Saturday, July 25, 2009

Wild [Black-bellied Whistling-] Duck Chase, Turkeys, Bittern

Vince Elia heard and then spotted a single Black-bellied Whistling Duck over the South Cape May Meadows/Cape May Migratory Bird refuge early this morning. He texted a bunch of us, just to torment us, I figure. I was at Higbee at the time, and since Vince said the bird was headed northwest, I ran up to the dike (bring muck boots if you try this, there's a very unpleasant puddle at the base of the dike) and saw. . .nothing. Well, there were some shorebirds at the top of the dike, the star attraction being a lone Western Sandpiper mixed with a lot of Leasts and a few Semipalmated Sandpipers and dowitchers.

Then Vince called me again to tell me the whistling-duck had come back and dropped down somewhere between the meadows and the state park, maybe the plover pond with the osprey platform. Great. Driving out of Higbee, I spotted about 5 Wild Turkeys along New England Road opposite Hidden Valley (a Cape Island lifer for me, I'd only found droppings until today.)

On arrival at the state park, I headed up the Red Trail and almost immediately heard the Black-bellied Whistling Duck - a sound I dialed in on in northwestern Mexico many years ago, where the locals call this bird "Pichihuili," not the worst rendition of its call. But, thus far, it has not been seen again. While I was chatting with Tom Parsons, a surprising American Bittern circled Lighthouse Pond and headed towards the Meadows. There was an American Bittern report earlier this month, seen from Sunset Boulevard flying into the meadows.

The Piping Plover pair at the state park still has two chicks, which they seem to be keeping closely guarded at the second plover pond. In a few days the chicks will be too big for Fish Crows to eat, here's hoping.

Higbee, landbird wise, was pretty dead, although I did hit a group of 7 Yellow Warblers at the south side of the first field, and there were more of these at the state park. Singers at Higbee included Blue Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting, Great-crested Flycatcher, and a maybe, distant chuck from a Yellow-breasted Chat, not sure about that one. Brown Thrashers get very secretive in summer, so it was nice to see two well-grown juveniles along the blue trail at the state park while I was looking for the duck.

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