Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Winner of the "Worst Idea for Advertisement Placement" Award

I've seen many advertisements above the urinals in men's rooms. Hey, it gives us guys something to do, although the reading matter isn't usually as interesting as the surrounding graffiti. But until I entered the men's room at First Energy Park in Lakewood, NJ (home of the "low Class A" Blue Claws), I had never seen advertisements in the urinals.

And what a good idea that must have seemed at the time, so long as you forgot about the implications of someone peeing all over your company name as well as the facts that it is both hard to read the phone number if you're standing the proper distance to the urinal and that most guys don't have a pen exactly handy at this moment. And who wants to be seen jotting down the phone numbers afterwards? That's a little more information than I'd be willing to give out among strangers.

Still, clever copy with the baseball references.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Monmouth County 8/23--American Golden-Plover

As a friend of mine use to say: The day gets away from you in the strangest ways.

Shari & I planned a relatively brief birding day--a trip around the drained bogs at Whitesbog to see if the recent rain had persuaded any interesting shorebirds to come in, then a look at Reed's Sod Farm up on CR 539, with the hope of finding a shorebird rarity (or two).

It quickly became apparent that Whitesbog was a washout. Even the large numbers of egrets and herons were down to single digit counts. But we did run into Greg out on the dikes who had the same ideas. Plus he told us that while we had been in Cape May yesterday, some shorebird rarities had indeed been reported on the sod farms. It just wasn't exactly clear which fields.

So, after counting 10 Least Sandpipers and 1 Spotted Sandpiper in the first bog, we three decided to try the sod farms. The eBird hotspot named "Reed's Sod Farm" is the big field on the corner of CR 539 and Herbert, our first stop, but Reed has a lot of fields in the area.

The first stop yielded nothing--the fields had not had the sod pulled up yet and, ironic as it seems, if you want to find "grasspipers" you have to look for dirt, not grass. We drove down to Gordon Road and again, the fields were green and devoid of birds. We tried the field on CR 526 which had been taken up, but again, not a bird to be found, never mind a rarity.

Shari & I, having done more birding than planned, decided to have lunch in nearby Allentown. Greg soldiered on. While I was eating my egg-white omelet, he called to tell us he had one of our targets on CR 526, east of where we'd left him. We had out that way after downing our meals and found Greg still there and, out among the clods of earth, a single American Golden-Plover, what I guess is a juvenile bird. I took a couple of documentary digiscoped photos:

It was fairly distant in the field, but it obviously isn't a Black-bellied Plover. The golden tinge on the wing feathers and back don't really show in the photos, but the dark cap and prominent supercilium are obvious. 

We then drove around some more, looking for fallow fields but most of what we saw was still green. We decided to get out of the cars and do some walking in the navigation beacon field at Assunpink. We picked up a couple of nice birds, birds that will soon be gone, like Blue Grosbeak and Indigo Bunting

Now Shari & I felt we really had to go. Greg said he was going to take a look at the lake. We said our 2nd goodbyes and Greg left. As we were driving past Eldridge Road we saw his car pulled over and Greg looking with his binoculars into a field. Naturally, we detoured. In the tiniest mud puddle he had found a Solitary Sandpiper--not a rarity, but a "good" bird.

Since the car was now pointing int he direction of the lake, we decided to go up there too. There we a large white bird swooping over the water--I at first thought it was a gull, but the flight pattern was all wrong. It looked like a tern, but a huge tern, and it was with its black cap and large red bill, the world's largest tern, a Caspian Tern, not often seen in those parts. 

So what looked like before lunch to be a lackluster day turned out quite well in the end. 

Our Monmouth County list:
Species                 Location
Canada Goose     Assunpink
Double-crested Cormorant     Assunpink
Great Blue Heron     Assunpink
Great Egret     Reed’s Sod Farm
Turkey Vulture     Reed’s Sod Farm
Red-tailed Hawk     Reed’s Sod Farm
American Golden-Plover     Reed’s Sod Farm
Semipalmated Plover     Reed’s Sod Farm
Killdeer     Reed’s Sod Farm
Solitary Sandpiper     Assunpink
Caspian Tern     Assunpink
Ruby-throated Hummingbird     Assunpink
Tree Swallow     Assunpink
American Robin     Assunpink
Gray Catbird     Assunpink
European Starling     Reed’s Sod Farm
Common Yellowthroat     Assunpink
Yellow Warbler     Assunpink
Field Sparrow     Assunpink
Song Sparrow     Assunpink
Northern Cardinal     Assunpink
Blue Grosbeak     Assunpink
Indigo Bunting     Assunpink
American Goldfinch     Assunpink

