Below are reports on recent Club birding field trips starting with the most recent and working back.
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Sunday, April 09 2017, Hughes Hollow
Leader: Jim Nelson. Participants: 11. Weather: Sunny, temps started in the low 40’s rising to about 60 by the end. Species: 54. The warm late winter and early spring brought a nice variety of species and numbers of birds. Highest species total for this walk in 4 years. Birds of note included lots of first-of-year birds for the participants -- Green Heron, lots of Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, singing Common Yellowthroats, both Western and Yellow Palm Warblers, singing Pine Warblers, and a Yellow-throated Warbler. Lingering winter birds included a nice Red-breasted Nuthatch and a single Rusty Blackbird. Waterfowl included Blue-winged Teal, Wood Duck, American Wigeon, Ring-necked Duck, and Hooded Merganser, along with calling Pied-billed Grebes and some American Coot. We also enjoyed a Barred Owl sitting quietly in the woods, a singing male Ruby-crowned Kinglet, a very vocal Brown Thrasher, many Swamp Sparrows, and a lot of American Goldfinch with many singing males in their breeding finery. Most interesting pre-walk bird was the Wild Turkey that walked across River Road near Riley’s lock as the trip leader and another participant were driving to Hughes. As the cars stopped and then drove slowly by, the Turkey sat down in the middle of road and remained there as the cars drove off. The eBird checklist for the trip can be viewed at http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S35832163
Saturday, March 11 2017, Jug Bay Natural Area of Patuxent River Park
Leader: John Bjerke
The annual ANS/MBC March trip to Jug Bay met very chilly temperatures and sometimes blustery winds under sunny skies. Numerous sightings of Bald Eagle probably involved 5 individuals. Two Ospreys were checking out a nesting platform. Although there had been an early arrival of Osprey in February, most of the platforms along this stretch of the Patuxent were still unvisited and the main migration seemed later than usual. Waterfowl were scarce except for Black Ducks and Wood Ducks. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and Hermit Thrush were winter holdovers. Eastern Phoebe had arrived and large flocks of American Robins were feeding in the fields. The most unusual bird was a Gray Catbird seen from the bridge over Mattaponi Creek. We wondered if it had wintered in the area. We had three singing Pine Warblers announcing that Spring was coming despite the forecast for a foot of snow.
Sunday, February 05 2017, Oaks Landfill
Leader: Mark England
Weather: Very good, high 40’s.
We met at 3:30 for another late-afternoon winter bird walk at the closed Oaks Landfill. Before we formed carpools, I felt it necessary to temper expectations for seeing Short-eared Owls on this trip, as I had not seen one all winter at the landfill, even though the Meadow Voles seem to be thriving as usual—a real mystery! As expected, we had no SEOW’s this day either, but we were compensated with an excellent show of hunting Northern Harriers, at least six, but probably more, both male and female. Other raptors included juvenile and adult Red-shouldered Hawks, and two Red-tailed Hawks. We had good views of some sparrows, including Field, White-crowned (juv,), White-throated, and Savannah. Waterfowl variety was lacking, but we did see an American Black Duck and a Green-winged Teal in flight.
