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DVOC Field Trip Report
by Frank Windfelder

October 15, 2005
TUCKERTON MARSHES, NJ

 

Our annual quest for Nelson’s Sharp-tailed Sparrows was about to begin, and things did not look good. It had rained for a solid week, and I received two emails the night before warning me of flooded roads and inundated marshes. To make matters worse, we were to meet when the tide was high. Maybe the Wilson’s Snipe that I flushed pre-dawn would be a good omen.

When I arrived at our starting point at the end of Great Bay Boulevard, my fears were confirmed. High water would prevent us from birding the best sparrow area, and 40 or more birders were expecting me to produce. It wasn’t a question of “if” there would be a lynching, but “when”.

I’m still here because things weren’t so bad after all. We managed to work the edge of the marsh and find two Nelson’s Sharp-tailed Sparrows of the subvirgatus race, along with some Saltmarsh Sharp-taileds and a couple of Seaside Sparrows. As the tide started to recede, some mudflats were exposed way out in the bay. These flats produced 2 American Avocets, 2 Brown Pelicans, and both Caspian and Royal Terns. A group of about 250 Tree Swallows swirled about in a tight flock overhead. There were Merlins and a Peregrine Falcon.

Both Don Jones and Colin Campbell were reasonably sure they had an Orange-crowned Warbler, so the sighting will tentatively be on list.

We usually get many other species of sparrows along the road, but a week of southerly winds followed by the aforementioned rain had prevented their migration into the area. However, Denis Brennan found an American Bittern, and most of had great looks at the “frozen bird” in our scopes. Colin Campbell had a Clapper Rail go across the road in front of him. Good things happen to good birders.

We then proceeded to Brigantine. The long staying White Pelican was still there. Anthony Croasdale and Andy Bernick found an American Golden Plover, but the rest of us never saw it. We were consoled by such things as a White-rumped Sandpiper, Long-billed Dowitcher, and a Common Tern in basic plumage. Its black carpal bar, dark partial cap, and darker upper-wings made it stand out amongst the many Forster’s Terns.

The best bird at Brigantine was a Lapland Longspur along the north dike that many of us saw well. I must comment on the many thousands of Northern Pintails and Tree Swallows that were present. I put down 2,000 for each, but I’d bet the numbers were higher.

Bill Tannery had preceded the rest of the group to Brigantine, and found two great birds, a Hudsonian Godwit and a drake Eurasian Wigeon.

The group total was an incredible 103 species, by far a trip record. Nine of these were new for the cumulative list, which now stands at 148. Many thanks to all the participants, who not only let me live, but made the day enjoyable.