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Towhee, Wigeon still there; re: variable vocalizations
- To: Carolinabirds@duke.edu
- Subject: Towhee, Wigeon still there; re: variable vocalizations
- From: Joshua Stuart Rose <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Date: Sun, 10 Feb 2002 22:53:33 -0500 (EST)
- Sender: email@example.com
First, the Reader's Digest version of my adventures today: saw the Green-
tailed Towhee at its usual location at roughly 8:20 AM. European Wigeon is
still on GreenFIELD Lake in Wilmington (some previous posts have referred
to this as "Greenview Pond"). Also saw an immature Great Cormorant fly by
in a flock of corms (species unascertained) over the oceanside parking lot
at Fort Fisher. Finished the day with 81 species, which breaks the
official NC February Big Day record if I send in the documentation.
Unfortunately, with Blake Maybank having been deposed from editorship of
the ABA Big Day report, I'm not sure at the moment to whom I should send
it... Complete massively rambling novelous account is below, as usual.
On Sat, 9 Feb 2002 Jchat99@aol.com wrote:
> I'm always fascinated by the variety of calls birds can make. I remember two
> years ago on the Chapel Hill Spring Count bushwacking through the woods after
> a loud different call only to find out is was a Hooded Warbler (not the
> traditional 'weete-weeta weeteo!').
The Hooded Warblers at Irvin Farm near Carrboro have lured me similarly
with strikingly atypical songs. I've tracked down two different ones
during the same spring count, both to Hoodies (possibly the same one,
though they were in different locations). And on at least three disparate
occasions I've watched Magnolia Warblers sing songs that were much more
like the "typical" Hooded Warbler song than I often hear from Hoodies
On Sat, 9 Feb 2002 Peregrinus01@aol.com wrote:
> Blackbird sp.-1- We first thought Rusty.This was a very odd and interesting
> bird. It was perched at the top of a 100 ft. tree, and stayed there for 1+
> hours. It had a pale yellow eye, was glossy on the head(bronze) and on the
> breast(green). It had no real dull areas on it at all. It was definitely not
> a Red-winged. We had it in the scope the whole time, and it never flew. It
> never called. Excluding the fact that it would be out of its typical range,
> we are wondering why this bird isn't a Brewer's. Any input would be GREATLY
I suggest finding a copy of the guide to New World blackbirds by Alvaro
Jaramillo and Peter Burke. It has a great treatment of the Rusty vs.
Brewer's identification problem. It used to be online, I posted the URL to
Carolinabirds once or twice, but now the server appears to have been shut
Guess we'll have to buy the book now...
Decided yesterday that, with my NC state list at 295 species, and my wife
in Chicago, I just *HAD* to chase some birds today. Set my alarm for 4:05
AM; due to a little insomnia, some bad movies, and a late phone call from
aforementioned wife, I was really sleepy and so didn't get out of the
house and on the road until 5. Sped down I-40, noting a few birds along
the way including a Bald Eagle that flew over the highway just before the
crossing of road number 1941.
Reached the Towhee spot at 8 AM, just in time to say hello to Amalie Lewis
Tuffin as she left. The Towhee had come and gone once already, and Amalie
was headed to catch the next ferry to Fort Fisher. I took up the watch,
and the bird showed up at 8:20; it crossed me up by posing up front and in
the open while I was scanning the dense weeds in back! State bird #296.
Alas, I discovered that my camera had only a 24-shot roll of film in it,
not the usual 36, so no pictures. Did enjoy all the other birds keeping
the Towhee company, including a Fox Sparrow and several White-crowned
Sparrows. No Painted Buntings, although Amalie said she had seen one. Left
at 8:45 without seeing the Towhee again; threw a few handfuls of fresh
seed from the can as I did. Many thanks to the wonderful souls who left
the can of seed and who have been updating us over the past few weeks on
this impressive bird.
After a bathroom break, consulted my increasingly dog-eared copy of
Fussell and tried the Southport Town Pier. Very barren at first glance,
other than common things like grackles and Ring-billed Gulls. A little
diligent scoping turned up a distant Northern Harrier. Just as I was
leaving a female Red-breasted Merganser appeared near the shore.
Amalie had told me that the next ferry to Fort Fisher was at 10 AM, so I
headed for that. A little raft of Hooded Mergansers was feeding in the
marsh. It was at this point that, on a whim, I took a species count and
came up with 37, more than halfway to my (admittedly pitiful) NC February
record Big Day, and decided to set a new one. Spotted a female Greater
Scaup just as I exited my car on the ferry.
