Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Ten Birds of Bombay Hook and a few more surprises

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service brochure the recorded history of Bombay Hook begins in 1679. Mechacksett, Chief of the Kahansin Indians sold it to Peter Bayard, a Dutchman from New York. According to the website the price was 1 gun, 4 handfuls of powder, 3 waistcoats, 1 anchor of liquor and 1 kettle. Make sure you stop at the visitor's center pay your dues and pickup one or two of the informational brochures.

Bombay Hook NWR is a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance located in Smyrna, Delaware. It was established as a National Wildlife Refuge on March 16, 1937. It is a 12-mile round trip auto tour with walking trails and observation towers and a little history thrown in there. The refuge protects 16,000 acres of habitat, 80% is salt marsh. The price for admission is $4 per car or $2 for walk-ins and bike riders. It is worth every cent. Plan for a minimal of 4 hours if you want to see it all.

Sure the purple martin bird houses are typical at many NWR but have you ever had a purple martin as your personal guide.  I think it is important right off to establish guidelines don't you? We were given direction and instructions,  25 m.p.h. and you go this way, stay on the paved roads and marked trails and we will have no trouble. Works for me.

To be a professional bird watcher, photographer or just plain ole nature lover, you have to possess the proper tools. Sure you can spends thousands on the equipment and get that National Geographic shot or simply enjoy the experience of appreciating nature. I am grateful for all I get to see and share. Just stand still and watch for movement and color change and you are bound to spot something, listening also is key, although I can't quite recognize who is signaling to me yet.  Many people have this gift and like anything it just takes practice and experience. I know the whistle of the osprey and the beeping sound of a chick-a-dee. As an amateur birder, I sometimes refer to some birds as ordinaries, but there is nothing ordinary about any bird. 

Marsh Wren


American Goldfinch

This is my 2nd time at Bombay and depending on the season you just might see something you have never seen before.  This was my first time seeing an American Avocet.  I was not very close but close enough to see they part of the stilt family with long legs, black and white in color and spots of brown with a scooped bill to fish with. This is my description, I am sure Google or a good bird book or app would be more concise. Bombay is teeming with them and according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife brochure they are abundant in the spring, summer and fall and occasional in winter.

American Avocet

Egrets are also abundant but ask me to clarify the different ones and I can't do it but I can show them to you.  There are great egrets, snowy egrets and cattle egrets. The snowy ones are more rare in the winter and the great ones only show up occasionally.  They probably have a warmer spot in the south for fishing and day to day activities. Here you can see they either walking to work or out for a casual stroll with friends. They will tolerate you for so long but if you get too close they quickly change into flight and fright mode. Catching one of them in you lens in flight is a special occasion they are so graceful looking but when they first start out, not so much.  To me it looks like they are donning their coat of feathers and biding you adieu.

Egret (black bill)
Egret (orange bill)

Possible cattle egret with a feathered tail on head

Orange billed egret, a favorite position in flight when I come to town

I want to call this one a juvenile white heron but I would clearly reveal I don't know what I am talking about, but to me it does resemble a heron.
Bombay Hook is a happy haven for the heron. I believe I spotted a Great Blue and at the very least a Tri Colored. The Great Blue is common to the area, the Little Blue is common in summer, the tricolored is uncommon, the Green-backed Heron is common as well as the Black crowed night heron but the yellow crown night heron in uncommon.  Got all that? I saw so many I could make a movie of them.  I never tire of these magnificent creatures but I can't help but keep my distance with their stark resemblance to the dinosaur.

Although they are not birds, I have to include another first for me, the fiddler crab. I will provide the posting that explains what they are because they were new to me but I will tell you the one meaty claw is the feature that attracts me if i were to have them for dinner but I would really have to wash all that mud away. They were fascinating to watch, so quiet down there below the boardwalk along the banks of the water, climbing in and out of their mud holes.

I am going by the sign at the front of the trail and identifying these critters as painted turtles.  That is what the sign said at the beginning of the trail and I have no reason to dispute the sign at Bear Swamp Trail. What the failed to mention however was look for the eagle.

