Saturday, August 4, 2007

Port Norris Shorebirds and Strawberry Kestrel, Blue Grosbeaks

Folks seeking a shorebird alternative to Brig might consider Cape May Point State Park, which has been hot, or the impoundments near Port Norris, Cumberland County, known variously as Bivalve, the PSE&G impoundments, Strawberry impoundments, or the Commercial Township Wetland Restoration Site. Directions and more info are on the NJAS Birding and Wildlife Trails site, at

I braved the shore traffic to go up to Port Norris this morning, mainly to put in some cycling miles but I carried my Swarovski 8X32's (a great cycling glass, by the way - full sized performance in a very compact package). The tide was low and incoming, and shorebirds were abundant. One of the neat parts of birding the impoundments is that you are up on a boardwalk and can look down on the birds at very close range. It was a great opportunity to study various aspects of common birds, for example the tail pattern of Short-billed Dowitchers. As I slowly rode along the boardwalk, the dows would flush and settle a few feet away, revealing that, to my eye, not a single one displayed what I could call a dark tail. All appeared grayish, the result of irregular dark barring on a white background, with the white between the dark bars as wide or wider than the bars. On Long-billeds, the dark bars are normally wider than the white, and more regular - the effect is a dark tail contrasting with the white upper rump and wedge extending up the dow's back.

It was also an excellent opportunity to listen to the shorebirds. For example, it was a chance to be reminded that besides the standard Semipalmated Sandpiper "churk," this species issues a higher "cheet" call, annoyingly similar to both Western Sandpiper and Long-billed Dowitcher. The Semi's were "cheeting" as often as "churking," not typical in my experience but it's good to be reminded of the variability that occurs in all bird vocalizations.

Purple Martins have actually been throwing me lately, too, with the recently fledged young birds delivering mellower versions of the hard, Star Wars Space Fight sounds the adults are known for. And then there was the Lesser Yellowlegs that persistently called "tu-tu-tu," that's right, three notes, supposedly diagnostic for Greater. Sheesh. The notes were at least Lesser in quality, not as hard as Greater.

These impoundments were created, by the way,as part of PSE&G's atonement for warm-water discharge, and are supposed to benefit fish as well as people and birds. They clearly were today - except a feeding frenzy of 60 Snowy Egrets, Laughing Gulls, Great Egrets, and one Great Blue that bullied everybody didn't exactly promise high survival rates in that particular pool!

It was exciting to run across an American Kestrel on Strawberry Lane where it runs east from Route 553 north of Port Norris. There certainly was no Kestrel in this vicinity in May, as many WSB teams can attest, which gives pause to wonder about this bird's provenance. I didn't see it well enough to get an age or even sex on it, it was naked-eye only, but it seemed softer contoured and biggish, suggestive of a female.

Blue Grosbeaks are thick in brushy fields and hedges around Port Norris, I heard a number chinking as I passed.

The full list for the morning's birding (just near the impoundments) is below.

Location: Port Norris
Observation date: 8/4/07
Notes: Checked the impoundments from both
Bivalve and Strawberry sides, by bicycle (no scope)
Number of species: 45
Mute Swan 2
American Black Duck 2
Wild Turkey 6
Great Blue Heron 1
Great Egret 5
Snowy Egret 60
Green Heron 2
Osprey 2
Red-tailed Hawk 1
Clapper Rail 1
Black-bellied Plover 5
Semipalmated Plover 20
Killdeer 5
Greater Yellowlegs 10
Lesser Yellowlegs 25
Semipalmated Sandpiper 1000
Least Sandpiper 50
Short-billed Dowitcher 500
Laughing Gull 50
Ring-billed Gull 10
Herring Gull 5
Great Black-backed Gull 5
Forster's Tern 10
Rock Pigeon 5
Mourning Dove 5
Purple Martin 100
Tree Swallow 25
Barn Swallow 10
Carolina Chickadee 2
Tufted Titmouse 1
Carolina Wren 1
Marsh Wren 5
Eastern Bluebird 1
Northern Mockingbird 5
European Starling 10
Yellow Warbler 2
Song Sparrow 1
Northern Cardinal 5
Blue Grosbeak 3
Indigo Bunting 5
Red-winged Blackbird 5
Common Grackle 5
House Finch 5
American Goldfinch 10
House Sparrow 5
This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

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