For most of the day, the only birds moving overhead were small flocks of robins and the occasional Northern Flicker. Then, something changed. Around 3:15pm, I was working on moving boxes that were getting wet due to the newly-opened hole on the barn roof (thanks, Sandy). At one point, I looked to the north and noticed a large flock of small birds headed towards me. I quickly grabbed my binoculars and found the approaching flock against the dark gray sky. Their sudden movements and quick wingbeats quickly ruled out blackbirds, which is what I expected to see in such a large flock. These were something different. Before long, they were right overhead, and I could clearly see that these 30-40 birds were shorebirds, Dunlin in fact. These fast fliers disappeared into the fog and mist in a matter of seconds. But that was good enough for yard bird #182!
The next fifteen minutes or so were slow, except for the passing of another shorebird flock or two. I then spotted a line of four distant ducks headed towards me. More Mallards, I figured. Nevertheless, I got the scope on them and focused on them one at a time. Male Mallard... male Mallard... female Mallard... WHAT?!?! I got enough of a look at the last bird to see that it was different, but as soon as I was able to focus the scope, the whole group of ducks disappeared into the fog, never to be spotted again. Based on the brief glimpse I got of the bird, it was likely a Northern Pintail, another locally unusual species, one that I had only seen from the yard once before. Soon after these ducks vanished into the mist, I observed two more ducks flying along the Kittatinny Ridge. These two ducks were clearly smaller than the numerous Mallards I had seen, but as luck would have it, they too dropped out of sight before I could get more than a quick silhouetted look. Darn... these could be awesome birds that I was missing. If only the visibility had been slightly better!
Although it was foggy and misty the entire time I was birding, there was very little steady rain... that is until I found something very intriguing. Just as I heard the sound of approaching rain, a group of about twenty dark birds appeared out of the mist from the western sky. Worried about the safety of my camera in the rain, I fired off a few quick shots before rushing for the cover of the front porch, from where I soon re-found the birds and got my binoculars on them. At this point I just about jumped for joy because of this new yard bird... Black. Scoter. A species I never even dreamed of seeing from the property. In less than a minute, the eastbound seaducks were out of sight, but I had just experienced something amazing and entirely unexpected.
|Brant low over the yard|