Friday, July 3, 2015

Ocean City Visitor's Center 7/3--White Ibis

White Ibis
What we won't do for a bird. Where is the last place you want to be on July 3rd?  How about crawling along in holiday traffic on the causeway to Ocean City with a few thousand people "going down the shore." That's where we were at noon today. The reason is above. White Ibis is a very rare visitor to New Jersey and when one shows up, you gotta go.

Shari & I have been to Ocean City a few times, but we've always gone in about 5 miles further south than today's trip on the causeway, so we were both unaware of the OC Chamber of Commerce's Visitor's Center, along with its beautiful adjacent wetlands, complete with heron rookery. In fact, it seems that a lot of Jersey birders were unaware of this spot. When we arrived, we ran into a few people we knew, none of whom had seen the bird (though it had been reported early in the day) and one of whom had been there since 7 in the morning. He didn't want to leave, but he was getting tired of searching. When I got out of the car, I immediately scanned the rookery in front of us, hoping the bird would be in there, but I "only" found both night-herons, in good numbers and in all stages of maturity.
Black-crowned Night Heron
Yellow-crowned Night-Herons, adult and immature
More Yellow-crowned Night-Herons
Then I moved on and was scanning a distant flock of Glossy Ibises, hoping that the White Ibis would be associating with them when the call went out--the bird was found. Walking back a 100 paces to where I started another duo of birders, found the bird almost immediately upon arrival. It was roosting in a notch between trees and at first all we could see was its white back, but then it lifted its head and there it was.
The bird can be well hidden. All it takes is for it to jump down a foot or so to be completely lost in the foliage, as we found out after about 20 minutes when it did disappear deeper into the tree. By then, we'd all had excellent looks and we prepared to brave the traffic into Ocean City so that we could turn around to get out of Ocean City.

However, the location deserves more visits--it is a great place to watch for egrets, herons, gulls, terns, and rails. Just not on a holiday weekend.

Our list:
20 species
Great Egret  10
Snowy Egret  1
Little Blue Heron  2
Tricolored Heron  1
Black-crowned Night-Heron  15     
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron  10    
White Ibis  1     
Glossy Ibis  10
Osprey  1
Clapper Rail  1
Laughing Gull  15
Herring Gull  10
Great Black-backed Gull  1
Forster's Tern  3
Rock Pigeon  2
Mourning Dove  1
Common Yellowthroat  1     Heard
Red-winged Blackbird  10
Boat-tailed Grackle  15
House Sparrow  1

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Island Beach SP 7/1--Brown Pelican

Common Terns
My 2nd trip in a week to Island Beach finally produced one of the two birds I've been looking for since the summer started: Brown Pelican. I walked all the way down the beach to the northern side of Barnegat Inlet, a distance of only, according to Google, 1.67 miles, but it seems longer. Along the way I didn't see much along the way, not surprisingly. Gulls and terns. The terns were for the most part Common Terns, though when I got to the inlet there were a few Forster's Terns. When I got to the inlet I turned to the west and scoped out the sand bars and beaches around Great Sedge Island. The birds were distant, but I could pick out cormorants and oystercatchers. Finally, scanning around the water I saw, at just about the limit of the scope's range, a pelican, a huge brown bird, flying away from me. Aside from seeing the color and knowing how they fly, one way I knew it was a pelican was because it was large enough for me to see it all, given the distance it was from me.

So I had my pelican for the year, but it wasn't a very satisfactory look. However, on the walk back I saw a pelican approaching over the water, flying fairly low over the breakers. I put down the scope and turned on the camera, but just then the ocean came up a little higher than I anticipated and I had to save the scope from the undertow. But, luck was with me, as another bird came flying south about 15 minutes later. This one I was able to get some silhouette-type pictures. See above &:
Actually, the most interesting species I saw today was earlier when I walked the Spizzle Creek trail. I was scoping from the blind when I came across two ducks, drake and hen. When the drake turned toward me, I saw a bright orange bill and was surprised to find lingering Black Scoters in the pool.
Drake Black Scoter
Drake & hen BLSC checked out by Great Egret
 It isn't absolutely amazing to find scoters in summer, but since you usually find them in the ocean, it was odd to find them paddling around like a couple of puddle ducks.

