Saturday, September 25, 2010

Camping on Assateague Island is fun!

I somehow persuaded Mary to get up at 3:00am last Saturday "morning" and drive out to Assateague Island in time to witness the morning flight at Bayside. We arrived just in time around dawn and the herons and egrets were already heading out from their off-shore roosts in large numbers to the feeding grounds in the saltmarshes; Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Little Blue Herons and Tricolored Herons all intermixed. As the sun rose the songbirds starting moving and the air filled with the flight calls of a variety of warblers. Many went unidentified darting across the skies as they made the jump from the island over to the mainland, but some distinct species were relatively easy to pick out based on their coloration or calls; Northern Parula, American Redstart, Yellow Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Palm Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, and Northern Waterthrush. Flocks of Brown Thrashers, Cedar Waxwings, American Robins, Northern Flickers, Starlings were also on the move, and two DICKCISSELS migrated overhead.
One of many Yellow Warblers seen this morning:
 One of several flocks of Brown Pelicans passing by over the bay:
 Adult winter Forster's Tern:
 Adult winter Laughing Gull:

As the morning flight ebbed out, we headed back to the mainland and Ocean City for some yummie breakfast and fresh coffee. We then proceeded north in search of "grasspipers" at the Murray Sod Farm in northernmost Worcester county. After checking about a dozen green sod fields we came upon a newly harvested field that hosted no less than eight BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPERS, five Pectoral Sandpipers, and three Semipalmated Plovers.

We were lucky and managed to book the last available campsite at the Assateague Island National Seashore online the night before, so after a successful piper hunt we returned to Assateague Is. and checked in at the Ranger Station. With our tent up and camp set I explored the campground and the surrounding saltmarshes while Mary went for a run.
My wonderful birder babe Mary!
The pups are getting used to the idea of camping. Scarlett quickly learned that the mosquitoes were much less bothersome off the ground.
 Walker had a harder time with the bugs and had to seek refuge in the tent long before sunset.
One of about two dozen Caspian Terns roosting in the salmarshes:
Juvenile Little Blue Heron:
 A very cooperative Nashville Warbler:
Juvenile Tricolored Heron:
While enjoying a great evening in front of the campfire (except for the annoying mosquitoes!) we watched a Chuck-will's-widow hawking insects between the tree tops. At one point it landed on a vertical snag and perched with its head pointing straight up for about 15 minutes. A pair of Great Horned Owls serenaded us through the night and in the wee hours of the night many shorebirds could be heard migrating south. In the morning hours before breaking camp I added more great birds like Baltimore Oriole, Bobolink, Blue Grosbeak, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, and Red-breasted Nuthatch.

Adult winter Royal Tern:
 Juvenile Osprey:
 Yellow Warbler:
 Blackpoll Warbler:

We'll be back as soon as the weather cools down!

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