Friday, April 24, 2015

Colliers Mills WMA 4/24--Spotted Sandpiper

Spotted Sandpiper
I was planning on going to Island Beach SP again today until I woke up and saw that the temperature here was about 37 with a stiff breeze. The beach, I figured, was no place to be, so I headed inland to Colliers Mills, figuring that at least some of the time I'd be out of the wind while walking in the woods. It proved to be a good choice, even if, while walking along the berm and behind the shooting range it felt more like February than late April.

I was crossing the dam at the back of Turnmill Pond when I "spotted" a bird fly down into the mud. I followed and found a new arrival for Ocean County this year, a nicely field-marked Spotted Sandpiper, bobbing its way up the hill, into the grass and over to the pond.  Later, on Colliers Mills Lake, I found two more, one at the back and one at the parking area.

American Kestrel
Hardly any waterfowl around. I had to trudge, again, all the way back to the 2nd bog past the power line cut to find my Wood Ducks. Five warbler species, none of them new, though I'm surprised at how many beautifully garbed Yellow-rumped Warblers are still around. And while I was walking near the large, recently burnt field on Success Road, I checked the big dead tree where a kestrel often hangs out, but there was no bird in sight. Then, a few minutes later one came swooping around and landed briefly on a Restricted Area sign before it flew off. I suspect that one was a male but I couldn't get a decent enough look at color before it flew. About an hour later, coming back to the field from the opposite direction I saw a kestrel and this one, a female, stayed perched long enough for me to get a half-way decent picture. While it is fun to find birds where "they're not supposed to be," there is a satisfying sense of continuity when birds return regularly to the same area.

I spent 3 hours and 33 minutes walking around my usual route and managed 36 species in that time. They were:
Canada Goose  3
Wood Duck  2    
Mallard  3
Great Blue Heron  1
Black Vulture  3
Turkey Vulture  6
Sharp-shinned Hawk  2     One chasing the other
Spotted Sandpiper  3     
Mourning Dove  1
Red-bellied Woodpecker  2     Heard
Downy Woodpecker  1
Northern Flicker  1
American Kestrel  1    
Eastern Phoebe  1     Heard, near parking area
Blue Jay  20
Tree Swallow  5
Carolina Chickadee  5
Tufted Titmouse  3
White-breasted Nuthatch  2     Heard
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  15
Eastern Bluebird  1
American Robin  30
Gray Catbird  1     Heard, Hawkin Road
Northern Mockingbird  1
European Starling  10
Black-and-white Warbler  1
Common Yellowthroat  2     Heard
Palm Warbler  6
Pine Warbler  8
Yellow-rumped Warbler  12
Eastern Towhee  3
Chipping Sparrow  15
White-throated Sparrow  1
Red-winged Blackbird  20
Common Grackle  1
Brown-headed Cowbird  16

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Central Park 4/23--Blue-headed Vireo

Great Egret by Bow Bridge
It is rare that I bird Central Park twice within a week--rare as in never, but I had to be in the city again today so got up early and was in the park before 9:30. A little late for warblers but that was the best I could do. And it was, as the weathermen say, unseasonably cold. Still, The Ramble was a lot busier than most of the places I go to around here, both with birds and birders. The paths were crammed with binocular-bearing pedestrians. When I'm birding Colliers Mills, Double Trouble, Wells Mills, Whitesbog--any of my local "hot spots" if I run into another birder it's practically "Dr Livingtstone, I presume." In The Ramble it reminded me of birding Magee Marsh (which we'll do again next month), i.e.: it's like birding on an IRT platform. I'm not complaining, I was just not used to so many people staring up into trees.

I was impressed, once again, with the sheer numbers of birds to be found--I might see as many species locally, but not as many birds. There were dozens of White-throated Sparrows, robins wherever you looked and they don't bother to fly away when you walk past, hundreds of House Sparrows, of course, but also a lot of Ruby-crowned Kinglets (which seem to be a big deal down here where see 10 Golden-crowned for every Ruby) and good numbers of the common warblers.

