Sunday, April 08, 2018

April 8 - Godwit Rarity

I began this morning at Garret Mountain to take in the arriving Spring birds along with my friend Bill E. 
There weren't a lot of species around yet we enjoyed the numerous Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers as we walked to top ridge at Garret. Once we reached the lower section of the park we had a Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher.  The most action was at the bottom of Wilson Avenue where we had many Pine Warblers, Palm Warblers, a Yellow-Rumped, Brown Creepers, and both Kinglets.

I then saw a rare bird alert for a Black-Tailed Gowdit that had been found in Gloucester County's Pedricktown Marsh.  Twice previously I had tried to see this bird, one being in Massachusetts & the other attempt in Maryland, with both of those very long journeys being unsuccessful.  So discarding all logic & buoyed with hopes that 'the third time was the charm' I immediately took the hike straight up from Wilson Avenue and back to the very top of Garret Mountain, where I hopped into my car for the 115-mile drive down to southwestern New Jersey.
When I arrived in Pedricktown and it's Causeway, I met up with a few friends that had also been lured south by this rarity.  Unfortunately this marsh is tidal and by my midday arrival the tide was already out, which leaves too many other places for the birds to find better feeding opportunities than an empty mudflat.

After a short wait we all got a call from friend Larry S. that he and Steve G. had seen the bird very briefly in flight and they had found a trail that leads toward another section of the marsh that was not viewable from the Causeway. After a quarter-mile hike and then some bush-whacking, our group of a dozen hopeful birders were able to find a small clearing at the edge of the marsh and setup our scopes.  After a 30-minute wait one fellow said he could see the bird but that it had gone down into a channel before he could see it well. Thankfully after a short wait we were all able to see the tomato-colored head of the Godwit, albeit from a distance of about 250-300 yards.

A few folks then broke off in search of closer access to view the Godwit.  Shortly thereafter we were told of a way to get closer.  So, hiking back out the quarter-mile & then taking a half-mile hike into another section of the marsh, along with more bush-whacking we reach a small area that gave us very nice views of the Black-Tailed Godwit from about 60-75 yards distance.  While here we all had lovely views of the breeding plumaged bird, it's two-toned bill and other field marks.  All that was left was for the bird to take flight to show it's trademark tail.  After a few minutes that flight did happen as the bird flew even closer to us & we all had spectacular views of the tail and other markings that distinguish this bird.

Here's a photo from the e-bird checklist of John Stippick who discovered the bird today.