I had come to the Brigantine division of the Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge to look for sparrows. An odd thing to do perhaps, but I was specifically looking for the Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow. I had seen several reports of them being there. It would be a life bird.
As I stood next to my car on the 8-mile Wildlife Drive loop, sorting through the sparrows popping up and down in the reeds, I could hear Snow Geese calling (I would not call it honking, really). I had finally stopped looking up every time a flock of them flew over gleaming in the wan sunlight, to concentrate on the task at hand. It was a sparrow-fest and I was looking for one that was different. I saw lots of Swamp, Savannah, Song, Seaside and Song Sparrows but no Sharp-taileds.
I got back in my car to continue creeping along the road. Up ahead I could see swirling clouds of birds. Craning my head out the window I checked the skies for eagles or maybe a Peregrine. It turns out the ruckus was just more and more flocks of black birds coming in. As I got further up the road, I hopped out to look as one flock went over. Brant! They were all Brant. Holey Moley.
I hustled up to the tower. I wanted to stand up there with them to feel the urgency, the pull, the drive of migration.
Overhead flock after flock of birds was coming in a steady stream. Clouds of birds flowed over me, around me. I stood alone on the tower pirouetting as I watched them swirl about the tower. It was the most Brant I had ever seen.
Brigantine held lots of Snow Geese, Canada Geese, Pintail Ducks, Ruddy Ducks and Mallards. Sandpipers rose and fell at very shadow. I saw Clapper Rail and Black-bellied Plovers. Many birds slept tucked into the reeds and grasses while others gorged themselves oblivious to the arrival of new neighbors.
And in the end, yes, I did get the Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow, but it was overshadowed by the spectacle of the arrival of the Brant.