Video: Birding the Delaware Bayshore


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Before this fall and winter, I have only birded the Delaware Bayshore one time. Since September, I have had the opportunity to explore places such as Bombay Hook NWR and Prime Hook NWR and have found an array of wildlife and beautiful scenery. I urge every naturalist to scope out the Delaware Bayshore in the future. Here is what DNREC has to say about the Delaware Bayshore:

Extending from Pea Patch Island in New Castle County to the City of Lewes in Sussex County, the Delaware Bay shoreline is widely recognized as an area of global ecological significance. Its expansive coastal marshes, shoreline, agricultural lands and forests provide diverse habitat to many species, including migratory shorebirds. Birders and biologists from around the world come to central Delaware to witness the annual spring spectacle of more than a half million shorebirds taking a rest stop to dine on eggs laid by spawning horseshoe crabs.”

DNREC is inviting current and potential recreational users of public lands along the Delaware Bayshore to participate in a survey. Survey responses will assist DNREC’s Delaware Bayshore Initiative Team with planning and implementing investments in the Bayshore region. Take the Bayshore Initiative Survey

All content used with permission from DNREC. 

More on the Snow x Ross’s Goose Hybrid


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I’ve received multiple suggestions on the identification of this goose, but still have not reached a verdict. Some are suggesting a hybrid, but others are suggesting a full Ross’s Goose. The bill is definitely good for Ross’s, but in the field the bird appeared to large for a Ross’s and more favorable for a Snow. I traced the head and bill shapes from one of the photos I posted the other day for another comparison. The head of the possible hybrid is a little flatter than I would expect a Ross’s to have, but that could be caused by the bird’s posture and extended neck. What do you think?

Trace of a Snow Goose (foreground) and a possible Snow x Ross’s Goose Hybrid.

The Brant continue at Battery Park!


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For some time now, there has been a flock of 13 Brant at Battery Park in New Castle, Delaware. I needed Brant for my Delaware Year List, so I decided to take the short drive from Newark yesterday evening. I arrived shortly after 3:00 pm and walked towards the river scanning the grassy areas for the Brant. There were a ton of people at the park having picnics, playing sports, riding bikes, and exercising. I wasn’t sure where to begin so I walked to the southern end to scan the Delaware River for the Brant and any gulls or waterfowl that happened to be occupying the river at the time. There I found numerous Ring-billed Gulls and Canada Geese, but nothing out of the ordinary.

Ring-billed Gull perched along the Delaware River at Battery Park in New Castle, Delaware on 1 December 2012.

I then slowly moved upriver, scanning for the Brant, but also giving every gull careful inspection for anything noteworthy or uncommon. As I was walking I noticed a duck flying quickly upriver that looked long-bodied and quickly scoped it to find a Red-breasted Merganser! I needed this for my Delaware Year List as well and I was surprised to see one here.

Another 100 meters of careful observation yielded nothing out of the ordinary, but I finally stumbled upon the flock of Brant near the northern limits of the park.

Brant feeding on the lawn at Battery Park in New Castle, Delaware on 1 December 2012.

The flock was very active and were interacting with each other consistently and ignored any human that walked near or far. The birds were acting “tame” as one would say and did not fear anything or anyone, which could be bad for the birds.

I set up 30 meters from the birds for 10 or 15 minutes photographing them with my Samsung Stratosphere and Vortex Skyline 80 PhoneSkoping Rig. Even though the birds were constantly moving, I obtained several decent shots, including the ones above.

I let the celebrities alone after the photo shoot and continued walking to the northern tip of the park to scan for gulls and waterfowl. Two Mallards flew upriver as I was walking and many Ring-billed Gulls were coming in to roost for the night. Scanning from the northern portion of Battery Park yielded several Rock Pigeons, Fish Crows, more Ring-billed Gulls, several Herring Gulls, and at least five Great Black-backed Gulls.

Great Black-backed Gull perched along the Delaware River at Battery Park in New Castle, Delaware on 1 December 2012.

By this time, the sun was setting and gulls and Fish Crows were flying south out of the nearby city of Wilmington in search of a roosting location for the night. Flocks of 50 to 100 Fish Crows were streaming by, calling as they went. It was getting dark and I decided that I should head home. On the way to the car, I noticed the Brant made there way to the river to roost for the night, but were still interacting actively as the sun was setting. This provided another prime opportunity for a Brant Photo Shoot!

Daylight was fading fast and I headed home with a tally of 14 species (eBird Checklist), including two state birds, from my hour long stay at Battery Park. I will be frequenting the park over the next several weeks in search of rare or uncommon gulls flying in to roost.