Sunday, January 15 2017, Black Hills RP
MBC/MOS Field Trip Report
Sunday, January 15, 2017
Black Hill RP, Montgomery Co, MD
Leader: Gerry Hawkins
Weather: Mild and sunny
Species count: 39
Highlights: Ten persons joined leader Gerry Hawkins for a waterfowl-focused field trip to Black Hill RP in the morning on January 15. We started the field trip at the Visitors Center and then visited the boat ramp area in Black Hill RP and stopped at the nearby Route 121 bridge over Little Seneca Lake. During the trip we saw ten species of waterfowl, with highlights including six Canvasbacks five Common Goldeneyes, three Gadwall, two American Black Ducks, four Ring-necked Ducks, 15 Buffleheads and large numbers of Common and Hooded Mergansers and Ruddy Ducks. In addition, we saw several Pied-billed Grebes, American Coots and Great Blue Herons, and a single Double-crested Cormorant, which was classified as rare for this location by eBird. Other birding highlights included two Brown Creepers and an adult Bald Eagle perched and in flight. Overall we saw 39 total species with an excellent diversity of waterfowl, which we thought was terrific for a mild, sunny winter day. For those interested a complete list of the birds seen on the field trip may be viewed at the following link: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S33685633
Wednesday, January 11 2017, Blue Mash Walk
Leader: Stephanie Lovell. After a few days of 19°, we lucked out with a beginning temperature of 47 going up to 57 by the time we ended our walk. Five people joined me on the sunny beginning up the road to the smaller pond. Big surprise! all the brush has been cut down and there was a clear view of the frozen pond. Nothing on it of course, but we were happy to see clearly into the space, only a couple of deer on the far hill observed us. The area up to the pond was flattened down from recent storms and there was not a sparrow to be seen. Only where we crossed the road and started walking along the fence line did we see and hear bird life, all way off in the trees against the sun. We heard more than we saw, a distant Towhee let us know he was there. A few skeins of Canada Geese went overhead, and a Mocking Bird watched our progress. A good view of a posing Savannah Sparrow in the brush was had by all. We even bushwhacked into the center of trees at one point where I've found lots of activity in the past, but nothing. Only when we got to the corner of the turn did we finally find a large group of White-throated Sparrows tucked into the vines. The second fence line provided some more species, Titmice, lots of Cardinals, and lots of Blue Jays, Song Sparrows and more White-throats, a few Robins flew by at the end. Couldn't find any wood peckers, we did see a Red-shouldered Hawk sunning itself on a post, but all in all a very quiet day with only 20 species total. It was a lovely day to be out though.
Sunday, January 01 2017, “Earliest Bird” Trip
Leader: Mike Bowen
Weather: Amazingly balmy, with temps. rising to over 50 degrees, and no wind
Species count: 39
Highlights: Georgetown Reservoir was pretty quiet, but it did give us a beautiful hen Common Merganser and a single elusive Pied-billed Grebe; the edges held several passerines that were our first for the year. Constitution Gardens pond was as always extremely productive; with the customary large (55) group of Ring-necked Ducks, 7 Gadwalls, two Buffleheads, and an astounding 29 Northern Shovelers. We also saw two perched Red-tailed Hawks there. A group of 6 Black-crowned Night-herons greeted us at the head of the Washington Channel, together with two Pied-billed Grebes. The trees around the FDR Memorial were empty of small birds, probably because of a perched Cooper’s Hawk, which allowed great scope and photo views. Due to a road closure caused by an early morning cycle event, our time near Hains Point was quite limited; just a few Lesser Scaup were visible among large numbers of Canada Geese, although the leader knew that hundreds of Scaup were probably sitting, out of sight, just a little farther down-river. Off then to the LBJ Grove and Columbia Marina, but with little time to spare. We saw close-in Hooded Mergansers right away, first of the year for all. Playing Red-breasted Nuthatch calls did not produce that species (it’s an irruption year and this is a good place for them), but our group did get a Brown Creeper, Juncos and White-throated Sparrows. Two vehicles stopped off briefly at Roaches Run before looping back to Georgetown Reservoir by way of National Airport. There we had our only Belted Kingfisher of the day. A comfortable morning, weather-wise, but perhaps a little lacking in the bird department. But there’s always New Year’s Day 2018!
Sunday, December 18 2016, 2016 Seneca Christmas Bird Count
The Seneca CBC has been conducted since 1955, but there are no published results for 1958, 1960, 1962, and 1966. So this year’s CBC was the 58th recorded. Each year, the count is done in a 15-mile diameter count circle, centered at Violette’s Lock on the C&O Canal, and includes areas of Montgomery, Fairfax, and Loudoun counties. The count circle is divided into 16 sectors (5 in Virginia – Sectors 12-16 -- comprising about 40% of the circle, and 11 in Maryland – Sectors 1-11 -- covering the other 60%).