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Great Sedge Island 8/21--Marbled Godwit

Marbled Godwit
all photos © Greg Prelich
 Another beautiful day out on the water in a canoe around Great Sedge Island in Barnegat Bay. Greg & I had a specific target bird for the day, one we felt should be there, but it wasn't until about 4 1/2 hours into our trip, on the way back to the boat launch, that Greg finally spotted this beauty of a Marbled Godwit feeding right where it should have been, on a sand bar exposed by the receding tide.

We beached the canoe and walked across the sand until we were able to get close looks at the godwit, even though from a 1/4 mile away we knew what we had--it is one of those unmistakable birds with that bi-colored bill and huge size compared to the other sandpipers feeding around it. It is considered a rarity, this time of year in this area. It certainly was for me. It is my first Ocean County MAGO, bringing my lifetime county total up to 239.

Until we came across the godwit we had to make do with 10 other species of shorebirds. Oystercatchers seemed to be on every mud flat, beach, and out by the inlet, every rock. Out in the inlet we found a large flock of Brown Pelicans--we stopped counting at 30, agreeing that it was the most pelicans we'd seen at one time in NJ
Many pelicans
Pelican in flight
 There were also skimmers skimming
Black Skimmer
And many opportunities to really get to know 4 species of terns in their various molts.
Caspian Tern (the world's largest tern) in the middle of adult and juvenile Royal Terns (above)
Juvenile Royal Tern (below)

I think we have at least one more trip to the area before the weather changes--we want to explore going north to Spizzle Creek. It looks like good habitat to find an interesting wader (like a bittern) or perhaps some relatively rare shorebirds. So far we've tallied close to 60 species altogether in our wandering around the island's waters.
Today my list (Greg's is slightly different) totaled 39 species:
Double-crested Cormorant  70
Brown Pelican  30
Great Blue Heron  1
Great Egret  25
Snowy Egret  15
Little Blue Heron  2
Tricolored Heron  2
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron  1 Juvenile
Glossy Ibis  5
Osprey  15     Many still on nests
Clapper Rail  2     Heard
American Oystercatcher  50
Black-bellied Plover  75
Semipalmated Plover  50
Willet  5
Marbled Godwit  1     
Ruddy Turnstone  25
Red Knot  1
Sanderling  75
Least Sandpiper  4
Semipalmated Sandpiper  10
Short-billed Dowitcher  25
Laughing Gull  50
Ring-billed Gull  1
Herring Gull  25
Great Black-backed Gull  20
Caspian Tern  4
Common Tern  25
Forster's Tern  10
Royal Tern  46
Black Skimmer  17
Mourning Dove  1
American Crow  1
Tree Swallow  5
Carolina Chickadee  1     Heard, boat launch
Gray Catbird  2
Northern Mockingbird  1
Red-winged Blackbird  3
Boat-tailed Grackle  1

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Delaware Trip List 8/15-8/17

We traveled around Bombay Hook each day, made our trip south to Prime Hook, and on Sunday hit a couple of favorite spots--the DuPont Nature Center in Mispillion and the very rocky, sandy, torn up Port Mahon Road, where we found both Red Knots and Black Scoters.

