Thursday, April 19, 2018

Reeves Bogs 4/19--One Thoroughly Silly Sighting, One Local Rarity

Mute Swan, a county first
Having run up my Ocean County list to a respectable number for this point in the year, I decided to see what I could do with my Burlington County list this morning. I started out at Whitesbog, which, like Double Trouble yesterday, was inundated with Yellow-rumped Warblers. They're very attractive in their breeding plumage--it's hard to believe it's the same species as the drab yellow-flanked birds we see in the winter--but after the first 20 or so, they get to be just "yet another." But the circuit around Union Pond was successful for adding birds to the county list--five--including the first Common Yellowthroat I've seen this year and Palm Warblers to beat the band.

Instead of walking over into Ocean County, as I usually do, I drove west over to Reeves Bogs. Since I don't know those bogs very well, I wanted to make an exploratory walk. I wish I had a map of which dikes are breached--instead I did the trial and error and retrace my steps method. I wasn't too afraid of getting lost since in all that flat expanse I was able to keep my car in sight almost all the time.

Last week my local informant had told me of couple of Mute Swans he'd seen there but I missed them that time. Today, as soon as I pulled into the dirt lot, I saw two big swans about mid-way back in the bog. Big deal, except if you play the silly "County Birding" game with yourself. Mute Swans are not that common in Burlco--there are a few lakes in the western part of the county where I've seen them listed, but these two were my county firsts! Since I bird mainly to amuse myself, those two "Pond Pigs" amused, and pleased me no end.

More interesting was the small white egret (I thought) at the eastern end of the bog. I noted it as a Snowy Egret, but when I finally got around to that side, I saw that its bill was gray, there was blue mottling on the edge of the wings and back, and, when it flew, it had no yellow slippers. It also hunted like a heron, staying still and jabbing, instead of dancing around the way a Snowy will. All this added up to a first spring Little Blue Heron, a rare bird for the county. Naturally, I had no camera, having left the battery in the charger at home--I took some photos with my iPhone and since the photo of the swan above is bad enough, I won't torture your eyes with the abysmal photos I took of that bird. We usually spend a lot of time going through the Snowy Egrets at Whitesbog in August, looking for this outlier.

That sighting, plus the three American Kestrels I saw hunting, made me resolve to spend more time at this underbirded location. The swans and heron (obviously) were new year birds for the county, as were a couple of Green-winged Teal and three Savannah Sparrows that I flushed from the high grass in three spots.

In all, I added 9 species to my Burlco list which will put me in the top 20 of the county which will probably last for 20 minutes.
The Reeves list:
18 species (+1 other taxa)
Canada Goose 40 goslings
Mute Swan 2
Wood Duck 12
Mallard 10
Green-winged Teal 2 two hens
Double-crested Cormorant 1
Great Blue Heron 1
Great Egret 2
Little Blue Heron 1
Northern Harrier 1
gull sp. 25 Flyover
American Kestrel 3
Fish Crow 1
Carolina Chickadee 2 Heard
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 1 Heard
Pine Warbler 2
Yellow-rumped Warbler 1
Savannah Sparrow 3
Red-winged Blackbird 15

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Double Trouble 4/18--Black-and-white Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Northern Parula, Summer Tanager + (Undisclosed Location) Barred Owl

Summer Tanager
Double Trouble is hot even if the weather is not. I went back there this morning, in search of more warblers. I started out looking for the Louisiana Waterthrush I had yesterday, to no avail, though I see that someone else finally saw it later in the day. I was making my way back from Ore Pond when I got an alert that the Summer Tanager, which had been found yesterday, after I left, was still in the same location so I hoofed it over there, meeting up with a group of birders I know. I got on the bird almost immediately, but before I could get the photo above, I had to take a lot of shots, most of which turned out to be interesting abstract studies of twigs and bark. Good thing we don't use film anymore!

Summer Tanager is rare for these parts and beautiful bird to find anywhere. It is on the 2nd one I've seen in the county and, while I've heard them in the last year or so down in Cape May county, I don't think I've seen one since I stumbled on one in the parking lot of Horicon Lake a few years ago.

