I led the "Beginner's Bird Walk" at Sandy Hook today for NJ Audubon. We had 8 great participants and many great birds! We saw/heard 50 species. The complete list is below. After reports of a great raptor flight yesterday and news about good migration through the state, I was hoping for a productive day. The migrants weren't as numerous as I was expecting, but a few highlights really made the day special.
Participants at Spermaceti Cove
We started birding at Spermaceti Cove where we saw Brant, American Oystercatcher, Snowy and Great Egrets, several Osprey including one eating a fish, Boat-tailed Grackle, Song Sparrow, and Savannah Sparrow, among others. A short walk along the scrub-shrub dune habitat near the Visitor's Center yielded a very cryptic first-year Pine Warbler - not an easy bird to identify, especially when it's feeding on the ground!
We then checked out the boy scout camp area which held quite a few Hermit Thrushes, a Downy Woodpecker, several singing Carolina Wrens, but not much else. A fly-by Sharp-shinned Hawk was our first raptor of the day. The big one was still to come!
Migration seemed a bit slow, so we headed up to the northern end of Sandy Hook where the spring hawk count is conducted each year. We were greeted by a Field Sparrow singing in a tree above my car.
The dunes around the hawk watch are full of bayberry and beach plum. Among the trees and shrubs we found several Yellow-rumped Warblers and both Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglets. My mother, who joined us on the trip, pointed out a gull flying over. I think I scared the group with my excitement because it was one of the white-winged gulls - either a Glaucous or Iceland Gull. I didn't get an ID before it flew away. There had been an Iceland seen yesterday.
A tip from some fellow birders led us to the prize bird of the day - a stunning male Hooded Warbler. All of the group had very close views and it was a life bird for all participants. It even came within a few feet of my dad and Beth.
We hung out on the hawk watch platform for a bit, but didn't see much. We headed down and made our way towards a small freshwater pond. We didn't make it very far before the hawk counter called, "EAGLE!" I hustled back towards the platform, inadvertently knocking Beth out of the way (sorry darling!) and we were able to get the group on a gorgeous immature Bald Eagle flying right over our heads.
We ended the trip by visiting the Sandy Hook Bird Observatory book store. The last few of us who left got to see an Indigo Bunting feeding in the grass near the store. Thanks so much to everyone who attended and special thanks to my girlfriend Beth for taking all of the pictures!
Species List (some only seen/heard by leader):
Great Black-backed Gull
American Herring Gull
Northern Rough-winged Swallow