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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

6:30-7:00am RISD Beach, Barrington, RI 9/11/11 Sunny 70'

A Semipalmated Sandpiper

Least Sandpipers on the mud

The day before yesterday we took an early morning bird walk with our mother and grandfather who was staying over at our house. It was a very successful walk! There were many Mallards dabbling at the surface of the marsh water. In between the ducks swam a smaller, stubby billed bird, which we identified as a Pied-billed Grebe, presumably the same grebe which was reported here by another birder on the 9th.

A dowitcher flew up from a grassy strip of mud calling. Scanning the mudflats I re-found the dowitcher further off. Looking at it more closely I realized that it wasn't the right shape for one of the common Short-billed Dowitchers. The most notable feature of this particular bird was the chunky back, suggesting that it had just eaten a grapefruit. Grapefruits are the 1# favorite food of the much less common Long-billed Dowitcher, no, I'm just kidding they generally don't eat grapefruits but prefer crustaceans, worms and insects (all of which can be found in great supply at this local). But despite their anti-citrus diet the chunky appearance is one of the main field marks of the LBD. LBD is so extremely similar to its sister species the SBD that it was long thought to be one species, known simply as the Dowitcher.

The main way to ID a dowitcher is the call. Luckily we had heard the call which was a quick high pitched "queek queek queek-queek queek". It sounded much more similar to LBD's call then the pleasant mellow "Que,e,e-que,e,e-que,e,e". I managed to get close enough to get some reasonable photos of it.

Notice the chunky shape of this Dowitcher.

If this IS a Long-billed Dowitcher it will be the first report of one in Rhode Island this year (though one was seen today at Quicksand Pond). Maybe it was the same bird.

The thick black bars on the tail is a good clue to this bird identity. The Short Billed Dowitcher has slimmer, more delicate black barring.

The only other highlight was a single Little Blue Heron and a fly-by falcon species. Looking through my photos afterwards I was surprised to find a second Little Blue Heron, which I had some how previously overlooked.

Later that morning we returned to RISD with the rest of my family. We found the dowitcher feeding where we had first seen it fly up from. This time it had been joined on its favorite strip of mud by both a Pectoral Sandpiper and a Semipalmated Sandpiper. I managed to get some better photographs of it along with some nice photos of Semipalmated and Least Sandpipers and the Green Heron.

Other highlights on this later walk at RISD included a male Belted Kingfisher and a male Red-winged Blackbird. It was the first blackbird I have seen in ages!

While looking through photos of the dowitcher at home, I discovered a picture containing a White-rumped Sandpiper, which I had previously identified as a Semipalmated Sandpiper. If I had had another peep next to it to compare sizes I would have noticed a WRS instantly.

LBD and WRS

I am still not 100% certain that the dowitcher was a LBD but am precisely 97% certain. If it is what I think it is, it will be a life bird! I would appreciate any input you may have on this dowitchers ID.

A Green Heron was in yesterdays photo quiz. Good job to any one who spotted and identified the heron who was hiding at the top of the tree right in the center of the photograph.

Here is your next photo quiz!
This photo was taken at RISD Beach today. I see 4 species here. What are they? Click on the photo to get a better look.

Monday, September 12, 2011

RISD Beach, September 8, 2011 cloudy 69' 2pm-3.15pm

A few days ago we visited RISD Beach in hopes of a life bird, year bird or rarity - we got all three!

A Marsh Wren was of the first birds discovered. I pished it into view for a minute or two before it slipped back into its marshy home (hence its name, Marsh Wren). It was the year bird.

Out on the marsh was a large flock of Mallards, all of them were molting making them look very weird. Standing by the Mallards were two immature Little Blue Herons which are uncommon birds for this area. As we watched them a third Little Blue Heron immature soared over. Unfortunately it did not land but kept flying Northwest.

We hadn't been on the beach for more than a minute when I spotted the lifer. A Stilt Sandpiper! It moved about the marsh with dainty steps while constantly picking insects and worms from the muck. They are scarce here at this time of the year and are far from common at any season in Rhode Island.
This is the juvenile Stilt Sandpiper. It was about the size of a Pectoral Sandpiper and a bit larger than its not too distant relatives the Semipalmated Sandpipers which he/she was foraging with.

Scanning the flock of Mallards I came up with an American Wigeon. After a minute I lost sight the wigeon. While trying to re-find the Wigeon. I came across a female Green-winged Teal (which I ID by the green secondaries), and a Mallard with a blue bill and a cinnamon tinge on the body-which were the main two field marks which I used to identify the Wigeon. I decided that the American Wigeon which I had seen was actually this Mallard (though I don't know what caused the Mallard to have a blue bill).

A female Green-winged Teal and a male Mallard

Mallards and a wigeon

A few minutes later I re-found the wigeon and thus re-changed my Mallard hypotheses! Wigeons are scarce in this area at this time of year.

A flyover Purple Martin added a nice finishing touch to the walk.

Here's a list:
Green Heron 2
Little Blue Heron 3
Green-winged Teal 1
American Black Duck 1-2
Mallards 40+
American Wigeon 1
Double-crested Cormorants
Greater Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs 1
Semipalmated Sandpipers
Stilt Sandpiper 1
Herring Gulls
laughing Gulls
Purple Martin 1
Tree Swallows
Barn Swallows
American Crows
Black-capped Chickadees
White-breasted Nuthatch 1
Carolina Wren 1-2
Marsh Wren 1
American Robins
Song Sparrow 1-2 and American Goldfinches 2.

