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Red Phalarope and a Rusty Blackbird in Oak Orchard

Published September 20, 2013
Tags: Life List Happenings, Red Phalarope, Rusty Blackbird

On a second attempt out to Stafford Marsh today, Doug Happ and I finally got to see the Red Phalarope that was reported. In the morning, we scanned the pond, in-between the many Great Egrets, Great Blue Herons, Canada Geese, Mallards, and Green-winged Teal, for a good hour without any luck. Doug Beattie was there too, giving us a third set of eyes - but still, we found nothing. 

A re-visit after a trip up to Hamlin Beach, though, was quickly rewarding.  Right away, within a minute, we found the young Phalarope, a life bird for me!  We caught some photos of it, Doug's digi-scoped image being the best.  I have it included below with his permission. We spent a good deal of time with our field guides, discerning the subtle differences between this species and the Wilson's and Red-necked Phalaropes. The shorter, stubbier bill on this bird was the strongest field mark that ruled out the other two species.

We also tried twice for the Long-billed Dowitchers that were seen at Windmill Marsh but we couldn't find them.  We met Sal there on our second try and, as my consolation prize, his keen ears picked up the sound of a Rusty Blackbird as we were walking out. Wow!  That was a life bird for me also! 

I confess, I had a hard time discerning the sounds of the blackbird. They seemed to blend in with the high pitched sounds of some of the nearby shorebirds out in the marsh.  When I was given a look through a scope of this cool bird, I was able to match up the sounds he was making by watching his beak open to each call. I've been watching for a Rusty Blackbird at home and thought I had one several times - but now that I've actually seen one, there's a world of difference. This guy was much more "rusty" in coloration and the eye line through his yellow/gold eye clearly separated him from some of the young and female Common Grackles I've been confusing the rustys with.  Thanks for your astute hearing, Sal!

After Windmill, we made a quick stop at Kumpf Marsh where we saw four Sandhill Cranes this time.  The young colt (what juvenile cranes are referred to as) was with one pair of adults. And I finally got to hear their sounds; they were amazing!  It reminded me of something from prehistoric movies, which makes me wonder if Hollywood uses crane recordings for their films...

We also enjoyed a small flock of warblers, containing mostly Yellow-rumped and Palms, foraging around on the other side of the marsh.  I kept watching for a Common Nighthawk, but I never did see any; I think we were just a little too early for them.

Although this day produced two life birds for me, I didn't manage to capture very good photos of either of these great birds - sorry!  Thank you, Doug, though, for your nice photo of the phalarope! :(
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Red Phalarope, with permission of Doug Happ
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Red Phalarope
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Rusty Blackbird
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Sandhill Cranes making their prehistoric rattling sounds
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1 young Sandhill Crane (left) and 2 adults
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Sandhill Cranes
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Palm Warbler
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Palm Warbler
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Yellow-rumped Warbler
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Yellow-rumped Warbler