Wednesday, February 29, 2012

February Wrap-up

In this very weird and warm winter it has been hard to find new birds because a lot species just stayed up north instead of drifting down to us. I thought our trip to Delaware would yield a few more species than it did, though I consider the trip a good one with Black-necked Stilt, American Avocet and a few Bald Eagles among others. Wild Turkey on the Parkway was funny.

No life birds so far this year. Unless we go somewhere exotic (i.e. not the East Coast) or something outlandish flies in, it is going to be very hard to up the count since almost all the low-hanging fruit has been plucked.

I've become very interested in my Ocean County numbers. I'm up to 136 lifetime and 74 this year. It will be a while before I surpass my Kings and Queens counts but I figure I've got the rest of my life to build up the list. For those of you keeping score at home (which is, I know, nobody), right now I'm #5 in Ocean County for the year, according to eBird. My goal is to be #3, because I know that without pelagics I have no possibility of the top spot.

88 species for the month; not great, but more interesting birds this month than usual.

Counties birded:
Delaware: Kent, Sussex
New Jersey: Atlantic, Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean, Salem
New York: Kings

Species                     First Sighting
Snow Goose       Bombay Hook NWR
Brant       Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Canada Goose       Horicon Lake
Mute Swan       Shelter Cove Park
Tundra Swan       Bombay Hook NWR
Gadwall       Bombay Hook NWR
American Wigeon       Bombay Hook NWR
American Black Duck       Cattus Island County Park
Mallard       Allaire State Park
Northern Shoveler       Bombay Hook NWR
Northern Pintail       Bombay Hook NWR
Green-winged Teal       Bombay Hook NWR
Canvasback       Riverfront Landing
Ring-necked Duck       Whiting WMA
Greater Scaup       Lake of the Lilies
Lesser Scaup       Lake of the Lilies
Harlequin Duck       Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Long-tailed Duck       Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Bufflehead       Horicon Lake
Common Goldeneye       LBI Bayside--24th St
Hooded Merganser       Whiting WMA
Common Merganser       Bombay Hook NWR
Red-breasted Merganser       Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Ruddy Duck       Prospect Park
Wild Turkey       GSP MM 95
Red-throated Loon       Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Common Loon       Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Pied-billed Grebe       Bombay Hook NWR
Horned Grebe       LBI Bayside--24th St
Double-crested Cormorant       Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Great Blue Heron       Cattus Island County Park
Black Vulture       Whiting WMA
Turkey Vulture       Crestwood Village
Bald Eagle       Bombay Hook NWR
Northern Harrier       Bombay Hook NWR
Cooper's Hawk       Double Trouble State Park
Red-tailed Hawk       GSP MM 99
Peregrine Falcon       Brigantine
American Coot       Bombay Hook NWR
Killdeer       Shelter Cove Park
Black-necked Stilt       Bombay Hook NWR
American Avocet       Ted Harvey WMA
Greater Yellowlegs       Bombay Hook NWR
Lesser Yellowlegs       Bombay Hook NWR
Ruddy Turnstone       Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Dunlin       Little Creek Wildlife Area
Ring-billed Gull       Crestwood Village
Herring Gull       Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Great Black-backed Gull       Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Razorbill       Manasquan Inlet
Rock Pigeon       18 Aberdeen Avenue
Mourning Dove       Whiting WMA
Belted Kingfisher       Cattus Island County Park
Red-bellied Woodpecker       Crestwood Village
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker       Whiting WMA
Downy Woodpecker       35 Sunset Rd
Hairy Woodpecker       Allaire State Park
Northern Flicker       Ted Harvey WMA
Blue Jay       Crestwood Village
American Crow       Whiting WMA
Horned Lark       Fast Landing Rd
Carolina Chickadee       Crestwood Village
Black-capped Chickadee       Allaire State Park
Tufted Titmouse       Crestwood Village
White-breasted Nuthatch       Crestwood Village
Brown Creeper       Whiting WMA
Carolina Wren       Whiting WMA
Golden-crowned Kinglet       Crestwood Village
Ruby-crowned Kinglet       Whiting WMA
Eastern Bluebird       35 Sunset Rd
Hermit Thrush       Cattus Island County Park
American Robin       Allaire State Park
Northern Mockingbird       Allaire State Park
European Starling       Cattus Island County Park
Cedar Waxwing       Allaire State Park
Yellow-rumped Warbler       Allaire State Park
Fox Sparrow       Double Trouble State Park
Song Sparrow       Crestwood Village
Swamp Sparrow       Little Creek Wildlife Area
White-throated Sparrow       Allaire State Park
Dark-eyed Junco       Horicon Lake
Northern Cardinal       Allaire State Park
Red-winged Blackbird       Bombay Hook NWR
Common Grackle       Clara Barton rest stop
Brown-headed Cowbird       35 Sunset Rd
House Finch       Allaire State Park
American Goldfinch       Crestwood Village
House Sparrow       Bombay Hook NWR

