Monday, June 27, 2011
Salt Marsh Morning
Getting up at oh-dark-thirty to do a marsh bird survey has its benefits. There's a world of difference between a salt marsh at 5:30 a.m. and the same marsh at 9:00 a.m. This was my second run through of my portion of the SHARP survey at Tuckerton, along Great Bay Boulevard, and the numbers from my 10 survey points speak volumes: 45 Clapper Rails, 65 Seaside Sparrows, and a very strong 22 Saltmarsh Sparrows. Understand, we only need to detect (i.e. hear) birds to count them, but it was astonishing how easy a time I was having seeing these birds. The high tide might have had something to do with it, but I think it was mainly the height of breeding season expressing itself, especially for the strange, promiscuous, late-breeding Saltmarsh Sparrows, sometimes tricky to see but this day chasing each other around, sometimes in groups, and singing their weak little song.
The craziest thing, as you might have discerned from the picture above, was the Great Egret with a bird in its bill, a bird that turned out to be a just captured, still struggling juvenile Seaside Sparrow. Struggle was hopeless - I've once before seen an egret devour a female Red-winged Blackbird, to the horror of the group I was leading. Maybe National Audubon should have chosen a different symbol. . .
When I first saw the sparrow through the camera lens, I thought it might be a Saltmarsh Sparrow, but the buff wasn't orange or extensive enough, and it had the dark lore and yellow supraloral of a Seaside. Young Seaside Sparrows can be pretty buffy, and are pale with fine streaking below. I should mention that the new Crossley Guide does a pretty good job on this i.d., particularly the text.
Besides the breeding birds, Tuckerton had one each of Black-bellied Plover, Greater Yellowlegs, and Least Sandpiper, all in winter plumage and none of which likely made it to the breeding grounds this year, maybe not even north of Tuckerton. Likely one-year olds. A Willow Flycatcher sang at the end of Great Bay Boulevard.
Posted by Don Freiday at 11:25 AM