Bar-tailed Godwit at Chinc – Twice!


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During the month of August, I made the hour and a half drive to Chincoteague NWR, twice. The reason for both trips was to see the MEGA – Bar-tailed Godwit. The first trip took place on August 5th, where I met up with studs like Alex Lamoreaux and Tom Johnson as well as a dude doing a Big Year (you’ve all seen the movie, right?) and several other folks I’ve never met before.

Before I started the drive, Alex texted me that the bird was not refound, yet. I decided to make the drive anyway, just to meet up and bird with friends I only get to see every couple of months. When I rolled into the parking area at the Tom’s Cove Visitor’s Center, I saw Alex and proceeded to shoot the you know what for about fifteen minutes. I then suggested we walk across the road to look in Swan Cove as I saw several large shorebirds in the pool when I drove in. We walked over and started scanning through the birds – “Willet. Dowitcher. Marbled Godwit. Hey, wait, what is that dowitcher-type bird with a bicolored bill? Oh man, that’s it!” We jumped for joy as we drooled at the sight of this European rarity. OK, so maybe we didn’t drool, but I know Alex was close. We watched the bird for over an hour and got exceptional scope looks.

Bar-tailed Godwit (ssp. lapponica) - Virginia

‘European’ Bar-tailed Godwit at Chincoteague NWR, Virginia on 5 August 2013. Digiscoped with an iPhone 4S + Celestron Regal M2 80ED & Phone Skope Adapter. iPhone photo by Tim Schreckengost.

The second round ensued on August 24th. After a morning of bird surveys, Ben Zyla and I made the trek down to Chinc. Ben was looking to add the bird to his growing ABA year list. Again, we rolled up to the Tom’s Cove Visitor’s Center and started scanning Swan Cove. A few other birders were there and had already spent several hours searching for the bird. Discouraged and having no luck with the MEGA, Ben did what any sensible birder would do – look through flocks other than the flock of Marbled Godwits we stared at for what seemed like hours. Boom. He found it. The Bar-tailed Godwit was mixed in with a nice, tidy flock of Willets.

‘European’ Bar-tailed Godwit at Chincoteague NWR, Virginia on 24 August 2013. Digiscoped with an iPhone 4S + Celestron Regal M2 80ED & Phone Skope Adapter. iPhone photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Epic. Ben was stoked, as were the the rest of the bird nerds present. We watched the bird for an hour or so. It took flight several times and flew over to Tom’s Cove, then came right back. Eventually it decided to chill with it’s own kind – Marbled Godwits, and that’s when we hit the road back to Milton.

Bar-tailed Godwit (ssp. lapponica) - Virginia

‘European’ Bar-tailed Godwit and Willet at Chincoteague NWR, Virginia on 24 August 2013. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Two for two. I consider that a success. Until next time, bird hard my friends.

King Eider at Mispillion Inlet


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Last Tuesday, Chris Bennett posted that he had a King Eider at Mispillion Inlet, AKA the DuPont Nature Center. He sent the report out around 2:00 PM, but I didn’t find out until Taj Schottland messaged me about an hour later. Luckily, Mispillion Inlet is only 25 minutes from my field house and Ben Zyla and I were on spot in no time. Chris was still there when we arrived and pointed us in the direction of the bird. Although distant and wrapped in heat haze, we had decent scope looks of our lifer King Eider!

King Eider at DuPont Nature Center (Mispillion Inlet), Kent Co, DE on 13 August 2013. Digiscoped with an iPhone 4S + Celestron Regal M2 80ED & Phone Skope Adapter. iPhone photo by Tim Schreckengost.

We think this bird is an adult male in eclipse plumage. Compare the bird pictured above (I know it’s a terrible photo, but for what it’s worth) to this immature male that Alex Lamoreaux of Nemesis Bird photographed in Cape May earlier this year.

According to eBird, this represents the first August record of King Eider for Delaware. In fact, there aren’t many records for the northeast in August. There are records from Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and Maryland.

