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Worcester Atlasing 06/16-17/2005


Mark Hoffman


Mark Hoffman


Sun, 19 Jun 2005 22:14:41 -0400

Ninepin Branch/CW
Includes two crossings of the Pocomoke, Purnell and Rt. 374.  Did priority
miniroute, adding seven species (Cattle Egret, Green Heron, Northern
Flicker, Eastern Kingbird, Purple Martin, Tree Swallow and Grasshopper
Sparrow) to block total, bringing it to 79, besting the prior total of 78.
Tree Swallows quite local in this part of the county, nesting across from
the Libertytown Sewage Plant.  Eastern Meadowlarks at two stops along Rt.
374; always nice to find.   From Sandyfield Road (an atlas discovery, that
goes south from Rt. 374), Green Heron flying over the Pocomoke and Barred
Owl calling at 6:30 am.  Stop where Sandyfield crosses Ninepin Branch (for
which the quad is named) is always productive, even if the "Branch" is just
a glorified ditch at this point.  Grasshopper Sparrow singing from a corn
field along this road as well . they would be pretty common if they really
like that habitat!  A small part of Patey Woods Road in this block, a real
nice birding road (as is Newark Fire Trail, which goes off to the north), my
only Brown-headed Nuthatches in the block at its western end, though none
today.  Had a dozen or so (includes some perched in the road)
Chuck-will's-widows in this area last week.

Ninepin Branch/SE
Areas north of and including the town of Newark, some familiar territory as
I have worked this area for the OC CBC for years.  Another priority
miniroute, adding six species (Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Fish Crow, Gray
Catbird, Brown Thrasher, Eastern Meadowlark and House Finch), bringing the
total to 77, again besting the prior atlas total of 75.  First stop at the
intersection of Patey Woods Road and Newark Fire Trail, a really birdy area,
with Brown-headed Nuthatches with fledged young.  This area is the northern
limit of their "inland" range that I have found in atlasing Worcester.
Along the coastal bays, occur up to the DE line.  Many stops along Patey
Woods Road northwest of Newark, all cut over in recent years, but now a
haven for chats, Prairie Warblers, Field Sparrow, etc.  Red-headed
Woodpecker in the far back of the first cutover on the east side of the
Patey Woods/Bethards Road intersection.   Thick patches of younger pines
hold Worm-eating and Black-and-White Warbler, the latter can be frustrating
difficult to find in some blocks.  Gray Catbird singing in "downtown"
Newark, another species that can be hard to find (or really pin-point its
preferred habitat) away from Assateague or the fringe of the salt-marsh.
Sometimes it seems as if catbird and thrasher are more common here in
winter.  One thrasher singing (after the miniroute) when I eyeballed
potential meadowlark habitat along Newark Road (and was right!), just west
of Tindley Road.  I had had Fish Crow on six of the 15 stops of the CW
miniroute, but missed in entirely on the SE route and still needed it for
the block.  Finally found a pair on the grain silo in the town of Newark
(along Mill Street), while trying to upgrade catbird and House Finch.

I was going to spend the rest of the day on Assateague (where miniroutes are
rather difficult to do).   Got the latest info on Piping Plover from the
NPS, which has been cooperating tremendously with the atlas.  Three Rock
Pigeons along the Verazzano Bridge were actually new for Tingles' Island/NE.
The Berlin block includes a small area of Assateague, in general the area
the Curlew Sandpiper frequented last summer; it's nice to be able to drive
to the area as opposed to the long hike.  Added four species here (Brown
Pelican, Little Blue Heron, Common Tern, Black Skimmer), all "Os".  Species
total now 94, so I will take what I can get.  Willet nest with 3 eggs.  Tree
Swallows still nesting in old Downy Woodpecker hole in bleached dead pine
sticking up from the dunes.  Clapper Rail calling (again) in marsh here,
rather local on the Island, with all the large herbivores.  Non-breeding
shorebird flocks in the tidal pools and flats included Black-bellied Plover
(11), Semipalmated Plover (6), Semipalmated Sandpiper (1), Least Sandpiper
(2), Red Knot (11) and Sanderling (8).  One Lesser-black Backed Gull here
was a harbinger of things to come.

Ocean City/SW
This block includes very little land, and had undergone significant habitat
changes since the last atlas.  Added seven species, now that the safe dates
are in for most everything (Brown Pelican, cormorant, Great Egret, Glossy
Ibis, and three gulls).  Most interesting was a really nice shorebird flock
along the edge of the "HUGO" flats (so named for the local of my state
Hudsonian Godwit on 12 Aug 1976): America Oystercatcher (2), Killdeer (2),
Piping Plover (3), Semipalmated Plover (10), Short-billed Dowitcher (23),
Dunlin (6), Least Sandpiper (10), Semipalmated Sandpiper (30), White-rumped
Sandpiper (1), Western Sandpiper (1), Ruddy Turnstone (3), plus Sanderling
(30) on the beach and ++ Willets, giving a good species total of 13 for
mid-June.  The Semi Plover count good for this late in the season, similar
to the 9 I had on AI/North End on 06/17/1980.  Several Red Knot counts of 20
or so along the Worcester coast in mid- to late-June.  The Dunlin count is a
Worcester high for this late in the "spring".  Most surprising was the
Western Sandpiper, the third June record for Worcester and besting the
spring departure record (from 1963, 1, OC, F. G. Scheider, MB 19:74, AFN

Given the Lesser Black-backed report by Stan Arnold and Bill Hubick, I gave
the gulls on the beach a careful look, and was (although perhaps I shouldn't
have been) surprised to 6 Lesser Black-backed here and took a bunch of

My target for the pm was the atlas block right on the MD-VA border, but
given the Lesser BB count, I drove down the ORV zone carefully checking each
gull flock.  There were very few cars and good numbers of gulls, and by the
time I hit the VA line I was simply amazed that I had counted 36 (!!) Lesser
Black-backed Gulls, bringing the day's total to 43.  I am assuming this is a
record MD count; nothing in Worcester history (except for Stan and Bill's
count) comes close to it.  A few photos at
Although looking at the photo in the just-arrived Field Notes of 85 Lessers
in a field in Bucks County, PA, makes me think I know where some of those
birds spend the summer!  Other gulls counts were Great Black-backed (40),
Herring (80), Laughing (40) and Ring-billed (10).  Another 20 Red Knots, 40
Sanderlings, and 5 Black-bellied Plovers.