Saltmarsh Sparrow
The other happy find today along the trail was a Saltmarsh Sparrow that posted up nicely for me. At first I thought it was the Song Sparrow I'd been hearing, but no, that bird was a little further on and the buffy face on this bird made for an easy i.d. (You can click any of these photos for a larger rendition.)

I still need Royal Tern for the year and it was not to be found today. The tide was high, so the sand bar at the Winter Anchorage,where I might be able to scope one or two, was pretty much submerged today.

In all I had 34 species to start off July.
Spizzle Creek Blind Trail
31 species
Black Scoter  2     <
Double-crested Cormorant  1
Great Egret  10
Snowy Egret  2
Little Blue Heron  1
Tricolored Heron  4
Black-crowned Night-Heron  1
Glossy Ibis  6
Osprey  25     Conservative count
Willet  4
Laughing Gull  10
Herring Gull  1
Great Black-backed Gull  2
Forster's Tern  3
Mourning Dove  1
Peregrine Falcon  2     On hacking tower
Eastern Kingbird  1
Fish Crow  7
Barn Swallow  4
Marsh Wren  5
Gray Catbird  6
Brown Thrasher  1
Northern Mockingbird  2
Cedar Waxwing  1
Common Yellowthroat  6
Yellow Warbler
Eastern Towhee  1     Heard
Saltmarsh Sparrow  1     
Song Sparrow  1
Red-winged Blackbird  5
Boat-tailed Grackle  8
South Beach to Inlet9 species 
Double-crested Cormorant  7
Brown Pelican  3     
Osprey  3     Nesting on tower off Barnegat Jetty
American Oystercatcher  5
Laughing Gull  50
Herring Gull  25
Great Black-backed Gull  20
Common Tern  50
Forster's Tern  5

