Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Confined to the Car. . .

[This Horned Grebe at Sunset Lake in Wildwood on Sunday was nearly all the way to breeding plumage, only a little to go on the head and neck. Kathy and Roger Horn stopped by there later and found 3 Horned Grebes, all looking similarly spiffy. Click to enlarge photos.]

Isn't it fine to take a stroll as spring unfolds, or wouldn't it be? A messed-up knee has me car-bound for a bit (and fun meds keep me on the passenger side for the next few days), so where would I bird from the road if I were me?

Plenty of options, lead among which Sunday March 27 were the Atlantic side pools, bays and marshes from Two Mile Landing/Ocean Drive north to Stone Harbor. I've been hankering for arriving egrets and herons, and certain duck numbers are building, along with their antics. At different locations we hit tight flocks of 50-75 Red-breasted Mergansers and Buffleheads churning the water with feeding and courting activity, and smaller numbers of Long-tailed Ducks and scaup. American Oystercatcher numbers are building on sod banks and flats, too. Other by-car options this week would include the Delaware Bayshore from Norbury's Landing south to Cape May for Northern Gannets and gulls. Hoping to get up to Heislerville to car-bird soon, and maybe seek some arriving landbirds in Belleplain this weekend. Better done by bicycle, but it's spring and you do what you can. . . . at least I got a yard bird out of it Sunday morning, that being a Boat-tailed Grackle, which, though I live only a few blocks from Delaware Bay salt marsh, has eluded the yard list until now.

[60 or so Bufflehead were on the "Coast Guard Ponds," part of the Two Mile Beach unit of Cape May National Wildlife Refuge along Ocean Drive, opposite Two Mile Landing. With them were over a dozen Lesser Scaup, some of which are in the above photo with female and male Bufflehead (buffles are the right two birds.) Lesser Scaup's white wing stripes cut off at the outer secondaries, halfway out the wing. Remember, Lesser Scaup have lesser white. If these were Greater Scaup, the stripe would continue out onto the primaries. But notice how the light can play with this field mark, and your head: the harsh backlighting here illuminates the primaries and creates a ghost wing stripe. Click to enlarge.]

[These two female Red-breasted Mergansers fed under the free bridge to Nummy Island. Many others were in Great Channel there, and another major flock of mergs, at least 75 birds, was concentrated in a channel in Grassy Sound, south of the big bridge into North Wildlwood.]

[Soon we'll take Great Egrets for granted, but not in March. These flew in from the south and landed heavily on Nummy Island Sunday evening, clearly arriving birds.]

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