Sunday, October 23, 2016

Great Bay Blvd 10/23--Vesper Sparrow

After being confined to quarters for the last day and a half by wind & rain (a Friday morning trip to Sandy Hook was aborted when the showers started much earlier than predicted), I took a run down to Tuckerton, despite knowing that the wind was not going to abate. I was hoping against hope for a Nelson's Sparrow at the inlet, but Nelson's Sparrow (in fact, most birds) like me, don't like wind. So while I managed to find one sparrow running in the grass, whether it was a Nelson's or a Saltmarsh is up in the air because it quickly hunkered down and wasn't coming out.

However, at the little grove of trees just before the beach at the end of the road, I espied, briefly, a largish sparrow, streaked on the breast, with an eye ring like a whitewall tire--Vesper Sparrow. It quickly dived down into the foliage and would not come up again, but this is the time of the year for these birds and Great Bay Blvd is the place I go for my (relatively) rare sparrows.

Usually I walk the road from the inlet up to the first wooden bridge (about 1.7 miles) then back, but with the wind today that seemed like it would be unpleasant. So, looking for someplace protected, I drove up to Stafford Forge WMA and walked in the woods, where there was very little in the trees and nothing in the water. I did, however, see a pheasant in the field. Unfortunately, pheasants are stocked there so it is uncountable. Too bad. Going by my idiosyncratic (or idiotic) counting rules, if I see a pheasant outside a WMA, like on the side of the road, I'll count it, figuring it is now "wild," whereas, if I know a bird is stocked in a WMA, I won't.

By far, the greatest number of a single species today was Boat-tailed Grackle. A conservative estimate would be 250. The picture below is just a sampling of the flock that was on the mud flats off the 2nd wooden bridge at dead low tide.

My wind-blown list for Great Bay Blvd:
17 species
Brant  50
American Black Duck  10
Double-crested Cormorant  25
Great Blue Heron  4
Great Egret  35
Black-crowned Night-Heron  3
Northern Harrier  1
Black-bellied Plover  3
Semipalmated Plover  2
Dunlin  1
Greater Yellowlegs  1
Herring Gull  25
Great Black-backed Gull  10
European Starling  40
Yellow-rumped Warbler  10
Vesper Sparrow  1
Boat-tailed Grackle  250

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Holgate 10/19--Marbled Godwit

Marbled Godwits, interspersed among American Oystercatchers Brants, Holgate
Since year birds are getting sparse this time of year and so are the entries, I'm turning to a state & county year bird for today's post. When I was last at Holgate at the extreme southern end of the aptly named Long Beach Island, it was about 10 degrees Fahrenheit with a ferocious wind in my face, but, I really wanted to see a Snowy Owl. Today, the 2nd day of an October heat wave, seemed like a good time to make the long, boring drive to Holgate and walk on the beach to look for Marbled Godwits.  In my "hey kids, collect 'em all" frame of mind, I "needed" these birds for the state and Ocean County lists, despite having them on the year list from trip to Delaware. 

They weren't hard to find. There were at least 14 of them sitting on a sand bar on the bay side with about 75 American Oystercatchers and a slew of Brants.  If you examine my digiscoped pictures, you'll see them tucked in among the orange beaks of the oystercatchers. 

Marbled Godwits are supposedly rare in the county, but they're really not. Travelers to Great Sedge Island see them a on regular basis and this group has been at Holgate for seemingly a month. True, you can't go just anywhere to see them, but it isn't really that big a deal to find them--unless you "need" them. Then you trudge out on the sand. 

Holgate seemed a lot different to me than my last warm weather visit. The "Area Closed" signs have been moved much closer to the beach, the numbered markers that gave you some idea of how far you'd walked have been removed, and maybe it was just because the tide was high, but the whole strip seemed to me much more narrow, as if storms had eroded the beach. 

I added a few other month birds along the way: Caspian Tern, a couple of Lesser Black-backed Gulls (this is a reliable spot for them) and a Western Willet. There was a Black-bellied Plover also, although at the distance I had it, it could have been an American Golden-Plover but the operative word in this sentence is "distance." 