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Ocean County 2/28

I noticed the last few days that scaup were being reported at Lake of the Lilies (which used to be called "Old Sam's Pond"--sounds like a real estate agent "improved" the name--and there ain't no lilies there that I've seen). I went up there this morning with the notion of testing myself on separating the lesser from the greater. The lake/pond is small enough that you can get fairly close to the ducks and judge their head shape. On a freshwater pond you'd expect to see mostly Lesser Scaup and there were about 200 of there, easily identified at fairly close distance by their peaked heads. Scoping the flock I managed to find at least one Greater Scaup--flatter head, slightly larger, slightly cleaner markings on its back. Possibly 2 but I wouldn't positively call the 2nd one. I didn't ace the test, but I'd give myself a B+.
Lake of the Lilies
19 species
Canada Goose  4
Mute Swan  5
Mallard  25
Greater Scaup  1
Lesser Scaup  200
Hooded Merganser  1
Great Blue Heron  1
American Coot  30
Killdeer  2
Ring-billed Gull  5
Herring Gull  15
Great Black-backed Gull  3
Mourning Dove  1
American Robin  1
European Starling  10
Yellow-rumped Warbler  1
Red-winged Blackbird  20
Common Grackle  15
House Finch  2
On my way up to Manasquan Inlet I stopped for a few minutes at Little Silver Lake--nothing unusual there.
Little Silver Lake
7 species
Mute Swan  1
Mallard  40
Bufflehead  10
Ring-billed Gull  10
Herring Gull  10
Song Sparrow  1
Red-winged Blackbird  2
Walking on the beach toward the jetty at the inlet I met a woman coming from it who asked if I'd seen the Razorbill. She hadn't and thought it was much too cold on the jetty to hang around looking for it. After a few minutes scanning the ocean I agreed with her. I didn't feel like freezing my face off in the hope of seeing a bird I'd already seen this year. I'd have liked to see the bird but I didn't feel any urgency about it. 

So immediately the rule that you never see a bird until you have truly given up on seeing it kicked in. I drove over to the parking lot that sits about midway along the inlet and as soon as I got out of the car--there it was!  Naked eye. I wish I had brought my camera because even I--a mediocre photographer with a crummy camera--could have gotten good shots of the alcid. It drifted the length of the parking lot east to west, preening itself, while I walked along seawall at a leisurely pace. It never dove once. 

I also saw a couple of loons and finally, a cormorant. 
Manasquan Inlet
8 species
Brant  25
Common Loon  2
Double-crested Cormorant  1
Ring-billed Gull  25
Herring Gull  25
Great Black-backed Gull  1
Razorbill  1   
House Sparrow  X
I had an errand in Toms River so my next 2 stops were there. I drove east on Bay Avenue until it ended at Shelter Cove Park. When I was there earlier this month it was a lot more active. Today the bay was very quiet. A few yellow-rumps were jumping around in the low branches of the trees. 
Shelter Cove Park
8 species
Canada Goose  5
Bufflehead  3
Ring-billed Gull  1
American Crow  1
Carolina Chickadee  1
Northern Mockingbird  1
European Starling  1
Yellow-rumped Warbler  4
My last stop, after lunch at my favorite diner, was Cattus Island Park. The predominate duck there was Buffflehead. With passerines, it was robins by far. A flock was constantly moving ahead of me as I walked on the blue trail through the woods. 

But what I found most interesting was seeing from the observation platform one drake Mallard and one hen American Black Duck paired up. Looks like a hybrid in the making. I found the most species at Cattus Island, as I would expect, since I covered the most ground there and surveyed a number of different habitats. 
Cattus Island County Park
21 species
Mute Swan  3
American Black Duck  1
Mallard  1 
Bufflehead  125
Red-breasted Merganser  2
Turkey Vulture  1
Herring Gull  5
Mourning Dove  3
Downy Woodpecker  1
Blue Jay  1
Carolina Chickadee  5
Tufted Titmouse  1
White-breasted Nuthatch  1
American Robin  60
Yellow-rumped Warbler  1
Song Sparrow  3
White-throated Sparrow  2
Northern Cardinal  3    Two seen, one heard calling.
Red-winged Blackbird  10
House Finch  3
American Goldfinch  1

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Brigantine 2/26

Yesterday was much too windy to do any serious birding, but the winds almost completely died down today, so we drove the 8 mile circuit around Brig. "Best" bird was just about the first bird we saw--a Horned Lark sitting in a small tree across the water from the Gull Pond Tower. I've seen larks in lots of places, but this is my first Jersey lark.

