Date: 10/25/19 8:12 am
From: Harry Armistead <harryarmistead...>
Subject: [MDBirding] part 2, Oct. 8-15, 2019, lower Eastern Shore, mostly Virginia.
lower Eastern Shore (esp. Virginia), September 25 - October 15, 2019. raptors, high water, good food, good company.

part 2, October 9-15.

OCTOBER 9, known to the laity (and the cognoscenti as well) as, simply, WEDNESDAY. 145 brown pelicans on the ships. 3 Eurasian collared-doves at the Peacock. This month Hal and Lynn have seen them at a number of places where they are usually not found, including way out Custis Tomb Road.

135 raptors with Cooper’s at 42 outnumbering sharpies (8), osprey 33, merlin 10, and peregrine 8 plus 18 monarchs. Down at the SHIPS 145 brown pelicans. Liz is 75 today.

OCTOBER 10, THURSDAY. 812 raptors with sharpie 310, Cooper’s 205, merlin 97, peregrine 19, osprey 37, bald eagle 11, harrier 10 & kestrel 112.

At the end of the hawkwatch period a flock of 29 great egrets and 7 snowy egrets flies over high. For whatever reason I never “get on” these. Thousands of tree swallows. 35 monarchs. Am on the platform 10-6. Liz returns to Philadelphia, blasting off for septentrionalian (if not hyperborean) climes (a slight exaggeration). Several American crows harass a merlin, unbelievable. An Eurasian collared-dove at the Peacock.

OCTOBER 11, FRIDAY. A lot of uncountable northbound raptors today, but 448 countable, southbound ones, with bald eagle 15, red-shoulder 3, merlin 27, peregrine 6, harrier 10, and, GET THIS juxtaposition of accipiters: 177 Cooper’s and 125 sharpies. A few decades ago the ratio was perhaps 15 or 10 sharpies to 1 Coop, but since then the Coops have increased and the sharpies decreased. Coops have now become common in urban areas, haunting feeders, where they often hit on mourning doves. 45 monarchs.

OCTOBER 12, SATURDAY. My extended sojourn here each fall can be quite social, but after a while I feel the need for solitude, achieved this morning by a peaceful solo drive to some of my favorite spots, 9-11. RAMP LANE: 1 ea. of tricolored heron, white ibis, snowy egret, great egret, kingfisher, bald eagle imm., and monarch, and the higher than usual tide is stimulating. Steve saw c. 200 white ibis here earlier in the morning and found several clapper rails.

Jones Cove Road, 1 monarch. Bull’s Drive: kestrel 5, some buckeyes, palm warbler 5, bluebird 4, and phoebe 3. Magotha Road: an Eurasian collared-dove and a monarch. Taylor Pond, 27 turtle snouts showing above the water’s surface, 55 laughing gulls (only 1 an immie) availing themselves of fresh water, a catbird, and 2 greater yellowlegs on the margins. A nice, peaceful, slow drive. The very high tide has receded 4-5”. Am on the platform 7:15-8:45, and rejoin the human race there 11 until 5:45.

414 raptors, with 188 sharpies, 81 Cooper’s, 48 merlins, and 4 peregrines plus 148 flickers, 8 sapsuckers, 4 meadowlarks, 2 nighthawks, and a common loon, not to mention 420 monarchs. Today Michael tags over 150 monarchs, his best total, so far. This is the day of the BIG SIT and, confined to the upper level of the platform, Anna and her minions record 66 species.

RAMP LANE revisited: 6:06-6:36, S10, 66, fair. To witness the full moon rising here as seen through the Raccoon Island loblolly pines with the 190-foot Smith Island lighthouse to the right along with the adjacent bald eagle nest and 180 white ibis is this sojourn’s most wondrous spectacle. Bob Anderson has done a painting that captures the allure of such a scene.

Also: snowy egret 14, great egret 8, clapper rail 2, cormorant just 1, kingfisher 1, and bald eagle 2 plus a gray squirrel.