I guess I walked about 2/3 of the way down the beach before turning around when the beach ahead just looked like more gulls. There was nothing on the ocean in the way of sea ducks, loons, grebes, or gannets. 
23 species
Brant  200     Bayside
American Black Duck  8
Double-crested Cormorant  100
Great Blue Heron  2
Great Egret  2
American Oystercatcher  75     Close count
Black-bellied Plover  1
Semipalmated Plover  25     Exact count
Marbled Godwit  18     Exact count.  Digiscope photo below.

Sanderling  500     Easily
Dunlin  3
Willet (Western)  1
Laughing Gull  8
Ring-billed Gull  30
Herring Gull  100
Lesser Black-backed Gull  2
Great Black-backed Gull  200
Caspian Tern  1
Northern Mockingbird  1
European Starling  10
Yellow-rumped Warbler  6
Song Sparrow  2
Boat-tailed Grackle  2

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Great Bay Blvd WMA 10/11--Clay-colored Sparrow

Last week I mentioned that I was giving warblers a couple of more days before I switched over to sparrows. Trips to Palmyra and Sandy Hook yielded a few warblers, but no big numbers. Sparrows though, after this rainy weekend, were abundant at Island Beach yesterday (along with Yellow-rumped Warblers, which I consider honorary sparrows), particularly White-throated Sparrows, which were present in the hundreds.

Savannah Sparrow
It was windy yesterday but today calmer, so I took a ride down to Great Bay Blvd hoping that the conditions would keep the sparrows from huddling in the reeds and grasses. At my favorite sparrow spot, just before the 2nd wooden bridge, there were mostly juncos with a Savannah Sparrow, a juvie White-throated Sparrow, a few Song Sparrows, a towhee, Chipping Sparrows, and best of all, my FOY Clay-colored Sparrow, just as I was hoping (I've seen one in this spot before). I couldn't get a picture of the Clay-colored. The Savannah will have to do.

I was hoping that the inlet would produce Nelson's Sparrow, the close cousin of the much more numerous Saltmarsh Sparrow which can usually be found running around like mice in grasses, but despite two walks along the beach I couldn't find any today. Last week, when it was windy, I saw a lot of sparrows diving for cover as I approached; none of them stayed in view long enough to determine species. I didn't even have that frustration today. Still, Clay-colored is a good one and a species I might not get for the rest of the year.

For the day I had 40 or so species. I tried mightily to determine whether the dowitchers I found were Short-billed or Long-billed, but distance and movement were against me.
40 species (+1 other taxa)
Brant  15 (a sure sign that winter is near)
Mute Swan  5
American Black Duck  2
Double-crested Cormorant  30
Great Blue Heron  10
Great Egret  25
Tricolored Heron  1
Black-crowned Night-Heron  10
Bald Eagle  1
Black-bellied Plover  8
Dunlin  4
Short-billed/Long-billed Dowitcher  2
Greater Yellowlegs  10
Laughing Gull  10
Ring-billed Gull  2
Herring Gull  25
Great Black-backed Gull  6
Forster's Tern  5
Northern Flicker  3
Merlin  1
Eastern Phoebe  5
Brown Creeper  1
Carolina Wren  1     Heard
Golden-crowned Kinglet  4
Gray Catbird  1     Heard
European Starling  75
Palm Warbler  2
Pine Warbler  1
Yellow-rumped Warbler  75
Chipping Sparrow  4
Clay-colored Sparrow  1
Dark-eyed Junco  20
White-crowned Sparrow  1
Savannah Sparrow  1
Song Sparrow  6
Swamp Sparrow  2
Eastern Towhee  1
Northern Cardinal  4
Boat-tailed Grackle  80
House Finch  1
American Goldfinch  1

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Island Beach SP 10/5--Lincoln's Sparrow

Yet another dreary day, overcast, cool, windy. Memo to self: Get over it; summer's done.

To drive home that notion, we've switched in migration from warblers to sparrows, at least around here. I was at Island Beach today and saw exactly 1 warbler I could identify: Black-throated Green Warbler. On Reed's Road I saw my first juncos of the fall, along with White-throated Sparrow. There were more sparrows on the Spizzle Creek trail, and like yesterday on Great Bay Blvd, they were winning at the game of hide and seek. They don't seem too interested in being pished out either.

