Saturday, September 22, 2007

Merlins and Mod-gods

I was actually intending to fish this evening, but hordes of people at my two favorite spots in Stone Harbor made me think better of it, so I spun the truck around and headed back into the thunderstorms approaching from the west. About a quarter mile south of the free bridge to Nummy Island, a group of birds on my left (ocean side) caught my attention. Biggish, mostly grayish, but there were a few bigger, buffy-brownish ones. . . hmmm.

I flipped the truck around, and sure enough, there were the 50 or so Western Willets from a couple nights ago, and with them, 9 Marbled Godwits. And a Tri-colored Heron, which gave me pause for a moment as I compared it to the willets and godwits. It didn't look big enough, so here's a question to ponder: how much bigger than a Marbled Godwit is a Tri-colored Heron?

The answer is, hardly bigger at all. Both birds weigh in at 13 ounces, according to Sibley, though the heron is 8 inches longer than the godwit's 18". Who would have thunk. . .

If you bird Stone Harbor, check the salt marsh pans on Nummy around high tide, and the flats/mussel beds from the free bridge beginning about 2 hours after high tide, as more habitat is exposed and birds of interest shift from their high-tide roost spots to the feeding areas near the channels exposed by the falling tide.

In the absence of any sort of front, the morning's birding from the hawk watch at Cape May Point State Park was slowish by front-standards, but who can complain about a half-dozen American Kestrels in view at once, plucking dragonflies from the sky? And then there was the Merlin which selected a juvenile Semi-palmated Sandpiper from the shorebirds on Bunker Pond, pursued it relentlessly, and plucked it from the sky. Vince Elia pointed out that it was probably one of the slower, less agile semi-palms, and I agree - at least, it was slower and less agile than the Merlin!

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