30 and 3:45-5:30. 506 raptors: osprey 66, Cooper’s 129, sharpie 76, merlin 41, and peregrine 42. A good, hawk-filled first day for me.


SEPTEMBER 28, SATURDAY. slows down some. 182 raptors with 51 ospreys, 8 Cooper’s, 52 sharpies, 15 merlin, and 20 peregrines. Pick up Will at Norfolk airport. We then go to RAMP LANE where Don, Paul & Heidi are also on hand. Ramp Lane list:


white ibis 192, clapper rail 7, tricolored heron 10, snowy egret 20, great egret 17, laughing gull 110, herring gull 3, royal tern heard only, great black-backed gull 1, great blue heron 3, greater yellowlegs 1, bald eagle 1 ad., glossy ibis 1, BCNH 3, short-billed dowitcher 7, merlin 1, seaside sparrow 4, green heron 1, boat-tailed grackle 3 males, brown pelican 22, and osprey 1 plus a doe swimming across the Federal Cut. 5:30-7 P.M., SW15, fair, 75 degrees F.


SEPTEMBER 29, SUNDAY. What will probably turn out to be the season’s best raptor day: 1,073 incl. osprey 275, Cooper’s 97, sharpie 130, broad-winged 28, kestrel 202, merlin 167 (there were 289 Sept. 17), and a season high peregrine 125 plus a piddling 27 monarchs. Hal & Lynn arrive for their extended stay. I count 115 brown pelicans on the SHIPS. Someone sees a prothonotary warbler.


SEPTEMBER 30, MONDAY. I make no notes, but Anna’s report includes 627 raptors, with osprey 157, Cooper’s 64, sharpie 127, merlin 121, and peregrine 40. Flybys: 5 northern pintails. 123 monarchs.


OCTOBER 1, TUESDAY. A day of recoveries. The Cheriton clinic is most helpful with my troublesome, right quadriceps. At Cheriton Tires Michael Parker recognizes me and asks if I have seen the wheatear. Not what one expects from an out-of-the-way car place! His wife, Melanie, works at wildlife rehabilitation in Painter. He beefs up the tires and the dashboard warning light goes off.


453 raptors with 34 Cooper’s, 56 sharpies, 83 merlins and 72 peregrines. Bob Anderson gives Will a lift to Norfolk airport for his flight home to Tucson early Wednesday. Noisy helicopters do training drills right over my quarters at low elevations at 8:30 P.M.


OCTOBER 2, WEDNESDAY. 302 raptors, an example of a “slow” day here with merlin 60, kestrel 87, peregrine 9, harrier 4, broad-winged 4, osprey 42, sharpie 90, harrier 4, and Cooper’s 6. Early on from the platform Anna hears 2 great horned owls duetting.


RAMP LANE, 5:50-7:10 P.M. in company with Michael. low 80s, calm, clear: white ibis 2 (!!), snowy egret 18, great egret 27, cormorant 8, great blue heron 4, clapper rail 3, YCNH 5, Cooper’s hawk 1 imm. (perched at length on the handicapped sign; great view), seaside sparrow 1, tricolored heron 5, greater yellowlegs 1, and belted kingfisher 1 plus 2 deer.


OCTOBER 3, THURSDAY. 725 raptors with merlin 90, peregrine 39, broad-winged 38, sharpie 199, and Cooper’s 134 plus 102 monarchs. Monarchs are counted here as part of the CVWO study, the lion’s share conducted by Monarch Tagger extraordinaire Michael Ferrara. One of the things making my visit here this year memorable is the sight of Michael’s clunky, chigger & tick-free boots, and his running in them, butterfly net deployed. Am on the platform 9-5:15. An impressive kettle of 320 brown pelicans rises over the SHIPS. With such a spectacle who needs Jurassic Park?


RAMP LANE, by myself. 5:37-6:50, fair, NE20, 77-74: white ibis 0 (!!), snowy egret 6, tricolored heron 1, bald eagle 1 ad., greater yellowlegs 1, great egret 11, royal tern 7, laughing gull 22, brown pelican 6, belted kingfisher 1, cormorant 32, herring gull 1 seen to drop clam, successfully, it shatters, northern shoveler 4, merlin 1, YCNH 1 imm., and great blue heron 5 plus a gray squirrel. My least interesting visit here this year. As usual there are a few pickup trucks, 1 with tags MR CLAM, another with PRO-GUNR.


OCTOBER 4, FRIDAY. 638 raptors including osprey 92, bald eagle 18, merlin 109, peregrine 23, kestrel 168, sharpie 120, and Cooper’s 74 plus 100 great blue herons (exact total, with one flock of 42), the season’s 1st myrtle warbler, and 350 monarchs. Liz arrives.


OCTOBER 5, SATURDAY. Bob Anderson appears on the platform holding a lovely rough green snake. Days later, I didn’t record when, Megan brings one up here, too. Super slim, a narrow head, such a bright green, their prey must be very small, the eyes remind me of a miniature Geico gecko’s. Impossible to see them against a background of the trees they frequent.


Liz and I visit the SHIPS area 3-3:30 and find brown pelican 345, sandwich tern 1, Forster’s tern 2, cormorant 190, laughing gull 180, great black-backed gull 1, herring gull 7, kestrel 1, osprey 1, turkey vulture 3, rock pigeon 30, starling 40, and fish crow 1.


