Sunday, June 30, 2013

June Wrap-up

Upland Sandpiper, Lakehurst NAES
Photo: Shari Zirlin
June is supposed to start the summer birding doldrums, the period between migrations, but we did all right with one life bird (MISSISSIPPI KITE on Staten Island) and 16 first of year birds. It was also a good month for time of year rarities--birds that should have moved on by now but for whatever reason, didn't get the message, like the Ruddy Duck and Hooded Merganser we found at Brig, the Common Loon I saw at Tuckerton a couple of weeks ago, and especially interesting these very late or extremely early Brants I saw on Friday hanging out in a marina parking lot on Great Bay Blvd.
Brants hang around later than most waterfowl because they nest farther north than most waterfowl but the end of the June is really stretching it. These two are probably at a procreative dead end, at least for this season. 

I found myself gravitating to a couple of places more so than normal--one inland Colliers Mills, was very productive for passerines, and the other, Great Bay Blvd, got me a fair number of marsh birds plus surprisingly, Willow Flycatcher a few times.  The main reason I kept returning to these spots was that I knew I had a decent chance of adding to my Bird A Day list, though at this point, unless I can turn up a Blue Grosbeak, Colliers Mills is pretty much exhausted until migration starts anew, while Great Bay Blvd still has potential for a couple of birds. But I truly doubt I'm going to make it too much farther in July. In just the last week I had to use "reliables" like Canada Goose and Turkey Vulture. Even driving down to Brigantine every day wouldn't extend the streak very much. And, as I've said before, this is starting to seem like a job and I like being retired.  I can tell you Shari will certainly be happy when the streak ends. 