For this year’s count we had 123 people participating -- 115 people counted in the field and 13 people counted as feeder watchers. (The 123 total participating is lower than adding the two categories together because some folks served two roles, counting in the field earlier in the day and then also contributing a feeder/yard count from their home later in the day or counting in one sector in the morning and helping in another in the afternoon.) This is the highest number of participants since 1995. I was pleased to have many new folks join our veteran counters in both the Virginia and Maryland sectors. I hope everyone will join us again for the 2017 count on Sunday, December 17.
Through our combined efforts, we tallied 100 species on December 18 with 5 additional species found in our count circle only during “count week” (the period from December 15 through December 21). The total species count of 105 is our highest since 2002 and is well above the average of 96 for the previous 10 years. We tallied 26,640 individual birds, above our 25,946 last year but still below the average of 29,129 for the previous 10 years.
I have included, as a PDF document, the spread sheet showing the results of the count by sector, with sector totals at the bottom and count circle totals at the far right (“cw” in the “Total” column designates a species reported during the “count week” but not officially tallied by our counters on December 18th).
Here are the highlights of this year’s Seneca CBC:
This year, like last year, was unusually warm in the fall and early December, but this year we had better species diversity overall, and waterfowl diversity and numbers were better with many species with higher numbers than usual. And this warm pattern probably helped give us several very unusual species on our count.
The first three unusual species are first-ever species for the Seneca CBC. A beautiful male Eurasian Wigeon was found by a keen observer in Sector 6 in Montgomery County who picked it out of a crowd of Canada Geese, Mallards, and American Wigeon on a pond at the Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary (a location we have special permission to bird for the CBC). Eurasian Wigeon is rare anywhere, but particularly away from the coast (there is only one other report in eBird farther west in our area than this location). Second, also in Sector 6 along Sycamore Landing Road, an observer found our first Blue Grosbeak, a species that should be long gone by December. Our third first-ever species was found by sharp-eyed counters in Sector 16 in Loudoun County at the edge of the Trump golf course (another location we have permission to bird for the CBC) – a Le Conte’s Sparrow, a rare migrant through our area (only a handful of records in eBird) and a species that should also be long gone by December.
In addition to these three first-ever count day species, a first-ever Eared Grebe was found a couple of days after the count on the Potomac viewed from Riley’s Lock and Violette’s Lock on the C&O Canal. It joins a small club of 3 other “count week only” species that, I hope, will someday be found on a count day.
Three of the four new species were photographed, and I was convinced by the written documentation I received on the Blue Grosbeak. So I am optimistic that all four species will be accepted by our CBC Regional Editor. There have been a lot of interesting birds reported in Montgomery County, Loudoun County, Fairfax County, and DC so far this winter season. And some of them were in places where birders would not be looking except on a CBC (or just on a walk around a birder’s own neighborhood – like the Black-throated Gray Warbler in northwest DC). As I noted last year, I suspect many other rarities are and have been around but just not reported because a knowledgeable birder was not in the right place at the right time.
Adding the Eurasian Wigeon, Blue Grosbeak, and Le Conte’s Sparrow brings the cumulative total of species officially tallied on count day for the 58 Seneca CBCs to 167! The Eared Grebe brings the “count week-only” species total to 4. So for the 58 Seneca CBCs, there have been 171 species on count day or during count week.
Beyond the four new species, our intrepid counters found some other unusual species as well. A third-ever Baltimore Oriole was heard singing in Sector 5 in Montgomery County in the Mckee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area. Our fifth-ever Osprey was seen by counters in Sector 3/4 in Montgomery County from Riley’s Lock sitting on a rock in the Potomac near the Virginia shore. Our fifth-ever Spotted Sandpiper was found by a team in Sector 13 in Loudoun County at the northwest end of Selden Island in the Potomac. Our seventh-ever Sandhill Cranes were spotted in Sector 7 in Montgomery County flying over the Hughes Road Polo Fields. This two-some seems to be visiting for the winter and spending a lot of time in and around Algonkian Regional Park in Loudoun County leading to observations from both Virginia and Maryland. Becoming more regular in recent years but still unusual are a Red-breasted Merganser and a Horned Grebe in Sector 3/4 observed from Riley’s Lock, another Horned Grebe in Sector 15 in Loudoun County observed on Killawog Lake, Ashburn Village, Double-crested Cormorants in Sector 5 in Montgomery County and in Sectors 15 and 16 in Virginia, and a Peregrine Falcon in Sector 3/4.
