Saturday, May 15, 2010


Today was the field trip with AMNH to Brigantine.  It was wonderful!  Well, it started out way too early.  But other than that, wonderful!

When we got to the museum we saw a few little lovelies in the tree by the drive where the bus was.  I don't even remember which ones.  But it was a great start!  On the bus I saw geese, cormorants, hawks, turkey vultures, and egrets out the window on the way there.  And when we got into some sort of turn-around situation (I have no idea) when we were almost there, some swallows of some sort.

Once we got there, a chipping sparrow at the very tippity top of an evergreen tree gave us a rousing welcome.  So cute!  At the entrance they have a bunch of boxes for purple martins, I only saw one not flying about wildly.  The picture sucked.  Oh well!  They are apparently basically overgrown swallows (that's how Paul described them anyway).  They are so fast, I don't know how people manage to get pictures of them in flight!

There were also some glossy ibis flying overhead, about a dozen of them.  It was really cool to see them flying. Yes, yes, I saw that in Cayman, but this time they weren't flying specifically away from me!

Once we headed out into the .... park?  reserve?  whatever ....... we saw laughing gulls pretty much everywhere, and crows right off the bat.  Possibly fish crows, but I can't tell them apart.  Someone claimed a boat-tailed crow, but I'm not sure about that one either.

We heard a common yellow throat at the water's edge, some people saw another warbler but I don't even remember what kind.  I didn't see it, I had gone a bit ahead to avoid the cluster.  I did see a marsh wren, but it flew off before I could get a picture.  That little guy was maddening!  He would pop up, catch my eye, and then duck down into the brush again.  It was too fast to follow.  It seemed like there were a pair, fetching nesting material and building a nest in the grass by the water's edge.

There was also this belted kingfisher perched, I'm so happy I got to see this guy!!!!  I hope to someday get a really good close-up view of one.

And this glossy ibis, being sure to turn, showing off its impressive beak to great advantage.  I'm not sure who is trying to steal the ibis's spotlight here, it might be an egret or a tern or a gull........

We saw this willet, which I suspect has a role in many birding jokes.  We actually saw about a zillion willets, including some display flights, which were great!  They are beautiful in flight, you would never match up their pictures in flight with their pictures on the ground.  All that gorgeousness just hides under a don't-see-me exterior, like when I walk around NY with my don't-look-at-me shirt on when I go out.  Except theirs is built in!

We also saw a great blue heron, our only one of the day, and too far away for my taste.  He mostly just stood there, although he did fly a short distance to stand directly next to a nearby egret.  It's funny to see the different birds jockey for position.

There was a bald eagle there!  We saw it flying for a little bit, then it was sitting on the edge of the water, presumably ready to pounce on any fish foolish enough to come by.  Nice to know we can see them somewhere without it being super freezing!  :-)  Paul set up the scope on him, and I tried to hook up the scope to my camera, but that failed.  I remember doing it with binocs with my little guy in Africa, when Melissa and I had beach day.  I might fiddle around with all the cameras and the binocs and see if I can get something going.

We saw a bunch of dunlins here and there.  

Jack and I saw this least sandpiper fly in and land on this mud.  It was extremely hard to spot on the mud, but everyone saw it, I think.  I will admit that some of my pictures did not contain the bird at all, just mud.  :-)

These American black ducks were hanging out.  There were very few ducks there.  

We saw some horseshoe crabs in the water, that's always cool.  These dunlin were hanging out near them.  Apparently the birds all come to eat the horseshoe crab eggs.  

We saw these Forster's terns quite a bit.  To me they look like fighter pilots, so sleek and serious!  The gulls look like they are just bumbling around when you see them next to the terns.  

We saw a bunch of skimmers, but they were too far off to get a decent picture.  Their beaks are so cool!  We saw them fly, but I don't think they were skimming.  They were close to the water but not really on it, at least that's what it looked like to me.  

The black bellied plovers were cool looking.  With that pattern, it really was hard to tell what I was looking at, if they were far away.  It's so interesting to see the different strategies for camouflage, with some trying to blend, blend, blend and some trying to look like a different shape.  

Someone spotted a falcon on a tower, which I could only see as a shape.  I mean, I could see that ~something~ was on the tower.  It's very possible I would be happier with more powerful binocs.

Then there were terrapins!   Hahahahahaha, that was awesome, go Terps!  There was also this group of cormorants hanging out, I've never seen that many together at once.  They were too far away for me to even ID them though, let alone appreciate them properly.

Then one of my happiest sights of the day - ruddy turnstones!  Finally I know what these guys are!  I remember seeing them in Cayman and looking through my app trying to figure out what kind of sandpiper they were and finding nothing.  Well now I know!  We saw several of them, but didn't see them fly at all.  It's a shame, they are so much prettier in flight than on the ground.

This picture theo-retically has semi-palmated sandpipers in with the dunlin, but it's hard for me to tell.  The ones that are hiding their beaks are the ones that I think are the semi-palmated sandpipers.  It's really a bad angle, they just were not very cooperative.  But on that one, you can see the beak a bit.  That plus Paul pointing at them (I think he was pointing at them) and saying "semi-palmated sandpipers" lead me to believe that's what the are......  it's nice to go with a pro!  :-)

Oh, and we saw this oyster catcher!  So funny, it looks so much like the other shore birds to me.  Willets, whimberel, oyster catcher.....   I'm not so good at telling them apart yet.  

We saw a few whimberels.  The first one someone spotted in the grass and we stopped the bus to look.  It was hard to see, but later we saw some others that were not so shy.  

The place was full of platforms for osprey, and they took full advantage.  We saw them flying. We saw them sitting around on their nests.  It was great!  It was an osprey heavy day.  :-)  I have a special fondness for osprey after seeing them in Cayman.  "That was no gull!"  I'm starting to be able to ID them.

These are semi palmated plovers.  I don't know what semi palmated means.  But these are fancier looking than the semi-palmated sandpipers, that's for sure!  :-)  They look more formal to me.  I mean, not quite penguin formal, but getting there.

We walked along their forest trail but it was not active.  I spotted something that was probably a magnolia (at least that's what Paul eventually found in that tree) and someone found a brown thrasher, but that was about it.  

The last stop was a yellow-legs.  I didn't get out for that one.  I took a few shots through the bus window, but they were not stellar.  

On the way back, lots of turkey vultures!  And a few egrets, it's hilarious to me to be driving down the highway with all the noise and traffic and pollution and look over and see an egret right there.  

It was a great day.  I like shorebirds, much easier to spot and photograph than the little lovelies that are coming through!  

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