Saturday, March 31, 2012

March Summary

Not a very impressive month of birding. Aside from a couple of hours spent in Central Park and Mount Loretto and 1 foray into Burlington County, all my birding was done in Ocean County, and, aside from one day when we went to The Bridge to Nowhere and to Cattus Island County Park, all my birding was done in the environs of the Whiting WMA & Crestwood Village, along with looking out the windows at the feeders. What I'm saying in a long-winded way is that this month birding was pretty local.

67 species. To put it in perspective, on January 1st, we saw 66 species in one day in Cape May County. Granted it was the birding capital of at least the East Coast, but still...

On the positive side, 10 new species for the year and the spring migrants are coming back. I'm looking forward to April:

Counties birded:
NJ: Burlington, Ocean
NY: New York, Richmond
Species       First Sighting
Brant       Mount Loretto Unique Area
Canada Goose       Whiting WMA
Mute Swan       Bridge to Nowhere
Wood Duck       Whiting WMA
Gadwall       Central Park
American Wigeon       Bridge to Nowhere
American Black Duck       Bridge to Nowhere
Mallard       Whiting WMA
Northern Shoveler       Central Park
Green-winged Teal       Bridge to Nowhere
Ring-necked Duck       Whiting WMA
Bufflehead       Cattus Island County Park
Red-breasted Merganser       Mount Loretto Unique Area
Ruddy Duck       Central Park
Wild Turkey       35 Sunset Rd
Pied-billed Grebe       Central Park
Northern Gannet       Mount Loretto Unique Area
Double-crested Cormorant       Mount Loretto Unique Area
Great Blue Heron       Horicon Lake
Great Egret       Cattus Island County Park
Black Vulture       Mt. Holly
Turkey Vulture       Whiting WMA
Osprey       Mount Loretto Unique Area
Cooper's Hawk       Rancocas Nature Center
Red-tailed Hawk       Crestwood Village
American Coot       Central Park
Ring-billed Gull       Crestwood Village
Herring Gull       Bridge to Nowhere
Great Black-backed Gull       Bridge to Nowhere
Rock Pigeon       Toms River
Mourning Dove       Whiting WMA
Red-bellied Woodpecker       Whiting WMA
Downy Woodpecker       35 Sunset Rd
Hairy Woodpecker       Whiting WMA
Northern Flicker       White's Bogs
Eastern Phoebe       White's Bogs
Blue Jay       Whiting WMA
American Crow       Whiting WMA
Fish Crow       Whiting WMA
Tree Swallow       Whiting WMA
Carolina Chickadee       Whiting WMA
Tufted Titmouse       Whiting WMA
White-breasted Nuthatch       Whiting WMA
Brown Creeper       Whiting WMA
Carolina Wren       Whiting WMA
Golden-crowned Kinglet       Whiting WMA
Ruby-crowned Kinglet       Whiting WMA
Eastern Bluebird       Whiting WMA
Hermit Thrush       White's Bogs
American Robin       Whiting WMA
European Starling       Central Park
Palm Warbler       Horicon Lake
Pine Warbler       Whiting WMA
Yellow-rumped Warbler       Horicon Lake
Eastern Towhee       Whiting WMA
Chipping Sparrow       35 Sunset Rd
Song Sparrow       Whiting WMA
White-throated Sparrow       35 Sunset Rd
Dark-eyed Junco       Whiting WMA
Northern Cardinal       Whiting WMA
Red-winged Blackbird       Cattus Island County Park
Common Grackle       Whiting WMA
Boat-tailed Grackle       Bridge to Nowhere
Brown-headed Cowbird       35 Sunset Rd
House Finch       Whiting WMA
American Goldfinch       Whiting WMA
House Sparrow       Mt. Holly

What else would they be doing?

Sunset & Congasia, Whiting, NJ

Friday, March 30, 2012

Horicon Lake 3/30--Palm Warbler

I took about an hour's walk in this Lakehurst park. Its varied habitats (lake, swamp, woods, lawns) have been fairly productive in fall, winter, and spring. I suspect that in the summer, when it is used by more people for recreational activities, birds will be harder to find, except in the mornings, deeper in the woods.

I saw a yellow bird pumping its tail--unmistakably a Palm Warbler, first of the year. Then another one. They were both males and started chasing one another around the trees and into the tangles. Maybe they're staking out nesting territory. I also saw a male and female Pine Warbler back there. They certainly nest around here--plenty of pines.