The non-bird of the day was this Brown Bat (I believe) hanging from the eaves over the men's room outhouse.
All photos: Shari Zirlin
Cute, in a creepy kind of way. 

As expected, most of what we saw were ducks, geese, and swans. 
Here is the proverbial "mixed flock."

As always, it's what we don't see that intrigues me: No cormorants for instance. Didn't see any in Delaware last week either. What gives? No Dunlins, yellowlegs, or turnstones. It was low tide, I'd expect to find them. We did come across one Killdeer just before Jen's Trail, about 2/3 of the way around the drive.
On the Brig checklist, Killdeer is listed as "Rare" in winter. But the list has entries for Oldsquaw, Green-backed Heron, and Northern Oriole, so it may be a wee bit out of date. 

Afterward we had lunch in nearby "Historic Smithville," which is a phony town patched together with old buildings salvaged from all over south Jersey. They have a resident flock of Graylag and barnyard geese, not countable, of course. However, they are amusing, importuning any new arrival to the parking lot for food.
Our list for the day:
30 species
Snow Goose  1500
Canada Goose  100
Mute Swan  2
Tundra Swan  10
Gadwall  20
American Wigeon  2
American Black Duck  200
Mallard  50
Northern Shoveler  100
Northern Pintail  200
Green-winged Teal  25
Bufflehead  20
Hooded Merganser  8
Red-breasted Merganser  5
Great Blue Heron  4
Turkey Vulture  7
Northern Harrier  4
Red-tailed Hawk  1    Jen's Trail
Peregrine Falcon  1    On its tower
American Coot  30
Killdeer  1
Ring-billed Gull  15
Herring Gull  5
Great Black-backed Gull  2
Downy Woodpecker  1
Blue Jay  1
American Crow  1
Horned Lark  1    from Gull Pond Tower parking lot
Carolina Chickadee  1    Jen's Trail
Red-winged Blackbird  2

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Prospect Park 2/21--Ruddy Ducks

I had to go into New York yesterday to get our taxes done, so I took the opportunity to visit my old stomping ground of Prospect Park. Nothing very special there, though I did finally see my first Ruddy Ducks of the year. Considering all the water I've been birding this year, I find it surprising that it took almost 2 months to find them, but there it is.

Peter's new feeder set up is elaborate, impressive, and effective--I didn't see one squirrel on them, leaving them free for the fair sized flock of House Finches that were there, along with the usual little winter birds. The Mourning Doves scavenged any seeds that fell to the ground.  A drake and hen Hooded Mergansers over by Three Sisters Islands were the most unusual birds of the day.

It was good to walk around the park, but I haven't been away long enough for it to seem really strange and/or nostalgic.
24 species for the day:
Prospect Park
19 species
Canada Goose  100
Mute Swan  6
American Black Duck  2
Mallard  100
Northern Shoveler  10
Hooded Merganser  2
Ruddy Duck  27
Pied-billed Grebe  2
Red-tailed Hawk  1
American Coot  35
Ring-billed Gull  200
Herring Gull  2
Great Black-backed Gull  1
Rock Pigeon  25
Blue Jay  3
Black-capped Chickadee  3
Red-winged Blackbird  1
House Finch  1
House Sparrow  10
7 species
Mourning Dove  7
Downy Woodpecker  2
Black-capped Chickadee  1
Tufted Titmouse  1
White-breasted Nuthatch  1
White-throated Sparrow  1
House Finch  10

Delaware 2/18-2/20

We spent the weekend in Delaware, 2 days going around Bombay Hook, and 1 day exploring farther south, including finally getting to Prime Hook. Bombay Hook, a little north of Dover, used to be a big trip for us from Brooklyn; now it is really close enough for us to make it a day trip.

All photos: Shari Zirlin
Bombay Hook is like Brigantine writ large--instead of one loop around consolidated impoundments, it is a meandering trail that leads from one huge impoundment to the next. The attraction in the summer is shorebirds, particularly stilts and avocets. This time of year it's ducks. But, happily, one Black-necked Stilt overwintered this year and we picked it out of the Raymond Pool almost immediately upon our arrival on Saturday. Shari was able to get this rather distant shot.

Another attraction at Bombay Hook is the eagles. We saw four the first day: One adult scaring up the ducks and coots in Bear Swamp Pool (the joke is that there is no bear, no swamp, and in the summer, no pool), then 3 immatures hunting making passes at ducks and gulls near Shearness Pool. But the most impressive sight and sound of the 3 day weekend was on Monday when we had returned to the trail to Bear Swamp Pool's observation tower.

