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DVOC Field Trip Report
by Frank Windfelder

Pedricktown and Southwestern New Jersey
April 3, 2004 (Saturday)

I drove to the early morning rendezvous spot with my windshield wipers working furiously in the heavy rain. I arrived at the ungodly hour of 4:45 AM. My thoughts were not positive as I waited with my umbrella for other birders to arrive, but at last I was joined by a small party. We did not get the promised American Woodcock because of the weather, but the rain finally stopped as we watched a pair of Blue-winged Teal in a nearby pond.
By the time we joined the main group at 7:00 AM, we had added many more species, including Wilson’s Snipe and Great Egret, and we were off and running. We decided to leave the Pedricktown Causeway, because the tides were low and our chances of seeing a Ruff would be much better later in the day.

We looked diligently for Ross’s Goose at Featherbed Lane, but the birds were distant and we were unsuccessful. Thus we arrived at our “pit stop” at Richman’s Restaurant well ahead of schedule. Debbie Carr wondered aloud why we were eating ice cream at 8:45 AM. Little did she know that strange things are the norm on DVOC trips.

Our next stop was Compromise Road, where Chris Walters spotted a flying Sandhill Crane, giving us our first highlight of the day. Then the “gray ghost”, a male Northern Harrier, drifted by.

Other treats were to follow at Mannington Marsh, where we had Little Blue Heron, Pied-billed Grebe, Eurasian Wigeon, and Wood Duck. A flock of Glossy Ibis decorated a nearby rise, and Doug Wechsler spotted an early Rough-winged Swallow.

Meanwhile, we ran into a splinter group of DVOC members led by Tom Bailey. He and his accomplices, Don Jones and Al Driscoll, had just seen 3 Lesser Black-backed Gulls and an Iceland Gull in a large mixed flock of gulls back on Compromise Road. They also added a Greater White-fronted Goose in a small flock of Canada Geese.

Armed with reinforcements, we headed south through the town of Salem to a place where Bald Eagles were nesting on a transmission tower. These were the first of at least 10 eagles we were to see that day. At a farm nearby, we added numbers of White-crowned Sparrows and Wilson’s Snipe.

We continued to a spot where Sandra Keller had found a Barn Owl. Everyone in the group got to see this increasingly rare bird. Further down the road, we observed both Osprey and Red-tailed Hawk on nest.

We returned to Richman’s for another “pit stop”. At that point, we decided to head back to Featherbed Lane for the previously missed Ross’s Goose. We finally saw it after about an hour and a half of diligent searching. It was frustrating that we could not get everyone on the bird, as it dodged behind countless Snow Geese. While searching for the goose however, we were treated to a pair of young Bald Eagles locking talons in mid-air.

We ended the day by returning to Pedricktown for the treasured Ruff. Despite sorting through large numbers of Greater Yellowlegs, we were unable to find one. A consolation prize was the first Forster’s Tern of the year for many of us.

Other trip participants were Hank Hox, Dennis Brennan, John Danzenbaker, Robet Horton, & Dennis & Anna Bert.