For the month the tally is 135 species, not as long a list as last month, but last month had migration in Ohio.
Counties birded:
New Jersey: Atlantic, Burlington, Monmouth, Ocean, Somerset
New York: Richmond
Species      Location
Brant      Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Canada Goose      Colliers Mills WMA
Mute Swan      Brigantine
Wood Duck      Double Trouble State Park
American Black Duck      Brigantine
Mallard      Crestwood Village
Hooded Merganser      Brigantine
Ruddy Duck      Brigantine
Wild Turkey      35 Sunset Rd
Common Loon      Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Double-crested Cormorant      Great Kills Park
Great Blue Heron      Colliers Mills WMA
Great Egret      Double Trouble State Park
Snowy Egret      Great Kills Park
Little Blue Heron      Cattus Island County Park
Tricolored Heron      Cattus Island County Park
Green Heron      White's Bogs
Black-crowned Night-Heron      Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Glossy Ibis      Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Black Vulture      Lakehurst NAES
Turkey Vulture      Colliers Mills WMA
Osprey      Great Bay Bvld. WMA
MISSISSIPPI KITE      Cemetery of the Resurrection
Cooper's Hawk      Colliers Mills WMA
Bald Eagle      Assunpink WMA
Red-tailed Hawk      Colliers Mills WMA
Clapper Rail      Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Virginia Rail      Great Bay Bvld. WMA
American Coot      Brigantine
Black-bellied Plover      Brigantine
Semipalmated Plover      Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Killdeer      Colliers Mills WMA
American Oystercatcher      Great Kills Park
American Avocet      Brigantine
Willet      Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Lesser Yellowlegs      Brigantine
Upland Sandpiper      Lakehurst NAES
Whimbrel      Brigantine
Marbled Godwit      Brigantine
Ruddy Turnstone      Brigantine
Semipalmated Sandpiper      Brigantine
Dunlin      Brigantine
Short-billed Dowitcher      Brigantine
Laughing Gull      Great Kills Park
Herring Gull      Crestwood Village
Great Black-backed Gull      Great Kills Park
Least Tern      Horicon Lake
Gull-billed Tern      Brigantine
Caspian Tern      Brigantine
Common Tern      Mt. Loretto
Forster's Tern      Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Black Skimmer      Brigantine
Rock Pigeon      Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Mourning Dove      Colliers Mills WMA
Yellow-billed Cuckoo      White's Bogs
Black-billed Cuckoo      Forest Hill Rd
Barred Owl      Lakehurst NAES
Common Nighthawk      Colliers Mills WMA
Chuck-will's-widow      E. Bay Ave, Barnegat
Eastern Whip-poor-will      35 Sunset Rd
Chimney Swift      Crestwood Village
Ruby-throated Hummingbird      35 Sunset Rd
Belted Kingfisher      Colliers Mills WMA
Red-headed Woodpecker      Colliers Mills WMA
Red-bellied Woodpecker      Colliers Mills WMA
Downy Woodpecker      Crestwood Village
Northern Flicker      Colliers Mills WMA
American Kestrel      Lakehurst NAES
Peregrine Falcon      Brigantine
Eastern Wood-Pewee      Colliers Mills WMA
Acadian Flycatcher      Double Trouble State Park
Willow Flycatcher      Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Eastern Phoebe      Colliers Mills WMA
Great Crested Flycatcher      Colliers Mills WMA
Eastern Kingbird      Colliers Mills WMA
White-eyed Vireo      Double Trouble State Park
Warbling Vireo      Assunpink WMA
Blue Jay      Colliers Mills WMA
American Crow      Crestwood Village
Fish Crow      35 Sunset Rd
Horned Lark      Lakehurst NAES
Northern Rough-winged Swallow      Mt. Loretto
Purple Martin      Brigantine
Tree Swallow      Colliers Mills WMA
Bank Swallow      Lakehurst NAES
Barn Swallow      Double Trouble State Park
Carolina Chickadee      Colliers Mills WMA
Black-capped Chickadee      Mt. Loretto
Tufted Titmouse      Colliers Mills WMA
White-breasted Nuthatch      Colliers Mills WMA
House Wren      Crestwood Village
Marsh Wren      Brigantine
Carolina Wren      Crestwood Village
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher      Colliers Mills WMA
Eastern Bluebird      Colliers Mills WMA
Veery      Double Trouble State Park
Wood Thrush      Double Trouble State Park
American Robin      Colliers Mills WMA
Gray Catbird      Colliers Mills WMA
Northern Mockingbird      Colliers Mills WMA
Brown Thrasher      Colliers Mills WMA
European Starling      Crestwood Village
Cedar Waxwing      Crestwood Village
Ovenbird      Colliers Mills WMA
Black-and-white Warbler      Double Trouble State Park
Common Yellowthroat      Colliers Mills WMA
Yellow Warbler      Great Kills Park
Blackpoll Warbler      Colliers Mills WMA
Pine Warbler      Crestwood Village
Prairie Warbler      Colliers Mills WMA
Yellow-breasted Chat      Assunpink WMA
Eastern Towhee      Colliers Mills WMA
Chipping Sparrow      Colliers Mills WMA
Field Sparrow      Negri-Nepote Grasslands
Grasshopper Sparrow      Negri-Nepote Grasslands
Saltmarsh Sparrow      Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Seaside Sparrow      Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Song Sparrow      Crestwood Village
Swamp Sparrow      Assunpink WMA
Scarlet Tanager      Colliers Mills WMA
Northern Cardinal      Colliers Mills WMA
Rose-breasted Grosbeak      Assunpink WMA
Blue Grosbeak      Mt. Loretto
Indigo Bunting      Colliers Mills WMA
Dickcissel      Negri-Nepote Grasslands
Red-winged Blackbird      Colliers Mills WMA
Eastern Meadowlark      Lakehurst NAES
Common Grackle      35 Sunset Rd
Boat-tailed Grackle      Great Kills Park
Brown-headed Cowbird      Colliers Mills WMA
Orchard Oriole      Double Trouble State Park
Baltimore Oriole      Colliers Mills WMA
House Finch      35 Sunset Rd
American Goldfinch      Crestwood Village
House Sparrow      Mt. Loretto

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Barnegat Twp 6/26--Chuck-will's-widow

Tonight we drove down to Barnegat Township around the Forsythe impoundments to listen, successfully, for Chuck-will's-widows. I've always wondered why we get so many Whip-poor-wills and no Chucks around here and the answer, of course, is habitat. Whips prefer hardwood forests--plenty of that 25 feet from the house. On Saturday, talking about nightjars with Scott Barnes, he told me that Chuck-will's-widow is found around here in the marshes east of Route 9--they're more of a coastal bird. I knew from eBird there was a spot where one birder was often listing them, so just as it got dark we drove over Double Creek Bridge and pulled to the side on East Bay Avenue. We didn't have to wait long to hear two birds bellowing their eponymous calls. Scott also told me that, unlike Whips, which will call all night (don't I know it!) Chucks are crepuscular--they call for a short time on either side of sundown and then shut up, so I knew that if we didn't hear them right away, we weren't going to hear them.

