Sunday, October 02, 2011

Birds at Sandy Hook

As of Friday evening, the forecast called for rain all day on Saturday. However, the forecast changed for the better by Saturday morning, so it was possible to make a trip out to Sandy Hook. There were a lot of birders present, many of them in two large tour groups (one led by NJ Audubon and the other run by a local birdwatching store). The other birders had some good finds, including a Clay-colored Sparrow on the Fisherman's Trail and a Mississippi Kite flying along the bay side of the peninsula – both of which I missed.

Instead, I was treated to a nice variety of birds and a beautiful day. There was a lot of bird activity along the Fisherman's Trail, though on closer inspection, most of the movement turned out to be American Robins and Gray Catbirds. Around the spot where the Clay-colored Sparrow was seen, I watched a few Field Sparrows moving around. Had I known the rarity was there when I walked out, I would through those apparent Field Sparrows more closely. There was very little present around the tidal cut at the end of the trail aside from three or four Ospreys that were fishing just off the beach.

Back in the parking lot, a friend involved with one of the tour groups pointed out a group of shorebirds in a puddle at the south end of the lot. These included a Pectoral Sandpiper (a year bird for me), a Dunlin, three Least Sandpipers, a Semipalmated Sandpiper, and a Semipalmated Plover. The Pectoral Sandpiper alone was worth a stop, as its plumage looked especially crisp and bright.

A stop at the garden behind the Officers Club turned up more birders and some warblers. There was only a handful of warblers, but they were good ones, as the foraging flock included a Tennessee Warbler and a Cape May Warbler. The warblers stayed low in a catalpa tree, so it was possible to get great looks at them (without neck soreness!) when the warblers were not obscured by the tree's giant leaves. A subsequent stop at Plum Island did not turn up any new birds for the day.