We also had interesting highs and lows of many other species.
We had a new high count for Wild Turkey – 33 total in four Montgomery County sectors.
Other significant high counts (looking at the last ten years or more of data for this CBC) are for Canada Goose (highest since 2002), Mute Swan (2 tying the previous high in 2002), Hooded Merganser (2nd highest ever), Ring-billed Gull (highest since 2000), Red-breasted Nuthatch (a good year nearly triple the average of the previous 10 years), and Savannah Sparrow (highest since 1983, with most observed in a single-species flock on the edge of the Trump golf course in Sector 16). While not high counts, it was nice to see better numbers of Horned Lark, American Pipit, and Rusty Blackbird after the lows of the last couple of years.
We also had noteworthy low counts this year. Looking back 10 years or more (which includes the rescheduled 2009 count day with difficult, post blizzard, access conditions and fewer participants), this year we had significant low counts for American Black Duck (third lowest ever), Pied-bill Grebe (3 compared to 10-year average of 17), Northern Flicker (lowest since 1977), Eastern Bluebird (lowest since 2003), Hermit Thrush (lowest since 1973), American Robin (lowest since 2008), Yellow-rumped Warbler (lowest since 1977), no Chipping Sparrow (lowest since 2003), White-throated Sparrow (lowest since 1969), and Swamp Sparrow (lowest since 1969). Northern Pintail, Canvasback, Merlin, and Chipping Sparrow were not found on count day and ended up in the “count week” category.
Once again this year, we see the importance of having many sets of eyes in the field in a variety of habitats, with 18 species found in only one sector, and, of those, 9 species represented by sightings of only a single bird. The value of geographic diversity is shown by the 8 species found only in our Virginia sectors and the 23 species found only in Maryland sectors.
I appreciate the folks who diligently wrote up the details of unusual sightings.
Let me end with a little historical perspective. We’ve come a long way since the first Seneca CBC in 1955 which tallied 32 species and 1,305 individual birds on count day. Each of the 57 subsequent reported counts had more species and only one had fewer individual birds on count day. Twenty species have been tallied on all 58 reported Seneca CBCs, and 11 more have been tallied on 57 Seneca CBCs. At the other extreme, 14 species have been tallied on only one Seneca CBC, including our three new count day species.
Thanks again to the many folks who helped make this year’s count a success, and I hope you will be able to join us again for the 2017 count. I would also like to hear from anyone reading this who is interested in joining the 2017 count for the first time. Save the date – Sunday, December 17. Let me know if you have any questions about the count or the results or would like to join us in December.
Sunday, November 27 2016, Lilypons and Surrounding Area
Leader – Clive Harris A dozen birders gathered early at the gate to Lilypons for this perennially popular walk. We enjoyed decent weather conditions throughout the morning. We found 44 species on the property. This included two American Tree Sparrows that popped up in a mixed sparrow flock. Unfortunately not everybody got on these birds. Another nice sighting was of 3 Rusty Blackbirds who showed well in trees next to the large impoundment near the house. Other than that we did not find anything unusual or out of season but did come across most of the expected birds at this time of year, including American Kestrel, both kinglets, and a total of 8 sparrow species. The latter included a small flock of White-crowned Sparrows seen next to the leader’s car as we were concluding our trip. As always we are appreciative of the owners for continuing to allow birders access to this property. After finishing our tour of Lilypons we did a quick inspection of the fields at the corner of Oland Rd and Route 85. We saw a flock of 16 Horned Lark in flight over the fields. However at that time the large flocks of Lark had not yet arrived and so we were out of luck in our quest for Lapland Longspur. After the end of the trip the leader made a dash up to Harford County for a successful twitch of the Black-throated Gray Warbler while a couple of participants went back to Lilypons and added 2 species to the total for the day, Killdeer and Palm Warbler. This brought us to 48 for the day. See the listing on ebird at http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S33446953
Friday, November 11 2016, Sparrow Walk at Blue Mash
Leaders: Linda Friedland and Lydia Schindler. Participants: 9. Species: 30. Sunny and mild but breezy. A very congenial group and a pleasant fall morning but a little light on the birds. The most numerous sparrows were the White-throated. We had good looks at Song and Field, as well as Juncos and Towhees. Just a couple of us glimpsed a Fox Sparrow, which refused to reappear. Flickers were in evidence as were Red-bellied and Pileated Woodpeckers. Other sightings included Eastern Phoebe, both Kinglets, numerous Bluebirds, and a small flock of Waxwings.
