Saturday, May 12, 2007

Bombay Hook

On Saturday I toured Bombay Hook and Delaware Bayshore with DC Audubon. Bombay Hook NWR is one of the very best birding spots within about a two-hour drive of Washington, D.C. Its 16,000 acres present a variety of habitats, each of which brims with birds. We had a small group of seven people that included two visitors from New Mexico.

The regular colony of purple martins has returned to the Nature Center for another summer of breeding. The wooded edge to the meadow was full of warblers - black-and-white, black-throated green, redstart, prothonotary, Louisiana waterthrush, and the ubiquitous yellow warblers and common yellowthroats. We heard their songs and chatter from every wooded or brushy patch in the refuge. Feeders at the Nature Center were attended by ruby-throated hummingbirds, my first of the year.

Fields along the initial stretch of auto tour yielded singing chipping and swamp sparrows, a blue grosbeak, and a ring-necked pheasant. A small wooded patch held yellow-rumped and blackpoll warblers, a yellow-billed cuckoo, a singing red-eyed vireo, a veery, and nesting brown thrashers. On the boardwalk trail we saw white-eyed vireos and western sandpipers, while listening to the distinctive songs of marsh wrens, seaside sparrows, and a clapper rail.

Shorebirds were rather sparse in the impoundments and mudflats close to the auto tour route. They seem to have followed the receding tide to feeding areas on the farther reaches of the refuge's mudflats. Still, we saw representatives of the refuge's regular May visitors - short-billed dowitchers, semipalmated plovers, black-bellied plovers, willets, and graceful black-necked stilts. After seeing dunlin in basic plumage several times this winter, it was fun change of pace to see them in their colorful alternate plumage.

Our next stop after the refuge was Port Mahon Road, which has a thin strip of beach bordering Delaware Bay. This is normally a good spot to find red knots since horseshoe crabs come ashore to lay eggs; unfortunately, on Saturday no knots were present. We did see sanderling, hundreds of ruddy turnstones, a least sandpiper, and a group of oystercatchers in flight. Pickering Beach had the same shorebirds and gulls as before, with the exception of a very late Bonaparte's gull. Like at Port Mahon Road, horseshoe crabs lined the water's edge.

View of Port Mahon Road

Tuckahoe State Park in Maryland was our next site. There we had good looks at Baltimore and orchard orioles, a blue-gray gnatcatcher, and our first green heron for the day (my first for the year). After the brief stop at Tuckahoe we headed back to Washington. While it was not a full-blown big day, we ended up seeing over 100 species anyway because the sites along our route were so productive.


Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Green Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Glossy Ibis
Mute Swan
Canada Goose
American Black Duck
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Bald Eagle
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
Ring-necked Pheasant
Clapper Rail
American Oystercatcher
Black-necked Stilt
Black-bellied Plover
Semipalmated Plover
Short-billed Dowitcher
Greater Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs
Spotted Sandpiper
Ruddy Turnstone
Western Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
Ring-billed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
American Herring Gull
Bonaparte's Gull
Laughing Gull
Common Tern
Forster's Tern
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Acadian Flycatcher
Great Crested Flycatcher
Eastern Kingbird
Purple Martin
Tree Swallow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Barn Swallow
Carolina Wren
House Wren
Marsh Wren
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
Brown Thrasher
Eastern Bluebird
Wood Thrush
American Robin
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Carolina Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
Blue Jay
American Crow
European Starling
White-eyed Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Yellow Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
American Redstart
Prothonotary Warbler
Louisiana Waterthrush
Common Yellowthroat
Eastern Towhee
Chipping Sparrow
Seaside Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Blue Grosbeak
Indigo Bunting
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Baltimore Oriole
Orchard Oriole
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow