Nature NB Amazing Birding Challenge 2013

For the second year running team Manszter (David and me) signed up for Nature NB’s Amazing Birding Challenge.  Though we didn’t have a pelagic outing to boost our numbers, or a host of rarities from which a “best bird” could be picked, I think we did ok compared with last year.

To recap last year, we saw 74 species, and three rarities we picked up (South
Polar Skua, Marbled Godwit, Snowy Egret) were recognized as “best bird” for the 2012 challenge.

This year, Saturday September 14, would be the only chance David and I could get out; we had just returned from Ontario delivering Jasmine to UW, and the following weekend Pattie and I would be winging our way over to Italy to bike with friends.

We started early, hitting Marsh Creek at 7:30am, where we made good headway with waterfowl, tallying 14 species to kick off the day:

Canada Goose (many!), Black Duck (70+), Mallard (70+), Green-winged Teal (20+), American Wigeon (20+), Hooded Merganser (1 female), Double-crested Cormorant (3), Ring-billed Gull (many), Herring Gull (several), Greater Yellowlegs (20+), Semipalmated Plover (10+), Spotted Sandpiper (2), Black-bellied Plover (12), American Crow (a few)

David and I then moved on to the Saints Rest Marsh and Beach area, where we stayed until close to 9:00.  Shorebirds were numerous, but it was foggy so we were unsuccessful in picking out anything unusual, but managed an additional 23 species, taking us to 37 on the day:

Semipalmated Sandpiper (5,000+), (although we already saw them at Marsh Creek, there were probably 200+ Semipalmated Plover there as well), Sanderling (10+), Dunlin, White-rumped Sandpiper (20+), Least Sandpiper (just a few),  Great Black-backed Gull, Turkey Vulture, Bald Eagle, Great Blue Heron, Mourning Dove, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Song Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, Nelson’s Sparrow, Common Crackle, Black-capped Chickadee, Red-eyed Vireo (many; they must have been staging on their migration), Blue-headed Vireo, Common Yellowthroat, Black and White Warbler, Blackpoll, Pine Warbler, Blue Jay

White-rumped Sandpiper

A White-rumped Sandpiper gapes while two Semipalmated Sandpipers rest nearby.

We then headed down to St. Andrews where we belatedly joined the Saint John Naturalists’ Club field trip to the Greenlaw Mountain Hawk Watch.  Since we arrived after everyone David and I hiked up with everything (cameras, camera bag, coats, lunch and drink cooler) on our own — eventually I had everything as David was going to turn around and head back down if he had to carry anything 🙂

On the way up I stopped a few times to see what could be coaxed our of the mixed woods.  It was after the first steep climb that a Blue-winged Warbler made a brief appearance — it would be our best bird of the day by far.  I wasn’t able to get a picture, and though a few of the field trip participants returned to try and find it unfortunately it had moved on.  Between those stops on the way up, and a good day of recording migrating raptor sightings with Todd Watts, we added another 20 species – now at 57!

Magnolia Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, BLUE-WINGED WARBLER, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Hairy Woodpecker, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Merlin, Barn Swallow, American Goldfinch, Purple Finch, White-throated Sparrow, Pileated Woodpecker, Ruffed Grouse, Northern Blicker, Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, Common Raven, Veery

We left the crew on the mountain at about 2pm, and though there weren’t many birds, we did see a nice North American Porcupine!

North American Porcupine

North American Porcupine high up in a birch.

After we got to the bottom, and just driving around St. Andrews, we added 5 more species:

Common Eider, Common Loon, Northern Harrier, American Robin, Rock Pigeon (yay!)

We then drove along the coast back toward Saint John, stopping in Dipper Harbour and then Chance Harbour, finishing in Lorneville and the Black Beach Road.  We added another 10 species, so the day’s total was now 72:

Black Guillemot, European Starling, Osprey, Dark-eyed Junco, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Nashville Warbler, Cedar Waxwing, Northern Cardinal, Alder Flycatcher, Downy Woodpecker.

We finished the day by stopping by Saints Rest Beach again.  David Putt was there as well, and we searched the thousands of peeps to see if there was anything unusual.  A Peregrine Falcon swooped in to scare up the peeps (always an adrenalizing sight!), and since David had seen a Baird’s Sandpiper before I arrived I stayed to scope out as many of the birds as I could.  I did find a Baird’s and what might have been an American Golden Plover among several Black-bellied Plover, but the latter flew off when a couple and their dog approached, too quickly for me to get a good view of the suspect’s head or colouration, or to compare its under-wing colouration to those of the clearly Black-bellied Plovers.  I didn’t count it.

Peregrine Falcon, Baird’s Sandpiper

We closed our our day with 74 species.  I’d like to thank all of the donors who pledged David and me, we ended up raising $236.00!

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