[va-bird] Marvelous flight at Sunset Beach 29 September

  • From: Phoebetria@xxxxxxx
  • To: va-bird@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 29 Sep 2003 14:22:53 EDT

An overwhelming passage of Neotropical and shorter-distance migrants flooded 
the Sunset Beach area of southern Northampton County this morning between 0630 
and 0800. Todd Day, Tom Saunders, Vicky Gullet, Mike Iwanik and I were on 
hand to pull our hair out as too many birds poured by to count.   Todd Day had 
been present for the first, heavy half-hour and probably can add more birds to 
this count below or make corrections (he was on the platform at Kiptopeke and 
had hundreds of thrushes going over by 0500, as well as a Yellow-billed Cuckoo 
and others).   Unlike after early-September fronts, many of the birds DID 
linger in the hurricane-stripped bushes to be studied at close range this 
  Dominant in this flight were Catharus thrushes and Gray Catbirds; lots of 

The most interesting birds of the day were a Lincoln's Sparrow perched down 
in the saltbush in the "pits" here; two Philadelphia Vireos and an (eastern) 
Warbling Vireo seen nicely overhead; a Red-headed Woodpecker; an Orange-crowned 
Warbler seen briefly but pretty well (a very early date for this county; 
usually first arrives in mid-October); and a Yellow-breasted Chat with almost 
oriole-orange underparts that may have been of the western race _auricollis_ -- 
I've never seen a bird that looked anything like this one in the East.   The 
seemed heavy and head pattern a bit different, but I'm not sure I can quite 
describe how (we saw a "regular" chat as well).   Thanks to Tom Saunders for 
pointing this bird out!

The full list:

Northern Mockingbird 2 (one possibly a migrant)
Brown Thrasher 65
Gray Catbird 550+ ?   one could see 20 in flight at once, 30 perched 
simultaneously in a few bushes
Northern Flicker 150 (clicked with manual clicker by Todd)
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 1 (first of the year, right on time)
Eastern Phoebe 5 (ditto)
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker ZERO (very surprising; one usually arrives with the 
Red-bellied Woodpecker 2
Red-headed Woodpecker 2 (one by Vicky nearby as well)
Rose-breasted Grosbeak 35 (Todd had most early)
Eastern Wood-Pewee 2
Cedar Waxwing 45
Warbling Vireo 1
Philadelphia Vireo 2
Red-eyed Vireo 16
House Wren 20
Sedge Wren - 1 probable but not refound
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 3
Scarlet Tanager 3
Indigo Bunting 30+
Cape May Warbler 1
Blackburnian Warbler 1
American Redstart 140+
Northern Parula 65+
Chestnut-sided Warbler 1
Blackpoll Warbler 6
Bay-breasted Warbler 1
Black-throated Green Warbler 2
Black-throated Blue Warbler 30+
Nashville Warbler 1 (probably 2)
Myrtle Warbler 15 (the first arrivals! summer is over!)
Ovenbird 1
Northern Waterthrush 2
Orange-crowned Warbler 1
Black-and-white Warbler 15
Western Palm Warbler 30+
Common Yellowthroat 50+
Yellow Palm Warbler 4
Yellow-breasted Chat 2
Yellow Warbler 1 (Todd's bird)
Magnolia Warbler 20+
Lincoln's Sparrow 1
Also noted were Glossy Ibis (1), Cooper's Hawk (2), Sharp-shinned Hawk (3).   
Lots of cormorants moving over the Bay.   

Thrushes were difficult to count but easy to study perched.   Todd had most 
of them passing before sunup, often at knee-level across the parking lot, and 
the fascinating thing is that they called (giving typical nocturnal flight-call 
notes) well past sunup.   If ca. 270 thrushes were seen and heard in reverse 
migration (I saw/heard only about 100 or so), the breakdown would probably be 
about 120 Gray-cheeked, 100 Swainson's, and 50 or so Veeries; most of the 
Veeries seen perched showed buffy tips to coverts, so probably HY birds.   Todd 
also found a Hermit Thrush (first of the season) at dawn.   We are still 
a report of Connecticut Warbler, but we could have missed two dozen today in 
all the melee.   Let's hope the Birding Festival has a day like this one!   
Tomorrow could have another very nice follow-up flight.

Ned Brinkley
Cape Charles, VA

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  • » [va-bird] Marvelous flight at Sunset Beach 29 September