Saturday, November 05 2016, Oaks Landfill
Leader: Mark England
Weather: Clear and sunny, temps. 38-50 degrees
Participants: 15 including leader
As usual at this spot, we had good diversity of raptors and sparrows. We started off about 8:15 am. walking the gravel ring road with the sun behind us, and soon found cooperative sparrows sitting up on branches for lengthy views, including Chipping, White-crowned (juvenile), Field, Savannah, and Song. We had less good looks at two Swamp Sparrows and only a few White-throated, surprisingly. We also had some juncos, for an eight-sparrow day. As it got warmer, we started seeing some raptors, including N. Harrier, and Cooper’s, Red-shouldered, and Red-tailed Hawks, though there were no kestrels this day, a fairly common species at the landfill.
The big pond was dried-up from the lack of rain, but at the leachate ponds we did find a lone migrant Ruddy Duck. It was a nice day to be out!
Saturday, October 29 2016, Blackwater Refuge
Leader: Mark England
Weather: Couldn’t be better—sunny, 70’s, no wind!
Participants: 8 including leader.
We convened about 9 am. at the Dorchester County Visitor Center at Sailwinds Park in Cambridge, Md. We saw only a few songbirds, including Yellow-rumped Warblers there, and little on the Choptank, so we headed to other spots along the river hoping for some early waterfowl, but were disappointed to see nary a migrant duck, only cormorants and four species of gulls in various plumages. We did see three Royal Terns on the marina pier however.
After a mini-mart stop on Rt. 16, we headed down Egypt Road, and saw some nice birds, including Savannah and Swamp Sparrows, Eastern Meadowlarks, several low-coursing Northern Harriers, Red-tailed Hawks, the first of many Bald Eagles, and a few American Kestrels, usually distant or in bad light, but one male did perch nicely for scope views. No Horned Larks or Am. Pipits this trip, however. Marta Wagner saw a Sharp-shinned Hawk while the rest of us were in the refuge visitor center.
At Blackwater, we had extended views of a probable family group of juvenile and adult Red-headed Woodpeckers, a few high-up Brown-headed Nuthatches, and the usual Forster’s Terns. There were no pelicans around, but we did have some good scope views of some shorebirds, included 3 Pectoral Sandpipers, a few Dunlin and Greater Yellowlegs, and a single Semipalmated Sandpiper and Black-bellied Plover. As on the Choptank, there were no ducks at all except two American Black Ducks, probably due to the warm weather further north. A few of us went over to Shorters’ Wharf Road to view the vast saltmarsh, but seeing only a few more eagles and another harrier, we headed for home before sundown.
