It was such a gorgeous weekend that we leaped from our respective beds at the crack of 9:30 on Sunday morning with but one thought in mind, but after taking care of that, we decided to take a day trip out somewhere to View Nature (preferably in the form of ducks). Checking around, I saw that scads of Scoters were still advertised off the Delaware coast around Henlopen, so we agreed that was the place to go, particularly as I remembered that it was only about 1 1/2 hours or so to get there. Once again, my memory was less than accurate – it ended up being a 3 1/2 hour haul there (including a leisurely and very satisfying lunch in Denton, Del.), and when we finally arrived at the coast, there was not a Scoter to be seen. Presumably the sky-darkening flocks had moved out on Saturday or something. Still, it was a very nice trip – a couple of Bald Eagles along the highway, Brown-headed Nuthatches in the refuge itself, and at various points in the water we had Red-throated and Common Loons, Red-breasted Mergansers, a single Red-necked Grebe (nice theme there), Brant, Double-crested Cormorants, Gannets close on-shore fishing, and the usual Gulls. Laughing Gulls were inland on the various floody spots in the fields, but not on the shore. The only shorebirds we spotted were a single flock of Sanderlings at a distance. Perhaps it was just too warm and they were upcoast from us, or perhaps we should have got there before 2 pm.. It was a very pleasant day, though, and it was nice to get out to the beach; I was just surprised to see so many sunbathers on the sand in late March. It must be a bit uncomfortable for them to have us toting scopes and binoculars around like that, but at least it wasn’t a nude beach – birding at Moonstone beach up in Rhode Island was always an interesting experience.
Well, just need to dust off the furniture and do a bit of sweeping – it’s been a while since I dropped in here. So, the Grackles and Blackbirds rolled in last night, and this morning I was treated to an enthusiastic courtship in the tree behind the house as I left for work. The male Grackle, a foot or so away from the female, was letting it all fly – spreading the tail, drooping the wings, squeaking the rusty hinge, bobbing and weaving, etc. The female was apparently indifferent to his presence, staring vacantly into space. It reminded me of the old Far Side cartoon, ‘Same Planet, Different Worlds’. Meanwhile, although the Cardinals have been yelling away like nobody’s business for the past several weeks, today was the first time I heard a House Finch singing. I must have just missed them – in past years I recall hearing them going at it even as early as mid-January. I don’t suppose that they are finally getting used to East Coast time; they’ve been here in the east for over 50 years now. Speaking of adjusting, lately I’ve been noticing the huge flocks of crows heading in to roost in the evening; they’re looking like flocks of giant blackbirds any more – hundreds of crows in a single horizon-to-horizon band. Since about 70-80% of them appear noticeably smaller than the few big boys in the bunch, I’m assuming that this is the present ratio of Fish Crows to American Crows in Baltimore. I find this interesting because this morning, while waiting for the bus, I heard a flying crow yelling in a way that caught my attention. It was a more gravelly, deeper sound than the normal Fish Crow call, but way too ‘quacky’ to be an American Crow, I thought. I wonder (as I have for a while now) if they’re hybridizing?
Speaking of Fish Crows, the other day I got to see one of them putting the screws to our local big female Sharp-shin all the way across the neighborhood. It was a sunny, windy day, and the crows in general were in high spirits, but this was quite exceptional. They were almost exactly the same size, and both very aerobatic, but the crow was definitely getting the better of the match-up. He was all over her, no matter what she did: swerve, plunge, stall, jink, juke, etc. It was a straight one-on-one, and I bet she had some lumps by the time it was over. I didn’t see her even make an effort to lay a talon on him, and the other surprising thing was that she never tried to land and wait him out – she was just heading for the nearest woods, I guess.