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

June Birds--139 Species

On the last day of the month, this ominous sight on the Union Transportation Trail
Counties birded: Atlantic, Burlington, Mercer, Monmouth, Ocean, Sussex, Warren
Species     First Sighting
Brant     Island Beach SP
Canada Goose     Eno’s Pond
Mute Swan     Eno’s Pond
Wood Duck     Ocean County Park
Gadwall     Bridge to Nowhere
American Black Duck     Bridge to Nowhere
Mallard     Eno’s Pond
Northern Shoveler     Forsythe-Barnegat
Wild Turkey     35 Sunset Rd
Common Loon     Island Beach SP
Double-crested Cormorant     Great Bay Blvd
Great Blue Heron     Ocean County Park
Great Egret     Eno’s Pond
Snowy Egret     Eno’s Pond
Little Blue Heron     Forsythe-Barnegat
Tricolored Heron     Cattus Island County Park
Green Heron     Whitesbog
Black-crowned Night-Heron     Great Bay Blvd
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron     Great Bay Blvd
Glossy Ibis     Great Bay Blvd
Black Vulture     Lakehurst NAES
Turkey Vulture     Lakehurst NAES
Osprey     Cattus Island County Park
Cooper's Hawk     Lakehurst NAES
Bald Eagle     Old Mine Road IBA
Red-shouldered Hawk     Old Mine Road IBA
Broad-winged Hawk     Lakehurst NAES
Red-tailed Hawk     Lakehurst NAES
Clapper Rail     Great Bay Blvd
American Oystercatcher     Brig
Piping Plover     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Killdeer     Lakehurst NAES
Spotted Sandpiper     Old Mine Road IBA
Greater Yellowlegs     Brig
Willet     Cattus Island County Park
Lesser Yellowlegs     Manahawkin WMA
Upland Sandpiper     Lakehurst NAES
Semipalmated Sandpiper     Great Bay Blvd
Laughing Gull     Eno’s Pond
Herring Gull     Eno’s Pond
Great Black-backed Gull     Great Bay Blvd
Gull-billed Tern     Brig
Caspian Tern     Brig
Common Tern     Great Bay Blvd
Forster's Tern     Eno’s Pond
Black Skimmer     Forsythe-Barnegat
Rock Pigeon     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Mourning Dove     Lakehurst NAES
Yellow-billed Cuckoo     Old Mine Road IBA
Black-billed Cuckoo     Double Trouble State Park
Common Nighthawk     Lakehurst NAES
Eastern Whip-poor-will     35 Sunset Rd
Chimney Swift     Lakehurst NAES
Ruby-throated Hummingbird     Colliers Mills WMA
Belted Kingfisher     Old Mine Road IBA
Red-bellied Woodpecker     Eno’s Pond
Downy Woodpecker     Lakehurst NAES
Hairy Woodpecker     Old Mine Road IBA
Northern Flicker     Ocean County Park
Pileated Woodpecker     Old Mine Road IBA
American Kestrel     Lakehurst NAES
Peregrine Falcon     Brig
Eastern Wood-Pewee     Lakehurst NAES
Acadian Flycatcher     Whitesbog
Alder Flycatcher     Bridge to Nowhere
Willow Flycatcher     Lakehurst NAES
Least Flycatcher     Buttermilk Falls
Eastern Phoebe     Colliers Mills WMA
Great Crested Flycatcher     Eno’s Pond
Eastern Kingbird     Lakehurst NAES
White-eyed Vireo     Assunpink
Yellow-throated Vireo     Old Mine Road IBA
Warbling Vireo     Old Mine Road IBA
Red-eyed Vireo     Eno’s Pond
Blue Jay     Lakehurst NAES
American Crow     Eno’s Pond
Fish Crow     Eno’s Pond
Common Raven     Old Mine Road IBA
Horned Lark     Lakehurst NAES
Northern Rough-winged Swallow     Ocean County Park
Purple Martin     Manchester Blvd
Tree Swallow     Eno’s Pond
Bank Swallow     Old Mine Road IBA
Barn Swallow     Eno’s Pond
Carolina Chickadee     Eno’s Pond
Black-capped Chickadee     Old Mine Road
Tufted Titmouse     Eno’s Pond
White-breasted Nuthatch     Ocean County Park
House Wren     Lakehurst NAES
Marsh Wren     Cattus Island County Park
Carolina Wren     Assunpink
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher     Eno’s Pond
Eastern Bluebird     Assunpink
Veery     Old Mine Road IBA
Wood Thrush     Colliers Mills WMA
American Robin     Eno’s Pond
Gray Catbird     Eno’s Pond
Brown Thrasher     Brig
Northern Mockingbird     Assunpink
European Starling     Ocean County Park
Cedar Waxwing     35 Sunset Rd
Ovenbird     Eno’s Pond
Worm-eating Warbler     Old Mine Road IBA
Louisiana Waterthrush     Old Mine Road IBA
Blue-winged Warbler     Old Mine Road IBA
Black-and-white Warbler     Whitesbog
Common Yellowthroat     Eno’s Pond
Hooded Warbler     Old Mine Road IBA
American Redstart     Old Mine Road IBA
Cerulean Warbler     Old Mine Road IBA
Northern Parula     Old Mine Road IBA
Yellow Warbler     Colliers Mills WMA
Pine Warbler     Eno’s Pond
Prairie Warbler     Lakehurst NAES
Yellow-breasted Chat     Assunpink
Eastern Towhee     35 Sunset Rd
Chipping Sparrow     Eno’s Pond
Field Sparrow     Lakehurst NAES
Grasshopper Sparrow     Lakehurst NAES
Saltmarsh Sparrow     Cattus Island County Park
Seaside Sparrow     Great Bay Blvd
Song Sparrow     Lakehurst NAES
Swamp Sparrow     Whitesbog
Scarlet Tanager     Old Mine Road IBA
Northern Cardinal     Eno’s Pond
Rose-breasted Grosbeak     Old Mine Road IBA
Blue Grosbeak     Pole Farm
Indigo Bunting     Assunpink
Bobolink     Pole Farm
Red-winged Blackbird     Eno’s Pond
Eastern Meadowlark     Lakehurst NAES
Common Grackle     Eno’s Pond
Boat-tailed Grackle     Great Bay Blvd
Brown-headed Cowbird     35 Sunset Rd
Orchard Oriole     Lakehurst NAES
Baltimore Oriole     Old Mine Road IBA
House Finch     35 Sunset Rd
American Goldfinch     Eno’s Pond
House Sparrow     Toms River
Yellow Warbler, Great Bay Blvd