Shari teased me that I only wanted the bird for my Bird A Day list but she was wrong--I wanted it for
my Bird A Day list P
my year listP
my Jersey year listP
my Ocean County year listP
and my Ocean County life list.P

And also, just for the thrill of tracking one down.P

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Brigantine 6/23--American Avocet

Normally, we would travel down to Bombay Hook in Delaware to see this bird:
Photo: Shari Zirlin
But every once in a while an American Avocet wends its way a little farther north and since we may not get to Delaware this summer, we went down to Brig to find it today. And we found it easily; it was in the same place it had been reported and, to make it easier, Gregory Cantrell was standing on the road with his scope on the bird when we pulled up.

That was the main attraction. A bonus would have been the reported Ruff that was found yesterday hanging out with the Black Skimmers on the sand bar where we had the Marbled Godwits last week.  The godwits were there again, but despite two trips around the loop no one, to my knowledge, reported the Ruff. We had one "maybe" from another birder we know who thought he might have had it, in bad light, around 6:20 this morning. I'll be curious to see if the Ruff shows up again--it might need a low tide to be attracted back to the impoundment.

We had our usual favorite birds--the skimmers, a few American Oystercatchers, a Caspian Tern and some Gull-biled Terns, as well as the lingering, or, at this point, summering, Ruddy Duck. The Green-head Flies were out in force, bashing against the windows of the car as we drove along, but a combination of the wafting breeze and a few good spritzes of Off! seemed to keep them off us for the most part when we ventured out of the car.

50 species for our two loops around the drive:
Canada Goose  150
Mute Swan  7
Mallard  10
Ruddy Duck  1    Stiff tail, white face, swimming in channel to right of north dike.
Double-crested Cormorant  10
Great Blue Heron  1
Great Egret  25
Snowy Egret  20
Black-crowned Night-Heron  3
Glossy Ibis  25
Osprey  8
Bald Eagle  1
Clapper Rail  2
Black-bellied Plover  1    Basic plumage
American Oystercatcher  6
American Avocet  1    
Willet  50
Marbled Godwit  2    
Laughing Gull  300
Herring Gull  50
Great Black-backed Gull  2
Least Tern  2
Gull-billed Tern  3
Caspian Tern  1
Forster's Tern  50
Black Skimmer  25
Mourning Dove  1
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  2    Visitor Ctr feeders
Peregrine Falcon  1
Great Crested Flycatcher  1
Eastern Kingbird  1
Fish Crow  1
Purple Martin  6
Tree Swallow  5
Barn Swallow  4
Carolina Chickadee  2
Carolina Wren  1    Heard
American Robin  2
Gray Catbird  2
European Starling  2
Common Yellowthroat  5    Heard
Yellow Warbler
  2    Heard
Eastern Towhee  1    Heard
Chipping Sparrow  2
Field Sparrow  1    Heard
Seaside Sparrow  1
Song Sparrow  2
Red-winged Blackbird  75
Common Grackle  5
House Finch  2    Picnic tables

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Assunpink WMA 6/22--Black-billed Cuckoo, Yellow-breasted Chat

While Shari supervised the installation of our patio today, I high-tailed it out of here (there's only so much mariachi music I can stand) up to Assunpink to join an All Things Birds field trip led by NJ Audubon's Scott Barnes. The target bird, for me at least, was Yellow-breasted Chat, a bird I don't see that often and one I haven't seen in NJ in years. We got that early as we walked the trail to the aviation beacon, a nice bright male that jumped out onto a branch, surprising us, since we were expecting to have to scan the grasslands for it. Indigo Buntings were abundant--4 or 5 males flying around, vying for territory and one lone female--hard to tell if she was attached to any of the males. Another interesting bird in that field is one that I would have totally overlooked (I would use "overheard" but it isn't congruent in this sense) was a Rose-breasted Grosbeak that Scott heard and pointed out to the group. If I had been by myself and had even noticed the song, I would have presumed it to be a robin, though it is slightly different when you pay attention.  Note to self: pay attention.