Twice I have been to Bombay Hook and twice I have spotted the eagle.  This time I spotted a white tail in my lens as I turned away from the turtles. It is always an extraordinary day when you spot an American Eagle. I never did see the thrasher or green-winged teal but seeing an American Eagle, you are a lucky lady. They act so calm and natural like it is an every day thing while you are flipping out. Eagle! The Bald Eagle is listed as unusual to see in the brochure. I now think he is looking for me!

American Eagle

All I can give you here is, this is a hawk. Northern Harrier, Sharp Shined and Red Tailed Hawks are all common at different seasons but the red-tailed hawk is common in summer at Bombay Hook, so I will have to go with that. The tail looks brown with a tinged of red to me.

Cormorants will always be one of my favorites.  It reminds me of Daffy Duck.  Even though it looks like a duck it is not a duck. You can often spot them in the bay along the Jersey shore and also at the Water Works waterfall on the Schuylkill River in front of Boat House Row.

Usually you can spot a whole flock of Canadian Geese.  I spotted one. It counts on the check list. These birds are not known to be shy, you usually hear them before you see them.This one was pretty quiet so the rest must have been up to no good and he was the lookout.

Here are my ducks, a flying one and three that felt like floating instead.

The truth is I do not know what this is. Look along the waters edge. It was thrashing around in the water and my husband had an eagle eye on it.  I was focusing on the object just to the right.  I swore I had spotted a rare bird breed in the brush. I thought it was an American Bittern.  I was on a bird walk one time at Heinz and everyone in the crowd spotted it but me.  I fear I still suffer from that exclusion. It turned out to be just that, brush. As I will demonstrate, later, the floating thrasher I now believe to be a river otter. What do you see? To the left is the thrasher to the right brown rare bird. After close examination, it is abundantly clear, we had a better chance of seeing a river otter. They are known to have been spotted at Bombay Hook.

Spotting this raccoon was just pure luck.  It was on a road where you may see a fox. This raccoon did not look too good in my opinion and being known to usually be nocturnal I am not sure what he was doing out in the middle of the afternoon. I have a raccoon that frequents my backyard in the evening, if we do not take down the bird feeder at night. He has climbed up our trellis and onto our back roof and I have caught him looking in my bedroom window, very creepy. I kept my distance from this one and thankfully he showed no interest in me. He probably thought I didn't look too good either.

I love rabbits they just freeze in place like if they do that and close their eyes you can't see them. I can see you Mr. Rabbit.  It had to be a man a woman would have high tailed it out of there.

If he as not hopping I would have never have seen this frog.  What type of frog is he? He as a small hopping frog. That is an educated guess. It could be a toad. It almost looks like a snake just above his head.  I hope not! I am glad I didn't spot that. Yikes!

The Glossy Ibis was a fun find and when I spotted one that I believe is next to the heron, it gave a nice perspective of size. The beak really gives them away in flight.

A horseshoe crab so far from the sea? It is a salt water marsh. Now I am wondering if some of the jagged bumps in the water were horseshoe crabs. Many of the birds used them as perches.

This certainly is not a horseshoe crab but an old tree stump that a Least Tern is using as an elevated resting place above the water.

Optical illusions can occur. I wasn't sure if this was a wolf crossing the water or not until I got up closer.

Had I just spotted a bear in the woods? Broken tree limbs can be deceiving.

I knew if I scanned the crowd long enough I would find a plover and here it is. He is small in the center of the photo.

I can't without a doubt confirm it because it would be my first sighting but I believe this to be a red knot.

Shorebirds are still pretty tough for me to tell the difference between on August 29, Bombay Hook is having a presentation on just the subject.  If you are interested, here is the info Shorebird Identification Workshop, Reservations required. Call Andy at (302) 588-2067 for details and to register by August 27, 2015.

I would recommend using something to prevent being bitten by mosquitoes and or flies.   I was getting eaten alive on the trails and out by the pools by flies, green heads and brown ones, cover as much skin as possible and wear a hat.

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