We had 87 species for the trip--I'm sure with a lot more patience and a little more knowledge I could have added 5 or 6 others. But looking through large flocks of gulls, terns, or skittering peeps, is not something I'm often inclined to do.
Sculpture of Moonbird, a Red Knot that has traveled the equivalent distance to the moon in its migration life.
DuPont Nature Center, Mispillion Delaware
Species                   Location
Snow Goose     Bombay Hook
Canada Goose     Bombay Hook
Tundra Swan     Bombay Hook
Wood Duck     Bombay Hook
American Black Duck     Bombay Hook
Mallard     Bombay Hook
Northern Shoveler     Bombay Hook
Black Scoter     Port Mahon
Ruddy Duck     Bombay Hook
Northern Bobwhite     Bombay Hook
Double-crested Cormorant     Bombay Hook
Great Blue Heron     Bombay Hook
Great Egret     Bombay Hook
Snowy Egret     Bombay Hook
Little Blue Heron     Bombay Hook
Green Heron     Bombay Hook
Black-crowned Night-Heron     Bombay Hook
Glossy Ibis     Bombay Hook
Turkey Vulture     Bombay Hook
Osprey     Bombay Hook
Cooper's Hawk     DuPont Nature Center
Bald Eagle     Prime Hook NWR
Clapper Rail     Bombay Hook
Black-necked Stilt     Prime Hook NWR--Broadkill Marsh
American Avocet     Bombay Hook
American Oystercatcher     DuPont Nature Center
Black-bellied Plover     Bombay Hook
Semipalmated Plover     Bombay Hook
Killdeer     Whitehall Crossroads - Leipsic
Spotted Sandpiper     Bombay Hook
Greater Yellowlegs     Bombay Hook
Willet     DuPont Nature Center
Lesser Yellowlegs     Bombay Hook
Ruddy Turnstone     DuPont Nature Center
Red Knot     Port Mahon
Least Sandpiper     Bombay Hook
Semipalmated Sandpiper     Bombay Hook
Short-billed Dowitcher     Bombay Hook
Laughing Gull     Bombay Hook
Ring-billed Gull     Bombay Hook
Herring Gull     Bombay Hook
Great Black-backed Gull     DuPont Nature Center
Caspian Tern     Bombay Hook
Forster's Tern     Bombay Hook
Royal Tern     DuPont Nature Center
Mourning Dove     Bombay Hook
Yellow-billed Cuckoo     Bombay Hook
Ruby-throated Hummingbird     Bombay Hook
Red-bellied Woodpecker     Bombay Hook
Downy Woodpecker     Bombay Hook
Northern Flicker     Bombay Hook
Peregrine Falcon     Bombay Hook
Eastern Wood-Pewee     Bombay Hook
Eastern Phoebe     Bombay Hook
Great Crested Flycatcher     Prime Hook NWR
Eastern Kingbird     Bombay Hook
Red-eyed Vireo     Bombay Hook
Blue Jay     Bombay Hook
American Crow     Bombay Hook
Horned Lark     Whitehall Crossroads - Leipsic
Tree Swallow     Whitehall Crossroads - Leipsic
Barn Swallow     Whitehall Crossroads - Leipsic
Carolina Chickadee     Bombay Hook
Tufted Titmouse     Bombay Hook
House Wren     Bombay Hook
SEDGE WREN     Bombay Hook
Marsh Wren     Bombay Hook
Carolina Wren     Bombay Hook
Eastern Bluebird     Bombay Hook
American Robin     Bombay Hook
Gray Catbird     Bombay Hook
Northern Mockingbird     Bombay Hook
European Starling     Bombay Hook
Common Yellowthroat     Bombay Hook
Eastern Towhee     Bombay Hook
Chipping Sparrow     Prime Hook NWR
Field Sparrow     Bombay Hook
Song Sparrow     Bombay Hook
Northern Cardinal     Bombay Hook
Blue Grosbeak     Bombay Hook
Indigo Bunting     Bombay Hook
Bobolink     Bombay Hook
Red-winged Blackbird     Bombay Hook
Boat-tailed Grackle     DuPont Nature Center
Orchard Oriole     Bombay Hook
American Goldfinch     Bombay Hook
House Sparrow     Bombay Hook

Broadkill Marsh 8/16--Black-necked Stilt

Our other primary shorebird target, Black-necked Stilt, is not easily found lately at Bombay Hook, though it is used on the cover of their checklist. The best area for finding stilts this year has been at the "other" hook, Prime Hook about 35 miles south in Sussex County. We started the morning off at Bombay Hook, where we ran into fellow Jersey birders Rob & Lisa Fanning. They had come for their avocet and stilt fix too, as well as the Sedge Wren. We exchanged phone numbers in case either of us should find something spectacular.