Sunday, September 25 2016, Pennyfield to Violette's "Bird Stalk"
Leader: Jim Nelson. Participants: 10, including leader. Weather: A lovely sunny day with temps rising from 50’s to 60’s. Total species: 40. This walk is for folks who generally cannot get out as early. We met at Violette’s Lock at 9:00 (birding around the parking lot as everyone gathered), carpooled down to Pennyfield Lock, and then walked upstream along the C&O Canal towpath back to Violette’s, ending at noon. The total species count was much better than last year in spite of the low numbers of land birds (few warblers and no sparrows or orioles). The sustained dry weather meant the second impoundment had only a little water and mud that failed to attract shorebirds, waterfowl, and large waders (just 2 Solitary Sandpipers). Highlights were Blue-winged Teal on the River, a kettle of Broad-winged Hawks, 2 Red-shouldered Hawks, a Cooper’s Hawk, an Osprey, 2 Bald Eagles, 2 Great Egrets in the River, Northern Parula, Magnolia, Yellow-rumped, and Black-throated Green Warblers, Scarlet Tanager, and a male Rose-breasted Grosbeak. The complete checklists from the walk can be viewed in eBird at http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S31752880 and at http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S31753123
Saturday, September 10 2016, Jug Bay Natural Area, Prince Georges County
Leaders: Greg Kearns, John Bjerke, Participants: 20, Species: at least 42
This annual trip by Audubon Naturalist Society and MBC is a pontoon boat tour expertly guided by Greg Kearns. The goal is Sora and we were successful. The weather was hot and humid and the low tide was running higher than normal thanks, in part, to lingering effects of Tropical Storm Hermine. We saw at least 8 Soras, most of them juveniles. At least 4 other Soras were heard. There were few mudflats so some patience was required in getting views of birds in the heavy stands of wild rice and cattails. Other highlights included hundreds of Tree Swallows in a migration flock, many sightings of Wood Duck, several Ospreys, a few Bald Eagles, one Northern Harrier, and a very brief view of a Peregrine Falcon harassing a small group of Caspian Terns. We saw only one Canada Goose, a welcome relief from the hundreds that devastated the wild rice stands at Jug Bay in the 1990s. Thanks to very hard work by Greg and his teams over the years the rice is back.
Sunday, May 08 2016, Izaak Walton League, B-CC Chapter, Conservation Farm.
Leader: Jim Nelson. Participants: 9. Weather: Lovely sunny morning after days of rain, temperature in the 50's and 60's. Once again, thanks to Club member Jim Tate, our group enjoyed access to this prime private property near Poolesville with a great mix of habitats. A League member acted as our escort. Overall we tallied an amazing 75 species well ahead of 2015's 44 species and 2014's 57. Many of our birds were heard only, and not everyone got to see or hear each species (including the leader). We had a good array of warblers -- Common Yellowthroat, Northern Parula, Yellow-rumped, Prairie, Black-throated Blue (male and female side by side), Black-throated Green, Magnolia, Nashville, Chestnut-sided, Cape May, Blackpoll (a nice posing male), and Yellow. Other good finds , Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Baltimore and Orchard Orioles, Scarlet Tanager, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Wood and Swainson's Thrushes, Ruby-throated Hummingbird (always harder to find away from feeders), Eastern Phoebe, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Acadian and Great-crested Flycatchers, and singing Field Sparrows. Special treats were a heard Wild Turkey, a flyover juvenile Northern Harrier, a Common Raven, and a singing Grasshopper Sparrow, all seen or heard while we stood in one place in an open field. Driving to the meeting point, one participant heard Bobolink in a field on the property, and the leader saw two Eastern Meadowlarks from the entrance road. The total eBird species list for this "hot spot" now stands at 126 species, 7 of which were added on this trip. The eBird checklist for the trip, complete with photos, can be viewed at http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S29492619.
Tuesday, May 03 2016, Rock Creek Park
Leader: Wallace Kornack. Due to overcast conditions we decided to move from the Ridge to the Maintenance Yard. On the way one of the tour members spotted an early Yellow Warbler and a Baltimore Oriole. In the Maintenance Yard, we enjoyed hearing calls from an Ovenbird and Wood Thrush while searching and finding several Yellow-rumped Warblers and a Chestnut -sided Warbler. Rose-breasted Grosbeaks called and eventually a female and a brightly colored male came into view. At the Nature Center, we heard and saw Black-and-white, Black-throated Blue, Yellow-rumped warblers as well as a Northern Parula and Eastern Kingbird. We then proceeded to the Dog Run where we spotted a Scarlet Tanager and a Common Loon flying over. To complete the tour, we returned to the Ridge where other birders reported seeing numerous warblers. At the Ridge, we added Black-throated Blue, Blue-winged , Yellow-rumped warblers and heard a Blackpoll Warbler and an Ovenbird.
