Given the weather of late, I was pleasantly surprised to find calm, dry and not-so-bitter conditions at the end of Jake's Landing Road this evening, where a 90-minute vigil provided some pretty cool odds and ends.
To kick things off, a flock of 25 American Pipits played hide-and-seek as they made short flights between muddy pockets on the marsh, while a young Bald Eagle took in the landscape from the northwestern treeline. However, outside of that one distant eagle, the only other raptors were as follows: 4 Northern Harriers and 1 Red-tailed Hawk. Zero Short-eared Owls. Zero Rough-legged Hawks. There's still plenty of time for these guys to show up...we'll see.
Shifting gears, the weekend rainstorm dumped between two and three inches of rain on the Cape, and also helped speed-melt the remaining snow cover. The result: water, water everywhere. Even salt marshes are bogged down with all the excess water, so it wasn't a huge surprise to find the normally shy Nelson's Sparrow sitting out in the open at the very end of Jake's Landing Road shortly before sundown. It allowed excellent looks for all, including Karl Lukens and Roger & Kathy Horn, who had just arrived with Tom Parsons to complete the final portion of their day on the Belleplain Christmas Bird Count.
As we stood there admiring the dusk colors and wishing for Short-ears, Karl mentioned that they started the day at the marsh/forest edge along Jake's Landing Road, where there were two Sedge Wrens on the west side of the road- hopefully they'll hang around. As a conclusion to the evening, Dave Lord picked out a distant American Bittern flying past, a chorus of at least a dozen Clapper Rails made their presence known, and a handful of hardy Marsh Wrens chattered in the phragmites around the parking area.
Rewinding a bit, I started the day up the Delaware River in Palmyra, where my group waited a little over two hours to see the female Spotted Towhee that has been present there for the past month. Perhaps the best way to locate the bird is to listen for its call note, a loud, raspy, drawn-out yelp. It spends most of its time between the "big pit" and the "little pit", an area dominated by phragmites. Occasionally, the bird will come out close to the trail and give brief looks.
In other extralimital news, word just got out that an adult male Mountain Bluebird was found on today's Princeton Christmas Bird Count at Mercer County Park, outside of Trenton.