Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Where the Herons Are, plus Whimbrel and Clapper Rails

[The relatively unassuming Cowpens Island in Great Egg Harbor Bay is home to a substantial heron rookery. Click for a larger image. Photo by Don Freiday.]

If you're going to get stuck in the mud while boating the back bays at low tide, I heartily recommend Rainbow Channel, in the Great Egg Harbor Bay near Ocean City.

The mud-sticking business certainly wasn't planned, and we'll avoid it on future CMBO boat trips out of Somers Point, but what a heron and egret show we had!

Since the disappearance of the old heron rookery at the Stone Harbor Bird Sancutary, almost entirely abandoned in the early 1990's, finding a place to see significant numbers of the scarcer herons has been problematic and depends largely on using a boat or kayak. In Great Egg Harbor Bay there are multiple heronrys, the largest being on Cowpens Island. We were stuck with good views of that rookery, as well as another on "Bird" island - unnamed on the charts - and a night-heron rookery near the causeway into Ocean City. Using clickers and notebooks, we came up with nice numbers of both night-herons, including an honest 40 Yellow-crowneds, plus Tri-colored Herons, Little Blue Herons, both white herons, and Glossy Ibis (see the list below for the counts).

Whimbrel passed overhead, including a group of about 8 with some dowitchers mixed in, and Clapper Rails put on quite a show foraging on the edges of the marsh. As dusk came, the night-herons became very active and visible - I can't recall ever seeing a Yellow-crowned Night-heron run, but one foraging near the boat did just that, scurrying from one deliberate posing spot to another as it hunted crabs.

Location: Great Egg Harbor Bay & Inlet
Observation date: 7/14/09
Notes: CMBO boat trip out of Somers Point, spent nearly entire time in one location, in Rainbow Channel south of Rte. 52 Bridge, with good views of Bird & Cowpens Islands and the Night-heron Rookery along 52.
Number of species: 35

Canada Goose 20
Mallard 10
Double-crested Cormorant 15 many apparent adults
Great Blue Heron 2
Great Egret 93 actual count clicked by k rossner
Snowy Egret 109 actual count clicked by k rossner
Little Blue Heron 19 actual count
Tricolored Heron 20 actual count
Black-crowned Night-Heron 63 actual count clicked by dpf
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron 40 actual count clicked by dpf
Glossy Ibis 400 could have been more. many apparent juvs roosting in treetops on cowpens island
Osprey 5
Red-tailed Hawk 1 adult, seen in same location as 2 weeks ago in night-heron rookery along Route 52 bridge
Peregrine Falcon 1
Clapper Rail 3
American Oystercatcher 15
Willet 5
Whimbrel 10
Short-billed Dowitcher 15
Laughing Gull X
Herring Gull X
Great Black-backed Gull X
Common Tern 35
Forster's Tern 5
Black Skimmer 15
Rock Pigeon 10
Mourning Dove 5
Fish Crow 100
Purple Martin 40
Barn Swallow 20
Northern Mockingbird 2
European Starling 25
Seaside Sparrow 5
Red-winged Blackbird 10
Boat-tailed Grackle 10

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