Thursday, March 7, 2013

South Delaware, March 5

I returned to Indian River Inlet this morning for a only several hours, starting at the north side.  I stopped to look for the Eared Grebe but did not find it.  Right next to the inlet by the Coast Guard Marina, I found Boat-tailed Grackles.  Apparently, these birds were somewhere else yesterday due to the high wind.  I watched a male down by the water's edge.  It was feeding on the mollusks attached to the rocks.  It opened the shells and pulled out the animal and swallowed it.  I had never seen Boat-tailed Grackles do this before.  See picture below.   There were several very close Brandt in good light.  I couldn't resist taking a few pictures.  See picture below.  I returned to the South Inlet to scan for Razorbill, but had no success.  There were 75 Long-tailed Ducks and the drake Surf Scoter still there.  Purple Sandpipers, Ruddy Turnstones and Sanderlings were still feeding on the rocks of the south jetty.  I haven't found the previously reported White-winged Scoters.  Inlet birding was slow.  I left and  headed north to Cape Henlopen State Park to check the feeders at the Nature Center for Brown-headed Nuthatch.  Within a few minutes of watching the feeder, a Brown-headed Nuthatch obliged.  See picture.  There was competition for the nuthatch preferred spot on the feeder with a Red-breasted Nuthatch.  See second picture with the Red-breasted Nuthatch in flight.  Next stop was the fishing pier.  There were eight Surf Scoters (four breeding plumage males) out toward the point.  
Encouraged by the number of Surf Scoters, I drove out to the point, but could not drive the whole way due to construction work.   I walked, but without a telescope, out to the beach on the beach access road just beyond the air pumps.   As I approached the beach, I saw a close group of scoters with their heads tucked, later determined to be mostly male Black Scoters with one female/immature.  A fast running boat came out from the west and turned south.  Suddenly, the air was filled with flocks of scoters and continuing, as the boat moved south, to put scoter flocks into flight.  I estimated 5,000 to 10,000 birds.  The closer birds were mostly male Black Scoters with lesser numbers of male Surf Scoters.   Apparently, this location is a major staging area for the spring scoter migration.  Most of the scoters were too far for identification through binoculars.  I needed my telescope, because there could be White-winged Scoters mixed in.  I walked quickly back to my car and returned with my telescope. After ten minutes of scanning, I got good enough looks at flying White-winged Scoters mixed in with the other scoters.  The white speculum on the wing is more visible in flight.  There were not many White-winged Scoters, but I got to see about six White-winged Scoters well.  A quick accounting indicated that the best use of the rest of the day was to head north and visit several places where Eurasian Wigeon had been reported in Delaware.  I returned to Prime Hook Beach Road where two Eurasian Wigeon had been reported in January and early February.  I did not find the Eurasian Wigeon.  In fact, there were very few American Wigeon visible.  However, there were more shorebirds than yesterday.  I found two Lesser Yellowlegs, a new bird for the year, mixed in with about 25 Greater Yellowlegs.  The American Avocets increased from three yesterday to twelve today.  There were large numbers of Dunlin, approximately 500 to 800 birds, mostly on the very eastern edge of the marsh close to the village of Prime Hook Beach.  Another spot, the next one north, for Eurasian Wigeon is the marsh south of Big Stone Beach Road at the end by the bay.  A single male Eurasian Wigeon was reported there within the past week or so by Chris Bennett of Delaware.  I arrived at the end of Big Stone Beach Road at about 4:30 pm.  There were a large number of American Wigeon, Northern Shoveler and Green-winged Teal to scan through.  I found male Eurasian Wigeon on the third or fourth scan of all the birds I could see from the road.  I got a very distant and heavily cropped photo of this Eurasian Wigeon showing the reddish, chestnut colored head and gray sides.  See photo.  The bird is along the shore behind the Northern Shovelers.  As I was packing my scope and tripod at 5:17 pm, a flock of Tree Swallows, another new bird for the year, flew south over the houses of Big Stone Beach.   I added six new birds for today.  The total is now 162.

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