On September 9th we went birding at Beavertail State Park and Mackerel Cove, both in Jamestown RI.

At Beavertail highlights included: 50+ Black Terns (very good birds for Rhode Island. They were constantly flying over the water in groups of threes or fours.), a single Semipalmated Sandpiper (who landed very briefly on the rocks) and a flyby falcon species which, due to the colors I saw on it, I ID it as American Kestrel.

At Mackerel Cove we had a single White-rumped Sandpiper, a year bird. Here is the list from the cove:
Double-crested Cormorants
Great Blue Heron 1
Mallards 5
Semipalmated Plovers
Greater Yellowlegs fly overs
Ruddy Turnstone 5
Semipalmated Sandpipers
Least Sandpipers
White-rumped Sandpiper 1
Herring Gulls
Ring-billed Gulls
Great Black-backed Gulls
Common Terns 2
Blue Jay 1
American Crows
House Sparrows.

White-rumped Sandpiper and a Semipalmated Plover

A Herring Gull at Beavertail

Huge waves at Beavertail, do you see the surfer? The waves were huge due to Hurricane Katia passing of the coast.

I am going to start adding photo quizzes to my blog. I will tell you the answers to each quiz in the next post. I would appreciate it if you gave me your answers by putting them in the comment box. I will put a quiz at the bottom of each post and give the location and date.


Hint: this is not what you are expecting to find in a tree!

This photo was taken yesterday at RISD Beach. Other highlights from yesterday included a Pectoral Sandpiper, some Little Blue Herons and a possible life bird and rarity Long-billed Dowitcher. I will do a post on yesterday hopefully in a few days. Photos of the dowitcher can be seen on my flickr page which can be reached from this blog.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Trustom Pond and other birding hotspots

Here is a post I did yesterday on RIBIRDS (the RI bird alert). Sorry but it's not very descriptive.

Birding yesterday (Aug 30) at Trustom Pond NWR on the "Otter Point Trail" from 10:30-11:30 am. Highlights included: Bobolinks 40+, Black Terns (many over the rocks in the middle of the pond), Wild Turkeys 2 and a possible Least Flycatcher.

At Mud Pond, Cards Pond and Moonstone Beach (from 11:30-12:00 am) we had:
Double-Crested Cormorants,
Canada Geese 4,
Semipalmated Plovers 2,
Sanderlings,
Semipalmated Sandpipers,
Ruddy Turnstones 2 (these two birds were seen flying past moonstone at about 11:45 am),
Red-necked Phalaropes 2 (these birds were seen resting in a hollow of a mud bank, they were very well hidden despite their silver plumage),
Green Heron 1,
Ring-billed Gulls,
Great Black-backed Gulls,
Herring Gulls,
Forster's Tern 1 (first seen over Cards Pond, we relocated it over Mud Pond just as we were leaving),
Tern Species 2,
Eastern Kingbirds,
American Crow 1,
Swallow Species (I think they were Tree Swallows, but I didn't get a good enough
look to tell),
Gray Catbirds,
Northern Mockingbird 1 and Song Sparrows.
We were unable to find the reported Little Blue Heron at Mud Pond.

The two Red Necked Phalaropes Did you know that phalarope means "Coot Footed" describing their lobed toes, which are similar in appearance to those of a coots. These birds were blown ashore by Irene 4 days ago. Some birders have noticed that one of them has an injured wing. They are generally pelagic species and are only found on land in the western states as they migrate north.

Searching the Jerusalem and Galilee area was uneventful with no birds more exciting than Laughing Gulls and Great Egrets. The Brown Pelican which has been seen here this week did not show.

Yesterday afternoon at low tide at Sabin Point Park in Riverside we had:
Double-crested Cormorants,
Semipalmated Plovers,
Spotted Sandpipers,
Semipalmated Sandpiper 1,
Laughing Gulls,
Ring-billed Gulls,
Herring Gulls,
Great Black-backed Gulls,
American Crows 2 and House Sparrows.

This juvenile Laughing Gull was found (inspecting a post) at Jerusalem.

Late afternoon at Turner Reservoir a small flock of Common Nighthawks was seen briefly feeding over the water.

The day before yesterday (August 30) we walked at RISD's Tillinghast Estate (RISD Beach) in Barrington. The immature Little Blue Heron which has been present here since the 18th continues to be seen. Also there were both species of yellowlegs and a few Semipalmated Sandpipers. The birding here should improve when the water level lowers. The water has been very high here after Irene.

The immature Little Blue Heron at RISD Beach.

On the 28th at Bold Point in East Providence, we had:
Double-crested Cormorants,
Turkey Vulture 1,
Peregrine Falcon 1,
Semipalmated Sandpipers,
Least Sandpipers,
Laughing Gulls,
Ring-billed Gulls,
Herring Gulls,
Great Black-backed Gulls,
Mourning Doves 11,
Common Grackles 2 and Brown-headed Cowbirds 3?

A Least Sandpiper at Bold Point, this bird was one of a few who decided to brave Hurricane Irene by hunkering down in the reeds.

I want also mention our sighting at Freetown State Forest. Here on the 29th we had: 2 Northern Bobwhites, 16 Wood Ducks, 1 Chimney Swift, Eastern Wood-Pewees, 1 Black-capped Chickadee and American Robins. The path was very overgrown with many streams and fallen trees crossing it. The Bobwhites erupted from the ground as we ran past them. They were about the size of Mourning Doves with a rufous color all over. Though I was unable to see the faces, my brother saw one of the faces and confirmed the identification by noting the buff coloring on the throat and brow.v