Friday, July 27, 2007

Delaware Shorebirds, View from the Ferry (including a dead Leatherback)

CMBO's School of Birding workshop, "Adult Shorebirds Peaking at Bombay Hook," on Wednesday and Thursday enjoyed just that - abundant shorebirds, in breeding dress for the most part, though returning adult shorebirds at this time of year are in worn plumage and many have begun to molt in the gray feathers of non-breeding plumage.

Perhaps the best spot was Taylor's Gut at Woodland Beach Wildlife Area, along route 9 north of Bombay Hook. Go there at high tide, it's too dry at other times, and in the morning for the best light conditions. This is a great spot to study peep, with scores of Semi-palmated and Least Sandpipers, and many Western Sandpipers to compare. A Black Tern in breeding plumage flew over while we were there Thursday, and a little later a very dark juvenile Peregrine Falcon blew all the birds out - if you arrived after the Peregrine, you would think there wasn't a shorebird in Delaware! A river otter fished in the "gut" behind us as well, occasionally surfacing at close range.

Raymond Pool at Bombay Hook held it's usual array of Black-necked Stilts and Avocets, hundreds of dowitchers, dozens of Stilt Sandpipers, two different-plumaged Wilson's Phalaropes, and an early juvenile Bonaparte's Gull. We worked hard to pick out Long-billed Dowitchers and found (and heard) several.

Thanks to the gracious folks at Bombay Hook NWR, who allowed us to use the Visitor Center auditorium, we held indoor sessions with slides each afternoon, after which participants could again hit the field to practice what we learned.

At Port Mahon, shorebirds still fed on horseshoe crab eggs on the bayshore (crabs continue spawning well into summer), and we found two breeding plumage red knots likely on their return trip. We also found a Semipalmated Sandpiper banded with a white flag, which means it came somewhere from Canada, and a Ruddy Turnstone with green bands on both legs and a green flag (greens means U.S., likely this bird was banded by NJDEP along the NJ side of the bay).

On the ferry trip back across to Cape May Thursday evening, I counted over 150 Snowy Egrets roosting on the Lewes breakwater at dusk, and a sadly dead huge (5' shell length) Leatherback sea turtle floated past the boat, easily identified by its lack of scutes. Unlike other turtles, the leatherback has no visible hard shell; instead, it has a carapace made up of hundreds of irregular bony plates covered with a leathery skin appearing segmented in longitudinal rows.

The full workshop lists are below:

Location: Bombay Hook NWR
Observation date: 7/26/07
Notes: CMBO's 2 day shorebird workshop. This is a composite list from 2 days of observation, total 12 hours in the field.
Number of species: 67
Canada Goose 30
Mallard 6
Green-winged Teal 15
Northern Bobwhite 2
Great Blue Heron 10
Great Egret 30
Snowy Egret 60
Tricolored Heron 1
Glossy Ibis 300
Turkey Vulture 10
Osprey 5
Bald Eagle 3
Red-tailed Hawk 1
American Kestrel 2
Clapper Rail 2
Semipalmated Plover 5
Killdeer 5
Black-necked Stilt 40
American Avocet 120
Greater Yellowlegs 20
Lesser Yellowlegs 60
Semipalmated Sandpiper 50
Western Sandpiper 10
Least Sandpiper 20
Stilt Sandpiper 30
Short-billed Dowitcher 300
Long-billed Dowitcher 5
Wilson's Phalarope 2 1 male/winter; 1 male or worn/molting female
Laughing Gull 10
Bonaparte's Gull 1 A surprise, very brown-backed juvenile
Great Black-backed Gull 10
Caspian Tern 2
Forster's Tern 20
Black Skimmer 2
Rock Pigeon 5
Mourning Dove 20
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 5
Northern Flicker 1
Eastern Wood-Pewee 3
Willow Flycatcher 1
Eastern Kingbird 10
Purple Martin 30
Tree Swallow 30
Northern Rough-winged Swallow 10
Bank Swallow 30
Barn Swallow 30
Carolina Chickadee 1
Carolina Wren 2
House Wren 1
Marsh Wren 5
American Robin 5
Gray Catbird 5
Northern Mockingbird 2
Cedar Waxwing 10
Field Sparrow 1
Seaside Sparrow 3
Song Sparrow 5
Northern Cardinal 5
Blue Grosbeak 4
Indigo Bunting 4
Bobolink 5
Red-winged Blackbird 20
Common Grackle 5
Brown-headed Cowbird 40
Orchard Oriole 4 at least 1 adult feeding 3 flying young
House Finch 5
House Sparrow 2

Location: Woodland Beach Wildlife Area
Observation date: 7/26/07
Notes: CMBO's shorebird workshop. Also saw River Otter!
Number of species: 51
Canada Goose 10
Northern Bobwhite 1
Great Blue Heron 2
Great Egret 5
Snowy Egret 10
Little Blue Heron 1
Green Heron 1
Glossy Ibis 10
Black Vulture 6
Turkey Vulture 15
Osprey 2
Bald Eagle 1
Peregrine Falcon 1 Very dark juvenile came in and blew everything out.
Semipalmated Plover 5
Killdeer 5
Black-necked Stilt 6
Greater Yellowlegs 5
Lesser Yellowlegs 15
Spotted Sandpiper 2
Semipalmated Sandpiper 300
Western Sandpiper 20
Least Sandpiper 100
Pectoral Sandpiper 1
Stilt Sandpiper 20
Short-billed Dowitcher 40
Long-billed Dowitcher 1
Laughing Gull 10
Ring-billed Gull 5
Forster's Tern 10
Black Tern 1
Mourning Dove 5
American Crow 5
Fish Crow 1
Purple Martin 5
Tree Swallow 10
Bank Swallow 10
Barn Swallow 10
Carolina Wren 1
Marsh Wren 4
Eastern Bluebird 1
American Robin 5
Gray Catbird 1
Common Yellowthroat 1
Seaside Sparrow 1
Song Sparrow 1
Northern Cardinal 5
Indigo Bunting 1
Bobolink 10
Red-winged Blackbird 5
Common Grackle 2
House Finch 1
This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

Location: Port Mahon
Observation date: 7/26/07
Notes: CMBO's shorebird workshop. Apparently the birds were feeding on horseshoe crab eggs, many dead crabs in evidence.
Number of species: 8
Osprey 1
Lesser Yellowlegs 10
Ruddy Turnstone 5 1 with two green bands and one green flag on l leg.
Red Knot 2
Sanderling 10
Semipalmated Sandpiper 100 1 with a white flag on r leg - from Canada.
Laughing Gull 50
Forster's Tern 5
This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

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