I took a few hours to bird the marsh/coastal hotspots at Prime Hook NWR this morning. I had hopes of picking up year birds such as Northern Gannet and Surf and Black Scoter and possibly a vagrant or two.
I started the morning off at the end of Fowler Beach Rd. (eBird Checklist) where I saw a ton of Forster’s Terns and a few Caspian and Royal Terns. Shorebirds were in low numbers due to high tide, but I did manage to find Black-bellied Plover, Killdeer, American Oystercatcher, Greater Yellowlegs, and Sanderling. Gulls were in low numbers as well, but Great Black-backed, Herring, Ring-billed, and Laughing worked their way onto my list. As I walked towards the beach, I flushed many Savannah Sparrows, all presumably Eastern, and two Saltmarsh Sparrows. Raptor highlights included a Peregrine Falcon and two Bald Eagles. I made my way to the beach and started scanning for migrating scoters. I was able to find a few identifiable flocks of Surf Scoters, but most went as Surf/Black or Dark-winged Scoters. Northern Gannets were also making their way around the bay, but were too distant for photos.
From there I moved south to Prime Hook Beach Rd. where I had 18 species (eBird Checklist). There were two decent flocks of gulls with nothing noteworthy and only contained Laughing Gulls. I did add Dunlin and Long-billed Dowitcher to my Sussex County year list. I continued to the southern end of Prime Hook NWR for the last hour and stopped at Broadkill Marsh (eBird Checklist) to look for waterfowl and shorebirds. Highlights included a flyover flock of 12 Snow Geese, six Northern Pintail, about 50 Green-winged Teal, and a lone Ruddy Duck.
My last stop was Broadkill Beach (eBird Checklist) to look for migrating scoters, gulls, terns, and Northern Gannets. There was a flock of ducks, presumably scoters, out of scope range, but I did have two Dark-winged Scoters and a dozen Northern Gannets fly by. A lone Royal Tern made it’s way along the beach allowing for a decent photo as well.
I added two species, Surf Scoter and Northern Gannet, to my Delaware year list bringing it to 165 species. Hopefully, I can add more seabird/pelagic species to the list when Hurricane Sandy makes it’s way to this area at the end of the weekend.