Video: Birding the Delaware Bayshore

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. 

Bombay Hook CBC Results

About two weeks ago, several birders from the University of Delaware, including yours truly, participated in the annual Bombay Hook NWR Christmas Bird Count. Our count area, which I described in this post, consisted of the Raymond Pool, Boardwalk Trail, the Visitor’s Center, and various other areas. We started at 3:45 in the morning and finished around 1:00 in the afternoon. We tallied 67 species in which most are listed below. In addition to the eBird checklist below, we had Barn and Eastern Screech-Owls early in the morning. Highlights in BOLD below.

White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys) at Bombay Hook NWR on 16 December 2012

Black-necked Stilt (Himantopus mexicanus), Kent County, Delaware on 16 December 2012

Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) at Bombay Hook NWR on 16 December 2012

Bombay Hook NWR, Kent, US-DE
Dec 16, 2012 6:50 AM – 12:55 PM
Protocol: Traveling
6.53 mile(s)
Comments:     Bombay Hook NWR CBC. Distance calculated using Running Map.
65 species (+5 other taxa)

Snow Goose  3500
Canada Goose  217
Tundra Swan  2
American Black Duck  3
Mallard  150
Blue-winged Teal  1
Northern Shoveler  76
Northern Pintail  14
Green-winged Teal  44
Bufflehead  5
Hooded Merganser  3
duck sp.  11
Great Blue Heron  6
Northern Harrier  8
Cooper’s Hawk  1
Accipiter sp.  1
Bald Eagle  2
Red-shouldered Hawk  1
Red-tailed Hawk  7
Clapper Rail  3
Black-necked Stilt  1  
American Avocet  130  
Greater Yellowlegs  13
Marbled Godwit  3
Dunlin  50
Long-billed Dowitcher  7
Ring-billed Gull  11
Herring Gull  1
gull sp.  4
Mourning Dove  120
Great Horned Owl  1
Belted Kingfisher  1
Red-bellied Woodpecker  7
Downy Woodpecker  5
Hairy Woodpecker  2
Northern Flicker  7
American Kestrel  1
Peregrine Falcon  2
large falcon sp.  1
Blue Jay  45
American Crow  5
Horned Lark  4
Carolina Chickadee  7
Tufted Titmouse  2
White-breasted Nuthatch  3
Marsh Wren  2
Carolina Wren  10
Golden-crowned Kinglet  3
American Robin  1
Northern Mockingbird  4
European Starling  63
American Pipit  4
Cedar Waxwing  1
Common Yellowthroat  1
Eastern Towhee  1
Field Sparrow  5
Savannah Sparrow  6
Fox Sparrow  1
Fox Sparrow (Red)  5
Song Sparrow  40
Swamp Sparrow  22
White-throated Sparrow  120
White-crowned Sparrow  6
Dark-eyed Junco  2
Northern Cardinal  44
Red-winged Blackbird  786
Eastern Meadowlark  1
House Finch  4
American Goldfinch  19
House Sparrow  13

View this checklist online at http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S12305063

This report was generated automatically by eBird v3 (http://ebird.org)

Phoneskoping at Presque Isle!

At the beginning of November, my fiancee and I took a two day trip to Erie, Pennsylvania. We ended up spending a few hours at Presque Isle State Park where I was eager to give take more photos with the Phone Skope Universal Adapter. (Read about my first attempt using the adapter here).

Waterfowl was scattered throughout the park, with 14 species tallied (complete eBird checklist). Ruddy Ducks were very copious and rather close allowing for decent photos.

Ruddy Duck, Presque Isle SP, Erie County, PA on 7 November 2012

Ruddy Duck at Presque Isle State Park on 7 November 2012.

Lesser Scaup were more numerous than the admirable Ruddy Duck, but were in capacious rafts and difficult to count.

Lesser Scaup, Presque Isle SP, Erie County, PA on 7 November 2012

Lesser Scaup at Presque Isle State Park on 7 November 2012.

Less abundant, the Double-crested Cormorant, was present in only one flock. I’ve never heard cormorants called Bald Ravens, Snakebirds, or Devil Birds, but Nate Swick begs to differ in this edition of I and the Bird.

Double-crested Cormorant, Presque Isle SP, Erie County, PA on 7 November 2012

Double-crested Cormorant at Presque Isle State Park on 7 November 2012.

This forlorn Tundra Swan was surfing solo in one of the many coves dispersed throughout the bay side of the park.

Tundra Swan, Presque Isle SP, Erie County, PA on 7 November 2012

Tundra Swan at Presque Isle State Park on 7 November 2012.

On the way home, we swung by Conneaut Marsh, with hopes of finding something noteworthy. Nothing out of the ordinary or out of place at the marsh, but I did have a high count of 17 Wilson’s Snipe (full eBird checklist)! Check out my post at Birding is Fun for a myriad of snipe photos and an astonishing video.

Wilson’s Snipe at Conneaut Marsh on 8 November 2012.

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!

More on the Snow x Ross’s Goose Hybrid

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.

Selecting a new birding patch in Newark

This past week I decided to check out a new birding spot around Newark that would ultimately end up being my local birding patch. I had various options to choose from such as White Clay Creek State Park, Middle Run Valley Natural Area, various local parks, and the Newark Reservoir.

Newark Reservoir on 6 December 12.

I generally get done working around 4:00 PM and with the sun setting around 5:00 or 5:15, I had to choose a place near the University of Delaware. I needed a place that would be en route to my house and also a spot that I could check quickly. On some afternoons, traffic is relatively heavy which carves into birding time.

White Clay Creek SP and Middle Run Valley NA are very good for songbirding, while the Newark Reservoir is great for waterfowl and edge birding. The Newark Reservoir is easy to scan for waterfowl as well. The edge is mostly birded by ear, but there is a mixed-hardwood forest to the north of the reservoir with several trails laid out in a tortuous manner.

Middle Run Valley NA appeared to be a decent option, but with daylight fading fast after work, I feel that birding in a forest would be a considerable waste of time. White Clay Creek SP is a bit farther than Middle Run and the Newark Reservoir, so daylight would be a problem there as well.

I ended up choosing the Newark Reservoir as my new birding patch and plan on frequenting the local body of water daily. Waterfowl are migrating through the area, which most likely biased my opinion on selecting a new patch.

After looking at past observations in eBird, the reservoir is definitely underbirded. Out of 75 species recorded all-time, Red-necked Grebe is probably the most spectacular. 16 species of waterfowl, five species of sparrow, and only two warbler species have been recorded among others.

This week, I stopped by the reservoir six times, with only missing Wednesday. I recorded 35 species and will give a more complete report later this weekend. Check back to see what my best bird was this week at my new birding patch!

Are you thinking about choosing a new patch? Robert Mortensen of Birding is Fun gives a few pointers on How to pick a new patch!

The Brant continue at Battery Park!

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.