I arrived at Tom's Cove in a rather weakened state to find out that the Black-tailed Godwit had been seen close to the road on the south side, but had left with the Marbled Godwits after being spooked by a Bald Eagle. The godwit flock had flown out on the flats to the south and were not visible from the road. I saw a familiar face in a small car. It was Jerry Talkington from Mentor, OH. I have met Jerry birding at Lake Eire in Ohio many times. He stopped and said hello. Jerry drove down to see the Black-tailed Godwit and had succeeded, a lifer for him. He met his son Chris from North Carolina to bird together. I explained my problem and told him that I was going to sit in my car to preserve my energy and watch the area where the godwit had been previously seen. Jerry and his son Chris walked out to near the location where the godwits were. A man was raking clams out there earlier. Jerry and Chris would return and report. While I waited, I nibbled some pretzels, which can also be settling to an upset stomach and provide a low fat energy boost. I started to feel better. While I awaited Jerry's return, I found a winter plumage Forster's Tern, a new bird for the year.
Jerry and Chris returned and reported that the godwit was there. I was feeling better and more energetic. Jerry offered to carry his scope out there to save my energy. When we arrived at the pony viewing area parking area, I felt strong enough to carry my scope and tripod as well as to carry my camera. Chris mentioned that I probably encountered the noro-virus which starts rapidly and ends quickly and was wreaking havoc in North Carolina. We were joined by a group from NJ and elsewhere. I recognized Larry Scacchetti from NJ, whom I met in Carlisle, MA for the Fieldfare. That's how I knew part of the group was from New Jersey.
As we approached the godwit group, part of the flock took flight and the Black-tailed Godwit was in the first group that flew over the road to the beach but then returned. The whole flock took flight and landed in the water to the left of the road to the beach. The Black-tailed Godwit was apparently in the group that returned, because it was also in the whole flock that flew over the road to the water. I was at first confused, because I thought that the Black-tailed in the final flying flock was a Willet, but that was incorrect. My energy level returned quickly. It must be the adrenalin. We all walked back and drove back to the spot.
The Black-tailed Godwit was easy enough to pick out from the Marbled Godwits while they were in the water feeding as Bob Ake had predicted in an e-mail to me. The very white posterior under-parts, the lower belly and under-tail coverts, are really very visible, as well as the grayer back and black on the folded wings and on the tail make the rear of the bird look black. In comparison, the marbled godwits are very brown. This is particularly noticeable when the birds are probing the bottom with their long bills and have their heads under the water to reach the bottom. See photos for comparison. In the first and second photos, the Black-tailed Godwit is the top left bird, while the others are Marbled Godwits. After a short while, the godwit flock took flight. I managed two flight photos of the Black-tailed Godwit showing the key identification features of this bird--the black tail and white upper tail coverts and the broad white wing stripe on the upper wing and the white under wings/wing coverts. The white under-wing coverts distinguish this bird from Hudsonian Godwit which has black under-wings. The first flight photo shows the Black-tailed Godwit with a Marbled Godwit for comparison. The Black-tailed Godwit shows the reddish throat and upper breast, the very white lower breast belly and under-tail coverts and the white under-wing coverts. The Marbled Godwit shows cinnamon colored under-wings characteristic of this species. The second flight photo shows the white upper wing stripe, the white rump and upper tail coverts as well as the black tail.
I spent the day birding at Chincoteague mostly from my car. I still felt weak and was eating only pretzels and peanut butter crackers and drinking ginger ale. I tried unsuccessfully for Pine Warbler several places including the parking lot area of the wildlife trail and for Blue-winged Teal, which had recently been reported by Bob Ake. After 3:00 pm, I drove the Wildlife Loop, but did not find any Blue-winged Teal. At 5:00 pm, I was very tired and worn out.
I went back to the same motel to stay the night. I was too tired to go get dinner and went directly to bed after eating more pretzels and peanut butter crackers.
The trip to Chincoteague was a success. The Black-tailed Godwit is a great new bird for the year! Forster's Tern and Black-tailed Godwit make the total 189.