The lake had geese, a lone Mallard, a pair of Buffleheads, a Pied-billed Grebe, a couple of cormorants and a Great Blue Heron. Pretty lively and last week I saw a couple of Wood Ducks there too.

16 species for the one hour I was there.
Canada Goose  29
Mallard  1
Bufflehead  2
Pied-billed Grebe  1
Double-crested Cormorant  2
Great Blue Heron  1
Turkey Vulture  3
Northern Flicker  1
Fish Crow  2
Tree Swallow  4
Carolina Chickadee  4
Tufted Titmouse  2
American Robin  2
Palm Warbler  2
Pine Warbler  2
Song Sparrow  2

Monday, March 26, 2012

Pine Barrens Bumper Sticker

Below that point it's hard to say.

Whiting WMA 3/26--Eastern Towhee

I took my morning walk in the WMA, paying attention to any stand of trees warmed by the sun. That's where I found most of the birds hopping around. The woods are now a cacophony of bird song--it has to be something pretty different for me to stop, otherwise I'd still be in the woods looking for birds well hidden in the pines.

I heard my first official Eastern Towhee of the year on the rise above the lake. "Official" because I thought I heard one yesterday walking along Sunset Road, but only heard it once and didn't want to list it under such flimsy circumstances. Today's bird was singing "Drink your tea-ee-ee-ee" lustily and loudly; no doubt about. But, of course, I couldn't find it.  This afternoon I heard one singing around the house. They're great the first couple of times, but a whole season of them can be maddening.

I also stop to look for cowbirds because I find their song so pleasing--the male sounds like a drop of water plunking into a bucket. It just doesn't seem like a sound a bird would make.

On the lake yesterday and today I saw 5 Mallard ducklings with their mother--flushed them both times from their hiding place in the reeds along the shore. This seemed very early for duckling to me and after doing a little research on line I found that, like everything else this year, they are early--I'd say by about two weeks.

Twenty-five species today, the numbers keep increasing.
Mallard  8
Ring-necked Duck  2
Mourning Dove  7
Eastern Phoebe  1
Blue Jay  1
American Crow  1
Fish Crow  1
Tree Swallow  3
Carolina Chickadee  20
Tufted Titmouse  4
White-breasted Nuthatch  2
Carolina Wren  1
Eastern Bluebird  2
American Robin  8
Pine Warbler  2
Yellow-rumped Warbler  2
Eastern Towhee  1
Chipping Sparrow  2
Song Sparrow  1
Dark-eyed Junco  4
Northern Cardinal  1
Common Grackle  3
Brown-headed Cowbird  3
House Finch  4
American Goldfinch  3

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Mount Loretto 3/24--Osprey

We made our first trip to Staten Island since moving--dentist appointments. We did a walk along a couple of the trails of Mount Loretto. It's too early for the vernal ponds, or maybe there just wasn't enough rain and snow this winter to form them. Nothing spectacular on view today except perhaps the extremely close looks we got at the Northern Gannets diving into Raritan Bay only about a 100 yards off-shore. It wasn't until we were back in the parking lot, ready to go, that we got our FOY Osprey, hovering over one of the ponds. I was also happy to finally see a cormorant this month--I don't know why but they seem scarce to me this year.

21 species today.
Brant  10
Canada Goose  25
American Black Duck  4
Mallard  7
Red-breasted Merganser  2
Northern Gannet  5
Double-crested Cormorant  1
Turkey Vulture  5
Osprey  1
Red-tailed Hawk  1
American Coot  5
Herring Gull  5
Great Black-backed Gull  2
Downy Woodpecker  1
Northern Flicker  2
Blue Jay  3
Tree Swallow  1
American Robin  10
Song Sparrow  1
Northern Cardinal  1
Red-winged Blackbird  3 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Whitesbog 3/17--Eastern Phoebe

I finally birded out of the county this month--all the way over to the next county--Burlington. We began at historic Whitesbog (home of the cultivated high bush blueberry--the ones you get at the store). On the way in we heard a Pine Warbler and the first bird we saw was an Eastern Bluebird. Before we drove around the bogs we took a short walk on a trail that starts near the parking lot. We heard our first Eastern Phoebe of the year, but we couldn't find it. We walked around Mrs. White's house, the phoebe still insistently calling as they do, when I finally found it, sitting on an TV antenna. I'm thinking the antenna must be an antique, a holdover from when Mrs. White first got a television.

Driving around the bogs we didn't see much in the water except for a fairly large flock of Ring-necked Ducks. Our car kept flushing chickadees, Song Sparrows and a few grackles as we drove along the dikes.

