Wednesday, August 12, 2015

ABA Camp Avocet 2015; Guest Blog #3

Hi birders! It's Tim writing, and if you've missed the other posts in my guest series here is the link for the first post and here is the one for the second post.

After writing about Bombay, I realized that I totally forgot to give credit to the awesome instructors that ran the trips. It was great to spend time with local experts and just overall great birders. Our instructors were Bill Stewart (a local and the ABA Young Birder Programs director), George Armistead (ABA Events Coordinator), Holly Merker, Steve Howell (author of many ornithology books), Raymond VanBuskirk (Leica representative), and our intern Mike Hudson. Thanks so much guys and gals for a such a wonderful experience at Camp Avocet!

Anyway, after a good night's sleep, we had breakfast a little later than we did the day before, but we still got birding pretty early. Today's escapade was to Prime Hook, a more coastal place than Bombay Hook, and much closer to the Virden Center.

We started at Fowler Beach Rd., which at the start is shrubby, fieldy habitat, where we got Bank Swallow, White-eyed Vireo, and Blue Grosbeak, and near the end is a saltmarsh great for Seaside Sparrow and Clapper Rail. We had mediocre views of over 20 Seaside Sparrows, which were lifers for me, but I guess that's basically the best you can get with an Ammodramus sparrow. The Clapper Rails also were very showy, crossing the road multiple times and skulking where they thought we couldn't see them but really could. We also met David LaPuma and Mike Lanzone, two great birders from the area and they accompanied us until we went to Cape May the next day.

At some point the road became only accessible by foot, and we walked to the beach from there. The really cool birds started there. Soon after, the saltmarsh opened up to show big pools of water, filled with terns (Common, Forster's, Caspian, and Least), Laughing Gulls, Black Skimmers, Black-bellied and Semipalmated Plovers, lots of American Oystercatchers, tons of herons and egrets, both yellowlegs and both subspecies of Willet, two Whimbrels, and best of all, a Gull-billed Tern. Even though they breed farther north, Gull-bills are strangely almost absent on the Delmarva peninsula, so this was a great sighting. We also had multiple Bald Eagles and a Red-shouldered Hawk in the distance. American White Pelicans had been reported here recently, but we weren't able to locate them. Here is the Fowler Beach list.

After we had scoured Fowler Beach, we headed to Prime Hook Beach Rd., where we got most of the same species plus some Long-billed Dowitchers and a flyover Cattle Egret. Our Prime Hook Beach sightings can be seen here. Most of us were getting tired of the heat, so we headed back to the Virden Center to eat lunch.

After lunch (and an intense grape fight), Steve Howell and Michael Lanzone did two great presentations, Steve's was about the 12 steps of bird identification, and Mike's was about patch birding. I learned a lot from both of the talks, especially the identification presentation.

Shortly afterwards we had dinner, another great meal, following was another late visit to Cape Henlopen, this time to Gordon's Pond and Herring Point. The Gordon's Pond trail actually goes through a piney forest before actually arriving at Gordon's Pond, and it is a great place to find Brown-headed Nuthatch. We did succeed in finding over 10 Brown-headed Nuthatches, as well as a Brown Thrasher. At Gordon's Pond there was a multitude of roosting terns and egrets, mostly Caspian Terns and Snowy Egrets, and some Black-necked Stilts, but otherwise it wasn't as filled with birds as Prime Hook.

Our second stop was Herring Point, just across the street from the Gordon's Pond Trail trailhead. A complete surprise for me was 10 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, a normally rare bird in most of North America, but somewhat common in some sections of the mid-Atlantic coast. We also had an adult male Surf Scoter, a lifer for most of the inland birders. Here is the list for both Gordon's and Herring. At that point it was after 8, so we retired to the Virden Center for the night.

I hope you guys are enjoying my posts, goodbye for now!

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