FERRY NECK, BLACKWATER, CAMBRIDGE, EGYPT ROAD & ROUTE 481, NOVEMBER 22-24, 2019. Sometimes the abbreviated visits turn out to be among the best, even when the weather, as it is this time, ain’t so good.
NOVEMBER 22, FRIDAY. Warwick, MD, west of Route 301, perhaps 10,000 red-winged blackbirds covering several acres of a field. Route 301, single bald eagles at miles 107 & 103. ROUTE 481, tundra swans in fields, 190 to the east south of Ruthsburg & 70 more a few minutes later in a pond near Routes 481 X 309. An adult bald eagle at its nest in the sycamore near Routes 481 X 309 also. The huge Clinton Nursery today with many dozens of sprinklers going full blast during the steady rains.
ROUTE 322 west of Easton 10 wild turkeys in their favored field across the road from Town & Country.
Rigby’s Folly, Armisteads’ digs, Talbot County (FERRY NECK), arrive 12:30 P.M., rain, in Poplar Cove as seen from our dock, a nice bunch: Canada goose 710, bufflehead 135, and ruddy duck 25. Am out at Lucy Point 4:10-4:55, NW20, high 40s, partial clearing but a considerable chop makes it hard to see anything out on the Choptank River mouth: tundra swan 7, horned grebe 1, common loon 1, surf scoter 3, bufflehead 11, ruddy duck 14, & 2 unIDd gulls plus 2 does in Field 1. A buck in Field 4 is missing its right antler, the left one with 2 points.
NOVEMBER 23, SATURDAY. Something to look forward to: there are many small oaks 2’-4’ high in areas where there are few or no large ones. Ergo, let’s hear it for the scatter hoarding talents of the gray squirrel, a mammal for the ages, a mammal for all seasons. Do some winterizing chores, such as draining the 100’ and 150’ hoses, fill the feeders but to no effect.
An adult red-shouldered hawk is on the lawn next to Field 1, one of the most beautiful of birds. See no deer today but instead 5 squirrels, 4 adults and 1 yearling (tomorrow’s hope, right?). 37-42, fair becoming overcast, NE10-SE10, rain gauge measures 0.65 since November 4, most all of it yesterday and last night.
Poplar Cove again fruitful: Canada goose 1,070, double-crested cormorant 1, bufflehead 135, common loon 1, and ruddy duck 110. The buffleheads are diving very actively, evidently getting lots of goodies from the bottom of the cove. Best of all is a male ring-necked duck in with the other divers of diverse sortes, only about the 5th property record for this freshwater-loving fowl. turkey vulture 22, black vulture 4.
At BELLEVUE at 11 A.M. a nice female hooded merganser, 4 buffleheads, and 7 common loons.
2 visits to Lucy Point (on our property on the SW edge of Field 4): 11:15-12, horned grebe 2, bufflehead 45, surf scoter 20, ring-billed gull 3, American robin 22, long-tailed duck 2, Carolina wren 2, pileated woodpecker 1, northern flicker 1, common goldeneye 2 females, canvasback 4, and an eastern cottontail. Bunnies become hard to find in the cold months, perhaps because of the influx of hawks then, but are absurdly tame in the summer. 1 boat well offshore.
2nd visit, this time with a scope: 3-4 P.M., SE5-10, overcast, has become raw, penetratsio, 42 degrees F. horned grebe 1, northern gannet 1 gleaming adult (I think this is a record early date for here), ruddy duck 22, common loon 5, bufflehead 40, long-tailed duck 22, American robin 65, surf scoter 22, northern flicker 2, and a very distant feeding frenzy of 45 or so gulls, I’d guess mostly herring. 7 boats.
NOVEMBER 24, SUNDAY. BLACKWATER N.W.R., a guided birding tour with 8 participants: Anne Cannon, Tom Cimino, Margaret & Geoff Cooke, Punit Ratmore, Vishu Reddy, John Stith, and moi meme (hope I got this right; some of the handwriting is hard to read), 7:15-2:45 (tour per se is 8-noon), low 40s - 50 degrees F., fair becoming heavily overcast then clearing some, winds terrific 20-45 m.p.h., a few times I think I am going to get blown over, water levels, fresh and tidal, low.
Run into Lynn Davidson & Hal Wierenga leading an Audubon Naturalist Society field trip here. Great to have lunch with them and catch up some. Complete list (some of these seen before or after the official tour as well as off-refuge a ways, you know what it’s like).
complete list: Canada goose thousands, green-winged teal 12, American black duck 2, mallard 110, American black duck X mallard hybrid 1, northern pintail 450, northern shoveler 55, ring-necked duck 4 (Pool 1), northern bobwhite 8 (a covey foraging on the north edge of the 1st field south of Maple Elementary School, with a fox squirrel nearby, farther out in that field; the most quail I’ve seen or heard in many years; usually in the colder months they stay well out of sight), pied-billed grebe 1 (in Little Blackwater River, as seen from the road out to the Observation Site),
American white pelican 33 (1st seen at their favored spot in the distance on the S side of Blackwater River, where most of them lift off to begin soaring; then an hour later they come in low and close to land in the muddy/shallow area opposite Pool 3; ponderous, massive and majestic), double-crested cormorant 4, great blue heron 4, black vulture 9, turkey vulture 30 (most of the vultures seen from Route 335 around their roosting area to the north of there),
bald eagle 26 (1 carrying a long, trailing batch of nesting material, probably Panicum virgatum, [switch grass], will make a nice, soft lining for the inside of the nest; a few others on their nests), northern harrier 2 (including an extended look at a “gray ghost”, an adult male, hunting over Pool 1), red-tailed hawk 1, Virginia rail 1, killdeer 6 (Egypt Road), greater yellowlegs 15, ring-billed gull 55, herring gull 10, great black-backed gull 9 (latter 2 species from the Malkus Bridge), Forster’s tern 22,
mourning dove 2, belted kingfisher 1, American crow 8, eastern bluebird 10, American robin 3, northern mockingbird 2, European starling 200, chipping sparrow 8, song sparrow 2, red-winged blackbird 200, eastern meadowlark 8, common grackle 5,000 maybe (Egypt Road), and house sparrow 3 plus 1 sika deer, 1 raccoon, 1 red fox (Egypt Road), and, seen by Hal & Lynn et al., a woodchuck (field fatty). Not much for landbirds what with the strong winds.
