Thursday, November 22, 2007

Hidden Valley: Barnacle Goose, Orange-crowned Warbler

I'd just stepped from the truck thanksgiving morning and was wiping the sleep from my eyes when a gray ghost harrier slid by the Hidden Valley parking lot, an auspicious start to the morning.

The hedgerow along the east path was rich with birds: Eastern Meadowlarks, robins, Cedar Waxwings, White-throated Sparrows, etc., but the pearl was a fairly bright and cooperative Orange-crowned Warbler, which I decided to stick with for a while. You don't see Orange-crowneds every day, after all.

Because it called periodically - a distinctive hard "stik" reminiscent, to me, of a scaled-down cardinal chip - it was fairly easy to follow, and I watched it off and on for about 20 minutes. This bird wing-flicked fairly often, perhaps every 2-3 seconds, as it foraged low in the goldenrod and brambles. I was trying to study every detail on the bird, but re-learned that some of the groovier field marks like primary projection past the tertials require ideal views, and though I was within 10 yards of this bird at one point I never got a fix on that particular mark, for example. I did notice that the upper eye-arc on this bird seemed to blend with the supercilium. This individual was yellowish below from chin to undertail coverts, dullest on the rear flanks and brightest on the undertail coverts, not as gray as many Orange-crowneds we see in the east.

The Orange-crowned finally disappeared, and about that time a distant group of Canada Geese settled into a field far to the west, beyond the border of Hidden Valley. Knowing the Barnacle Goose is around, I checked each bird, and the Barnacle was with them! As I told Karl Lukens later, it was just a fit of luck. The Barnacle Goose does really stand out against the Canadas, actually, more I would say than a White-fronted does. It's smaller and with a much paler body and wings, and of course has the white face and dark chest. I wandered over to the west boundary of Hidden Valley and found a spot where I could get through the hedgerow and look across the private property beyond. Sure enough, there in the field fed the Barnacle Goose with the Canadas, unfortunately not in a spot that could be viewed from New England Road. If anyone looks for this bird here, PLEASE be sure not to trespass. Stay on the Hidden Valley property.

Plenty of other birds were at Hidden Valley. A Hairy Woodpecker took it in its head to fly high overhead all the way from the distant woods at Higbee, past Hidden Valley, and over towards the Seashore Road Bridge. Fox Sparrows, Thrashers and Hermit Thrushes spiced the masses of whitethroats, and this was the first day I've seen large numbers of waxwings, 150 or more. Feeling lucky, I checked each for Bohemian, no luck but something to think about considering the numbers of this species being reported to our north. Many Purple Finches and a few siskins flew over, as did some bluebirds and a pipit. A Red-shouldered Hawk called almost continuously from the woods at the back side of Hidden Valley.

It was another strangely warm morning, and the wind didn't come up until I left. A Clouded Sulphur and 3 Common Buckeyes were active, but I suspect they're in for trouble tomorrow based on the weather forecast.

This mornings full list for Hidden Valley is below.

Location: Cape May - Hidden Valley Ranch
Observation date: 11/22/07
Notes: Also saw clouded sulphur and several Buckeyes. Orange-crowned was fairly bright - male?
Number of species: 62
Barnacle Goose 1
Canada Goose 200
Gadwall 4
American Wigeon 4
American Black Duck 2
Mallard 25
Green-winged Teal 10
Great Blue Heron 1
Black Vulture 5
Turkey Vulture 5
Northern Harrier 1
Sharp-shinned Hawk 1
Cooper's Hawk 1
Red-shouldered Hawk 1
Black-bellied Plover 6
American Woodcock 1
Herring Gull 5
Great Black-backed Gull 1
Rock Pigeon 5
Mourning Dove 10
Red-headed Woodpecker 5
Downy Woodpecker 1
Hairy Woodpecker 1
Northern Flicker 5
Blue Jay 5
American Crow 25
Cave Swallow 2
Carolina Chickadee 15
Tufted Titmouse 10
Red-breasted Nuthatch 10
Brown Creeper 1
Carolina Wren 15
House Wren 1
Golden-crowned Kinglet 5
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 10
Eastern Bluebird 10
Hermit Thrush 10
American Robin X
Gray Catbird 1
Northern Mockingbird 5
Brown Thrasher 5
European Starling 10
American Pipit 1
Cedar Waxwing 150
Orange-crowned Warbler 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler 25
Eastern Towhee 5
Field Sparrow 15
Savannah Sparrow 2
Fox Sparrow 2
Song Sparrow 5
Swamp Sparrow 10
White-throated Sparrow 500
Dark-eyed Junco 10
Northern Cardinal 15
Red-winged Blackbird 25
Eastern Meadowlark 20
Common Grackle 100
Purple Finch 30
House Finch 10
Pine Siskin 5
American Goldfinch 10

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