After lunch we drove south, getting stuck in heavy beach house changeover day traffic. We finally got to Prime Hook around 2 PM. Prime Hook is a lot like the Forsythe refuge in NJ. There's a lot to it and it is spread over a large area. We started out walking a trail that runs along a marsh in the main section by the headquarters, but the water was very high (as it had been at Bombay Hook and at Brig--what gives?) and not a shorebird was to be seen. I stopped into the Visitor's Center to look for a checklist (fruitlessly) and ran into Rob & Lisa again. They'd been successful in the wren hunt, had seen avocets and were now out to look for stilts. The volunteer at the center told them the best bet was Broadkill Marsh, not far from where we were. That was also our next stop--eBird showed the marsh to be a fairly reliable spot for the birds. Before they left, I told them we'd probably run into them on the road. We did catch up to them at the first likely spot and Rob gave us a thumbs down from the car window. We stopped to look at some yellowlegs and other shorebirds, hoping for something unusual, but it was a waste of time. Focus! We drove about 1/2 mile down the road and saw them parked on the opposite side, setting up a scope. We u-turned and parked rather precariously at the side of the road, hazard lights blinking. Rob & I were both scoping the marsh, seeing nothing but avocets (how quickly you get jaded). Shari came up after securing the car. I almost said, "If anyone gong to find the bird, it's Shari," but didn't even have the time to get the sentence out before Shari put up her bins and said, "There's a stilt." Amazing. One had flown in just as she reached us. While looking at that one, another came in. Time to do the happy dance.

Not a lot of species for Broadkill Marsh, but we were only looking for one.

16 species
Mallard  1
Double-crested Cormorant  15
Great Blue Heron  3
Great Egret  5
Snowy Egret  3
Green Heron  1
Glossy Ibis  6
Black-necked Stilt  2
American Avocet  4
Semipalmated Plover  20
Greater Yellowlegs  2
Lesser Yellowlegs
Least Sandpiper  5
Semipalmated Sandpiper  200
Laughing Gull  1
Song Sparrow  1     Heard

Bombay Hook 8/15--Northern Bobwhite, American Avocet, SEDGE WREN, Bobolink

Shari & I made our summer pilgrimage to Delaware's birding hot spots this weekend. We drove down Friday morning and by noon we were driving the dusty dikes around the impoundments. When we go to Delaware we usually have two species in mind, but this trip our main target bird was all the way at the far end of the refuge, past where you can drive, in some fields near an old house that dates from the late 18th century. It was here that we were finally able to hear--and briefly see--our lifer SEDGE WREN. It isn't a spectacular looking bird; in fact, it is the proverbial Little Brown Job, but it does have a distinctive song (two notes, a slight pause, then a rapid trill) that I studied before we got there. So, while walking on the path I stopped dead when I heard the song. I motioned for Shari to listen and there it was again. I won't count a bird's song until I hear it twice (except for Blue Jays and chickadees). We heard it multiple times, perhaps as many as 10 times, and saw it pop up briefly. The trip became an immediate success.

In that same field we saw fairly large light brown birds with yellow-buffy breasts flying around the tall grass and couldn't place them for a while--they were just too big to be sparrows--until I realized they were Bobolinks in their winter plumage. We managed to get the scope on a couple of them as they perched on some stalks.

We'd already ticked off American Avocet--one of the two main shorebirds we go down there to find--on a sandbar in the back of the Shearness Pool.
Photo: Shari Zirlin
These birds still had their salmon-colored heads--I actually prefer them in their stark black and white winter plumage. 

We also had two out of season waterfowl on our way to the Sedge Wren--in one scope view from the observation tower at Bear Swamp Pool we had a Snow Goose and a Tundra Swan. The swan, I've read, is injured. The Snow Goose is actually not that unusual as I recall seeing one there in previous summer trips. 

We were in the parking lot at the end of the day, just about to leave when I heard the distinctive call of the Northern Bobwhite--another year bird, and one I can safely count, as opposed to the birds in NJ where their provenance is often suspect. 4 new birds for the year, one a lifer, is not bad work for 5 hours.

