This week was one of the craziest I've had this year in terms of trying to get a lot done on schedule. Thursday I had a wedding rehearsal & dinner, Friday I had an all day wedding that I was part of as a groomsman for my buddy Chris, and Saturday I had another wedding to attend for some friends from college. Because of all of this I was only able to get out hiking in the after-work hours of Tuesday & Wednesday this week. We've had absolutely amazing weather all week long, and it was killing me that I couldn't get out more often to enjoy it. Folks are also seeing crazy amounts of migrating birds now, and over 200 Peregrine Falcons were seen over the weekend at Kiptopeke's Hawk Watch, an incredible number, I think I've seen like 5 in my entire lifetime. Merlins and Kestrels were also present so it appears the bulk of the falcons have now made their big move heading southward. Songbird migrations are also ongoing and some of the neatest sightings that were posted to Facebook was a Black-throated Blue Warbler by Donald Freeman at Pleasure House Point, an Orange-crowned Warbler at Back Bay NWR by Barbara Houston, a Magnolia Warbler up on the Eastern Shore by Keith Roberts, and just so many more I don't have time to discuss.
I even got emails and texts from people outdoors telling me what they were seeing since it was so rare! Ron Furnish, who lives in the same neighborhood area as me, and actually did a Big Year last year and got just under 700 species, said he located a mixed flock of warblers right at Kings Grant Park, and I saw numerous other reports on eBird of folks spotting warblers. This is really the first Fall that I've been a die-hard birder, so its great to now have a huge network of individuals helping me out in locating the birds. I just need to get the time available to follow through on the reports! As I mentioned, I did get out walking on Tuesday after work and I went to Pleasure House Point. I caught the tide while it was on the way down, though still fairly high at first. But after walking several passes through the park it did go down enough that gulls and pelicans starting flocking in to the mudflats offshore to roost. The sun is really setting earlier and earlier everyday and I'm running out of time now for after work birding trips. I might have a week or two left and then it won't be able to occur for a few months.
That should yield me some time to spend on the website here, as the hustle and bustle of migration season starts to wind down towards the end of the month, and my outings are cut to only weekends, weather permitting. Anyways, I got to see all the usual birds at Pleasure House Point, Laughing/Ring-billed/Herring/Great Black-backed Gulls, Royal Terns, Brown Pelicans, Double-crested Cormorants, Great Egret, Great Blue Heron, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron. But, I also got to see some that I really wasn't expecting, like a flyover of an American Bittern, my first of the season & first at the park ever, and also a Yellow Warbler, another first at the park for me. Additionally, a number of Clapper Rails were really cackling up a storm from the tidal marshes surrounding the park. On two instances, I couldn't have been more than 50 feet away from them, but just could not locate them in the marsh grasses. They are absolute masters of camouflage and hiding. Even with as loud as they cackle, you still just can't spot them unless they run out into the open to catch food suddenly. I only caught a brief long-distance glimpse of one flushing and landing quickly after a Yellow-crowned Night-Heron happend to have landed too close to it, spooking it into the air. No picture on that one though as it was visible for roughly one second and at a hundred yards out or so. I saw another pair of sparrows near the same spot where I'd seen the Seaside & Saltmarsh Sparrows a couple weeks ago, but these ones turned out to be Song Sparrows, which are very common around the area. As the sun started to set, hundreds of gulls (mostly Laughing) arrived out on the mudflats, I'd never seen anything quite like it. With the numbers of birds now migrating through the area, I'm hoping to keep getting out everyday I can after work.
Wednesday, I was able to make it down to Back Bay NWR after work as well. After a quick visit from Liza Eckhardt, Caroline Morse, & Erica Locher, who were nice enough to point out a Chinese Praying Mantis and a Squirrel Treefrog that were hanging out near the contact station, I went and walked the Bay Trail, only to find that the sun was streaming right into my face while heading westward on the trail. So I ended up coming back and just getting out onto the beachfront since the sun was behind me and I could shoot birds out over the water and along the beachline without issue. I walked probably a mile or so south on the beaches, seeing good numbers of Sanderlings, Royal Terns, and the usual gull species, pelicans, and cormorants. A few Caspian Terns were present this time, which I don't see as much as the Royals usually. Willets were also seen, but only a single pair of Semipalmated Plover, and Black-bellied Plover showed up along that stretch of beach this time, and no Ruddy Turnstones were there so perhaps they're all further south already. The weather was absolutely gorgeous, and I was fortunate enough to be there as the sun was setting out over the bay itself, extremely beautiful sunset! I did a quick walk around the loop road just before this and found a Great Egret & the same Great Blue Heron that always hangs out around the loop. After this, I got a very nice surprise when a rabbit came walking out onto the gravel roadway. It got spooked though when it was me and ran across, only to then swim across the adjacent ditch. Normal cottontails don't swim, but the rabbits at Back Bay (Marsh Rabbits) love the water. This is the first time I've ever gotten to observe their swimming habit though; it was a wonderful sighting. Ironically, it was in just about the same exact spot as a White-tailed Deer I'd seen swimming a few months ago with Ruth, while we were watching a King Rail on the roadway. The wildlife seems to enjoy this part of the park! As I mentioned int he top part of my blog, the remainder of my week was spent doing structured activities and didn't leave me any chance to get outdoors to take photographs. Hopefully next week I get the chance to really step it up, with all the wedding chaos over with for the year, my weekends will be mine to do whatever I choose to with from here on out into 2015!