However, I did score one year bird sparrow. At the "T" of the trail there was some activity: chickadees, the now ubiquitous Red-breasted Nuthatches, a phoebe and couple of sparrows. One of the birds was a Song Sparrow, no big deal, but the other was different, smaller, with a buffy wash on the breast and a thin eye-ring. Lincoln's Sparrow. Not unexpected in migration, and one of those birds I probably see more often than I think and just let them go as Songs, but this one, being right next to a Song Sparrow, stood out and grabbed my attention. Despite hanging around the little thicket the birds were in for 10 minutes and then leaving and returning and hanging around another 5 minutes, and pishing, neither the Song or the Lincoln's (or that matter the phoebe, the nuthatch, or chickadee) reappeared. Very frustrating and thus no photo.

Other minor highlights of the day were 3 Tricolored Herons (getting late, I suspect) at Spizzle, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet on Reed's Road, a Golden-crowned Kinglet on Two Bit Road, and my FOS Brown Creeper, the first bird I saw on Reed's Road.

The next couple of days I'm going to make a push for warblers and then mentally switch over to sparrows, waterfowl and lingering shorebirds.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Brig 10/4--American White Pelican

American White Pelicans
I didn't think I'd be going back to Brig so soon; I figured I'd wait for its "grand re-opening" but a text alert came in while I was walking on Great Bay Blvd that two American White Pelicans were viewable from the Gull Tower and since GBB was, according to GPS, only 37 minutes away and since pelicans are big birds and hard to miss, I drove down there. I wouldn't chase a flighty bird like a warbler or sparrow, but this seemed like a pretty good bet.

And it was. I climbed up the tower, met a couple of guys there who pointed me in the general direction of the pelicans, looked through my scope and added them to the year list. I was figuring that was a species that would be a miss this year.

Almost as interesting to me as the pelicans were the 6 Common Gallinules that were in the Gull Pond. (Gallinula galeata use to be called Common Moorhen but since half of them aren't hens and there are no moors in North America, the name was, to my mind, sensibly changed, though much to the chagrin of some traditionalists. On a somewhat related note, the Toledo Mudhens minor league baseball team, uses the folk name for American Coot. The team doesn't seem to know this and its mascot looks more like a chicken than a coot.) While Common Gallinule is not rare this time of year at Brig, 6 of them is a pretty big number to find. These all looked like either females or juveniles to me.
Common Gallinule
For the 6th day in a row, the weather was nasty--blowing drizzle, gusting winds, but not enough to prevent me from getting out to bird. Great Bay Blvd had a decent variety of birds, but, the ones I was looking for, sparrows, were being extraordinarily difficult, showing themselves for a fleeting moment before diving into the reeds. The dim light and windy conditions didn't help, so I couldn't tell if the sparrows scampering around the marsh were Saltmarsh or Nelson's. Nelson's is the one I need for the year and GBB is the best place in Ocean County to find them.

Some other birds I did see down there:
Least Sandpiper
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron (juvenile)
You can see how murky the light was today. Tomorrow might be better. Then we're awaiting a hurricane to decide on its path.

Friday, September 30, 2016

September Summary

Black-throated Blue Warbler, Sandy Hook
Any month with a life bird (LARK BUNTING) has to be considered a success and doubly so when that lifer is found in NJ. Along with that bird I managed to add 8 additional year birds to the list, some of them, like Parasitic Jaeger and Winter Wren tough ones (for me). 

With the closing of Brig and fall migration underway, I spent a fair amount of time at Sandy Hook and though I never hit a huge warbler fall out I did manage to add some from that family to the year list as well as getting my first NJ Philadelphia Vireo there. 

Since I finally ran out of birds to list for Bird A Day earlier in the month, the birding has been a bit more, shall we say, relaxing. I haven't done any birding for the last two days because of long lingering rainstorm that seems to want to stay into October. My last foray was on Wednesday at Island Beach where, while the birding tended to be sparse, I did manage to get another look at our local mega-rarity, the Reddish Egret, which will occasionally show itself dancing around the sand bar that can be viewed from the winter anchorage. A very poor digiscope is to the left. I also came across a small flock of White-throated Sparrows along the Spizzle Creek trail which officially closes out summer and can even be considered the end of the beginning of migration. 