Every time I go to Assunpink it seems to get bigger. Scott knows his way around and took us to some spots I'd never been to, like Stone Tavern Lake, where we found Warbling Vireo, more buntings, Orchard Orioles, and a fair number of Common Yellowthroats. Then we plunged deep into terra incognita, as the road turned from paved to dirt, to rough dirt, past another entrance to Stone Tavern Lake and then back to paved. By now, I was so turned around that I didn't even know if we were still in Assunpink; Scott assured me we were. Along this road we heard a few Wood Thrushes, heard a Swamp Sparrow, and saw a brilliant male Scarlet Tanager.

We drove down the road some more and suddenly the landscape became familiar and I instantly flipped from "where the hell are we?" to "oh yeah, I know this road." Our final stop was around the bend to the other side of Assunpink Lake, opposite the boat launch. It was there, near the famous mulberry tree, that we heard the "coo-coo" of a Black-billed Cuckoo. We doubled back to where we thought the bird was, but never found it. Would have like to have seen that bird. Interestingly, I realized a few minutes later that it wasn't my first Black-billed Cuckoo of the year--on Staten Island earlier this month I heard the same call as we crept along in traffic on Forest Hill Road. I just wasn't sure that day and birding wasn't first on my mind (a rare event, admittedly); hearing it again today confirmed it.

For the day I had 46 species. I'm sure the total for the group was a bit more than that.
Canada Goose  16    Assunpink Lake
Mute Swan  2    Stone Tavern lake
Mallard  1    Assunpink Lake
Great Blue Heron  1
Great Egret  1
Turkey Vulture  10
Bald Eagle  2    Flying over Assunpink Lake
Red-tailed Hawk  3
Black-billed Cuckoo  1    
Northern Flicker  2
Eastern Phoebe  1
Eastern Kingbird  3
White-eyed Vireo  2    Heard
Warbling Vireo  1
Blue Jay  1
Purple Martin  2
Tree Swallow  1
Bank Swallow  1
Barn Swallow  5
Carolina Chickadee  4
Tufted Titmouse  1    Heard
Carolina Wren  1    Heard
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  1
Wood Thrush  3    Heard
American Robin  15
Gray Catbird  5
Brown Thrasher  1
Cedar Waxwing  10
Common Yellowthroat  15
Yellow Warbler  5
Yellow-breasted Chat
Eastern Towhee  2
Chipping Sparrow  5
Field Sparrow  4    Aviation beacon field
Song Sparrow  2    Heard
Swamp Sparrow  1    Heard Clarksburg-Robbinsville Road.
Scarlet Tanager  1    Clarksburg-Robbinsville Road.
Northern Cardinal  1    Heard
Rose-breasted Grosbeak  1    
Indigo Bunting  10
Red-winged Blackbird  25
Common Grackle  2
Brown-headed Cowbird  1    Begging from robin. Are robins parasitized by cowbirds?
Orchard Oriole  3
American Goldfinch  1
House Sparrow  1

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Lakehurst NAES 6/19--Upland Sandpiper, Barred Owl, Horned Lark, Bank Swallow

Photos: Shari Zirlin
About the only reliable place in NJ to see Upland Sandpipers is off limits to most civilians most of the year: the former Lakehurst  Naval Aviation Engineering Station, now part of the huge McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst Joint Base. You might run across them during migration on some of the sod farms in the central part of the state, but to seem them on their breeding grounds, Lakehurst is the place. Once a year NJ Audubon organizes a couple of trips there, where, with the assistance of the base biologist and arborist, you're brought to the jump circle which is managed by cutting and prescribed burning as habitat for this threatened species (its worldwide population probably numbers in the low 5 figures). Obviously, we went there today on a trip led by Pete Bacinski, Linda Mack and Scott Barnes and the sandpipers did not disappoint, appearing fairly quickly after our arrival and putting on a great aerial display, as seems appropriate for an airbase.

