Laughing Falcons Place 2nd in 2016 Kiptopeke Challenge
The Kiptopeke Challenge continued to be a challenge this year, but perhaps not as much as other years. The temperature looked as if it was going to be ideal, but it actually became a little too warm, particularly in the sun.The wind was not strong enough to provide much cooling power until later in the day when the weather turned.We got rain, and those of us who were not properly dressed found it actually chilly. Land birds were again not easy, but we managed enough to be respectable. The Laughing Falcons accepted the challenge and began the full day of birding with high expectations.
David Clark, Nick Flanders, Elisa Flanders, and Bob Ake met up at 4:00am at the south toll plaza parking lot of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel. We again added a little extra time in the event that there was some nocturnal migration.
Our first stop was at the campground area at Kiptopeke State Park where we had no luck finding the two angry Eastern Screech-Owls from last year. At GATR tract we found our Eastern Screech-Owl plus our first Great Horned Owl.Then on to the end of Magotha Road to do some listening. Listening conditions were nearly perfect, but not much nocturnal migration was happening.We did hear flight calls of Bobolinks and those of a Swainson’s Thrush which was the first ever for the team We also had up to six Great Horned Owls calling as well as an energetic Eastern Screech-Owl.We stayed in the area until shortly after sunrise.On our way west we ran into a nice group of warblers including American Redstart, Common Yellowthroat, Palm, Pine, and a Prairie Warbler.There were chickadees, titmice, Yellow-shafted Flicker, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, a kestrel and a Merlin, a Summer Tanager, a Baltimore Oriole, pewee and phoebe, and a count of about a dozen Eurasian Collared-Doves.We left Magotha Road with 45 species on our list.
On our way to Eastern Shore of Virginia NWR we spotted a Wild Turkey in a field and as we paused to take a look at it, a Hairy Woodpecker called next to the car. We backed up to verify two Eastern Meadowlarks on a wire.
At Eastern Shore NWR we ran into the ODU ornithology class that had just seen a Veery, which we missed. From the marsh overlook we heard Clapper Rails and saw Double-crested Cormorants, Great Blue Herons, Great and Snowy Egrets, and a distant Bald Eagle. At the boat launch were a few Laughing Gulls, a few Herring Gulls, and a Caspian Tern.Perched in the nearby trees were many White Ibis and a couple of Black-crowned Night-Herons.A White-eyed Vireo called as we left Ramp Lane.We stopped at the headquarters and had a couple of Red-headed Woodpeckers.
We by-passed Sunset Beach and went directly to Kiptopeke State Park. In route we heard Horned Larks along the road.At the park there were Ruby-throated Hummingbirds at the hawkwatch feeders, Chipping Sparrows at the seed feeders, Chimney Swift and Tree Swallows overhead, and a Pileated Woodpecker calling from the pines.In the woods we found a Northern Parula and more Red-breasted Nuthatches.At the concrete ships were some Great Black-backed Gulls, Brown Pelicans, and plenty of Rock Pigeons.
Going to Eyre Hall didn’t pay off as well as past years. We added only Canada Goose, Forster’s Tern, and Black-and-white Warbler. At the Northampton County landfill we had a few Mallards, several Pied-billed Grebe, Little Blue Heron, our first Yellow-crowned Night-Herons, and a Red-tailed Hawk soaring to the north.
At Willis Wharf the tide was coming in. New birds for the list were several Willets, a Black-bellied Plover, a Greater Yellowlegs, a Short-billed Dowitcher and after some searching the sought-for Whimbrel.One of the docks had its usual Ruddy Turnstones but the crab pots had no House Sparrows.
Along the causeway into Chincoteague we spotted two flying American Oystercatchers, Boat-tailed Grackles, and a hunting Northern Harrier. The oyster beds were under water as we passed them.In town at the McDonalds we heard nearby Brown-headed Nuthatches, saw a small flock of Common Grackles fly by, and added a single House Sparrow.On the refuge the water was high inside the impoundments and the tide was high in the cove, so the shorebirds and terns were few.We did get a flock of male Northern Pintails, a Tri-colored Heron, Sanderlings, and Ring-billed Gulls at the beach. The Woodland Trail was closed, but has lost many of its pines.During two turns around the wildlife drive, we met most of the other birding teams.It also produced American Black-Ducks, Gadwall, Green-winged Teal, Lesser Yellowlegs, and the Cattle Egrets which were not riding the ponies along the beach road.On a final trip to the beach we found a Dunlin across from the Tom’s Cove Visitor Center.
After a coffee stop at McDonalds, we headed to Saxis marsh. We were early for the rails so we birding the remnant woods and were rewarded for our efforts.We added Song and Savannah, Sparrows, and Eastern Towhee, all birds we have totally missed in past years.In the marsh we found Seaside Sparrow and Marsh Wren .We heard at least ten Virginia Rails, a few Clapper Rails, but no Sora.As we were leaving the marsh a small group of Least Sandpipers flew past the car calling as they flew.That was our last bird of the day.It was 8:00pm when we left Saxis and about 10pm when we got home.
The final tally for us for the day was 114. We recorded seven species of warbler and added a new species to our cumulative list.Biggest misses of the day were Blue-winged Teal, Green Heron, Spotted Sandpiper, Marbled Godwit, Pectoral and Semi-palmated Sandpipers, Common Tern, Sandwich Tern, Black Skimmer, and Peregrine Falcon. High water level contributed to several of these misses.Despite these and other misses, it was a great day.
Thanks for your support,
Bob Ake, David Clark, Nick Flanders, Elisa Enders Flanders
The Laughing Falcons
SPECIES LIST - 114 SPECIES TOTAL
American Black Duck
Great Blue Heron
Little Blue Heron
Great Black-backed Gull
Great Horned Owl
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