OCTOBER 13, SUNDAY. 8:30: At the SHIPS brown pelican 380, sanderling 3, rock pigeon 70, starling 40, laughing gull 245 (15 immature), and common tern 1 plus 6 dolphins and 8 monarchs. 9 A.M.: RAMP LANE, white ibis 20, great egret 1, snowy egret 1, and a d.o.r. gray squirrel. 8 kestrels on the wires from Cedar Grove Road south along Route 600 to ESVNWR.

849 raptors incl. 519 sharpies, 176 Cooper’s, 12 broad-wings, 74 kestrels, 21 merlins, 14 harriers, and 6 peregrines. It looks to be a 1,000+ raptor day, but the flight dries up in the early afternoon.

One last visit to Ramp Lane with Linda & Jeff Millington and, what better company?, Anna and Megan. 4:45-6:45, SE5 or calm, overcast, light rain off and on beginning 5:45, 70 degrees F.: clapper rail 6, brown pelican 85, black skimmer 110, white ibis 145 (most all adults), herring gull 12, bald eagle 4 adults (by their nests), cormorant 75, great egret 20, not-so-great egret 9, laughing gull 55, royal tern 12, tricolored heron 1, boat-tailed grackle 12 males, great blue heron 2, American black duck 12, and kingfisher 1. A fine last day and the only time in the past 17 when I dine alone at suppertime.

OCTOBER 14, MONDAY. Day of the living (and dead, too) gray squirrel. Time for the bittersweet trip home, but looking forward to returning in November. Clean up my quarters and take care to remove everything that’s mine. A d.o.r. doe at Routes 704 X 13, near where I once hit a buck. 2 adult bald eagles are at the Capeville Road nest, where I haven’t seen any for several years. Getaway breakfast at Sting-Ray’s, always includes scrapple, where there are 2 trucks with “farm use” license plates.

This time of year is when gray squirrels go nuts, beefing up for the winter, scatter hoarding, with wild scamperings, perhaps inspired by their favorite non-fiction title Two years before the mast. It’s also when they are at their furriest, especially the bushy tail.

Eastville PNC bank, Route 13, 4 gray squirrels, most always see them here. MACHIPONGO, 2 more squirreleepoohs. BOX TREE ROAD, 10:20 A.M., not much, high tide well above normal, bald eagle 1, laughing gull 47, great egret 1, great blue heron 1. Following localities with single d.o.r. squirrels (requiescat in pavement): WEBBS ISLAND X ROUTE 600, MARIONVILLE, RED BANK, and EXMORE (with a black vulture chowing down for some original Brunswick stew). WILLIS WHARF, 10:54 A.M., high tide a foot above normal, ruddy turnstone 29, Forster’s tern 4, bald eagle 1, little blue heron 3 immatures, and rock pigeon 5 plus a live squirrel. EXMORE again: a squirrel.

GARGATHA LANDING ROAD: 11:45 - 12:25, high tide but has been letting out for a while, 11 imm. white ibis, Forster’s tern 5, osprey 1, starling 375, great egret 12, boat-tailed grackle 1 male, and kestrel 1.

back to MARYLAND: additional single gray squirrels in Dorchester County at Salem, Bucktown, Blackwater N.W.R., and Cambridge. Go 3/4 down HOG ISLAND ROAD that involves speeding through deep, muddy puddles, but no wildlife seen. Get the car washed at WET DOG in Easton tomorrow, the wash is fast, then for half an hour afterwards they work on the car with rags and spray, do a great job. Griffith Neck & lower Maple Dam/Shorter’s Wharf roads closed due to the very high tidal waters. A d.o.r. deer at BUCKTOWN.

BLACKWATER N.W.R., 4:45-5:45. d.o.r. virginia opossum on Key Wallace Drive. least sandpiper 20, pectoral sandpiper 3, dunlin 18, semipalmated plover 8, killdeer 1, an early swan presumably tundra but distant, looks huge, ?, Canada goose 700, cormorant 24 immatures, great egret 6, long-billed dowitcher 1, lesser yellowlegs 5, starling 85, greater yellowlegs 6, great egret 6, great blue heron 6, mallard 4, kestrel 1, and osprey 1 plus a snapping turtle (big one!) and 8 painted turtles. Nice muddy margins due to the drought in Pools 3 and 5 = those shorebirds.

