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DVOC Field Trip Report
by Frank Windfelder

October 2,2004
TUCKERTON MARSHES, NJ

 

Sixteen dedicated birders showed up for our annual search for Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow. We met at the end of Great Bay Boulevard at 7:30 AM, donned our boots, and headed into the marsh. Practically the first birds we saw were 5 Brown Pelicans that cruised almost directly overhead. We also had good looks at a couple of Caspian Terns.

We must have seen 100 Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrows, one of which was a juvenile with several downy white patches on its back. It must have been recently fledged. We were unaware that the species nested so late in the season. However, we were only able to find two Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrows. Don Jones found an individual of the subspecies subvirgatus, and I found an apparent nelsoni. There were also several Seaside Sparrows present.

We then returned to our cars and birded our way back to the main road in hopes of finding passerine migrants, but they were practically non-existent. Butch Lishman spotted a Tri-colored Heron in flight. Better was a stunning adult Bald Eagle perched only a couple of hundred yards out in the marsh. This bird was posed in profile and in perfect light. You could actually see the fine feather details, which some of us had never before noticed.

Because of the lack of migrants, Bob Schaffer suggested that we stop at the local hardware to pick up some lynching materials. I quickly shelved the idea. Instead we headed to the Brigantine Unit of Forsythe NWR. When we checked out the Gull Pond at Brigantine, Ken Rieker discovered a Common Moorhen out in the open. This species has become an increasingly rare sight in our region.

I then made the biggest blunder of the day by announcing that we were really enjoying nice weather. Within 15 minutes, the skies opened up in a way that made the remnants of Hurricane Jeanne pale by comparison.

As you might expect, the torrential rain made birding very difficult as we circled the impoundments. However, by some act of providence, the rain abated long enough for us to get great looks at the American White Pelican that had been hanging around the refuge. When the deluge resumed, we realized at that point that discretion was the better part of valor, and went home. We had missed an opportunity to see several other rarities that had been reported there. Oh well, there's always next year.

The other participants were Dennis and Anna Bert, Steve Kacir, Bill Keim, Andy Urquhart, Jeff Holt, Don Jones, Augie Sexauer, Nikolas Haass, Eileen Kraus, Gar Reed and Rob Goff.