The other rare and threatened species we saw today was Grasshopper Sparrow--we go a year without seeing them then see them twice in a week.Also around the jump circle (yes, this is where they practice parachuting, so keeping it free of trees is essential) were a couple of other grassland birds--Eastern Meadowlark, singing like a rotary dial telephone (you kids can look it up), and a Horned Lark standing on the side of the road.

At another spot, at the end of a runway where giant cargo planes were practicing "touch and goes" Scott displayed his amazing owl mimicking ability, hooting like a Barred Owl, which eventually called back to him, perhaps a little irritably. The other new bird for the year was Bank Swallow, a bird I wouldn't normally think I'd see around here--I have probably misidentified a few as Norther Rough-winged Swallows which were also in the air today, though I missed that species. Glad to see the Bank Swallow, since the area we normally find them, Great Kills Park on Staten Island, no longer harbors the nesting colony that was there since Sandy destroyed the banks in which they dug their burrows.

In all we managed 32 species for the approximately 3 hours we were on the base--it would have been a great morning without the Uppies; with them it was spectacular.

32 species
Wild Turkey  2
Great Blue Heron  1
Green Heron  1
Black Vulture  1
Turkey Vulture  3
Red-tailed Hawk  1
Upland Sandpiper  2    
Mourning Dove  1
Barred Owl  1    Heard
Belted Kingfisher  1
American Kestrel  1
Eastern Phoebe  1    Heard
Eastern Kingbird  3
Horned Lark  1
Tree Swallow  5
Bank Swallow  1
Barn Swallow  3
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  1    Heard
American Robin  1
Gray Catbird  1    Heard
European Starling  1
Cedar Waxwing  1
Ovenbird  2    Heard
Pine Warbler  1    Heard
Chipping Sparrow  1    Heard
Grasshopper Sparrow  5
Song Sparrow  2    Heard
Red-winged Blackbird  3
Eastern Meadowlark  4
Common Grackle  2
Orchard Oriole  1
American Goldfinch  1    Heard

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Great Bay Blvd WMA 6/18--Virginia Rail

Black-crowned Night-Heron
I drove down to Great Bay Blvd this morning, figuring I'd get an easy Bird A Day entry. This Black-crowned Night-Heron was the leading candidate until I was approaching the last & fifth bridge on the alternately named Seven Bridges Road when a Virginia Rail scurried across the path and into the reeds. I only saw it for a second or two--I was driving slowly so I wouldn't squish a terrapin (would that others did the same) so I was pretty confident I had a Virginia--Clapper Rails (I heard one while I was take the night-heron picture) don't move like this bird, which was chicken like in its gait. And I really doubt it was a chicken. So there's today's bird taken care of.

If I could, I'd just drive down to that Tuckerton Marsh every morning to keep in the competition. It's easy to find birds there I haven't used in the contest, while walking in the woods is becoming less and less "productive." However, life gets in the way.

In the inlet a very late Common Loon was close to shore--non-breeding plumage, so I guess it doesn't feel the urge to get north. The only shorebirds were Willets. Two Willow Flycatchers--and I actually saw one perched on a wire--were present. Yet another reason just to play Bird A Day at Great Bay until fall migration begins.

