Not often we get soils so poor here in the Northeast that all they'll grow is lichen! But I think this open area used to be a claypit. In any case, dig down anywhere in this part of the coastal plain & you get this impenetrable red mineral clay. I know from personal experience: my family moved into a new housing development in a nearby town when I was a kid, & there was no topsoil at all. This is what our yard looked like, minus the lichen.
ID help welcome.
While these are common in the southern part of the state this is actually the first one ever reported in our Christmas Bird Count circle. We arrived to check this site — usually yields a few dabbling ducks in the sheltered spot by the boat ramp, sparrows in the weedy hedgerow below the coast road, gulls & maybe a few diving birds offshore in the channel — and found the bird perched at close range on the fence of the tiny groomed park next to the boat launch. We observed it for a few minutes as it moved around on the fence and dropped down to explore the park sidewalk; it looked alert and active. People do feed the birds here. The area is a mixed-use waterfront—industrial docks to the south, suburban residential to the north with a narrow strip of gravelly(?) beach. Half a mile north is a marina & a park with a small area of salt marsh.
A little later, a mile or so up the road, a local stopped and rolled down his window when he saw people wandering around with binocs. “Hey, there’s a bird that’s been hanging around the boat launch for a couple of months now. Never seen one like it. It looks a lot like a grackle, but it’s bigger, and it’s brown instead of black.”
Not sharpened (except for camera default), as I didn't want to affect the eye color.