Saw almost no birds during the ferry ride, because I spent the whole time
in the pilot-house with the captain; I think his name was Harry Sell?
Anyway, he not only had nice photos of the Towhee on his laptop, but also
had an album full of photos from Tampobata, Peru, including a dazzling
array of Macaws and other psittacines around the clay licks! He said Gary
Massey, who found the Towhee, had talked him into giving a talk to the
local birding/Audubon group about his trip, so he was getting organized.
Headed from the ferry to Federal Point and walked out onto the Rocks. It
was birdless at first, until I noticed the suspicious cluster of brown
"rocks" a few hundred yards out on the leeward side. This resolved into
about 20 Marbled Godwits and 40 Short-billed Dowitchers, plus a couple of
Red Knots. Scanning ahead revealed roughly 30 American Oystercatchers, a
few more Godwit/Dowitcher clusters, and a scattering of Dunlin, Willets,
and Ruddy Turnstones further out. I had planned to walk a ways out to
look for Purple Sandpipers and Great Cormorants (I needed both for my
state list), but the shorebirds all looked so safe and sleepy and
comfortable, I didn't want to flush them. Besides, a few raindrops were
falling, and the idea of hiking a 1.5 mile, skinny, exposed, algae-covered
trail of irregular rocks in the rain with salt water on both sides didn't
appeal to me so much. I kicked up a couple of Savannah Sparrows from the
marsh on my way back to the car, species #49.
Next stop was the parking lot near the presently closed NC Aquarium. The
ferry captain had mentioned something about a Redhead in the pond near
there. I arrived just as Amalie was driving in off the beach, so we walked
the Basin Trail together. Sure enough a Redhead was on the pond, all alone
except for a few Pied-billed Grebes. Lots of landbird activity; no Orange-
crowned Warblers, but did hear a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. Split from
Amalie and walked a short ways on the beach hoping for a Snow Bunting, but
instead got a Black Scoter, a few Bonaparte's Gulls, and lots of Northern
Gannets (mostly adults). Noticed the southern sky turning dark gray.
Ran into Amalie again, who had seen an interesting heron back at the pond.
I walked back in, at which point the rain - which had been gently and
sporadically pattering since Federal Point - suddenly became a torrential
downpour. I took what little shelter I could get from the stunted Fort
Fisher trees and added a Hermit Thrush and Tufted Titmouse; 60 species! I
also confirmed Amalie's ID of the heron, which was Black-crowned Night
Heron; alas, since she found it first, I couldn't count it in my Big Day
Visited a joint called the Lighthouse to dry out and eat; delicious
seafood chowder, so-so fried flounder and shrimp. Did some brief
seawatching from the oceanside parking lot back near the fort, saw nothing
over the water but found a Laughing Gull among the Ring-bills waiting for
handouts. Then a flock of cormorants flew over, including a white-bellied
immature Great Cormorant; state bird #297! Added Bufflehead and Lesser
Scaup at Carolina Lake, and a Common Loon and a very wet sad-looking Rock
Dove at the Kure Beach town pier.
Unfortunately, I had to be back in Durham to lead the DNHS woodcock walk
at 5 PM; time was running out. But I couldn't leave without looking for
the Eurasian Wigeon at Greenfield Lake. It wasn't visible from the
lakeshore near the parking area, but by driving around Lakeshore Drive, I
located it with roughly 60 American Wigeon and a few Gadwall in an inlet
toward the south (?) side. State bird #298, and #73 on the day, breaking
the former record. Note to others seeking this bird: there is no parking
anywhere near the south end, best to bring a bike and ride it from the
park at the northeast corner.
Sped back to Durham with hopes of reaching Brickhouse Road in time to
crack 80 species. Reached 76 on I-40 with a perched Red-tailed Hawk and
fly-by Red-bellied Woodpecker. Rendezvoused with a big DNHS crew,
including Will Cook and Randy Emmitt among others. I was stymied at first;
no Field Sparrow, no American Goldfinch, no nuthatches or kinglets,
nothing! Finally picked up a male Eastern Towhee in a hedgerow for 77.
Then the evening duck flight finally started, with both Woodies and some
tiny teal sp.; 79! With that number attained, I patiently waited for the
evening's first "peent" and was not disappointed; the lekkers put on a
good show tonight. I finished with 81 species on the day courtesy of an
authoritative "whoooooooah!" from the local Barred Owl.
Joshua S. Rose
Department of Biology (Zoology, R.I.P.)