All photos were taken with a Samsung Stratosphere on a Vortex Skyline 80 Spotting Scope using the Phone Skope Universal Adapter set up.

Phone Skope makes custom adapters for any smartphone and spotting scope combination. Be sure to check them out on Facebook and Twitter.

Ducks Unlimited Migration Alert: Ducks Arriving Early in North Carolina


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*Original post by Kyle Wintersteen on the Ducks Unlimited Migration Reports

By Kyle Wintersteen

The sun’s rays had yet to fully illuminate North Carolina’s famed Currituck Sound, but the long, slender silhouettes buzzing the decoys were unmistakably pintails. They made one pass, banked back into the wind and danced gracefully into the blocks. Ducks Unlimited member Erinn Otterson of Virginia Beach, Va., picked out a bird, rose to shoot, and was soon admiring his first duck of the North Carolina season – a bull sprig. Not a bad start.

“We rounded out the [opening day of the second split on November 10] with eight pintails and a gadwall,” Otterson reports. “We’ve seen a lot of the early migrating dabblers like pintails, gadwalls and greenwings, but it’s a little strange how many scaup we’re seeing already. On the first day we saw three groups and they all had between 50 and 100 ducks. We probably could’ve shot a few, but we weren’t set up for bluebills, especially not in those numbers.”

Otterson is not alone in this observation.

“We’re receiving many reports of good diver numbers, especially in regards to scaup, which I would consider a little earlier than usual,” says Joe Fuller, migratory game bird coordinator for the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. “We don’t do formal duck surveys until January, but we also believe we got a good early push of dabbler species, including strong numbers of green-winged teal. Good numbers of ducks in general are reported for the Currituck, Pamlico Sound, and various state impoundments along the coast. I’ve heard from a lot of hunters who are doing pretty well in those locations.”

It’s also shaping up to be a good year for the 5,000 lucky North Carolina hunters who drew tundra swan permits, which allow each hunter to bag one swan.

“I haven’t shot my swan yet,” says Otterson, “But they’ve arrived. We’re seeing a lot of them staging near the Mackay Island National Wildlife Refuge.”

Arriving waterfowl have been aided by ample natural wetlands, thanks to a fairly wet summer and recent rains.

“We have good water in a lot of our beaver ponds and natural wetland habitats, which is great for the birds,” Fuller says. “The extra water also helped state and private waterfowl managers to flood impoundments for hunting and habitat. As far as diver habitat goes, we had a good production year for submerged aquatic vegetation. We don’t know for sure how a few storms affected the vegetation, but I suspect the ducks will still find it in pretty good quantities.”

Find hunting and migration reports in your area on the Ducks Unlimited Migration Map.

Waterfowl at Dorney Pond


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Friday, Alex Lamoreaux of Nemesis Bird posted that he observed Lesser Black-backed Gulls and a lone Greater White-fronted Goose at Dorney Pond in Allentown, PA. I decided to make a quick stop on my way back to Newark from a weekend home with the family (eBird Checklist). I arrived at Dorney Pond at 3:20 this afternoon and within minutes I found a Lesser Black-backed Gull, Mallards, American Black Ducks, Mute Swans, and loads of Canada Geese.

Lesser Black-backed Gull at Dorney Pond in Lehigh County, PA on 25 November 12.

Mute Swans at Dorney Pond in Lehigh County, PA on 25 November 2012.

The pond is relatively small, which made scanning quite easy. I was able to find the Greater White-fronted Goose without a problem as it was calling quite frequently throughout the 25 minutes of my stay. This video is best watched at 480p.

Greater White-fronted Goose at Dorney Pond in Lehigh County, PA on 25 November 2012.

Greater White-fronted Goose at Dorney Pond in Lehigh County, PA on 25 November 2012.

As I was scanning for other species, I found these two American Wigeon feeding.

American Wigeon at Dorney Pond in Lehigh County, PA on 25 November 2012.

Canada Geese were the most prevalent species on the water, with an estimated 250 individuals present.

Canada Geese at Dorney Pond in Lehigh County, PA on 25 November 2012.

 

The Greater White-fronted Goose and Lesser Black-backed Gull represent year bird number 395 and 396. 400 is within reach!

The video and photos were taken with a Samsung Stratosphere on a Vortex Skyline 80 Spotting Scope using the Phone Skope Universal Adapter set up.

Phone Skope makes custom adapters for any smartphone and spotting scope combination. Be sure to check them out on Facebook and Twitter.