55 species
Snow Goose  1    
Canada Goose  50
Tundra Swan  1     
Wood Duck  2
Mallard  20
Northern Shoveler  2
Northern Bobwhite  1    
Great Blue Heron  10
Great Egret  10
Snowy Egret  60
Little Blue Heron  3
Green Heron  2
Glossy Ibis  6
Turkey Vulture  5
American Avocet  62
Semipalmated Plover  5
Spotted Sandpiper  1
Greater Yellowlegs  50
Lesser Yellowlegs
Least Sandpiper  5
Semipalmated Sandpiper  200
Short-billed Dowitcher  100
Laughing Gull  2
Ring-billed Gull  1
Caspian Tern  8
Forster's Tern  10
Mourning Dove  1
Red-bellied Woodpecker  1     Heard
Northern Flicker  1     Heard, Bear Swamp Pool
Peregrine Falcon  1
Eastern Wood-Pewee  4
Eastern Phoebe  1
Eastern Kingbird  6
Blue Jay  2     Heard
American Crow  1     Heard
Tree Swallow  100
Barn Swallow  50
Carolina Chickadee  2     Heard
Tufted Titmouse  1
House Wren  1     Heard, Allee House area
SEDGE WREN  1     
Carolina Wren  1     Heard
Eastern Bluebird  2
Gray Catbird  5
Northern Mockingbird  2
European Starling  3
Eastern Towhee  1     Heard
Field Sparrow  2     Heard
Song Sparrow  1     Heard
Blue Grosbeak  2
Bobolink  4
Red-winged Blackbird  3
Orchard Oriole  1     Yellow
American Goldfinch  5
House Sparrow  4

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Great Sedge Island 8/7--Red Knot

Royal Terns, adults and juvenile
Photo: Greg Prelich
Royal Tern doing its Black Skimmer imitation
Photo: Greg Prelich
Our first canoe trip out to Great Sedge Island off Island Beach SP last month was so successful that Greg & I wanted to try it again as soon as possible, which was today. We were in the water at 8:30, about a half hour past high tide. We headed out to the sand bar where we could see loads of birds. Royal Terns were abundant; we counted 48 and that is probably an undercount. We had one Caspian Tern in there for comparison--the Royals look small next to it, and the Forster's Terns shrink to the perceptual size of Least Terns when the world's largest tern is in the vicinity.

Shorebirds were all over the place, including many Black-bellied Plovers, Ruddy Turnstones, both semipalmated species and on our return trip to the ever shifting sand bars the highlights of the day--one Piping Plover and 4 Red Knots which stumped us at first looking at them through binoculars. Fortunately, this time Greg brought along his scope (which was wrapped in a waterproof bag and stored in the cooler) and through that lens we were able to see some red still showing on their breasts along with the other field marks for Red Knot.
Red Knots
Photo: Greg Prelich
Despite windier conditions than last month and stronger current, we managed to get out to the Oyster Creek inlet side of Sedge Island where we beached the canoe for a while and scanned the distant sand bars. It took a while but we finally saw a couple of Brown Pelicans in flight and then, through the scope, Greg found 4 of them on sitting around with large flocks of terns, gulls, and cormorants. The power boats creating great rocking wakes dissuaded us from even trying to canoe around the inlet--we'd be swamped. 

We did a little less walking than last time, but there were still quite a few spots where we suddenly ran out of water. Funny how a sand bar can sneak up on you. I'll remember that next there's a news story about a stranded cruise liner or freighter. 

(If I'm taking this picture, I'm not pulling my weight)

My list for our four hour (and 9 minute) cruise:
34 species (+1 other taxa)
Canada Goose  3
Double-crested Cormorant  30
Brown Pelican  4
Great Egret  10
Snowy Egret  1
Little Blue Heron  3
Tricolored Heron  1
Glossy Ibis  7
Osprey  15     Many still on nests
American Oystercatcher  12
Black-bellied Plover  50
Semipalmated Plover  100
Piping Plover  1
Willet  2
Greater/Lesser Yellowlegs  2     f/o
Ruddy Turnstone  20
Red Knot  4
Stilt Sandpiper  1
Sanderling  10
Semipalmated Sandpiper  100
Short-billed Dowitcher  15
Laughing Gull  50
Ring-billed Gull  2
Herring Gull  50
Great Black-backed Gull  40
Caspian Tern  1
Common Tern  2
Forster's Tern  20
Royal Tern  48
American Crow  1     Heard
Tree Swallow  3
Saltmarsh Sparrow  1
Seaside Sparrow  8
Red-winged Blackbird  50
Common Grackle  25