Whittington Point/SW
Another block with not much land, but small things can be gems.  Added four
species (Brown Pelican, Northern Bobwhite, Common Tern and Carolina
Chickadee), bringing total to 67 and making 70 a distinct possibility.
Amazing I can find chickadee in the one little patch of woods in this block,
while I can not find it in two blocks farther north on the island that have
much larger woods.

Most of this block is in VA, but I just have to sacrifice in the name of the
atlas.  Walked some 2 miles (one way) into the northern part of Chincoteague
NWR.  Some nice habitat here, even if it is outside of God's Country.  Added
7 species (Double-crested Cormorant, Black-crowned Night Heron, Red-tailed
Hawk, Chuck-will's-widow, Cedar Waxwing, American Goldfinch) bringing total
to 77, prior atlas recorded 73.  Did this trip late in the day, so that I
could be in the block with the chucks started (around 8:30 pm or so).  Heard
15 or so while walking back north to the car parked along the MD-VA line.
Walking back by the light of the moon is great, but the 2 miles of deep sand
road has done a number on my left knee.

Tingles Island/NW
This block includes the southern end of South Point and a chuck of private
property across the Bay on the mainland.  A priority miniroute block, but
difficult to fit 15 spots in, but I manage.  Add a good 7 species (Wood
Duck, Red-tailed Hawk, Wild Turkey, Killdeer, Eastern Bluebird, Cedar
Waxwing, Scarlet Tanager) to the atlas total, brining it to 79.  First spot
in a new housing development were I add Wild Turkey (still gobbling),
Red-tail and Killdeer.  Pick up the flyer for the community on the way out.
Lots are only $400K.

Tingles Island/NE
Time for one more miniroute, this block includes the mainland across from
Assateague Island State Park and the State Park itself on Assateague.  Add 2
species (Wood Thrush, Scarlet Tanager), brining total to 94. 

Tingles Island/SE
I wasn't planning on doing this block, which roughly includes the area on
Assateague from Hungerford to the north end of the Fox Hill Levels, but
noted again I still needed chickadee - just too much to take!  I had a great
trip working the Hungerford woods, adding 6 species for the block (Brown
Pelican, Northern Bobwhite, Clapper Rail, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Brown-headed
Nuthatch, Cedar Waxwing).  No chickadee, however.  The nuthatch was a real
surprise as I have worked this area several times and not had one here.  It
seemed to be a lone individual, right near the old house.  The Clapper was
in the marsh just west of the house, and while working this area I flushed a
meadowlark, as if from a nest.  It took me 4 minutes of looking in the clump
of grass, but finally found a nest with 4 eggs, the first I had ever seen.
Two Blue-gray Gnatcatchers were near the Hungerford house as well; I
confirmed them hear last year as the first breeding record for Assateague;
not found on the Island during the prior atlas.

I spent a little time in Whittington Point/NE adding Yellow-billed Cuckoo
and Tingles Island/CW adding Tricolored Heron.

Whittington Point/NW
I had 69 species coming into the day for this block and wanted to get it
over the 70 threshold.  Working the Green Run woods, a total surprise was a
single Blue Jay, heard, seen and photographed.  There was a record from this
block in the prior atlas, but it would seem hard to believe that Blue Jays
nest on Assateague, were they are otherwise scare migrants in spring and
fall.  I did have a number of birds (in the woods) in this general area
during my trip here at the end of May this year.  Two other adds (Great Blue
Heron and American Goldfinch) brought the list up to 72. 

Whittington Point/CW
Here my goal was to better the prior atlas.  I had 64 species (the prior
record was 66).  Working the woods south of Green Run I added Purple Martin
(how close could the nearest colony be?), Common Grackle and American
Goldfinch.  67 in the bag.  Still no chickadee in this one either.  I single
Common Nighthawk continued the many records I have had of this species on
Assateague this year and last.  I now have recorded it in 5 atlas blocks (4
probable), while in the prior atlas there was only one record (a possible)
on the Island.  Given that this species can be tough to find in Worcester
(and would appear to be declining elsewhere in the State), this has been a
real pleasant surprise of atlasing.

Many more cars out today, so I don't try to do another gull count.  I quick
check of two flocks nets 4 Lesser Black-backs.

AI/North End
I run up to the north end again to check the shorebirds, with the rising
tide the birds are on the north end of the Curlew Sandpiper flats:
Black-bellied Plover 8, Killdeer 1, Semipalmated Plover 6, Piping Plover 6,
Semipalmated Sandpiper 20, Least Sandpiper 5, Western Sandpiper 1,
White-rumped Sandpiper 1, Ruddy Turnstone 2, Red Knot 1, Sanderling 1,
Dunlin 6, Willet 10 (another nest with 2 eggs).  Another 8 Lesser
Black-backed Gulls here.

Just have to try one more block (even though it is my wife's birthday!), add
Fish Crow to bring the total to 74.  Get home at 10:30 pm.

Good birding,
Mark L Hoffman