King Eider eBird Records for August. Credit – eBird.org

This is an exceptional sighting and is the only bird being reported in the east this month, August 2013. King Eiders breed in the arctic and winter along the northern half of the east coast and in southwest Alaska and the Bering Sea in the west. A quick look through eBird records shows about a dozen sightings, give or take, in Delaware, all-time.

It’s an unusual year for sea-dwelling waterfowl with Common Loons, Black Scoters, and Red-breasted Mergansers summering along the east coast. Some of these birds that are showing up now may have failed during the breeding season and dispersed early. Why do you think this is happening? Let us know in the comments!

Again, thanks to Chris Bennett for getting the word out quickly! Since the initial report, dozens of birders have twitched the eider. It is still being seen today, August 18.

ABA Camp Avocet – Are you going?


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Ruddy Turnstone at Cape Henlopen State Park, Sussex County, Delaware, on 29 July 2013. Digiscoped with an iPhone 4S + Celestron Regal M2 80ED & Phone Skope Adapter. iPhone photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Next week, August 11th – 17th, the American Birding Association (ABA) is hosting Camp Avocet at Cape Henlopen State Park in southern Delaware. Cape Henlopen State Park is a great place to bird during fall migration. Shorebirds, terns, and gulls are plentiful, especially at The Point.

Osprey, Black-bellied and Semipalmated Plovers, American Oystercatcher, Ruddy Turnstone, and Sanderling are seen in good numbers in mid-August. Least, Caspian, Common, Forster’s, and Royal Terns are common in Cape Henlopen as well. If you’re lucky, a Sandwich Tern may present itself. Songbirds like Brown-headed Nuthatch, Pine Warbler, Eastern Towhee, Chipping Sparrow, and Blue Grosbeaks are plentiful.

If you’re participating in this ABA Summer Young Birders Camp, you will not be disappointed. Check out this link for more information on the camp and to register: http://events.aba.org/camp-avocet/

Lifer Red Knot, finally!


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Finally, finally, finally. I finally saw my lifer Red Knot at Prime Hook NWR (eBird Checklist) two nights ago. Actually, I saw 68 of them, some in alternate plumage, but most in basic. Just seeing a handful (give or take) in alternate plumage makes me long for knot migration next spring. Anyway, the birds were distant, but I did take some Phone Skoped shots of the flock.

Red Knots at Prime Hook NWR on 8 July 2013. iPhone photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Red Knots at Prime Hook NWR on 9 July 2013. iPhone photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Red Knots at Prime Hook NWR on 9 July 2013. iPhone photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Shorebird migration is on. Get out and check those mudflats!

Least Terns at Prime Hook NWR!


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Two nights ago, I took a few hours and birded Prime Hook NWR. I started at Little Neck Rd., moved to Prime Hook Beach Rd., then ended at Fowler Beach Rd. I’ve been ticking Delaware year birds left and right this week. Everywhere I go, I see something new. Little Neck Rd. provided me with facemelting looks at Blue Grosbeaks, Indigo Buntings, and Chipping Sparrows.

Great Blue Heron along Prime Hook Beach Rd. on 4 July 2013. iPhone photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Prime Hook Beach Rd. proved to be extremely birdy, as always. About an hour later, I had 27 species under my belt with only a little bit of effort. A flock of 160 Glossy Ibis flew over, numerous Laughing Gulls were chuckling as they flew by, and Forster’s Terns were abundant as usual.

Forster’s Terns along Prime Hook Beach Rd. on 4 July 2013. iPhone photo by Tim Schreckengost.

My final stop was Fowler Beach Rd. I saw a Nelson’s Sparrow there last year. I’ll have to wait for fall migration to see them again. Anyway, shorebirds were very abundant last night. I found 6 species, but probably missed several due to hunger for Independence Day food. The highlight, though, was not a shorebird, but rather a handful of Least Terns!

Least Tern along Fowler Beach Rd. on 4 July 2013. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Check back for more updates from Delaware birding. I’ll be here for the next 2 to 3 years. The first two photos were taken with an iPhone 4s + Celestron Regal M2 80ED & Phone Skope Adapter.

Be sure to check out www.phoneskope.com for more details on digiscoping with smartphones!

Good birding,
Tim