This month I also added a new yard bird to our list (bringing us up to 93). The other day I heard a lot of noise on the roof and just as I was about to get up to investigate I saw a vulture fly down onto the ground. That isn't that unusual, but this bird happened to be a Black Vulture. There were a few of them mixed in with the much more common Turkey Vultures. I went outside to take pictures of the flock, which was moving around from rooftop to rooftop, but kept a certain distance as their defense mechanism consists of projectile vomit. Even though they are harmless (aside from the vomit), they are inescapably creepy, especially when roosting 'round your roof.
Turkey Vulture at sunset on Sunset Rd.
 For the month I had 158 species, all in NJ.
Counties birded: Atlantic, Burlington, Monmouth, Ocean, Union
Species                     First Sighting
Canada Goose   Forsythe-Barnegat
Mute Swan   Lake of the Lilies
Wood Duck   Colliers Mills WMA
American Black Duck   Whitesbog
Mallard   Whitesbog
Northern Shoveler   Forsythe-Barnegat
Red-breasted Merganser   Sandy Hook
Wild Turkey   35 Sunset Rd
Common Loon   Island Beach SP--Reed's Road
Pied-billed Grebe   Double Trouble State Park
Double-crested Cormorant   Island Beach SP
Brown Pelican   Island Beach SP--Winter Anchorage
Great Blue Heron   Whitesbog
Great Egret   Island Beach SP
Snowy Egret   Island Beach SP
Little Blue Heron   Brig
Tricolored Heron   Island Beach SP
Reddish Egret   Island Beach SP--Winter Anchorage
Green Heron   Cloverdale Farm
Black-crowned Night-Heron   Brig
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron   Great Bay Blvd
Glossy Ibis   Great Bay Blvd
Black Vulture   Sandy Hook
Turkey Vulture   35 Sunset Rd
Osprey   Island Beach SP
Northern Harrier   Brig
Sharp-shinned Hawk   Sandy Hook
Cooper's Hawk   Gordon Road Reed's Sod Farm
Bald Eagle   Whitesbog
Red-tailed Hawk   Crestwood Village
Clapper Rail   Sandy Hook
Common Gallinule   Lake of the Lilies
American Oystercatcher   Sandy Hook--Spermaceti Cove area
Black-bellied Plover   Sandy Hook
Semipalmated Plover   Great Bay Blvd
Piping Plover   Sandy Hook
Killdeer   Whitesbog
Whimbrel   Sandy Hook
Hudsonian Godwit   Brig
Sanderling   Island Beach SP
Dunlin   Sandy Hook
Baird's Sandpiper   Sandy Hook
Least Sandpiper   Whitesbog
White-rumped Sandpiper   Brig
Buff-breasted Sandpiper   Gordon Road Reed's Sod Farm
Pectoral Sandpiper   Whitesbog
Semipalmated Sandpiper   Whitesbog
Western Sandpiper   Great Bay Blvd
Short-billed Dowitcher   Whitesbog
Wilson's Phalarope   Holmdel-Willowbrook Rd
Spotted Sandpiper   Cloverdale Farm
Solitary Sandpiper   Cloverdale Farm
Greater Yellowlegs   Whitesbog
Willet   Sandy Hook
Lesser Yellowlegs   Forsythe-Barnegat
Parasitic Jaeger   Sandy Hook
Bonaparte's Gull   Sandy Hook--Spermaceti Cove area
Laughing Gull   Island Beach SP
Ring-billed Gull   Sandy Hook
Herring Gull   Island Beach SP--Reed's Road
Lesser Black-backed Gull   Sandy Hook
Great Black-backed Gull   Island Beach SP
Caspian Tern   Sandy Hook
Common Tern   Sandy Hook
Forster's Tern   Great Bay Blvd
Royal Tern   Sandy Hook
Black Skimmer   Brig
