I joined fellow birders Tom Reed, Brian Clough, and Amy Manning for an early spring morning at Sandy Hook. We started at the north end of the Hook, where a new pond has been created thanks to all of the recent precipitation. Most conspicuous upon our arrival was a flock of Glossy Ibis feeding along the edge of the water. As we scanned the banks, we found the Stilt Sandpiper that had been reported, along with a Lesser Yellowlegs, a Willet, and a few Killdeer. A pair of Wood Ducks splashed down for a few moments before taking off again and flying out of sight.
Not a bad start to our morning! We started walking north toward the Fisherman's Trail when something hopped out of the grass and onto the concrete steps of one of the crumbling buildings. It hid behind a pillar for a moment before hopping up the steps and revealing itself to be none other than a Sora!
Soras are secretive marsh birds that are rarely seen, so witnessing this individual expose itself by climbing up steps was extremely unusual. Chances are it had been migrating over the area and was just plain exhausted. It continued up the steps, hopping one-by-one, until it had tucked itself away in a corner at the top (the steps led nowhere, by the way). We decided to move on quickly in the hopes that the Sora could continue on its journey undisturbed.
As we walked through the dunes of the Fisherman's Trail, we counted numerous Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers and Palm Warblers. A pair of Brown Thrashers flew low across the trail, and an adult White-Crowned Sparrow graced us with a quick glimpse of its impressive head coloration. The end of the trail led us out to an ocean view, which held a handful of Norther Gannets flying out over the water. A single Common Loon floated calmly in the water, with its beautiful breeding plumage starting to show. Across the water we could see a pair of American Oystercatchers moving up and down the beach. An Osprey flew over our heads with a nice meal.
After a quick trip down to the Boy Scout Camp area, we decided to head up to the Hawk Watch platform to see if the Swallow-tailed Kite would show up for a third day. Unfortunately we didn't find the kite, although we were treated to a pair of Common Ravens (quite the oddity for Sandy Hook), along with migrating Northern Harriers and Sharp-Shinned Hawks. An Eastern Bluebird even stopped on a nearby tree and posed for a few moments.
With the real world of work and school calling (not to mention a sweltering sun - I think NJ set a record high temperature), we decided to call it a day.
Migration has really kicked it into high gear, and with recent wind and temperature conditions, big-time rarities have already started showing up. Multiple Swallow-Tailed Kites and a Brown-Headed Nuthatch were spotted yesterday in Cape May. What will end up in New Jersey next week?