The day's list:
27 species 
Common Loon  1
Double-crested Cormorant  25    f/o flock, long line.
Great Blue Heron  1
Great Egret  20
Snowy Egret  10
Black-crowned Night-Heron  3
Glossy Ibis  10
Osprey  11
Clapper Rail  1    Heard
Virginia Rail  1    
Willet  25
Laughing Gull  100
Herring Gull  50
Great Black-backed Gull  6
Forster's Tern  5
Rock Pigeon  1
Mourning Dove  10
Willow Flycatcher  2
Barn Swallow  15
Gray Catbird  2
Northern Mockingbird  1    Heard
Common Yellowthroat  6
Yellow Warbler
Seaside Sparrow  3
Song Sparrow  6
Red-winged Blackbird  50
Boat-tailed Grackle  75
Good Intentions, Bad Grammar

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Brigantine 6/16--Marbled Godwit

Black Skimmers
Photo: Shari Zirlin
The way these skimmers look is how we felt this morning--not very energetic. After a slow start and some desultory poking around the Barnegat impoundments, we saw that a King Rail was reported at Brigantine. We knew the odds of us seeing the rail were very slim, but it was enough of an impetus to get us to drive about 30 more miles down Rt. 9 to see what would turn up. Spoiler alert: We didn't see the King Rail.

We did, however see enough unusual and/or favorite birds to make the trip worthwhile. Actually, unless you hate birds, any trip, any day, any time of the year, is worthwhile. The first bird I though was unusual, but is not especially, was a lone American Coot that Shari found in the Southwest Pool. I'm glad I don't have to "prove" to eBird that we saw that bird, because my digiscope photos came out awful. 

Moving along on the same sand bar where we found the Society of Depressed Skimmers, we came across two more "big-nose" birds--Shari's favorite,  7 American Oystercatchers, and the first rarity of the day, 2 Marbled Godwits. Very long, bi-colored, slightly upturned bills, warm brown "marbled" mantles--the pair was sitting on the back of the sand bar partially obscured by the bar's hump and though our photos are not the greatest quality, they're good enough for documentation:
Another nice find was a Blue Grosbeak just past the observation tower, pointed out by a photographer to whom we were talking. He exclaimed, "A beautiful blue bird just landed!" He thought it was an Indigo Bunting, but I know my big nose birds! They don't call them GROSbeaks for nothing.

Shari said we were doing great, considering we hadn't even made the first turn yet. I replied it could die in a minute, which was the kiss of death, because after that grosbeak the birding got very slow. Nothing new or even vaguely interesting turned up until we were past the dogleg on the north dike when we spotted the proverbial odd duck. 
It turned out to be our second rarity of the day--a drake Hooded Merganser in basic (non-breeding) plumage. I don't think I've ever seen that. Well, I'm pretty certain it's a drake--it doesn't have the "I've got to get to the hairdresser" look of a hen merganser, but if I'm incorrect in my i.d. I'll let you all know. 

After that we drove slowly along the area where the rail had been reported but as I said, it was a no show. Still, for one turn around the loop in the middle of the day, 48 species is a respectable, enjoyable count, especially considering we were chasing a bird we didn't expect to find. 
Canada Goose  25
Mute Swan  2
American Black Duck  2
Mallard  15
Hooded Merganser  1    Basic plumage male? 
Double-crested Cormorant  1
Great Egret  20
Snowy Egret  50
Black-crowned Night-Heron  1
Glossy Ibis  2
Turkey Vulture  1
Osprey  12
Clapper Rail  3    Heard
American Coot  1
Black-bellied Plover  35
American Oystercatcher  12
Willet  50
Whimbrel  1
Marbled Godwit  2    
Laughing Gull  300
Herring Gull  50
Great Black-backed Gull  10
Gull-billed Tern  8
Forster's Tern  50
Black Skimmer  95
Mourning Dove  3
Peregrine Falcon  1    On tower
Eastern Kingbird  1    Entrance ponds
Fish Crow  20
Purple Martin  15
Tree Swallow  20
Barn Swallow  1
Carolina Chickadee  1    Heard
Tufted Titmouse  1    Heard
Marsh Wren  1    Heard, near Leed Eco-trail
American Robin  4
Gray Catbird  4
Northern Mockingbird  1    Atop Visitor's Ctr
Common Yellowthroat  2    Heard
Yellow Warbler
  2    Heard
Chipping Sparrow  5
Seaside Sparrow  2
Song Sparrow  1
Blue Grosbeak  1    Near Observation Tower, south dike
Red-winged Blackbird  100
Common Grackle  1
Boat-tailed Grackle  1
Brown-headed Cowbird  1    Experimental Pool