Saturday, May 28, 2011

55 Clapper Rails, 80 Seaside Sparrows, and Thoughts on Feet

[Clapper Rail at Tuckerton early this morning. Learn what the back & scaps (scapulars) + breast & foreneck look like on Clappers, and you'll never struggle with telling Clapper from King Rail. Clapper backs & scaps are drab gray with little or no streaking; King's back feathers are dark centered and buff-edged, making the bird brighter and clearly streaked above. Clapper's breast and foreneck are drab and gray, King is orange here. Of course, this bird is waist deep in Spartina patens, far out in the salt marsh where no King Rail should be.]

There was a whole lot of clappering going on along Great Bay Boulevard in Tuckerton early this morning, where I detected 55 Clapper Rails at 10 survey points during the first run of 3 SHARP marsh bird surveys I'll be doing there this summer for NJ ENSP.  Of course I was hoping for a Black Rail at this historic location for that species, but none were to be had. The 80 Seaside Sparrows, 8 Saltmarsh Sparrows, and 2 Marsh Wrens were consolations, as was watching 1,000's of no-see-ums perish when they landed on my permethrin-treated clothing! The bird numbers are actual counts, not estimates, added up from the 10 point counts I have along the road.

Interestingly, though the protocol uses tape playback, I found the playback not only didn't seem to increase detections, it may have decreased them, as the Clappers in particular quieted down for a bit when the Clapper Rail call was broadcast.

Plenty of shorebirds and herons foraged at Tuckerton, and though the survey left me little time to pick through them, someone should. A Willow Flycatcher sang all the way out at the end of the road, and bizarrely, a Gray Squirrel drank from a puddle out there, miles from the nearest tree.

 [Compare the Clapper Rail's legs and feet, above, with the Barn Swallow's below. Clapper's live on their feet. Barn Swallows are all wing, physically and I'd even say spirtually, and would probably rather not have feet at all if they didn't need something to hang on to wires or their nests - this one was nesting under the boardwalk out to the Rutgers Field Station at Tuckerton.]

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