First of Winter Waterbird Surveys at Jug Bay Finds 28 Species

On Nov. 1, Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuaryconducted their first of a series of Winter Bird Surveys. Since 1990, they have conducted this kind of avian census from 15 vantage points in Jug Bay in Lothian along the Patuxent River.

Sora (Porzana carolina) bird waterbird in Morr...

Sora Rail

The Waterbird Survey began in 1990. They wanted to see how many species of birds were at Jug Bay during the non-mating season. Over the years, they have found the overall number of birds has stayed pretty much the same, although several species have declined.

The maximum number of birds, over 2,500, usually occurs in mid-winter.

Generally, the birds spotted in the winter survey are geese, ducks and gulls, which make up the majority of birds in the count, but also terns, herons, shorebirds, raptors, kingfishers and songbirds.

The study is simple and fairly quick. Birders arrive at Jug Bay around 7:30 a.m. and they look for birds for a half-hour from designated points. The counts are great for both intermediate and beginning birders. The intermediates can quickly identify species and the beginning birders can write down the data, and add the birds to their birding lists.

There is no training involved. There is a group leader that takes the bird counters along a specified route. Volunteers should bring binoculars and a field guide.

Along with the Winter Waterbird Survey, Jug Bay staff and volunteers visit four points in Jug Bay on a bi-weekly basis (Thursdays) between November and April.

The next Winter Waterbird Survey will be on Nov. 29. After that, the dates are:

  • December 6, 20
  • January 10, 24
  • February 7, 21
  • March 7, 21
  • April 4

On Nov. 1, some 16 participants counted 28 species. The bird count happened a couple of days after the winds, rain and high tides brought by Hurricane Sandy.

The count included one Rusty Blackbird and over 1,000 Laughing Gulls.  The highlight of the day was a ten-minute observation of a Sora Rail feeding along the river pier, according to the notes of the Jug Bay bird counters.

Participants on Nov. 1 included: Harry Columbe as leader, Karen Caruso as recorder, and observers: Brianna Beauchamp, Cynthia Bravo, Regan Christian, Catherine Dippo, Lee Fisher, Elaine Friebele, Lindsay Hollister, Anna Burnett, Matt Lambert,  Bill Miles, Dot Mumford, Dave Mozukewich, Gordon Reynolds and Chris Swarth.

It was one day past the full moon. It was a partly cloudy to clear morning with no wind.

Here are the species and the counts:

Pied-billed Grebe 6
Double-crested Cormorant 4
Great Blue Heron 10
Canada Goose 256
Wood Duck 13
Mallard 47
American Black Duck 37
Gadwall 5
Green-winged Teal 18
Northern Pintail 22
Ring-necked Duck 25
Bufflehead 2
Ruddy Duck 2
Northern Harrier 2
Bald Eagle 5 + 1 immature
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Sora 7
American Coot 22
Laughing Gull 1068
Ring-billed Gull 10
Herring Gull 7
Forster’s Tern 12
Belted Kingfisher 2
Song Sparrow 1
Swamp Sparrow 7
Rusty Blackbird 1

If you’d like to participate in a bird count, Jug Bay suggests the following skills and interests:

  • Prompt early risers! All counts start at 7:30 a.m.
  • Should be proficient with binoculars
  • Ability to record data carefully
  • Should be familiar with common birds—intermediate birder status helpful
  • Interest in learning techniques to estimate the size of flocks

Volunteers work under the guidance of staff and trained volunteer naturalists.

For more information, call the Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary at 410-741-9330 or email volunteers@jugbay.com.

In case of inclement weather, the bird count will be postponed.

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About Mitchelle Stephenson

I've gotta tell Mitchelle! Send your South County news tips, brag on your fab volunteers, talk traffic, police and fire or just say "howdy" to Mitchelle Stephenson, co-founding editor of the South River Source. Mitchelle@SouthRiverSource.com or reach me in person on mobile: 410-353-4706.

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