At first it sounded like the wind in the blowing gently through the tops of the trees, but it became increasingly louder, taking on the sound and rhythm of an approaching locomotive and then it became very clear right before they appeared, that it was a gigantic flock of Snow Geese flying over head, thousands of them, all yelping their peculiar bark. It seemed like they passed over us for 5 minutes. Later we saw a huge flock across the water--they looked at that distance like a snow bank covering the low lying beach--hence the name.

Silly Goose
Sunday we drove down to Prime Hook, Bombay's somewhat neglected cousin refuge. Prime Hook has a number of access roads, so it isn't as contained as Bombay. But once we got the feel for the place it turned out to be a great spot, with plenty of passerines, including some bluebirds and lots of House Finches. Snow Geese are abundant there also. We found one, wandering in and out of traffic on the road alongside the southernmost impoundment.  Afterward, we drove up Ted Harvey WMA; American Avocets had been reported there and I was able to find 19 of them way back in the North Impoundment. Later, on the road out, we came across the proverbial mixed flock of blackbirds and grackles high in the treetops, making the forest sound like an enormous rattle. I listed a thousand blackbirds on eBirds, but that is a very conservative count. 

We also checked out a place called Little Creek where we came upon some Ring-necked Ducks and a small flock of Cedar Waxwings mixing with a much larger flock of robins, as well our first Swamp Sparrow & Willet of the year. 

Sunday we drove around Bombay Hook again, not finding anything new, though there was one avocet where the stilt had been a couple of days previous. A striking bird, even out of breeding plumage.

We always like to check the fields just outside the refuge for any foraging birds. We didn't come up with anything until we were a few miles away from the refuge on Fast Landing Road. There we got our FOY Horned Larks in one of the fields that has not been turned over to McMansions. A good way to end the trip.

57 species for the weekend. 
Snow Goose
Bombay Hook NWR
Canada Goose
Bombay Hook NWR
Tundra Swan
Bombay Hook NWR
Bombay Hook NWR
American Wigeon
Bombay Hook NWR
American Black Duck
Bombay Hook NWR
Bombay Hook NWR
Northern Shoveler
Bombay Hook NWR
Northern Pintail
Bombay Hook NWR
Green-winged Teal
Bombay Hook NWR
Ring-necked Duck
Little Creek Wildlife Area
Bombay Hook NWR
Hooded Merganser
Ted Harvey WMA
Common Merganser
Bombay Hook NWR
Red-breasted Merganser
Prime Hook NWR
Pied-billed Grebe
Bombay Hook NWR
Great Blue Heron
Bombay Hook NWR
Turkey Vulture
Bombay Hook NWR
Bald Eagle
Bombay Hook NWR
Northern Harrier
Bombay Hook NWR
Red-tailed Hawk
Bombay Hook NWR
American Coot
Bombay Hook NWR
Black-necked Stilt
Bombay Hook NWR
American Avocet
Ted Harvey WMA
Greater Yellowlegs
Bombay Hook NWR
Lesser Yellowlegs
Bombay Hook NWR
Little Creek Wildlife Area
Ring-billed Gull
Bombay Hook NWR
Herring Gull
Bombay Hook NWR
Great Black-backed Gull
Bombay Hook NWR
Mourning Dove
Little Creek Wildlife Area
Belted Kingfisher
Prime Hook NWR
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Bombay Hook NWR
Northern Flicker
Ted Harvey WMA
Blue Jay
Bombay Hook NWR
American Crow
Prime Hook NWR
Horned Lark
Fast Landing Rd
Carolina Chickadee
Prime Hook NWR
Tufted Titmouse
Prime Hook NWR
Carolina Wren
Little Creek Wildlife Area
Eastern Bluebird
Prime Hook NWR
American Robin
Prime Hook NWR
Northern Mockingbird
Bombay Hook NWR
European Starling
Prime Hook NWR
Cedar Waxwing
Little Creek Wildlife Area
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Little Creek Wildlife Area
Song Sparrow
Bombay Hook NWR
Swamp Sparrow
Little Creek Wildlife Area
White-throated Sparrow
Prime Hook NWR
Dark-eyed Junco
Prime Hook NWR
Northern Cardinal
Prime Hook NWR
Red-winged Blackbird
Bombay Hook NWR
Common Grackle
Ted Harvey WMA
House Finch
Prime Hook NWR
American Goldfinch
Bombay Hook NWR
House Sparrow
Bombay Hook NWR