Yellow-throated Warbler (or: Why There is Warbler Neck)
Yellow-rumped Warblers were practically at plague levels, but mixed in with them were the continuing Yellow-throated Warbler, as well as a Prairie Warbler, and, new for the year, Northern Parula and finally, finally, 4 Black-and-white Warblers. My 8th warbler of the day was a "heard only" Common Yellowthroat as I was walking Gowdy Road for the 2nd (or maybe it was the 3rd) time, on my way out of the park in the early afternoon.

Blue Grosbeak
The continuing Blue Grosbeak (which some think is a young female, others an immature male and I toggle between the two) was seen again on the lawn in the village. I also found out where it goes when it's not there because when I stopped to talk to another birder near the sorting house, she pointed out the bird to me in the bog.

Another oddity today was the large number (7) of Snowy Egrets in the bogs. Great Egrets are common at DT, but according to my records, I've only seen Snowy Egret one other time there and that was a single bird.

The day's birding added 4 more year birds to the list. That's 8 in two days at DT, which tells me that migration is officially on. My bonus bird for the day came in the late afternoon when I got a text from one of the birders I'd been hanging out with, asking me if I "needed" Barred Owl. I sure did. She and her husband had one in the in a box they'd put up in the woods behind their house and had good scope views of it. If I wanted to see it (I sure did), here was their address. Bam, I was out the door and 24 minutes later looking at the owl in its box at an undisclosed location. My 2nd owl of the month and 4th for the year. And all of them seen, not just heard.
My Double Trouble list:
40 species
Canada Goose 2
Mallard 4
American Black Duck 1
Great Egret 5
Snowy Egret 7
Turkey Vulture 1
Cooper's Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 1
Greater Yellowlegs 2
Red-bellied Woodpecker 1 Heard
Downy Woodpecker 1 Heard
Merlin 2 Vocalizing in parking lot
Eastern Phoebe 1
Blue-headed Vireo 1
American Crow 1 Heard
Fish Crow 2
Northern Rough-winged Swallow 4
Purple Martin 5
Tree Swallow 1
Barn Swallow 10
Carolina Chickadee 3
Carolina Wren 2 Heard
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 10
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 3
American Robin 3
Black-and-white Warbler 4
Common Yellowthroat 1 Heard
Northern Parula 1
Palm Warbler 20
Pine Warbler 15
Yellow-rumped Warbler 50
Yellow-throated Warbler
1 Along trail from sorting house. Was singing today.
Prairie Warbler 1 Singing.
Chipping Sparrow 10 low estimate
Dark-eyed Junco 3
Eastern Towhee 3
Summer Tanager 1 All red with no black on wings.
Blue Grosbeak 1
Red-winged Blackbird 2 Singing
American Goldfinch 1 Singing

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Double Trouble SP 4/17--Blue-headed Vireo, Louisiana Waterthrush, Yellow-throated Warbler, Blue Grosbeak

Yellow-throated Warbler
After wasting the  morning waiting for the sprinkler service to do our spring start-up, I went over to close-by Double Trouble SP for the 2nd day in a row (I went yesterday after the torrential rains ceased in the afternoon). I was hoping to find Black-and-white Warbler, just to get it on the list. It certainly isn't a rarity and I know I'll see plenty this year, but it seemed a likely bird to look for.

Walking toward the sawmill, I cut behind the white house which has a "lawn" and a good area of tangles behind it. Chipping Sparrows, as always, flew up into a cedar from the lawn, in the tangles I saw a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, always a nice bird, then flitting around a little higher, my FOY Blue-headed Vireo.

I walked around the sawmill area, saw nothing of note, then started up the millstream trail to the dam. I was pushing two phoebes along, while at the same time thinking that this was the spot where Louisiana Waterthrush has been found for the last 4 years running. Make it five, because I saw one in the tangles, almost in the exact spot that I saw one last year, on this same date. Trying for a picture was fruitless, since all I got in focus was twigs, and, since I was trying too had to take a photo, I lost the bird pretty quickly. But I had no doubt of the id--the white breast and flanks, the stripes, the bobbing tail. I put out an alert with some trepidation because I knew this bird would be tough to relocate.