Rock Pigeon   Gordon Road Reed's Sod Farm
Mourning Dove   35 Sunset Rd
Yellow-billed Cuckoo   Sandy Hook
Black-billed Cuckoo   Cattus Island County Park
Common Nighthawk   35 Sunset Rd
Eastern Whip-poor-will   35 Sunset Rd
Chimney Swift   Colliers Mills WMA
Ruby-throated Hummingbird   35 Sunset Rd
Belted Kingfisher   Forsythe-Barnegat
Red-headed Woodpecker   Cloverdale Farm
Red-bellied Woodpecker   Whitesbog
Downy Woodpecker   35 Sunset Rd
Hairy Woodpecker   Cloverdale Farm
Northern Flicker   Forsythe-Barnegat
American Kestrel   Forsythe-Barnegat
Merlin   Whitesbog
Peregrine Falcon   Great Bay Blvd
Eastern Wood-Pewee   35 Sunset Rd
Eastern Phoebe   Whitesbog
Great Crested Flycatcher   Cloverdale Farm
Eastern Kingbird   Brig
White-eyed Vireo   Sandy Hook--Spermaceti Cove area
Yellow-throated Vireo   Sandy Hook
Blue-headed Vireo   Sandy Hook
Philadelphia Vireo   Sandy Hook
Warbling Vireo   Island Beach SP
Red-eyed Vireo   Island Beach SP--Reed's Road
Blue Jay   35 Sunset Rd
American Crow   35 Sunset Rd
Fish Crow   35 Sunset Rd
Purple Martin   Whitesbog
Tree Swallow   Whitesbog
Bank Swallow   Island Beach SP
Barn Swallow   Great Bay Blvd
Carolina Chickadee   35 Sunset Rd
Black-capped Chickadee   Sandy Hook
Tufted Titmouse   35 Sunset Rd
Red-breasted Nuthatch   Island Beach SP--Reed's Road
White-breasted Nuthatch   35 Sunset Rd
House Wren   Colliers Mills WMA
Winter Wren   Ocean County Parks Offices
Marsh Wren   Sandy Hook
Carolina Wren   Island Beach SP--Reed's Road
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher   Cloverdale Farm
Ruby-crowned Kinglet   Sandy Hook
Eastern Bluebird   Cloverdale Farm
Veery   Sandy Hook
Swainson's Thrush   Linden Hawk Rise Sanctuary
American Robin   Whitesbog
Gray Catbird   Whitesbog
Brown Thrasher   Horicon Lake
Northern Mockingbird   Island Beach SP--Reed's Road
European Starling   Whitesbog
Cedar Waxwing   Sandy Hook
Northern Waterthrush   Sandy Hook
Black-and-white Warbler   Brig
Nashville Warbler   Sandy Hook
Mourning Warbler   Sandy Hook
Common Yellowthroat   Whitesbog
American Redstart   Island Beach SP--Reed's Road
Northern Parula   Sandy Hook
Magnolia Warbler   Linden Hawk Rise Sanctuary
Bay-breasted Warbler   Linden Hawk Rise Sanctuary
Yellow Warbler   Brig
Black-throated Blue Warbler   Sandy Hook
Palm Warbler   Linden Hawk Rise Sanctuary
Pine Warbler   Whitesbog
Yellow-rumped Warbler   Sandy Hook
Prairie Warbler   Island Beach SP--Reed's Road
Black-throated Green Warbler   Cloverdale Farm
Wilson's Warbler   Sandy Hook
Saltmarsh Sparrow   Great Bay Blvd
Seaside Sparrow   Great Bay Blvd
Chipping Sparrow   35 Sunset Rd
Field Sparrow   Sandy Hook
White-throated Sparrow   Island Beach SP
Savannah Sparrow   Sandy Hook
Song Sparrow   Whitesbog
Eastern Towhee   35 Sunset Rd
Scarlet Tanager   Sandy Hook
Northern Cardinal   35 Sunset Rd
Blue Grosbeak   Union Transportation Trail--North
Bobolink   Island Beach SP
Red-winged Blackbird   Great Bay Blvd
Common Grackle   Cattus Island County Park
Boat-tailed Grackle   Great Bay Blvd
Baltimore Oriole   Colliers Mills WMA
House Finch   35 Sunset Rd
American Goldfinch   35 Sunset Rd
House Sparrow   Wawa Rt 70 & CR 530