I met Jim Brighton and John Hubbell to bird the Piedmont this morning, meeting around dawn and starting the day at Greenbridge Road at Triadelphia Reservoir. Our best birds there were two DUNLIN that flushed from the Montgomery side and flew along the far shore in Howard County. Thanks to Joe Hanfman for posting updates on the shorebird habitat here.
From Triadelphia we checked local sod farms for plovers and then made a few stops on Florence Road. As we finished a brief and unproductive check of Western Regional, we received a text from Tom Feild. He wrote that he had all of the continuing Sandy Point birds plus BAIRD'S SANDPIPER. Jim, John, and I took a vote on whether we would continue our Carroll/Frederick route or turn around for the shorebirds. I was out-voted, and democracy dictated a return to Anne Arundel. I didn't complain then, and I'm quite pleased with the outcome now.
We arrived at Sandy Point to find Tom Feild, Joe Hanfman, Dan Haas, and Anna Urciolo scanning the large puddles. We were very disappointed to learn that the shorebirds had flown off, but we were hopeful that we'd relocate some of them. Although we didn't find the BAIRD'S, we did have four BRANT, seven BLACK-BELLIED PLOVERs, four SANDERLINGs, 15 DUNLIN, and a finely patterned juvenile LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL.
Now joined by Tom, Joe, and Anna, we decided to visit Thomas Point Park, where we were surprised to find another four BRANT. Having driven straight here after seeing the four at Sandy Point, we felt confident these were different birds. Also, one of the Sandy Point birds had barely visible chevrons on its neck, and all four of these were clear adults.
We continued on to Dent Road, an old airfield site that Jim Stasz has referenced for a long time. Jim had mentioned in the past as a good site for marsh birds, and he reminded me of it this morning. It was quite active this afternoon, with the major highlight being a migrant NELSON'S SPARROW. It flushed from the flooded trail and perched up for several seconds in a small sweet gum. As we tried for better looks, we had a few additional views in flight and painfully brief perched views. An hour of searching after Stan Arnold arrived turned up many sparrows, but no contenders for the Nelson's. Access to this site is somewhat tricky. It's remote (Rte 2 to Rte 255 east to Rte 468 south/east and right on Dent Road); the parking is poor; and the trails are flooded and overgrown. It's marked as state park property, but I don't know any more about access rules. I would recommend being very careful with parking. I left a note on my window with my cell number
saying to call if we needed to move cars. We walked past the gate, along the road, and then took a left along an overgrown path as the original path became nearly impassable. After about 30 yards the trail bends to the right and becomes very wet and muddy. After another 20 yards or so, the bird flushed to a small red-leaved sweet gum beside some water bushes. It flushed along the left side of the trail until we lost it.
Jim, John, Tom, and I ended the day with stops at North Beach and Chesapeake Beach Marina. The gull roost at Chesapeake Beach was very impressive, with over 925 Laughing Gulls, three Lesser Black-backed Gulls, and a single Dunlin. Also of interest was a Northern Harrier flying north over the Bay.
An enjoyable and memorable day of October birding! Here are the abridged eBird lists for everything.
Triadelphia Reservoir--Green Bridge Road
(Howard and Montgomery Counties except where noted)
Lesser Scaup--3 (Howard side)
DUNLIN--2; flushed from the peninsula on the Montgomery Co. side into Howard Co., heading toward Pigtail and then turning south and flying along the far shore treeline with four Killdeer.
Florence Road, Howard Co.
White-crowned Sparrow (Eastern)--3
Larriland Farm, Howard Co.
Sandy Point State Park, Anne Arundel Co.
Great Blue Heron--1
Laughing Gull--600 est.
Ring-billed Gull--150 est.
Lesser Black-backed Gull--1; very fresh and crisply marked juvenile
Great Black-backed Gull--200 est.
Thomas Point Park, Anne Arundel Co.
BRANT (ATLANTIC)--4; four adults roosting just south of the point
Great Blue Heron--2
Great Black-backed Gull--20
gull sp.--800; two large feeding flocks and one large gull-covered pier. Majority was Laughing, followed by Herring, Great Black-backed, and Ring-billed. Joe had at least a couple Bonaparte's Gulls.
Forster's Tern--184; there were 168 roosting just on one large pier
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle)--4
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored)--1
Dent Road, Anne Arundel Co.
Great Blue Heron--3
DUNLIN--1; feeding on a mudflat out on the marsh; later seen flying away from that area
Great Black-backed Gull--3
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted)--2
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle)--18
Savannah Sparrow (Eastern)--7
NELSON'S SPARROW--1; * Rarely detected migrant in the county. Clearly saw overall orange coloration especially in head and upper breast, very dull and subdued grayish streaks on breast, and small bill. Unfortunately, after losing it we did not relocate it for Anna and Stan. Not quite long or close enough of a view to call the bird to subspecies.
White-crowned Sparrow (Eastern)--2 immature
Common Grackle--700; one large flock of about 1000 blackbirds, overwhelmingly grackles but with a fair number of Red-winged.
North Beach, Calvert Co.
Chesapeake Beach Marina, Calvert Co.
Great Blue Heron--2
Snowy Egret--5; roosting on the south jetty
Northern Harrier--1; female or immature flying north along the coast; Jim's county bird
Dunlin--1; feeding on the south jetty
Laughing Gull--925; effort made for an exact count, but occasionally counting by 5s. More arriving as we departed.
Herring Gull (American)--106
Lesser Black-backed Gull--3
Great Black-backed Gull--225
Royal Tern--5; roosting on pound nets
Have a good week!