I was kicking around the packing house when the first birder to respond my alert showed up. Even though I had little hope of refinding the bird, we started back to the trail. Passing the white house lawn, she saw a bird ground feeding. "What's that?" I was inclined to dismiss it as a robin, just be size, but a quick look blew that "theory" away. A brown bird with a thick, conical bill, tan wing bars--cowbird, no, towhee, no, grosbeak yes, Rose-breasted, no, Blue Grosbeak, bingo. This is an early bird, and probably a first year male that is a little late in molting, since Sibley shows this plumage as Aug-Mar.
Blue Grosbeak
Again, I put out an alert, with a picture, to get confirmation of our suspicion.

We walked down the purple trail, again hoping for some warblers and/or a Green Heron, recently reported, with no luck. By then the weather, which has been anything but spring-like the last few days, was getting colder and windier, so we were just about in the parking lot when we met a photographer who said he had just taken pictures of a Yellow-throated Warbler. At first it registered as Common Yellowthroat to me, and I wasn't inclined to walk another mile just for that bird, but then he emphasized Yellow-throated, and we were on our way. His directions were excellent and when we reach the location, at the back end of the last bog, there was tremendous warbler activity going on--there must have been an insect hatch just over the little stream that diverts from Cedar Creek because we found Yellow-rumped, Pine, and Palm Warblers all going nuts in the both the bare trees and cedar and then, without a lot of looking the very beautiful Yellow-throated Warbler popped out and gave us great looks even if it wouldn't stand still for a portrait. The bird flew back toward where we'd come from and we ran into it twice more on our way back, once fortuitously, when we ran into another birder who had seen my 3rd alert of the day. This time, I pointed my camera toward the tree it was on, and in all the pictures tree trunks, I managed one decent shot of the bird.

So, for a day where my expectations were low, I added 4 year birds. And yet, I never did see the bird I came for, the B&W Warbler. Maybe tomorrow.
20 species
Canada Goose 2 f/o
Mallard 4 two drakes, two hens
Great Egret 1
Black Vulture 2
Turkey Vulture 2
Greater Yellowlegs 1
Downy Woodpecker 1
Eastern Phoebe 2
Blue-headed Vireo 1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 6
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 1
Louisiana Waterthrush 1
Palm Warbler 2
Pine Warbler 8
Yellow-rumped Warbler 12
Yellow-throated Warbler
1 A
Chipping Sparrow 3
Eastern Towhee 1 Along trail from sorting house
Blue Grosbeak 1
Red-winged Blackbird 2 Singing

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Backyard 4/14--Eastern Whip-poor-will

They're baaaaack!

Or at least one is. Tonight, cleaning up in the kitchen after dinner, Shari & I heard our first Eastern Whip-poor-will of the year, almost a week later than last year. The weather, I'm sure, has been a factor, because tonight was the really first warm night of the year and, as if on cue, the whip-poor-will sang--albeit for only about 5 seconds, a very short song. I was hoping to get a recording but those 5 seconds are all we got tonight.

It won't be long, though, until its (their) song is incessant.

Manahawkin WMA | Barnegat | Cloverdale Farm | Brig 4/14--Least Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Purple Martin, Barn Swallow

Dunlin (left), Least Sandpiper, Manahawkin WMA
Lesser Yellowlegs
Last week, with all the excitement about the White Ibis, I never got to complete my usual route at Manahawkin WMA, so today I decided to give it another try. Once again I carried my scope along the path off Stafford Avenue to the back impoundments, where the "good" birds are and once again, there were "good" birds there. Lots of Glossy Ibis, Green-winged Teal,  last week's quartet of Blue-winged Teal, dozens of Greater Yellowlegs and with them, a few Lesser Yellowlegs, which I've been looking for, and, early arrival (according to eBird) Least Sandpipers.