Sunday, May 01 2016, Field Trip to Occoquan Bay NWR. Participants: 5 Species: 65
Three hardy persons joined leaders Gerry Hawkins and Mike Bowen on a field trip to Occoquan Bay NWR in Woodbridge, VA on Sunday, May 1. Persistent rain kept some potential participants dry by staying home, but despite the damp and gloom the trip had lots of species and lots of highlights. As usual on this trip, we had nice views of Prairie and Yellow Warblers, Common Yellowthroats, Prothonotaries, and Yellow-breasted Chats, all breeders at the refuge, but the best of our 12 species of warblers was a singing Canada Warbler at eye level that does not breed there. Orchard Orioles were prominent singers all over the refuge, and Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers, swallows and Swifts were also numerous and ever-present. We had 8 Ospreys and "only" one Bald Eagle. One Horned Grebe, one Wood Duck and 11 Ruddy Ducks rounded out the waterfowl. No rails this year, though. Next year we hope for better weather and even more warblers!
Saturday, April 23 2016, Blue Mash Nature Trail
Blue Mash Nature Trail and adjacent Oaks Landfill (closed), April 23. Leader: Mark England. Participants: 12. Weather: Wet! We started at Blue Mash, but only got to the end of the gravel road before the clouds burst and we retreated to our cars. We decided to go directly to the nearby Oaks Landfill and do some car birding, hoping the rain would eventually stop, but it never really did till about noon. Despite the steady rain, our hardy group saw some nice birds, particularly at the landfill. As we drove toward the large pond, we saw two Wild Turkeys in the landfill brush, then watched them fly across the pond to Blue Mash. In the pond we saw Green-winged Teal, Ring-necked Ducks, Solitary Sandpiper, and Greater Yellowlegs. In one of the leachate ponds visible only inside the landfill we had a female Bufflehead, three Blue-winged Teal, and a Spotted Sandpiper, seen by some. At the top of the landfill, we had about eight Savannah Sparrows feeding in the road. Surprisingly, we had no raptors at the landfill (where there is almost always something), but I attributed it to the inclement weather. When the skies finally cleared a little around noon, a few of us well-soaked diehards went back to Blue Mash and picked up a few other species, including Prairie Warbler, Pine Warbler (Scott Young), immature White-crowned Sparrow, and a Red-shouldered Hawk, our only raptor for the day. Total species seen was 41, but there was a probable Rose-breasted Grosbeak that got away before a positive identification could be made.
Sunday, April 10 2016, Hughes Hollow. Leader: Jim Nelson. Participants: 10.
Weather: Sunny, temps started in the low 20's rising to about 40 by the end. Species: 40. The very cold start and recent string of below-average days kept down the numbers of birds and number of species and changed the mix of species a bit from the same walk the last two years. Birds of note included first-of-year Blue-gray Gnatcatchers. Very cooperative Tree and Northern Rough-winged Swallows (first-of-year for many of us) sat in low trees right by the levee posing in the early sun as they waited for aerial insects to start stirring. There were lots of Blue-winged Teal present along with calling Pied-billed Grebes, American Coot, Wood Duck, Northern Shoveler, and Ring-necked Duck. We found a Red-headed Woodpecker in the usual area at the back of the southwest impoundment. We also enjoyed several singing male Ruby-crowned Kinglets, two Brown Thrashers, two Hermit Thrush, Swamp Sparrow, and many singing male American Goldfinch in their breeding finery (the literature talks about this early spring period of goldfinch singing and pairing up even though breeding does not begin until July). It is interesting to see the changes from year to year. Last year's walk on April 12, 2014, yielded 52 species with many more migratory species present, and April 13, 2013, had a comparable 51 species. The eBird checklist for the trip, complete with photos, is at http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S28859181.