606 raptors with osprey 49, bald eagle 14, harrier 11, sharpie 188, Cooper’s 74, broad-winged 17, redtail 4, kestrel 102, merlin 131, peregrine 14, and 2 unIDd raptors. To our astonishment an American bittern has landed among the black cherries in front of the platform. Its left wing is droopy, but it eludes capture, flies across Route 704. Also seen today: 766 monarchs, 209 northbound flickers, and 38 distant white ibis. Seeing white ibis from the platform is a rather new phenomenon. Liz and I are on the platform 7:30-3 & 3:30-5. Cape Henry Audubon Society visits today.


In the morning there are 39 turkey vultures and 19 American crows in 3 dirt fields seen from Sting-Ray’s to Capeville and Arlington Roads to K.S.P., apparently eating the dirt. de gustibus non est disputandum, eh?! I suppose so.


OCTOBER 6, SUNDAY. just 74 raptors with osprey 22, sharpie 13, Cooper’s 9, merlin 7, and peregrine 13 plus only 30 monarchs. Liz and I shove off for RAMP LANE in company with Katie Garst & her dad Dale, Kevin and Pam McGann, where we hold forth 5:15-6:45, recording:


clapper rail 14, white ibis 95 (could be 45, can’t read my own writing), snowy egret 19, bald eagle 2, greater yellowlegs 28, short-billed dowitcher 16, western sandpiper 4, dunlin 26, whimbrel 1, willet 1, black skimmer 60, wild turkey 1, great egret 38, snowy egret 19, kingfisher 1, cormorant 30, brown pelican 3, seaside sparrow 1, merlin 1, peregrine falcon 2, harrier 1, herring gull 6, osprey 1, black vulture 20, turkey vulture 12, royal tern 3, great blue heron 2, tricolored heron 5, and laughing gull 20. No mammals.


One of the most successful visits. The big variance in numbers from visit to visit, esp. among members of the heron tribe, is baffling. Most seem on their way to roost on Fisherman Island. Perhaps some are really migrating, hence are not seen during succeeding visits, explaining, in part, the disparities.


OCTOBER 7, MONDAY. Meagre raptor movement again, with only 98 but incl. 33 peregrines. As happens 1x or 2x each fall, today the peregrine is the most abundant raptor. 30 monarchs. Liz and I wander, meander, and wend some. Lynn & Hal leave.


OYSTER LANDFILL, 3 P.M.: black vulture 115 (as usual at point blank range, often scrambling around like chickens when the garbage comes in. They are a spectacle, albeit a grotesque one, not necessarily to EVERYONE’S liking. To each his own.).: fish crow 45, rock pigeon 45, starling 25, cormorant 1, snowy egret 1, great blue heron 1, Canada goose 160, turkey vulture 2, peregrine falcon 1, herring gull 60, YCNH 1 imm., laughing gull 80.


At the Peacock Motor Inn (not open for business) there are 4 Eurasian collared-doves at the odd hour of 4:10. Raptor experts Jill and Lance Morrow have set up a peregrine trapping station nearby and bring over an imm. male they captured. Later they bring another and Anna gets to release it. She hears a singing indigo bunting, bizarre at this late date, and Lynn & Will hear them on 2 other recent dates. Even in mid-August it is unusual to hear one singing.


Another visit to RAMP LANE with Anna and Liz, 6-7, with these results: white ibis 115, cormorant 22, great egret 26, snowy egret 63, clapper rail 12, brown pelican 63, great blue heron 5, turkey vulture 18, gila monster 0, tricolored heron 5, boat-tailed grackle 1 male, harrier 1, greater yellowlegs 1, osprey 1, peregrine 1, herring gull 5 and laughing gull 20 plus 3 gray squirrels and what is possibly a Marsh Rice Rat (Oryzomys palustris), scurrying underneath the dumpster.


If so, get back in the Spartina alterniflora, dude, where you belong; BE more cryptic. All the poking around I’ve done in saltmarshes, I’ve seldom seen them, but had a nice view once down at the very end of Bull’s Drive at the landing there, crossing a part in the marsh grasses where there is a sort of soggy, muddy launch area. There’s a low, partial rainbow among the gray clouds over distant Smith Island.


OCTOBER 8, TUESDAY. All of 49 raptors the most numerous being osprey with 14. Anna sees a peregrine stoop on a great blue heron. Some rain, strong ENE winds, 30 m.p.h. or more. A Wilson’s snipe. 85 brown pelicans on the concrete SHIPS.


Most surprising is a flock of 10 MARBLED GODWITS, photographed by Megan, regionally not unusual, but they are a 1st record for the platform according to Brian Taber. Am on the platform 10-1. 66-68 all day long. An osprey goes over carrying a blow toad (puffer fish, a.k.a. chicken-of-the-sea) photographed by Stephen.


6 Eurasian collared-doves near Peacock Motor Inn. Liz and I make a brief visit to RAMP LANE at 5 P.M.: black vulture 39, wild turkey 7 large poults, kingfisher 1, merlin 1, white ibis 1 adult, snowy egret 1, osprey 1, bald eagle 1, peregrine 1, and great egret 5. The tide there is 1.5’ above the normal high due to the strong easterlies. 20 deer, a herd at COBB ISLAND STATION.


Best to all. - Harry Armistead, 10 S. Letitia St, Apt. 202, Philadelphia, PA 19106.

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