Monday, March 4, 2013

Delaware - 5 Owls, Cops, and Update

Intriguing title eh?  First the update - the Bullock's Oriole that I saw last Wed at 3:30 PM hasn't been seen since.  Apparently, I was the last person to see it. Thank goodness I got a photo of it. 

Now for the cops.  The cops have not questioned me in the disappearance of the Oriole if that's what you were thinking.  Patty and I did a big day in Delaware to try to scoop up some bird species that we need for the stupid contest.  I made a list and planned a route that took us all the way down to Indian River Inlet which is below Rehoboth and Dewey Beach to get an Eared Grebe.  Needless to say, I was driving faster than the speed limit on Route 1.  They had a pretty intensive speed trap set up and busted me.  We took advantage of the forced stop to scan for Pipits and Larks in the field, but all we got was an $80 ticket.

Looking for Pipits
After that brief stop, we headed to Indian River Inlet. I was already heading up onto the new (beautiful) bridge when Patty yelled "they have scopes out down there!" so we turned around and went back over the bridge.  Lucky for us that she noticed the people with scopes because they were all looking at our target bird - then Eared Grebe.  They are very rare in our area and a very stunning looking bird in summer.  In winter, they are as drab as you can imagine. The bird was pretty far out in the back bay, but we clearly saw it through our scopes.

We crossed the bridge for a third time and headed out to the jetty at the end of the inlet to scope for other birds.  We had close looks at Great Cormorants, a few ducks and scoters but no Snow Buntings which we were really hoping to see. This is a pretty good photo of Great Cormorant as it flew past us into the inlet. 

Great Cormorant
Over the bridge for the 4th time heading north to Silver Lake in Rehoboth, we got Canvasback ducks which I needed for the contest.  Here is a pretty good shot of a female fluffing her wings.  There were about 400 Canvasbacks on the lake but most of them were asleep.

Canvasbacks
We continued north to Cape Henlopen in search of another target bird - the Brown-headed Nuthatch.  This is about the only place in our area to see this bird.  After driving around the park aimlessly for awhile, we finally hit pay dirt at the Nature Center where these little cuties were supposed to be regulars at the feeder.  The feeder was covered with Red-winged Blackbirds when we arrived and no nuthatches in sight.  We accidentally got the nuthatches to come out by getting too close to the feeders and chasing the blackbirds away.  Once the blackbirds were gone, all of the little birds came rushing in including our target.

Brown-headed Nuthatch

Carolina Chickadee

Here is a great photo showing 4 species of birds on the feeder at the same time.  Pine Siskin on the left, Brown-headed Nuthatch in front, House Fnch on the right and Chickadee in the back (I know you can't see the Chickadee in the photo, but trust me). 
Pine Siskin, Brown-headed Nuthatch, House Finch
We crossed the Indian River bridge 2 more times in hopes of getting the Snow Buntings but never got them.  By now, it was 2 o'clock so we headed to our final stop of the day - Bombay Hook NWR.  We planned this as our last stop in hopes of getting Barn Owl, Black-necked Stilts, Avocets, and ducks.

We didn't get the Stilts or Avocets, but we did get owls. In fact, we got 5 species of owls in a matter of 2 hours, which is just unbelievable to me.  A few people in our club know Bombay Hook like the back of their hands and told us that there are Barn Owls nesting in the maintenance shed.  Although that area is off limits to visitors, we were told that you can hear the owls scream from the parking lot and occasionally get to see the owls flying past as they depart for a night of hunting so we planned to hang around the parking lot.  I mentioned something to the ranger in the visitor center about this and she told us that we were not allowed in the park after dark. No big deal. We would just park outside of the gate.

She also told us that we might be able to hear a Barred Owl back in the woods at Finniss Pool and may be able to see a Screech Owl poking his head out of a Wood Duck box if we were lucky.  We drove to the Finniss Pool area and parked.  I made my Barred Owl call - "who cooks for you, who cooks for allllll" a few times then, an amazing thing happened - a Barred Owl called back to me from the other side of the water.  We almost fell over.  This has never happened to me before.  The call has never worked until now. 

We pressed our luck and stopped at another patch of woods to see if we could get a Screech Owl. This time, we played a taped call from our iPhones. Miraculously, a Screech Owl called back from deep in the woods! Owl number 2.  We also heard a Great-horned Owl call from the woods - number 3.  We stopped along the road to scan the marshes for Short-eared Owl and got to see the Great-horned owl perched in a tree.  We saw a few Harriers and a possible Short-eared owl, but couldn't confirm it.  The ranger came along and told us that we needed to leave the park, so we headed to the main gate and parked outside with about 6 other carloads of people who were also hoping for Barn Owl and Woodcock display. A large owl flew past the group which looked like a Great-horned.  We stood there for 30 minutes.  Some people left.  Finally at 6:37, the Barn Owl screamed from the maintenance area.  Success! Owl number 4.  We stood there with 2 other people hoping to hear it again when all of a sudden, another owl flew past us.  This owl had long wings and wasn't flapping - Short-eared Owl - number 5 for the day.  Holy crap.  5 owl species in 2 hours.  Holy crap. Totally worth the trip and the speeding ticket. 




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