I spent most of my time wandering around The Ramble and when I say "wandering" I mean it. I am essentially lost when I'm in there and always happy when I stumble onto a familiar spot like the feeders, "The Oven," or "The Point." I get to one of them, tell myself that now I know where I am, walk away and become immediately lost, again, until I bump into the next familiar area.

It was on The Point that I added a new year bird: a Blue-headed Vireo, pointed out by a couple of photographers. It was directly over head, so by bending backwards like I was about to do the limbo, I was able to get a very nice look at its breast, belly, and under tail feathers, with just a peek at of its blue head. Later in the morning when I was somehow able to find my way back to The Point I got a more satisfying view, profile, showing all the field marks. Whether it was the same or different bird I don't know. I only need one.

For my 3 hours touring Olmstead and Vaux's maze I was able to pick up 34 species:
Canada Goose  5
Mallard  4
Double-crested Cormorant  2
Great Egret  1
Rock Pigeon 10
Mourning Dove  5
Red-bellied Woodpecker  4
Downy Woodpecker  3
Northern Flicker  4
Blue-headed Vireo  1
Blue Jay
Northern Rough-winged Swallow  1
Tree Swallow  2
Barn Swallow  10
Tufted Titmouse  1     Heard, feeders
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  10
American Robin  75
European Starling  10
Black-and-white Warbler  2
Palm Warbler  8
Pine Warbler  2
Yellow-rumped Warbler  10
Eastern Towhee  1     Ramble
Chipping Sparrow  5
White-throated Sparrow  50
Northern Cardinal  5
Red-winged Blackbird  2
Common Grackle  10
Brown-headed Cowbird  1     Feeders
House Finch  1     Feeders
Purple Finch  1     Feeders
American Goldfinch  2
House Sparrow  100

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Whitesbog 4/22--American Bittern

Eye over Whitesbog: Tethered blimp at Lakehurst
It was a dull day on the dikes of Whitesbog this morning. Birds were around but for the first hour or so it all seemed to be ear-birding. Nothing was showing itself, including the ubiquitous Common Yellowthroats. I lost count of how many I was hearing, but it wasn't until I was all the way back at the Upper Reservoir that one finally popped into view. Once one did, I decided to see if I could capture the moment. I was surprised how well the picture came out, considering the distance, the camera, and most of all, the photographer.

I was walking on the next cross-dike down from the reservoir, thinking about the House Wren (wrens, I couldn't decide) I'd just seen in a spot I know they like, when I flushed a heron from the reeds to my left. My first instinct was that it was Green Heron, a bit early, but within a second I doubted that because it was very brown and appeared big. Also, when the bird squawked, it didn't sound green. It flew to the left and landed on a hummock and when it stretched its necked out straight with bill pointed to the sky it confirmed that it was an American Bittern. I know that bitterns have been seen in this area, but I never expected to find one of these elusive birds. It then took off for the shore across from me. I could see where it landed and started walking there, but halfway to my goal the bird rose up again and flew to the southern end of the bog, landing in some reeds where it donned the cloak of invisibility. Like an overmatched hitter, I never took the bat (camera) off my shoulder.

As I only need one good bird a day, I was satisfied with the results of my four mile trek.
    34 species
Canada Goose   2
American Black Duck   5
Mallard   10
American Bittern   1
Turkey Vulture   1
Mourning Dove   2
Red-bellied Woodpecker   2
Hairy Woodpecker   1
Northern Flicker   3
Eastern Phoebe   1
Blue Jay   4
Fish Crow   2
Tree Swallow   14
Carolina Chickadee   2
Tufted Titmouse   1
White-breasted Nuthatch   1
House Wren   2
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher   23
Eastern Bluebird   1
American Robin   1
Northern Mockingbird   1
European Starling   5
Ovenbird   1
Black-and-white Warbler   5
Common Yellowthroat   23
Pine Warbler   4
Yellow-rumped Warbler   1
Eastern Towhee   18
Chipping Sparrow   3
Song Sparrow   4
Swamp Sparrow   1
Northern Cardinal   1
Red-winged Blackbird   30
Brown-headed Cowbird   5

For the record, the whip-poor-will woke me at 5:10 this morning.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Double Trouble SP 4/21--Eastern Kingbird

Eastern Kingbird
Yesterday, I had a frustrating walk around Double Trouble. Just as I was leaving for the park, in the late afternoon after it had rained most of the day, I got an email from Greg telling me that he'd found a Louisiana Thrush in the same area where he had one last year. It took some looking then with Greg before I found that warbler, which is quite uncommon in these parts. I didn't really expect to find it yesterday--and I didn't--but I did expect to find something--and I didn't.