We explored farther west in the county, going to historic Mt. Holly, passing historic Smithville on the way. I think all the "historic" towns down here mean that it was never worth the effort to tear down the old buildings. Walking around the little village streets we saw and heard the expected birds, but what wasn't expected was the Black Vulture I saw flying over West Monroe Street.

As we were driving along I noticed Rancocas Road and the stream that runs through Mt. Holly is Rancocas Creek, so I was curious if we were anywhere near Rancocas State Park, a place we'd only birded once about 3 years ago. I have fond memories of a beaver and Wilson's Snipe we saw there that time. We were very close. 6 minutes away close.

We drove over there and immediately heard a Carolina Wren in the parking lot. Near the nature center I saw a large bird swooping agilely between the trees. A flash of red on the breast, white near the legs. Its call was "kik-kik-kik-kik" A Cooper's Hawk. I wish we could have found it once it landed high in the trees, but I had enough field marks, behavior and call to be confident of the I-D.

The most interesting thing about the park was not birds but frogs. As we got closer to the creek, we heard this amazing cacophony, like a thousand house builders banging nails on a roof. At first we thought it was a huge flock of ducks, but the water was empty and then Shari saw frogs popping their heads out of the mud. The noise was constant--I was surprised, because the only comparable sound I've heard was by Spring Peepers in the Berkshires--but at night, not during the day. I have no idea what sort of frog lives in Rancocas Creek and I'm glad that we don't live near a stream.

On the way home, just as we turned off Rt. 70 onto Pleasant Valley Road, we saw 2 Wild Turkeys walking into the woods.

Combined list for the day tallies 29 species:

Canada Goose 14
Mallard 8
Ring-necked Duck 27
Wild Turkey 2
Black Vulture 1
Turkey Vulture 5
Cooper's Hawk 1
Rock Pigeon 1
Mourning Dove 3
Red-bellied Woodpecker 2
Northern Flicker 1
Eastern Phoebe 3
Blue Jay 2
American Crow 1
Fish Crow 1
Carolina Chickadee 11
Tufted Titmouse 2
White-breasted Nuthatch 1
Carolina Wren 2
Eastern Bluebird 2
Hermit Thrush 1
American Robin 1
Pine Warbler 3
Song Sparrow 3
White-throated Sparrow 2
Northern Cardinal 2
Common Grackle 3
House Finch 2
House Sparrow 2

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Backyard 3/14--Chipping Sparrow

The last couple of days have been warm enough to sit in the backyard and read. If you just sit there a while the birds get used to you and come to the feeder and to pick seeds from the grass. Today, I looked up from the biography of George Orwell and saw my first Chipping Sparrow of the year, another spring arrival.

I don't want to get spoiled. It is only March 14th. Spring doesn't even start for another week. The warm days aren't permanently here. Another cold snap is inevitable, even in this extraordinarily warm winter.

This morning, early, I took a much longer walk than usual in the WMA. Pine Warblers are singing, Tree Swallows are snagging bugs over the fields and the lake, and the four Ring-necked Ducks still patrol the waters.

The combined list--our official backyard and the WMA, which Shari considers our backyard also--was 26 species today.

Canada Goose 1
Mallard 2
Ring-necked Duck 4
Turkey Vulture 1
Mourning Dove 9
Red-bellied Woodpecker 4
Downy Woodpecker 1
Blue Jay 2
American Crow 1
Fish Crow 3
Tree Swallow 8
Carolina Chickadee 25
Tufted Titmouse 15
White-breasted Nuthatch 1
Carolina Wren 1
Eastern Bluebird 4
American Robin 11
Pine Warbler 4
Chipping Sparrow 1
Song Sparrow 5
White-throated Sparrow 2
Dark-eyed Junco 11
Northern Cardinal 3
Common Grackle 14
House Finch 2
American Goldfinch 2

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

More Wild Turkeys

It was so warm this evening that Shari fired up the barbecue to make dinner. While she was tending to her cooking, out of the woods came the Wild Turkeys. At first there were 3 then after a bit another came racing up in a "Wait for me guys," kind of way. So we thought the Gang of Four was back, making their rounds. Then another turkey showed up. They scratched around in the trees in the backyard, finally finding the pan of cracked corn I put out. Then Shari noticed 4 more turkeys in the adjoining yard. 9 Wild Turkeys altogether. A mob. And they all appear to be young males. Cruising the neighborhood on a warm spring-like evening.