Going into the approach pattern for Rigby’s Folly there are 650 Canada geese in John Swaine’s big field. At the old place it’s gotten dark already. 0.3” in the rain gauge since Sept. 25, probably fallen last night.

OCTOBER 15, TUESDAY. Leave Rigby’s Folly at 9:36, see 2 squirrels on the way out, another at Royal Oak. ROUTE 481, south of Ruthsburg, a d.o.r. squirrel and deer plus a live imm. bald eagle. Route 481 near Hope a kestrel. d.o.r. deer along ROUTE 301 at miles 101, 108 & 118. A Cooper’s Hawk flies right over I-95 at Philadelphia International Airport.

Thanks to neighbors Phil Merrick, John Swaine, Nancy Lytell, and Sharon Schline for information about the recent very high tides on Ferry Neck. These were higher than the dock platforms, sweeping away a cushion and a long, heavy, wooden boat hook from our dock. John Swaine’s response is worth repeating in toto:

“The recent high tides on October 10,11,12,16 were all 1.5 to 2 feet above normal high tide with the evening high tide of the 16th the highest. Also September 18-19 similar levels. The October 16 tide was the highest here since Isabel in 2003, but nowhere near that level. Also of note, from July 1 till September 30 I recorded just 4.5 inches of precipitation. About 1/3 of the normal amount. Also, there were 53 days with a high temperature for the day 90 degrees or greater from May 1 till October 2nd. Yes it has started to rain again. I hope it doesn't try to make up the deficit all right now in harvest season. Yields are way off from expected amounts. Corn in the 50-70 bu/acre range. Soybeans so far around 20 bu/acre. Milo around 60 where it was 100 bu/acre last year.” - Many thanks, John.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Many thanks to Barbara Stiles and Cathy Fountaine for various courtesies at K.S.P. The trip is worth it just to see Cathy’s corgi, Roxie. While I struggled with my bad right quadriceps many helped out, incl. Don, Anna, Will, Bob Anderson, Thuy, Michael, Peter, Joe, Megan, Lynn, Chris and others (3 of them M.D.s!), carrying things and giving me a hand and advice. Will, Bob Anderson, and Wes Hetrick treated me to so many meals I went home flush, with some weight gain.

RECESSIONAL and DIMINUENDO. My hearing has been deteriorating for years. Lately I’ve had trouble “getting on” birds others see, especially those spotted with their unaided eyes, high up, or above the horizon a ways. Most of my scanning is done along the horizon. Then there was the problem with my leg this time. Stamina is not what it used to be. Tinnitus for 15+ years, Diabetes for 7. But basically it is good to be 79. I regret not getting out through the saltmarshes this visit. Maybe in November.

“OUR” SCARCE BIRDS: their Cape May status in 2018. At Cape May resident (and non-resident) heavy hitters are out EVERY day. Consequently the sparse presence of these species is of interest in that rather large county with varied habitats (where 339 species were seen in 2018) and reflects on their rarity in parts of the Delmarva Peninsula where we bird.

Ross’ goose 2 records, eared grebe 0, black rail (no “definitive” records), yellow rail 0, king rail 2, buff-breasted sandpiper 4 records, red phalarope 0, no skuas, Sabine gull 0, arctic tern 1, Swainson hawk 1, rough-legged hawk 2, pileated woodpecker 0 (almost accidental in Cape May County), western kingbird 1, ash-throated flycatcher 1, sedge wren 4, American tree sparrow 1, Henslow sparrow 0, Leconte sparrow 1, Brewer blackbird 0, mourning warbler 6, golden-winged warbler 5, painted bunting 2.

Unrelatedly but of interest, the raptor banding project at Cape May after 52 years (through 2018) has banded 152,947 raptors. This and the above information is from the Peregrine observer 2019 (reporting on 2018 events), 254 pages, an utterly fascinating publication.

MISTAKES. Oh, there probably are a few. Please let me know if you detect any. Not a blue jay flight year.

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

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