Today I went back mid-afternoon to get the sour taste out of my mouth. Naturally, I looked for the LOWA and, naturally, I didn't find it. But I did find many Black-and-white Warblers, finally. They've been here for at least a week and it seemed like everyone was seeing them but me. A couple of Common Yellowthroats also popped up--good to see these masked warblers after hearing them for the last few days just about everywhere I birded.

I was walking on the back bogs, along Sweetwater Lane when I heard a Song Sparrow singing on the other side of a reservoir. I hadn't seen any birds for a while, so I stopped to scan for the bird, as I did earlier on Island Beach when I was looking for the mockingbird. I like to practice locating birds I've heard. I always would rather see them. I stopped mid scan when I saw a black figure in a small tree. At first I thought it was plastic caught up in the branches, but then I saw the broad white tail band--obvious even in my poor photograph--so there was my first Eastern Kingbird for the year.

One other slightly unusual bird today was Merlin zipping overhead.

I won't be able to get back to Double Trouble until perhaps next week, so I'm pretty certain that Louisiana Waterthrush isn't going to make onto the county list this year.
21 species
Canada Goose  2     nesting on bog on Sweetwater Lane
Mallard  8
Great Egret  1
Turkey Vulture  1
Merlin  1
Eastern Phoebe  4
Eastern Kingbird  1
Fish Crow  1     Heard
Northern Rough-winged Swallow  1
Carolina Chickadee  2
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  12
American Robin  3
Black-and-white Warbler  8
Common Yellowthroat  2
Pine Warbler  5
Yellow-rumped Warbler  2
Eastern Towhee  1     Heard, behind sawmill
Chipping Sparrow  10
Song Sparrow  1     Heard, Sweetwater Lane
Dark-eyed Junco  1
House Finch  1     Heard, village

Spizzle Creek 4/21--Little Blue Heron

Little Blue Heron
I was awakened at 5:20 this morning by the whip-poor-will. Which was okay, since I had to be up at 5:30 anyway.

As I was dropping Shari off at the Toms River bus station, I got a text alert that a White-faced Ibis, a bird that would look very good on my county list, was seen again this morning at Island Beach. I had been considering Island Beach as a destination for the last couple of days, so my choice was made.

I knew the bird was seen on the Spizzle Creek trail, but that trail forks and I wasn't sure which end I should go to first. I looked to my left when I got to the split and didn't see any birds, so I walked toward the blind, checking the marsh to the north. A few egrets, but not what I was looking for. That proved to be a mistake. I doubled back and walked on the southern trail; coming around a little curve I saw standing, as they will, in some reeds a nice flock of ibises. Which I promptly spooked as first a dozen ibises flew off and then another 10 took off and there went my chance of finding the WFIB, which I'm sure was in that flock. But the Gonzos were gone.

However, there were a couple of compensatory birds, the first one being my FOY Little Blue Heron that was tucked into the marsh standing in a channel. The other bird was a White-eyed Vireo which I managed to see going back out along the entrance trail. I actually stumbled upon it while looking for the singing mockingbird. I'd thought I'd heard vireo on the way in, but i was too anxious to find the rare ibis to spend any time looking for it. Later on in the day I found another year bird while trying to locate a singing bird.