They don't appear to be particularly afraid of us; they saw Shari and sauntered away from her into the backyard. Later, while we eating dinner, they came back to the side yard to peck in the grass like gigantic chickens. When we went outside again, they turned onto the path and walked back into the woods. I like that they use the path instead of scrabbling through the underbrush. It entertains me to see them strolling away like boulevardiers.

As it does to eat dinner while turkeys dine outside my window. A year ago, in our apartment in Brooklyn, such a scene was not in my imagination's inventory.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Whiting WMA 3/12--Tree Swallows

I have yet to get out of Ocean County to bird this month. (Well, we gave it a try yesterday, driving around Atlantic County a bit, but it was much too windy to do any satisfactory birding.)

Today I was back in the WMA. 5 Fish Crows. That seems surprising, especially the 3 that were not by the lake but in the dead tree near a couple of hundred feet from our house (they flew into the WMA so they count for the WMA).

While scanning for bluebirds in the 3rd field a bird zoomed by my field of vision, then another. And another. Taking my eyes away from my binoculars I looked up to find my first Tree Swallows of the year--7 in all. Another harbinger of spring.

4 Ring-necked Ducks remain on the  lake--3 drakes and one hen. One of the hens from last week has apparently peeled off.

21 species--the most I've found in the WMA at one time this year.
Canada Goose  1
Mallard  1
Ring-necked Duck  4
Turkey Vulture  1
Mourning Dove  2
Downy Woodpecker  1
Blue Jay  1
Fish Crow  5
Tree Swallow  7
Carolina Chickadee  10
Tufted Titmouse  5
Carolina Wren  1
Eastern Bluebird  5
American Robin  2
Pine Warbler  2
Song Sparrow  2
Dark-eyed Junco  5
Northern Cardinal  1
Common Grackle  1
House Finch  2
American Goldfinch  2

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Bridge to Nowhere 3/10--Boat-tailed Grackle

This is not the one in Alaska but the name alone is worth an entry. I've always been curious about this parcel of the extensive Forsythe Refuge. The bridge, such as it is, really would lead to nowhere--marshes on the western side of Barnegat Bay and what the idea of the bridge was originally is a mystery to me. I was especially interested to see what condition the road was in because American Woodcocks have been reported there and I wanted to see if it was the kind of road we'd be comfortable on driving in the dark. Answer: Yes.

With all that, the birding itself was a disappointment. Not too many waterfowl in the marshes. However, on a wire by the bridge we did see a big ole Boat-tailed Grackle.

After lunch we took a walk in Cattus Island Park. Nothing of note there. Last time I was there the bay was full of Buffleheads. Today there were only about 20. I think we're getting to that time of the year when we'll have to do our birding early in the morning. The birds, except around the feeders, seem to be disappearing mid-day.

Our 2 lists:
Bridge to Nowhere
9 species
Mute Swan  4
American Wigeon  1
American Black Duck  9
Mallard  2
Green-winged Teal  21
Turkey Vulture  6
Herring Gull  4
Great Black-backed Gull  1
Boat-tailed Grackle  1
Cattus Island County Park
14 species
American Black Duck  8
Bufflehead  20
Great Egret  1
Herring Gull  1
Great Black-backed Gull  1
Mourning Dove  2
American Crow  1
Carolina Chickadee  9
Tufted Titmouse  1
Song Sparrow  3
White-throated Sparrow  1
Dark-eyed Junco  1
Northern Cardinal  1
Red-winged Blackbird  5

Back at home, around 5:30 the Wild Turkeys were again the backyard. They also visited yesterday afternoon around lunch. We're referring to them as the Gang of Four. I guess so long as I throw down seed or cracked corn they'll be regulars. There is just something very, very funny about looking out your office window and seeing huge turkeys picking at the grass. 

I didn't realize they were iridescent--I guess I've never seen them in strong sunlight. Their necks have gorgeous blues and reds. And yet when you look at them, disregarding their coloration, they are really ungainly looking birds. An aesthetic conundrum.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Whiting WMA 3/8--Pine Warbler

Spring must be close. I saw my first Pine Warbler this morning flitting low among (what else?) the small pitch pines in the 2nd open area. I almost wrote "my first warbler," but of course, yellow-rumps have been common this winter and then there was the Yellow-breasted Chat at the NYPL.

On the lake this morning were 5 Ring-necked Ducks--3 drakes, 2 hens. Anthropomorphizing again, it looks like the lonely drake I've been seeing has found some friends, but, is he the fifth wheel?

