On the morning of December 16, 2012 we piled into Jeff’s Nissan Xterra at 02:45. With the birding gear and lunches in the back, coffee in hand, we headed south towards Bombay Hook NWR for the annual Christmas Bird Count. We were meeting Andy Ednie, the compiler of the count, at the refuge headquarters for a couple of hours of owling before sunrise.

We arrived on site at 3:45 and stepped out of the car to hear our first species of the day, Snow Goose. The Snow Geese were calling continuously in the Raymond Pool as we gathered around the back of the car to listen for owls. Within minutes we heard several Great Horned Owls and a screeching Barn Owl not more than a hundred yards from the refuge headquarters. We had other areas to check for owls, but managed to snag an Eastern Screech-Owl before leaving the area at 4:10. Not a bad start to the day!

Three owl species by 4:10 in the morning! Photo by Mason Sieges.

We worked our way to all corners of the refuge and other areas of the count circle picking up Mallard, Northern Cardinal, Great Blue Heron, Wilson’s Snipe, and Long-eared Owl in addition to more Great Horned and Barn Owls.

Around 06:40 we drove back to our count area to start scanning the marshes at sunrise. We were assigned to Area 1 of the count circle, which was comprised of the Raymond Pool (A), the Visitor’s Center (B), the fields west of the refuge (C), the boardwalk trail (which is southeast of Raymond Pool), and various other spots.

Starting at the Boardwalk Trail, we were scanning the marshes for raptors and listening for rails as well. We were able to pick up Clapper Rail, Common Yellowthroat, Northern Harrier, and various waterfowl and sparrow species. There were many birds flying over the marsh and we led us to our only American Pipits of the day.

Before high tide, we made our way to Raymond Pool to check for the continuing shorebirds. We found Greater Yellowlegs, American Avocet, Marbled Godwit, Long-billed Dowitcher, and Black-necked Stilt with relative ease. A decent-sized flock of around 50 Dunlin flew into the pool, over the flats, and back out again.

American Avocets and a lone Marbled Godwit in Raymond Pool at Bombay Hook NWR during the Christmas Bird Count on 16 December 2012. Photo by Mason Sieges.

We found ten species of waterfowl including Snow and Canada Geese, Tundra Swan, American Black Duck, Mallard, Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, Green-winged Teal, Bufflehead, and Hooded Merganser. While scanning the pool for waterfowl and shorebirds, a Peregrine Falcon perched on a snag near our parked vehicles and provided a nice digiscoping opportunity.

Peregrine Falcon at Bombay Hook NWR during the Christmas Bird Count on 16 December 2012. Photo by Mason Sieges.

While we had plenty of waterfowl, shorebirds, and various other species in the bag, we still had many more to find. We drove to the north end of the pool where the habitat changed to a more scrub-shrub and early successional type. This area looked perfect for sparrows. After stomping around for fifteen minutes we spotted at least five Field Sparrows, Song Sparrows, White-throated Sparrows, and Swamp Sparrows.

White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys) at Bombay Hook NWR on 16 December 2012

White-crowned Sparrow at Bombay Hook NWR during the Christmas Bird Count on 16 December 2012. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

While driving around the Raymond Pool we flushed a huge flock of White-throated Sparrows along the road. We stopped and estimated around 100 individuals in the flock and Kyle found our only Eastern Towhee of the day. There was a flooded field next to the road that yielded many Mallards and a lone Blue-winged Teal. The Blue-winged Teal was a late migrant and not an expected bird for the count.

We ended up back at the Visitor’s Center where we found House Sparrows and Northern Cardinals frequenting the feeders. Behind the Visitor’s Center we found a few Fox Sparrows, White-throated Sparrows, Golden-crowned Kinglets, and a Brown Creeper among others.

We spent six hours counting birds in our designated area and tallied 65 species. The biggest surprise of the day was the Blue-winged Teal and other major highlights were finding the Common Yellowthroat, Marsh Wrens, and the awesome views of the Peregrine Falcon that’s pictured above! Here’s our complete checklist from the morning:

Bombay Hook NWR, Kent, US-DE
Dec 16, 2012 6:50 AM – 12:55 PM
Protocol: Traveling 6.53 mile(s)
Comments: Bombay Hook NWR CBC. Distance calculated using Running Map.
65 species (+5 other taxa)

Snow Goose  3500
Canada Goose  217
Tundra Swan  2
American Black Duck  3
Mallard  150
Blue-winged Teal  1
Northern Shoveler  76
Northern Pintail  14
Green-winged Teal  44
Bufflehead  5
Hooded Merganser  3
duck sp.  11
Great Blue Heron  6
Northern Harrier  8
Cooper’s Hawk  1
Accipiter sp.  1
Bald Eagle  2
Red-shouldered Hawk  1
Red-tailed Hawk  7
Clapper Rail  3
Black-necked Stilt  1
American Avocet  130
Greater Yellowlegs  13
Marbled Godwit  3
Dunlin  50
Long-billed Dowitcher  7
Ring-billed Gull  11
Herring Gull  1
gull sp.  4
Mourning Dove  120
Great Horned Owl  1
Belted Kingfisher  1
Red-bellied Woodpecker  7
Downy Woodpecker  5
Hairy Woodpecker  2
Northern Flicker  7
American Kestrel  1
Peregrine Falcon  2
large falcon sp.  1
Blue Jay  45
American Crow  5
Horned Lark  4
Carolina Chickadee  7
Tufted Titmouse  2
White-breasted Nuthatch  3
Marsh Wren  2
Carolina Wren  10
Golden-crowned Kinglet  3
American Robin  1
Northern Mockingbird  4
European Starling  63
American Pipit  4
Cedar Waxwing  1
Common Yellowthroat  1
Eastern Towhee  1
Field Sparrow  5
Savannah Sparrow  6
Fox Sparrow (Red)  6
Song Sparrow  40
Swamp Sparrow  22
White-throated Sparrow  120
White-crowned Sparrow  6
Dark-eyed Junco  2
Northern Cardinal  44
Red-winged Blackbird  786
Eastern Meadowlark  1
House Finch  4
American Goldfinch  19
House Sparrow  13

View this checklist online at http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S12305063

This report was generated automatically by eBird v3 (http://ebird.org)