Sandy Point Morning Flight, 9/6/13

Skies cleared behind the cold front that passed through the region Thursday morning – I am sure a lot of shorebirds departed yesterday afternoon on those northwesterly winds! Come nightfall, a moderately-strong flight developed on a very light northwesterly wind that turned more westerly before becoming calm by morning. Here are the 10pm, 1am, and 4am radar and corresponding velocity images for example:
10pm radar, 9-5-13

10pm velocity, 9-5-13

1am radar, 9-6-13

1am velocity, 9-6-13

4am radar, 9-6-13

4am velocity, 9-6-13

Overall, it appeared if more passerines also departed than arrived, as the early morning hours showed so much less activity.  However, that 4:00am image (which, throughout the season, is my standard morning reference) may not be as adequately representative of the “arriving” birds as later in the fall, when twilight is much further away from 4:00am.

As I stepped onto the bridge at SandyPoint, I expected a good flight.  However, with only the lightest puff of wind, I knew the flight would be high.  And it was.  In fact, the first 40-50 birds all passed so high that I couldn’t even guess (especially with the sun just cracking the horizon) as to what they were – immediately putting my “batting average” in the hole.

But as the sun came up, and a little more of a breeze (WNW to W) picked up, more birds were flying lower, and more birds were moving through the trees and pausing at the point before crossing.  Quite a few birds were taking advantage of the River Birch that CMP planted as mitigation for their destruction here, which was good to see.  Also, a young cherry really shot up this year, and that’s already proving popular.  It’s always nice to have a few birds land in the trees, at or near eye level, as both a break from staring up, and as a way to increase my percentage of identified birds!

This morning, Dan Nickerson joined me in “my office,” and Becky Marvil spotted a Black Guillemot landing in the water – my 176th Patch Bird here!  The highlight, however, was surely the fairly good look (more than good enough for identification purposes) at the low Connecticut Warbler that passed right overhead as Dan and I sorted through a flurry of activity.  While this was only my second “official” Connecticut here, I have seen several additional “probable” birds, including a bird Dan and I saw a short while later.  20 species of warblers in a morning is always a nice milestone to hit; I only hit this mark 2 or 3 times each fall here at Sandy Point…although technically, only 19 actually were counted: Common Yellowthroats were in the brush, but as a bird that is a common breeder at Sandy Point – and a species that almost never crosses the channel here during the Morning Flight – I don’t include them in my Morning Flight tally, which this morning, was as follows:

6:09am to 9:05am.
42F.  Clear.  Calm to light WNW to W.
w/ Dan Nickerson

355 Unidentified
260 Northern Parulas
233 American Redstarts
107 Black-throated Green Warblers
44 Cedar Waxwings
36 Yellow Warblers
16 Black-and-white Warblers
14 Red-eyed Vireos
12 Magnolia Warblers
9 Blackpoll Warblers
8 American Goldfinches
6 White-winged Scoters
4 Nashville Warblers
4 Black-throated Blue Warblers
3 Unidentified empids
3 Canada Warblers
3 Wilson’s Warblers
3 Yellow-rumped Warblers
2 Mourning Doves
2 Chimney Swifts
2 Blue-headed Vireos
2 Philadelphia Vireos
2 Tree Swallows
2 Bay-breasted Warblers
2 Blackburnian Warblers
2 Unidentified Geothlypis
1 Solitary Sandpiper
1 BLACK GUILLEMOT – spotted on the water by Becky Marvil; my 176th species at SandyPoint.
1 Osprey
1 Eastern Wood-Pewee
1 Least Flycatcher
1 “Traill’s” Flycatcher
1 Eastern Phoebe
1 Unidentified flycatcher
1 Ruby-throated Hummingbird
1 Unidentified Vireo
1 Brown Creeper
1 Golden-crowned Kinglet
1 Cape May Warbler
1 Chestnut-sided Warbler
1 CONNECTICUT WARBLER – my second confirmed here.  Well seen relatively low overhead by Dan Nickerson and myself.  Big, broad-chested warbler with long undertail coverts and fully yellow underside.  Grayish hood.  Face/eye not seen.
1 Prairie Warbler
1 Tennessee Warbler
1 Chipping Sparrow
1 Bobolink

Total = 1155, including 19 species of warblers.  Common Yellowthroats in the powerline cut made 20 spp.

After the flight finally died off, Dan and I headed down to Scarborough Marsh and walked the Eastern Road Trail on the incoming to high tide.  High water in the pannes from all of the recent rain greatly reduced shorebird habitat here, so numbers were fairly low – no doubt a lot of the peeps were keeping their feet dry by roosting out at StrattonIsland.  A Merlin and a juvenile Northern Harrier added to the bird’s lack of comfort in the pannes.  Only about 200 Semipalmated Sandpipers and 50 or so Least Sandpipers led the way, joined by 28 Lesser and 12 Greater yellowlegs, a respectable 16 White-rumped Sandpipers, 5 Short-billed Dowitchers, 2 Pectoral Sandpipers, and one each of Dunlin, Semipalmated Plover, Black-bellied Plover, and Wilson’s Snipe.  Making up for the overall low shorebird numbers, however, was a goodly 6 juvenile Stilt Sandpipers, a simply gorgeous plumage that I never tire of seeing.

And although wading birds are also rapidly diminishing, a single Tricolored Heron continued among 44 Snowy Egrets, 18 Great Egrets, 4 Great Blue Herons, and 3 Little Blue Herons.  Two Blue-winged Teal were with a total of 40 Green-winged Teal as well.

In other words, it was a great birding day…and this was all before lunch.  Therefore, we celebrated with falafel from Tandoor Bakery.  My goodness I love their falafel.


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