My first reaction was that the bird was a Semipalmated Sandpiper, since I couldn't see the legs and Least Sandpipers don't like to get their feet wet. Later I saw four peeps across the impoundment that were on mud with yellow legs (not "yellowlegs") and was confident in their identification though they were too far away for my camera. When I got home and looked at my photos on the computer, I could see that the first bird was also a Least. It's brown back (as opposed to gray) bothered me a little when I first saw it, but there is so much variation in these peeps with molts and ages that I have to sit down every year with Sibley or Peterson and refresh my knowledge. Seeing the sandpiper next to the Dunlin was a good diagnostic tool too, just as seeing the Lesser Yellowlegs compared to the Greater is really the best confirmation. When you see the two yellowlegs together you say to yourself, "How does anyone get these confused?" but alone, they're difficult.

I had just reached the "T" where I turn around, walk back to the car, put the scope in the trunk and then retrace my steps and go all the way to the parking lot on Hilliard Avenue when my phone rang. Shari was calling to tell me that I had to go pick up new medicine at the vet's for our ill pussycat and I had to do it by noon, so once again it was birdwalk interruptus for me.

Purple Martins at home
After I got the antibiotic at the vet, who is in Forked River, I continued birding. This time I was shopping for swallows. I made my way down to Barnegat Township where, on a gravel street that is often flooded, there are a number of homes backing on to the marsh with Purple Martin houses behind them. It didn't take long to find them (this is a spot where we used to go on the World Series of Birding, just to get these birds on the list) and then I was off to Cloverdale Farm, where I figured the bogs, on this warm day, would have swallows flying over them, which they did, and among the many Tree Swallows, I managed to pick out one FOY Barn Swallow.

Shari had called me just as I arrived there to tell me that her plans for the day had changed and she wasn't working the afternoon, so we decided to make a post-prandial trip to Brig. While the weather today was delightful--the first really warm day of the year--the wind was impressive. Most of the ducks have cleared out of Brig, save for the Green-winged Teal and the Northern Shovelers, and there wasn't a great diversity of shorebirds or waders. In fact, we only added one new bird for the year list, yet another swallow, Northern Rough-winged Swallow swooping around the Gull Pond. I was happy to see, though, that the water levels at Brig looked perfect for the shorebirds when they do arrive.

The cumulative list for the above locations, plus a few others I hit in Waretown and Barnegat.
Snow Goose   1
Brant   380
Canada Goose   84
Mute Swan   6
Blue-winged Teal   4
Northern Shoveler   76
Mallard   15
American Black Duck   25
Green-winged Teal   85
Bufflehead   10
Red-breasted Merganser   6
Double-crested Cormorant   40
Great Blue Heron   2
Great Egret   41
Snowy Egret   36
Little Blue Heron   1
Glossy Ibis   53
Turkey Vulture   3
Osprey   11
American Coot   3
Dunlin   1
Least Sandpiper   5
Greater Yellowlegs   65
Lesser Yellowlegs   3
Laughing Gull   2
Herring Gull   54
Great Black-backed Gull   5
Forster's Tern   15
Mourning Dove   2
Belted Kingfisher   1
Eastern Phoebe   2
Blue Jay   3
Fish Crow   11
Northern Rough-winged Swallow   1
Purple Martin   13
Tree Swallow   18
Barn Swallow   1
Carolina Chickadee   2
Tufted Titmouse   2
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher   2
Golden-crowned Kinglet   1
Eastern Bluebird   10
American Robin   5
European Starling   8
Pine Warbler   1
Yellow-rumped Warbler   2
Chipping Sparrow   4
Song Sparrow   9
Northern Cardinal   4
Red-winged Blackbird   42
Brown-headed Cowbird   1
House Finch   5
American Goldfinch   3

Friday, April 13, 2018

Island Beach SP, Reed's Road 4/13--Forster's Tern, White-eyed Vireo

Forster's Tern (this one was at Spizzle Creek)
I'm determined to hit Reed's Road at Island Beach more this year and to do it unbidden; in other words, not just run over there a day late after great birds have been reported. I was there last week  and got my first Blue-gray Gnatcatcher of the year (there were 5 this morning) and today I had two new ones--one I was looking for and one that I hadn't really considered.

The surprise, a mild one it's true, was the White-eyed Vireo I found jumping around the brush. At first, seeing two white wing bars and some yellow on the bird, I thought it was yet another Pine Warbler, but then I got a look at its face with its yellow spectacles and knew I had my first one of the year. It is also, according to my research on eBird, the first one reported in the county this year. No picture of this skittish little bird.

