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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Jan 4, 2011 sunny, windy 30` 11:00 to 2:00pm Sachuest Point NWR and surrounding area


This is the face I made all the way home I was so anoyed with not seeing my goal bird!

A Green-tailed Towhee (a bird commonly found in the West but a vagrant in the East) had been discovered at Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge and was supposedly easy to find in between the wildlife refuge and Second Beach and that basic area. So we decided that with some luck we might find the towhee the instant after stepping out of the car. Sadly though we had no luck with our well planned but rash instant-towhee-finding-plan. Stepping out of the car at the Sachuest Parking Lot and after consulting the sightings bulletin board we learned that the towhee was at the 3rd Beach Camp Ground.

We then took a walk down to the "Island Rocks", one of the best places in the refuge for Winter fowl watching. At the rocks we found: 2 Horned Grebe, 1 distant cormorant species, American Black Ducks, Common Eiders, a possible female Black Scoter, a few rafts of White-winged Scoter floating way out in the bay (we were only able to identify them when I saw one flap it's wings showing off its white secondaries, very likely the easiest way to identify White-winged Scoter), a small flock of Harlequin Ducks floating inconspicuously about the rocks, some Common Goldeneye lightly bobbing way out in the distance, a few small flocks of Buffleheads also way out in the distance, a small camouflaged group of Purple Sandpipers on one of the many rocks which littered the shallow waters just off the shore and a few pale Herring Gulls.

In the bushes and over the scrubby bushes which cover most of Sachuest we found a Black-capped Chickadee, a Northern Mockingbird, a Yellow-rumped Warbler and two White-throated Sparrows. A Carolina Wren who would burst into song every minute or two sang from somewhere deep in the scrub.

A female Northern Harrier appeared every once in a while soaring low over the bushes, its keen eyes scanning for a mouse or a vole. One or two coyotes who were hanging out in the concealing mass of bushes would occasionally yip a few times and then go quiet again. Come nightfall they would be looking for the same animals that the Harrier was hunting for now .

We returned to our car and drove to 3rd Beach.

Once again we had no luck stepping out of the car: the towhee did not show itself. We walked up the beach a little way, routing about like Wild Boar routing for their mushrooms, but were unable to rout out anything from the bushes other than a few American Tree Sparrows and some Mallards who were curiously watching us from the Sachuest salt marsh which was on the other side of the side bushes.

On the beach we found some: Brant, American Black Ducks, a few small flocks of pale Sanderling, a group of Ruddy Turnstone (so named for their habit of turning up stones in search of food), Great Black-backed Gulls, Herring Gulls and Ring-billed Gulls

Incidentally, we saw many Ring-billed Gulls yesterday when we went in search of the Black-headed Gull, a rare winter visitor to America from Europe. Luckily there has been a Black-headed Gull who had been taking up residence every winter for the last few years at a tidal mudflat which was only a few minutes drive from our house. This bird was actually a bird that you could step out of the car and almost instantly see. It was an easy year bird.

Sadly we never got around to seeing the Green-tailed Towhee but we sure did have a good time at Sachuest. When we got home I learned that the Towhee was actually more commonly seen at Second Beach and Sachuest (as I had said all along!!!) and most people didn't see it at Third Beach after all! What a bummer!

PS this trip boosted my 2011 year list to 47 birds. Carlos Pedro has the biggest RI year list as far as I know. So far he has seen 82 birds. My father suggested making a shirt which said "Don't mess with Carlos Pedro" - not a bad idea at all.

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