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Pole Farm 6/27--Bobolink

Photo: Mike Mandracchia
Mike & I went to the Pole Farm in Mercer County early this morning. Our target was Bobolink, year bird for Mike, year state bird for me. Neither of us had ever been to this 800 acre site which was formerly an AT&T transmission installation with thousands of poles supporting antennae--hence the name. Almost all the poles are gone now and what's left is grassland, perfect habitat for Bobolink, Grasshopper Sparrow, Eastern Meadowlark...and Yellow-breasted Chat, which Mike saw fly into a tree even before we were out of the car in the parking lot. It took me 3 tries and miles of walking through tick-infested fields at the Assunpink Navigation Beacon to find my first chats this year and Mike get his year bird chat while parking the car! It's better to be lucky than good, but it is even better to be lucky AND good.

We found the chat after it flew out of the tree posted up in the field on a stalk of high grass and then, before we were out of the parking lot had 7 or 8 species including Blue Grosbeak. We walked out about 770 feet (I measured it on Google Maps) to the bathrooms and looked in the field to the left and both saw, almost at the same moment, a beautiful male Bobolink on a small bush, just where it was supposed to be. So in the space of 5 minutes, Mike had two year birds. That's pretty hard to do in June. As Mike said, all our chases should be this easy.

Meadowlarks were abundant in that field, flying and singing and being chased by blackbirds and we also saw a female American Kestrel come out of a nest box and perch up in a nearby tree. I think we both figured we would have to spend some time looking for the Bobolink and then, if we were lucky, we'd have 10 or 11 more species and then go somewhere else, but by the time we turned around we already had about 20 species on our list and we'd only been there 15 minutes. I had expected only grasslands, but looking around we saw more diverse habitat than I expected including woods. Another birder there told us that "30 paces" beyond the observation deck, about 1/2 mile away, there was a nesting Wood Thrush. I've heard plenty of Wood Thrushes this year, but I had yet to see one, so we decided to explore the area more thoroughly. We added plenty of Field Sparrows on our walk out there, as well an Indigo Bunting, plus towhees and other list builders. When we walked off our 30 paces where the thrush was supposed to be we found, instead, nesting Ovenbirds. Ovenbirds can be easily mistaken for thrushes if you're an inexperienced birder as this woman who gave us the directions admitted she was. Still, Ovenbirds are cool. We continued on the cinder trails, easy walking, and eventually did come upon a viewable Wood Thrush. We kept making rights but without a map in hand weren't sure if we were on a loop so after about a mile and half we retraced our steps. Mike had thought he'd heard a Scarlet Tanager at one point and when we came back to that part of the trail he heard it again. It wasn't until it started calling continuously that I was able to hear it. The usual description of the tanager's song is "a robin with a cold," but that is a little too poetic for me. However, once it sang multiple times, I was ready to list it.

We got back to the parking lot without having seen a robin, which seemed impossible. I saw a bird up in a bare tree which I thought might have been another sparrow but sure enough, Mike put his glasses on it and it was a robin. It took us 44 birds to get it, but we had one. We hadn't seen a Chipping Sparrow; one flew in while we were standing in the parking lot. A Carolina Wren sang. A Chimney Swift flew over. Then we saw a Black Vulture. I suppose if we stood there long enough we would have come up to 50 species on the day.

But the weather report for today was not an optimistic one; it had drizzled off and one while we walked. The weather was deteriorating by the time we returned to the parking lot and a look at the weather map didn't show any clear spots anywhere else. With 49 species, and about 20% of those what my old friend Peter in Brooklyn would call "quality" birds, we decided that despite the claim that the best birding is done in bad weather, we'd rather be inside. As I write this, a soaking rain is hovering over most of NJ.

