Thursday, April 15, 2010

last Friday's shift, lack of

Coffee of the Day: French Roast
Bird of the Day: Chipping sparrow
Weird Wrack Item of the Day: wrack
Invisi-bird Status: rumors

Yes, I'm just now getting around to blogging last Friday's rain-abbreviated shift. The intermittent light showers turned to steady rain shortly after I got to the beach. There was nobody on the beach and no reason for me to stay, so I put the radio and backpack back in the lock box and went birding in the rain. Hey, at least I got to pick up my new hat.

Brownheaded cowbirds were all over the place. On the dike at the North Pool overlook, this robin was hanging out with the cowbirds. I could hear several killdeer calling in that area but didn't see any of them.

Further down the road, I encountered three chipping sparrows -- first of the season. Northern flickers were all over the place too. I first noticed their arrival on Wednesday afternoon. Then I counted 3. On Friday but there I counted 8. The flickers were so active that it was hard to make sure I wasn't double counting, so I think I ended up under-counting.

While I was counting flickers in the field I thought I heard a tufted titmouse followed by a whippoorwill. Since neither of those species was likely (or even possible), I scanned for a mimic. Sure enough, a brown thrasher was holding forth on a tree top. That was a first of the season too. The other first of the season notable was a hermit thrush near the Pines Trail.

Then it was over to Salisbury for breakfast/lunch whatever meal of the day at The Fish Tale to fortify myself for more birding in the rain. The Salisbury Beach campground was completely taken over by a huge mixed "blackbird" flock: redwinged blackbirds, starlings, common grackles, brownheaded cowbirds, robins, and even a brown thrasher. I couldn't count them all. I wrote down "infinite" in my notebook. As if the mixed blackbird flock wasn't enough, the chipping sparrows staged their own invasion: a flock of 6 of 'em materialized on the side of the campground road. OK, so not as infinite as the blackbirds, but still kinda cool.

The beach parking lot held one more surprise. Or should I say mystery? In with a flock of herring gulls was one slightly stockier gull with a much darker gray mantle and very pink legs. I didn't get a good look at eye color. I tried to take a picture but the whole flock of gulls took off in several directions. I drove around looking at all the gulls in all the parking lots there, but did not see the darker one again. Darn it. I didn't write down enough (or observe enough) field marks to tell whether this was a Vega Herring Gull or possibly a Slaty Backed Gull. It will have to remain a mystery.

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