I didn't do badly on the creek, but flushing the ibises was a disappointment. It made me feel like a birding klutz. If all the chases were as easy as Saturday's Cattle Egret or Sunday's Chuck-will's-widow it wouldn't be any fun, would it? (Sure it would!)
26 species
Mallard  1
Hooded Merganser  2     Hen type birds, smaller than red-breasted, thin bills
Red-breasted Merganser  4
Double-crested Cormorant  30
Great Egret  3
Snowy Egret  3
Little Blue Heron  4
Tricolored Heron  2
Glossy Ibis  25
Osprey  6
American Oystercatcher  2
Greater Yellowlegs  3
Willet (Eastern)  2
Herring Gull  10
Great Black-backed Gull  1
Forster's Tern  1
White-eyed Vireo  1
Carolina Chickadee  2
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  1
Northern Mockingbird  1     Heard
Yellow-rumped Warbler  3
Eastern Towhee  1     Heard
Song Sparrow  1
White-throated Sparrow  1     Heard
Red-winged Blackbird  10
Boat-tailed Grackle  5

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Central Park 4/19--Black-and-white Warbler

We wandered over to Central Park mid-afternoon. We had our binoculars, we might as well use them. A pleasant Sunday afternoon, when the park is crowded with pedestrians, cyclists, and baby buggies, and the lawns are heavily sprinkled with sunbathers (who, frankly, I think, are rushing the season--it was in the 50's) does not make for ideal birding conditions.  All that said, we found some pretty good birds, including a few Ruby-crowned Kinglets (good to see them, because in our part of NJ they're vastly out-numbered by Golden-crowns), a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker at the Upper Lobe, and enough of the 3 common warblers (Palm, Pine, and Yellow-rump) to keep us interested.

Even when we lived in the city, I didn't like being in the parks on weekends and nowadays when a couple of dog-walkers at Double Trouble can make me feel like I need some more elbow-room, I like it even less, so after about an hour and a half we were leaving the park, recrossing the bridge by the Upper Lobe when we came across a NYC Audubon youth birding trip. As always we asked, "Whattya got," slipping easily back into the city argot, and what they got was our FOY Black-and-white Warbler, a bird I've been looking for the last few days with no luck around here. We had good looks as the warbler climbed around the thicker branches and added a couple of Red-bellied Woodpeckers onto the day list too. For a day when birding was not on the original agenda, we did pretty well.

25 species
Canada Goose  4
Mallard  5
Double-crested Cormorant  7
Rock Pigeon  25
Red-bellied Woodpecker  2
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker  1
Downy Woodpecker  1
Northern Flicker  1     Heard
Blue Jay  10
Tree Swallow  5
Barn Swallow  2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  5
American Robin  6
European Starling  20
Black-and-white Warbler  1
Palm Warbler  4
Pine Warbler  5
Yellow-rumped Warbler  10
Chipping Sparrow  1
Song Sparrow  1
White-throated Sparrow  2     Heard
Northern Cardinal  2
Red-winged Blackbird  2
Common Grackle  10
House Sparrow  25

Bryant Park 4/19--Chuck-will's-widow

iPhone photo: Shari Zirlin
On a day that had been set aside for non-birding activities in NYC we managed to squeeze in a visit to Bryant Park before we met a friend for brunch. The celebrity bird of the park has been hanging around there for close to a week, but I wasn't all that optimistic about finding it. I didn't even take my good binoculars in to the city because I didn't like the idea of checking them at the museum we were going to. I didn't take my camera because I didn't feel like lugging it. In other words, I was pretty much unprepared to find the bird.

When we got to the park I looked at all the bare branches and figured it would be pretty easy to tell within a few minutes whether or not the bird was still there. It was. While Shari looked in one section, I walked toward the statue of Bryant in the middle of the eastern part of the park and scanned the branches. And there was last week's species of Shari's glee and my chagrin--Chuck-will's-widow, my life sighting, asleep, in plain view, as New Yorkers walked to and fro oblivious to its presence.

I called Shari over and said, "Now what do you want to do." If only all the chases were this easy. That I found it myself added to my satisfaction. Often it is a case of "look for the birders, not the bird," but today we were the birders to look for as soon 3 more people gathered at the spot.

Now I was kicking myself for not taking the camera. I had no idea it would be so photogenic. Shari took a few photos with her iPhone, but believe me, even through the crappy binoculars I had, it looked great--much better than the lump you see here.