Our Pole Farm list. We both think the place bears more investigation, especially during migration.
Great Blue Heron  3
Black Vulture  1
Turkey Vulture  1
Cooper's Hawk  1
Red-tailed Hawk  1
Mourning Dove  10
Chimney Swift  1
Downy Woodpecker  1     Heard
Hairy Woodpecker  1     Heard
Northern Flicker   1
American Kestrel  1    
Eastern Wood-Pewee  2     Heard
Red-eyed Vireo  1     Heard
Blue Jay  2     Heard
American Crow  2     Heard
Tree Swallow  10
Barn Swallow  5
Carolina Chickadee  10
Tufted Titmouse  2     Heard
White-breasted Nuthatch  1     Heard
House Wren  1     Field across from obs deck.
Carolina Wren  1     Heard
Wood Thrush  6
American Robin  1
Gray Catbird  20
Brown Thrasher  1
Northern Mockingbird  2
European Starling  25
Cedar Waxwing  1     Heard
Ovenbird  3     
Common Yellowthroat  10
Yellow-breasted Chat
Eastern Towhee  15
Chipping Sparrow  1
Field Sparrow  12
Grasshopper Sparrow  3
Song Sparrow  1
Scarlet Tanager  1     Heard
Northern Cardinal  3
Blue Grosbeak  1     Heard
Indigo Bunting  2
Bobolink  1     
Red-winged Blackbird  20
Eastern Meadowlark  5
Common Grackle  4
Brown-headed Cowbird  1     Heard
Orchard Oriole  1     Field behind parking lot
House Finch  2     Heard
American Goldfinch  1

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Barnegat Light SP 6/17--Piping Plover

Piping Plover
"Gosh, they're hard to see," said the photographer I met early this morning in the stringed-offed corridor at Barnegat Light. I had gone there to "get" my Piping Plovers for the year. This little sand-colored plover, one of 7 species of shorebird to nest in NJ, (pop quiz: name the other 6) is listed as an endangered species for good reason. When there were vast reaches of undeveloped beaches they had a chance against predators and the elements, but now there isn't nearly as much suitable habitat for them. Last year there was only one pair that successfully nested there and this year it looks like this pair are the only ones at Barnegat Light again. I didn't see the chick, but the photographer told me had. Down at Holgate on the southern end of LBI there are probably more nesting pairs, but Holgate is properly off-limits in the nesting season. You can't reasonably do that at Barnegat Light, so the compromise is to set aside a few acres of sand and hope for the best.

Click photo to enlarge
I walked along the narrow pathway, stopping every hundred feet or so to scan the sand, looking among the shells and sea wrack for any movement. For a while, all I came up with were a couple of American Oystercatchers. I took what I consider the "obligatory oystercatcher" photo, not noticing until I got home that this bird was banded. I can't really read the bands too well, but I reported the bird and sent in the photo. As I walked east to the ocean I kept my eyes to the south where the plovers would nest. Naturally, the first plover I saw came from my left (north) where it had been poking around one of the tidal pools by the jetty. It scampered across "no man's land" and stood for a moment next to one of the oystercatchers, giving a nice comparison shot:
I was also hoping for pelicans today, but was shut out. Not to worry. I know I'll find pelicans somewhere this summer. Piping Plovers are much more site specific.

At the ocean the water did not have a lot of avian life in it, aside from dozens of gulls following the fishing fleet. There were a few terns that I had to let go because they were too far out and they were in the sun. I did have a few Forster's Terns in the inlet.

On my way back I scanned the jetty, not really expecting find much on it. I did remember last year seeing a Black-crowned Night-Heron on it and sure enough, as my scope ran up the rocks, there was one facing the inlet. Then another.  What food they could possibly expect to find there I don't know.
Maybe they just like hanging out at the beach like every body else.
22 species (+1 other taxa)
Double-crested Cormorant  15
Black-crowned Night-Heron  2    
Osprey  4
American Oystercatcher  2    
Piping Plover  2     One banded
Laughing Gull  75
Herring Gull  50
Great Black-backed Gull  25
Forster's Tern  3
Sterna sp.  10
Rock Pigeon  1
Mourning Dove  3
American Crow  5
Tree Swallow  1
Barn Swallow  1
American Robin  1
Gray Catbird  1
European Starling  3
Song Sparrow  1     Heard
Northern Cardinal  1     Heard
Red-winged Blackbird  4
American Goldfinch  2     Heard
House Sparrow  10

Monday, June 15, 2015

Story Behind the Sign (Or, "Shari, I don't think we're in Brooklyn anymore")

Last week I was behind this Silverado and snapped a quick shot through the windshield for my signs collection. Today, as I was pulling into the Manchester town dump, the truck was in front of me again. When we parked at the dumpster I asked the owner what the sign on his tailgate meant. As I suspected, he felt the truck was a lemon and then proceeded to tell me his tale of woe. Apparently there is something wrong with the computer in the truck that is "irreparable" and neither his dealer nor GM will take the truck back and give him a new one. His misadventures with local Chevy dealerships were disheartening since one of them works on our Saturn.