18 species this morning. The counts are climbing.
Canada Goose  4
Mallard  2
Ring-necked Duck  5
Mourning Dove  4
Downy Woodpecker  1
Blue Jay  1
American Crow  1
Carolina Chickadee  12
Tufted Titmouse  3
White-breasted Nuthatch  2
Carolina Wren  1
Eastern Bluebird  3
Pine Warbler  1
Song Sparrow  2
Dark-eyed Junco  11
Common Grackle  1
House Finch  1
American Goldfinch  3

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

New Yard Bird--Wild Turkey

While make meatloaf this evening, I looked out the kitchen window and saw, coming out of the trees, some dark figures that I knew weren't the deer coming back for more food. Finally, we have our Wild Turkeys. Everyone said they're out there; I just hadn't seen them. I was hoping the critter mix I've been putting down (and that the deer as well as the squirrels enjoy) would attract them--it's mostly cracked corn. Maybe it did. Or maybe they were just wandering around at random and happened upon our backyard.

I called Shari to come look then realized she was in the shower. I got her out of the shower. Dripping wet, she took these photos through the bedroom window.

Whiting WMA 3/7--Fish Crow

I saw my first Fish Crow of the year today in the WMA. I heard what I thought was a Fish Crow while walking near Congasia Road, but it was so faint that I wasn't certain. Later, while walking by what I call "the third open area," I heard it again, louder, then looked up to see a crow flying over, the hoarse croak seemingly trailing behind it.

Grackles are starting to show up; single birds flew overhead 3 times. No sign of the Wood Ducks. One goose was standing up in the grass at the end of a cove by the lake. I keep thinking "nest."

Robins and (Uh-oh!) starlings were on the lawn this morning.

14 species this morning on my walk.
Canada Goose  5    Four f/o, one on lake
Mourning Dove  1
American Crow  1
Fish Crow  1
Carolina Chickadee  15
Tufted Titmouse  5
White-breasted Nuthatch  2
Carolina Wren  2
Golden-crowned Kinglet  2
Eastern Bluebird  3
American Robin  2
Song Sparrow  1
Common Grackle  3
American Goldfinch  6

Monday, March 5, 2012

Whiting WMA 3/5--Wood Ducks

I caught a couple of looks at Wood Ducks on the lake today. They were in an ideal spot for them, a secluded cove protected by overhanging tree limbs and bushes along the banks. They first flew back toward the end of the cove where Michael's Branch comes into the lake; then when I walked toward there, I flushed them back to where they were, but they hid really well, and when Wood Ducks want to hide, they're very good at it. But I saw the unmistakable colorful helmets and heard one of them squeak. I guess whoever put that Wood Duck box on the tree in the middle of the water knew something. Maybe the ducks will take advantage of the prefab home provided for them.

No sign of the geese today; that's why I was checking out that cove.

I killed a little time at the lake on Schoolhouse Road this morning while waiting to pick up Shari from an appointment.  A red-tail flew over and a lone ring-bill sat on the gazebo roof.

My combined list for the day, 21 species

Wood Duck
Red-tailed Hawk
Ring-billed Gull
Mourning Dove
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Blue Jay
American Crow
Carolina Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Eastern Bluebird
American Robin
Song Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
House Finch
American Goldfinch

Friday, March 2, 2012

Whiting WMA 3/2--Nature Note

The Ring-necked Duck is back on the lake. He probably never left and I just haven't seen him. It was sweet to watch the little wake he made in the still water. He's still looking for pals. I spotted him alone in the middle of the water. Then I heard ducks to my right. 3 Mallards, 2 drakes and a hen, were proceeding to the far shore. The Ring-neck swam over to them, coming within a few feet of the 3 ducks. Here is what I learned today: Mallards can swim a lot faster than Ring-neck Ducks. They left him in the dust if you'll excuse the inappropriate metaphor.

2 Canada Geese were also on the lake. I suspect they may nest there, since they came out of a protected cove, where I also saw a couple yesterday. They're honking was incredibly loud and echoing and echoing off of what I don't know--there are no hills or vertical surfaces around there except for trees. Maybe the echo is off the water itself.

17 species this morning.
Canada Goose  2
Mallard  3
Ring-necked Duck  1
Turkey Vulture  1
Mourning Dove  2
Red-bellied Woodpecker  1
Downy Woodpecker  1
Blue Jay  2
American Crow  1
Carolina Chickadee  10
Tufted Titmouse  4
White-breasted Nuthatch  2
Eastern Bluebird  3
Song Sparrow  3
Dark-eyed Junco  5
Northern Cardinal  2
American Goldfinch  4