Dismal weather yesterday and this morning kept us indoors and by the time there was a hint of sun it was already lunch time and we weren't inclined to start looking for birds. Then I saw on the NJ birds listserv that a Barnacle Goose had been sighted at the Mercer Corporate Park, about 25 miles from here and with that, we put on our shoes, got in our coats and went.
This corporate park seems to attract a good number of birds, including a Northern Lapwing right after the big snowstorm last month, but we'd only passed it once on our way someplace else. I got directions from Google that didn't look right, but my memory of the exact location was a little foggy. On the way to where we thought we were going we stopped on the side of the road and looked at a huge flock of Canada Geese on the edge of a pond. In among them was a Great Blue Heron. But since this wasn't where Google said the park was, we only looked briefly, despite Shari saying that this was the place I'd pointed out to her. "No, no, doesn't look like that place," I said. She remembered that it was. I insisted that it wasn't. Off we went for another mile until we got to the road Google said to go down. And of course, nothing was there.
We looked up the park's address on the iPad and got an alternate address, one of those real estate developer road names: Corporate Blvd. I plugged that address into the GPS and it sent us back the way we'd come.
Now, I know, after hard experience, that if Shari & I disagree on some fact, the chances of her being right are in inverse proportion to how adamantly I argue that she is wrong. So, naturally, the GPS took us right back to the flock of Canada Geese. We pulled into Corporate Blvd, where a couple of other birders were already scanning the flock and I set up the scope. I quickly found the two Snow Geese that had also been mentioned in the report, but wasn't having any luck with the Barnacle Goose until another birder there said that he thought he saw it sitting down in the grass. Fruitlessly, he tried to point it out to me among the hundreds of other geese until I asked him if he thought he could find it in the scope. Which he almost immediately did and yes indeed, even with its head tucked in, it was obviously a Barnacle Goose, first of the year for us, first in NJ for us. Eventually it raised its head and we got excellent views of its white face. Then, a portion of the flock lifted off and the BAGO went with it, behind a stand of trees.
Our fellow birder mentioned that he'd started coming to the park lately and that, for such a small area, there were a good number of species to be found. Beyond the pond we were viewing was another one, more of a marsh, and we decided to give that a look. We found a good number of coots, a grebe, and a few Ruddy Ducks.
The field behind the trees could be seen from the main road, so we drove onto it and pulled over to the shoulder just before the entrance to the Turnpike--not the safest place to be--and I scanned the flock of geese (which appeared twice the size of the one by the pond) looking for the BAGO but had no luck.
Considering that we had no plans for the day it turned out to be quite a productive one--not only did we see a very rare bird (though these inhabitants of Greenland seem to be showing up more frequently), we also found another good spot to go birding that isn't too far from us and hasn't been wrecked by Sandy.
We only seem to go to Mercer County for rare birds; besides the Barnacle Goose today, we saw the Crested Caracara on a farm near Princeton Junction and a few years ago, when we still lived in Brooklyn, trekked out to Sayen Gardens in Hamilton to see our lifer White-winged Crossbills. The county obviously calls for more investigation by us.
The list for the spot:
Snow Goose 2
Barnacle Goose 1
Canada Goose 500
Ruddy Duck 3
Pied-billed Grebe 1
Great Blue Heron 1
Turkey Vulture 2
American Coot 26
American Crow 1