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DVOC Field Trip Report
by Sandra Keller

August 20, 2009
STONE HARBOR - NUMMY'S ISLAND , NJ

Our trip to the Stone Harbor - Nummy's Island area on 8-20-09 had 12 participants who braved the summer shore traffic and first heat wave of the summer.

Our goal was to follow the shorebirds as they moved around from their high tide roosts to feeding areas that exposed from medium to low tide. We looked at everything, not just shorebirds and had 57 species for the day including migrant passerines like Yellow Warblers and a Waterthrush sp. We didn't get on it well and both species are possible now.

We started at the Wetlands Institute at 9:30AM which was high tide for the area. Lots of herons and shorebirds will come here to roost. Highlights were 2 adult Yellow-crowned Night-herons, 1 Tricolored Heron, our only Spotted Sandpiper for the day, excellent close (10 ft.) looks at Semipalmated Sandpiper, Semipalmated Plover, and Least Sandpipers. We took our time and studied their various plumages. A Peregrine came through and put up hundreds of shorebirds that were roosting out in the marsh grass. Until then, we had no idea how many birds were here! A lone Whimbrel lifted its head as a jet-ski went by. Some of us got on. Alas, it was our only one for the day.

Next stop was the ocean side of Stone Harbor at the parking lot at the end of the island. Much better than we thought. Even with the crowds of people on the beach, hundreds of shorebirds were feeding. Highlights here were a juvenile Short-billed Dowitcher, 1 Piping Plover, a nice close look at "western" Willets, Sanderlings, Ruddy Turnstones, Red Knots still in breeding plumage, and Royal Terns flying by us very close. We walked back via the sand road and that impoundment enjoying a nice look at a hunting Least Tern.

We hit the north end of Nummy's next. Alas, Hurricane Bill - which was well out to sea - was still affecting the area. Water levels were still high and the sand bar at the bridge was just starting to expose. We did a quick scan enjoying Oystercatchers and many Short-billed Dowitchers, but left and birded the rest of the island hitting here again on our way north. We scanned the east side over to Stone Harbor and found the same conditions - water levels way higher than normal. We did have many Willets feeding over here. Plus a "strange-looking gull" which turned out to be an Osprey perched on the sand bar. Many Osprey for the day including adults still feeding full-size young on nest platforms. Both Black-crowned and another Yellow-crowned Night-heron were roosting in the cedars here.

The mud flats at the south end of the island were somewhat exposed. The usual species were there. We scanned hard for any Godwits, but never had any for the day. Common Terns were most abundant in this area. Champagne Island held a lone Black Skimmer, which was a surprise as the colony had moved elsewhere over the summer because of an earlier storm. 40 or so Royal Terns were roosting here. Impressive to see. No Brown Pelicans which like to roost here at low tide. We didn't have many shorebirds in the salt pans because of the high water levels.

Back to the north end and the now exposed sand bar. Hundreds of shorebirds, terns, and gulls were now feeding and roosting here. But again, no Godwits. These two areas at the north and south end of Nummy's are some of the best areas for Godwits if they are around.

We ended back at the Wetlands Institute, but didn't have much as it was low tide by then and the birds were out feeding elsewhere.

I would like to thank my co-leader Gabe Johnson and all the trip participants were helping each other find, watch, and study the birds. We ended up with 16 species of shorebird, and all the herons and egrets we could reasonably expect. Next year, I'll run the trip in Sept. and hopefully it won't be so hot! Bird species will change somewhat, but the traffic will be less also.