Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Edwin B Forsythe NWR April 17, 2011
The weather was horrible. The whole of the drive was spent with the car being lashed mercilessly by the rain. The wind was so powerful that it had blown over a huge truck on the on a highway bridge!
We saw quite a few bird species along Route 95 South highlighted by: Peregrine Falcon, American Kestrel, Bald Eagle and a quite dead Pheasant.
We found a hotel near Atlantic City and endeavored to go for a walk along the shore but our attempt was futile. The waves were so strong that they had, in some places, apparently washed away the boardwalk which we had been planning on walking on.
So we went back to the hotel very wet and tired.
We got up bright and early, packed our bags and then drove to Edwin B Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge.
Chipping Sparrows and Purple Martins were everywhere. The sparrows were up in the trees surrounding the parking lot while the martins perched lazily on their apartment like bird houses. The day before there had been a Tricolored Heron on the marsh. And while looking out of the visitor center window I was lucky enough to see it flying lazily by. Its back was a dark bronze color with a contrasting white belly. It was of average size for a heron (just a bit larger than a Snowy Egret). We went hurriedly in the direction it had gone. We couldn't find it (so instead we scoped the egrets, yellowlegs and Osprey) but our Grandparents, who had lagged behind, told us that as we had been scoping out the distant egrets the Tricolor had flown by in the other direction!
We then went for a walk in the woods lucking out with a few year birds such as Chimney Swift (Over a small pond - not sure how many there were), Barn Swallows, Pine Siskins (two in the evergreens by the visitor center), Prairie Warbler, House Wren and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. These were all found in the woods but the REAL birding would take place on the marsh which were now going to visit!
We got back in the car and started the slow, eight mile drive around the salt marsh. We got our first life bird a few minutes down the road; a pair of adult male Northern Shovelers way out in the middle of the marsh. They were stunning ducks with rich green heads, white breasts, rufous bellies, white, brown, black, green and blue markings on the backs and wings, golden eyes and broad spoon shaped bills. They were birds I have been searching for for a very long time.
There were quite a few Ospreys on their nests. I took a photo of one perched high atop its nesting platform with the huge towering towers of Atlantic City in the background.
A small flock of Dunlin flew in and we were treated with size comparisons between yellowlegs and Dunlin. The Dunlin being smaller.
Ben spotted a Little Blue Heron hunkered down against the powerful wind. Indeed the icy blast of the wind was so strong that it was almost impossible to open the car door when facing directly into it. No wonder (the small, purple and blue) Little Blue Heron was hunkered down.
I loved watching the Forster's Terns trying in vain to cross the wind swept road. Every time they get half way across they would be blown back to where they began. Very few made it across.
I spotted the second life bird way out in the marsh a Snow Goose! It flew in closer, we got of the car and took a few photos before it flew away. Most Snow Geese had already left NJ and this one was probably just about to leave. A bit further down the road and a lot further out on the marsh I spotted a second Snow Goose which looked more like a dot of white in the marsh grass than any goose.
It was lucky we had our short-sighted Grandmother with us or we would never have spotted the next two geese. As we drove along we scanned the distant marshes never bothering to look at the side of the road. So of course our Grandmother spotted them first for while we scanned the distance she scanned the side of the road and subsequently found them nibbling grass half heartedly only feet from the car! A Snow Goose is locally common in the East but the "Blue" Snow Goose (a morph with a blue gray body instead of white) is much less so, preferring the open plains of the midwest. Not surprisingly one goose was the common white morph but the other was a "Blue" Goose! We watched the geese for a little while more before departing. They seemed generally unconcerned with our presence. They were such interesting birds!
Here is the full list of the 56 birds species seen:
Rusty Blackbird (Y),
American Black Duck,
Snowy Egret (Y),
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (Y),
Snow Goose (L),
Boat-tailed Grackle (Y)
Great Black-backed Gull,
Red-tailed Hawk (very tame),
Great Blue Heron,
Little Blue Heron (Y),
Tricolored Heron (Y),
Northern Shoveler (L),
Pine Siskin (Y),
Barn Swallow (Y),
Chimney Swift (Y),
Green-winged Teal (Y),
Pine Warbler (heard),
Prairie Warbler (Y),
House Wren (Y),
and Lesser Yellowlegs.
Not a bad day all in all.