Field Trip Reports

For trip reports from our monthly bird walks, click on Fran Uhler or Governor Bridge

WHEN: Sunday, October 14, 2007
WHERE: Schoolhouse Pond, Upper Marlboro, MD
The 2nd Annual Schoolhouse Pond Big Sit
(observation platform at the rear of the pond)

The Marlboro Flaming County Seaters consisted of a total of 16 observers throughout the day, with some birders present from 6:30 AM until almost 7 PM.  It was a good day with spectacular weather, and a nice variety of birds were seen.  The total number of species seen during the Big Sit was 65, one higher than our total in 2006.  The morning was fairly active, but the afternoon was quiet until there was a flurry of bird activity just before dark.

Herring Gulls passed overhead.  The rear observation platform can also be a good place to view flying raptors, and a variety of species were seen during the day, including a beautiful juvenile Highlights included large numbers of flyover gulls in the morning, including 1 flyover Bonaparte's Gull. As usual, the gulls were making their early morning trip to the nearby Brown Station Road landfill, and hundreds of Laughing, Ring-billed, and Northern Harrier, two Bald Eagles, several Sharp-shinned and Cooper's Hawks, good views a several Red-shouldered Hawks, two Red-tailed Hawks, both vultures, and a late Osprey.  

Also of note were the first Northern Shovelers of the season, joining the local Mallards and Wood Ducks.  Huge flocks of European Starlings, Red-winged Blackbirds, and Common Grackles passed overhead and one Rusty Blackbird was heard.  Other highlights included a late flyover Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and the arrival of three Spotted Sandpipers just as the Flaming County Seaters were calling it a day and packing up for the evening.  These late arrivals brought the species total for the day to 65.  

Another nice find was the Wilson's Snipe which Jeff Shenot saw flying into the vegetation along the pond's edge.  Other birds seen at or over the pond included a group of high Double-crested Cormorants, one Great Egret, all three mimids, two small groups of Tree Swallows, a small group of Barn Swallows, a small group of Eastern Bluebirds, and Trumpeter Swan #962.

otable misses included most warbler species, both kinglets, Eastern Towhee, and most migrant passerines.  The only warblers Common Yellowthroat and Yellow-rumped.  Perhaps most noticeable was the almost complete absence of birds working the trees at the rear of the pond.  This tree line was busy off and on all day during the 2006 Big Sit, and usually there are Chickadees, Titmice, Cardinals, and woodpeckers foraging in the trees or sparrows chipping in the grass.  But, during the 2007 Big Sit the woods were largely silent and no mixed-species flocks moved through.  

The 2007 Big Sit at Schoolhouse Pond turned out to be a fun day with spectacular weather, and a lot of birders were able to come out for most of the day or a few hours.  With two fairly successful sits under their belt, I look forward to what the Flaming County Seaters see next year.  Perhaps with the right combination of weather and migrants, the Flaming County Seaters will top 70 species.

-reported by Fred Shaffer

Sunday, October 28, 2007
Cape Henlopen, DE
REPORT: While it was still dark, 6 hardy birders set out for Cape Henlopen and surrounding areas. We stopped first at Gordon Pond, a large pond in the south of Cape Henlopen Park, in the hopes of finding waterfowl.  Here, spectacular skeins of Snow Geese flashed as they caught the sun in the clear blue sky. In the distance a flock seemingly of gulls at anchor turned into Avocets, while Snowy and Great Egrets filled out the picture. But aside from Mallards, of ducks there were none. Stiff winds kept passerines at bay but were congenial to hundreds of late Tree Swallows.

At the Visitor Center - inexplicably closed for the day - we enjoyed the antics of Brown-headed and Red-breasted Nuthatches, some of us obtaining good pictures. We turned next to the hawk watch platform atop one of the gun emplacements. As we were going up we met the official counters coming down - a sign that hawks might not be plentiful today. And in fact, while many vultures were up being buffetted about, the only hawk to fly past was a lone Sharp-shinned.  Well, so far, not a spectacular day.

Things picked up in the parking lot with a late Blue-headed Vireo. At the Cape, heavy wind deterred us from walking around to the end of the cape in search of Snow(y) Owls or Buntings, but a group of Brown Pelicans was a nice surprise.

At nearby Prime Hook Refuge, a walk along the trail yielded a late Blue Grosbeak and Indigo Bunting, some Rusty Blackbirds among hundreds of Robins, a White-crowned Sparrow, and a Northern Harrier and Bald Eagle aloft, providing a nice finish to the day.

-reported by Fred Fallon

Friday, September 21, 2007
Jug Bay Natural Area
REPORT: A full load of birders embarked on this evening boat ride on the Patuxent River, captained by the incomparable Greg Kearns, resuming a one-time PGAS tradition. The date had been chosen to coincide with maximum low tide so as to bring Soras into view on the exposed mud, and we were not disappointed.. Many Soras were heard, some in response to hand-clapping; others calling spontaneously. Several were well seen, a life bird for many. Our tidal timing was almost too good, hanging up as we did on the mud, but only momentarily, in the low water.

We were also treated to flocks of Blue-winged and Green-winged Teal, come across suddenly as the boat rounded bends in the river; a Solitary Sandpiper and Greater Yellowlegs; a late Marsh Wren; and as night advanced, Soras taking off on their migratory flights. No less impressive were the vast stands of wild rice now restored as a result of the pioneering work of Greg Kearns and USGS biologist Mike Haramis. We docked quite after dark after this most pleasant excursion, thankful for the beautiful mild weather, and for the wilderness of Jug Bay Park preserved as it is so close by.

-reported by Fred Fallon
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