Of course, I knew I was getting a biased account. It is truly hard for me to believe that any dealer would tell a customer to "get the fuck out" of his shop. It isn't hard for me to believe, though, given my own experiences with the GM ignition debacle, that something is seriously wrong with his car.

He told me that he's going to court with GM and that soon he has to give a deposition to GM's lawyers. He's a retired "prototype tester," so he feels he has an advantage over the average car buyer since he drove vehicles for a living. He's a little crusty, a little arrogant, and very pissed off. It occurred to me that all this might add up to him being the type of guy who thought he could fight GM on his own. I asked him, in parting, if he had a lawyer.

"Oh yeah! I got me one of them crazy lawyers--he's Jewish!"

I'm glad I asked him in parting, because I didn't want to talk to him anymore.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Great Bay Blvd WMA 6/10--Yellow-crowned Night-Heron

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, Great Bay Blvd.
After my 2nd trip to Lakehurst this month, where I saw pretty much everything I saw last week only in better weather and light, Mike & I decided to continue the birding day. Our first stop was Railroad Avenue in Waretown where we looked, fruitlessly, for over an hour, for the Mississippi Kite that has been reported there for the last week or so. We were joined by other frustrated birders and had to answer many questions from the locals as to why we were walking slowly up and down their street with our necks craned to perfectly cloudless, cerulean sky. Every once in a while we'd get excited if a gull or a vulture flew over to provide a false alarm. Looking for a rarity can be like holding a losing stock--you know you should cut your losses, but you don't want to take the loss. You hold or stay, hoping you'll go into the plus column. Sometimes you do, but the longer you hold or stay, the less likely you will.

After that we headed down to Great Bay Blvd, hoping to add some year birds to our lists. Mike still needed Little Blue Heron and we both needed Brown Pelican and Yellow-crowned Night-Heron. It didn't look good for any of these species until on our way back, just as we were about to go over one of the wooden bridges, Mike spotted a bird just off the water that wasn't an egret or ibis. Naturally, there was a car behind us, so we could stop. Instead we crossed the bridge, turned around and went back over. As we crossed again going south I put my binoculars on the bird and saw that it was the Yellow-crowned. It posed for pictures and we were both pretty pleased. We hadn't exactly given up, but we were in the process of leaving.

Immature Black-crowned Night-Heron
On the way north up the road we came across a trio of waders--Snowy Egret, Glossy Ibis and an immature night-heron. Our first impression was that of another Yellow-crown, but after we looked more closely at the bill we thought not. When Mike said the bill was bi-colored, I said that it was a Black-crown, using Shari's mnemonic: Black bill = yellow, yellow bill = black. It's that simple and why people spend hours debating immature night-heron I don't know. Actually I do: they can't see the bill well enough and then you're thrown back on structure and "giss."

To the birder we told it was a Yellow-crown I can only say, "Oops, sorry." At least we told her where to find the adult.

I had 27 species while we  slalomed up and down the boulevard of broken asphalt avoiding the many Diamondback Terrapins making their way from one side of the marsh to the other. Mike also had a Cooper's Hawk and a distant American Oystercatcher that I missed.

Double-crested Cormorant  2
Great Egret  15
Snowy Egret  10
Black-crowned Night-Heron  5     
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron  1     
Glossy Ibis  10
Osprey  5
Clapper Rail  4     Heard
Willet  10
Semipalmated Sandpiper  20
Laughing Gull  75
Herring Gull  50
Great Black-backed Gull  5
Common Tern  3
Forster's Tern  1
Mourning Dove  3
Willow Flycatcher  1
Fish Crow  1
Tree Swallow  2
Barn Swallow  25
Gray Catbird  1
Common Yellowthroat  4
Yellow Warbler
 1     Heard, end of the road
Seaside Sparrow  10
Song Sparrow  3
Red-winged Blackbird  20
Boat-tailed Grackle  10