The bird I thought I had a good chance for was Forster's Tern and after walking the beach to the the grove and back I heard its distinctive scratchy call and looked up to find one speeding by me with a fish in its beak. Again, no picture, though I did manage the awful one used here later in the day while walking at Spizzle Creek.

The pictures I would like you to see are of my favorite bird, the Cedar Waxwing, a small flock of which were on the "Blind Trail" just south of Reed's Road, eating, appropriately, cedar berries.

That is one handsome bird.

I also birded the beach briefly (a number of Northern Gannets were flying every which way), and Spizzle Creek, where the trail the to the blind is very difficult due to all the fallen trees that will probably never get cleared away.

A couple of lists:
Reed's Road
25 species
Brant 18
Mute Swan 6
Bufflehead 5
Double-crested Cormorant 2
Great Egret 8 Flyover
Laughing Gull 1
Herring Gull 7
Forster's Tern 1
Mourning Dove 1 Heard
Downy Woodpecker 1
Northern Flicker 10 Conservatively
Eastern Phoebe 2
White-eyed Vireo 1
Fish Crow 1 Heard
Carolina Chickadee 2
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 5
American Robin 4
Palm Warbler 1
Field Sparrow 1
White-throated Sparrow 1 Heard
Song Sparrow 1 Heard
Eastern Towhee 1 Heard
Northern Cardinal 1
Red-winged Blackbird 1 Heard
Common Grackle 3 end of trail

Blind Trail
15 species
Brant 10
Bufflehead 1 Bay
Great Egret 1
Osprey 3 Two in nest, one f/o
Belted Kingfisher 1

Carolina Chickadee 2
Carolina Wren 2
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 1 Heard
American Robin 1
Cedar Waxwing 5
Palm Warbler 2
Yellow-rumped Warbler 15 Conservatively
Dark-eyed Junco 2
Song Sparrow 1
Swamp Sparrow 1

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Whitesbog 4/11--Rusty Blackbird

Rusty Blackbird flying away.
I took a walk at Whitesbog today, mostly because I like walking there, it being almost devoid of human distractions if you go back far enough. I was kind of hoping for some new birds, but I wasn't very optimistic about it, especially after meeting my Local Informant (who walks there for the same reasons I do) who hadn't had any new arrivals lately. 

I walked my route along the Upper Reservoir, which was empty of waterfowl and was making my way back to the car, thinking that the abandoned blueberry field, now flooded, often has flycatchers and sometimes I see thrashers on the road. I had ceased brooding about my fruitless attempts to find a certain icterid, both here and out in New Egypt. Just as I turned off the cross dike and started down the trail, I practically stepped on a Rusty Blackbird, my winter nemesis bird, passerine division.  It was just sitting on a bed of pine needles, not moving, glossy black (breeding plumage), yellow eye. I took out my camera and didn't bother zooming, just took a chance shot. When I looked up, the bird was gone. It wasn't until I got home and looked at my photos that I realized I had managed a picture of the bird fleeing down the path and probably into the blueberry bog. 

That was the 150th bird of my year. 
It wasn't an unproductive walk, totaling 20 species. 
Canada Goose 4
Mallard 6
Ring-necked Duck 4
Great Blue Heron 2
Mourning Dove 1
Northern Flicker 2
Eastern Phoebe 1
American Crow 1
Fish Crow 1
Tree Swallow 6
Carolina Chickadee 4
White-breasted Nuthatch 2
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 3
American Robin 1
Pine Warbler 6
Dark-eyed Junco 1
Red-winged Blackbird 15
Brown-headed Cowbird 1
Rusty Blackbird 1

American Goldfinch 3

However, the more interesting birds were in Burlington County, both the Whitesbog section where I had a kestrel and 3 Pied-billed Grebes, and later at Reeves Bogs, which I have only lightly explored before. I walk around the big bog there yielded Great Egret, Greater Yellowlegs, Killdeer, a displaying Tom turkey, and a hunting Northern Harrier
American Kestrel, Whitesbog
Greater Yellowlegs, Reeve's Bogs
Wild Turkey, Reeve's Bogs