CAMBRIDGE, OAKLEY STREET mostly, 3-4 P.M., winds NW20, clear, 50 degrees, high tide: laughing gull 1 adult, herring & ring-billed gull combo 700, great black-backed gull 40, long-tailed duck 5, bufflehead 40, common loon 1, surf scoter 9, redhead 1 male, lesser scaup 8, greater scaup 1 male (I have a dickens of a time ever seeing greaters here), canvasback 9, American wigeon 27, mallard 65, and Canada goose 16 plus the puzzling hybrid:
has a dark green head, fine male gadwall-like vermiculations along the sides, and a tail pattern like a male American wigeon or northern pintail with a pin tail perhaps slightly longer than you’d expect in a wigeon. Am unable to see the wing pattern. It’s been well photographed. To me this bird is, as Yul Brynner says in ‘The king and I’, a puzzlement. Has there been a definitive dx of this bird?
ON THE WAY HOME. 2 adult bald eagles perched in a spindly tree in the middle of the field just N of Routes 404 X 309 at 4:44 P.M., perhaps the pair that has a nest in the sycamore a bit farther north. 110 tundra swans in the pond NW of Routes 309 X 481, where I saw 70 on Nov. 12. Lots of these swans landing and calling W of Route 481 but what is on the ground there obscured by a knoll; this is across 481 from where I estimated 190 on Nov. 12. Funny to see none at Blackwater today.
COMING INTO THE CITY (with apologies to John McPhee). Coming home from the Delmarva Peninsula our route passes by some remarkable urban and industrial sights. For the sort of thing this is, it is impressive even to someone such as myself who would rather see saltmarshes, loblolly pine forests, and other pastoral, bucolic scenery. Here is what is involved, it is a series of spectacles, huge bridges, ships, planes, great highways full of 18-wheeler trucks, smoke stacks 150 feet high, you name it:
In Delaware the distant Salem nuclear power plant, go over the Delaware-Chesapeake Canal, the big oil refinery with its rail approaches of over 100 cylindrical train cars bearing oil, many of them colored as white-belted black cattle. The state’s high point, Iron Hill, in the distance, as is the Delaware Memorial Bridge.
Route I-495, the Wilmington bypass, with the Russell W. Peterson Urban Wildlife Refuge along the Christina River. Over the river with the Wilmington port to the right, where often there is a lovely, yellow, Dole freighter. Cherry Island landfill. mile 0.5 the eagle nest in a sycamore tree off to the SE.
The Wilmington skyline to the west. Edgemoor Industrial Park. Fox Point Park, right on the Delaware River on a long knoll, will be much more inviting than it already is when the many planted trees grow up, has a martin house. Go along the Delaware River, sometimes less than 100 feet away, with passing 80 m.p.h. Amtrak trains, great ships, and large passenger planes overhead, going into their approach patterns, or, taking off. The mile 10.3 eagle nest in an oak next to the tracks became disassembled this year.
I-95, surprising how much Baccharis halimifolia (groundsel tree, a.k.a. high tide bush) there is along here on the center strips and shoulders. Off to the right is the Commodore Barry Bridge.
On up to the approaches to Philadelphia. Philadelphia International Airport, Fort Mifflin, bridge over Schuylkill River, wetlands where Pennsylvania’s first breeding Black-necked Stilts nested. The sinuous, very long, blue, seemingly low I-95 bridge, past the defunct, bankrupt, refinery - the largest on the East Coast, done in by a huge fire and explosions this year.
Aker Philadelphia Shipyard. The Philadelphia Navy Yard, has more mothballed naval ships than any other naval facility. The sports complex on our left: Wells Fargo Center for ice hockey (the Flyers) & basketball (the 76ers), nice, curvy lines. Lincoln Financial Field (hostile, pugnacious-looking stadium, the Eagles), Citizens Bank Field (more traditional than the other stadiums, warm brick appearance; the Phillies).
The massive rail center on the right, with 1000’s of containers, MAERSK, CSX, et al., hundreds of rail cars. 7 huge cranes off to the east. Next go under I-76 & the approaches to Walt Whitman Bridge. Impressive Philadelphia skyline to the west.
Closer to Center City now, pass Admiral Dewy’s flagship prominent in the Philippines in the Spanish-American War, the Moshulu, a huge tall ship, towering masts, the battleship New Jersey (lit up at night) across Delaware River. The three I.M. Pei Society Hill Towers. Get off Columbus Blvd. onto Spruce Street, next to Zahav, our ex son-in-law’s restaurant, named the most outstanding restaurant in the U.S. a few years ago, as Michael Solomonov was named the country’s most outstanding chef last year.
Close to home now, go by the Museum of the American Revolution, and Independence National Historic Park. Turn right on Broad Street past numerous high end restaurants, but also Big Ass Slices (pizza), and Kick Axe Throwing (eat, drink, and throw axes). Turn south on Letitia Street and stop, home, just before Black Dog Alley. Been here since April 15 but yardlist is only 6. ! Old Christ Church is a block away, for 100 years or more its steeple the highest structure in the U.S. Good to be back, and rest, pay bills, and get ready for the next trip down the Delmarva Peninsula soon enough.