Monday, September 30, 2013

September Summary

Great Black-backed Gulls & Royal Terns, Barnegat Light SP
September is peak migration for shorebirds, so we got a lot of those, and in the early middle of warbler migration, so, while didn't get great numbers all at once, we did do decently in that department too. For the month we had 150 species.

I think this may have been the first month this year that we birded entirely within New Jersey, so that just goes to show the kind of diversity of birds this little state gets. As to FOY there were only 4--obviously, as the year progresses, it gets more difficult to add new birds for the year. My count for Ocean County is up to 198, thanks to some new warbler species for me and also due to my desperation trip to Long Beach Island to finally chalk up pelicans and Royal Terns.

Many rare and/or hard to find shorebirds this month. Buff-breasted and Baird's Sandpipers on the same day and in the same scope view were obvious highlights. But to show how quickly one becomes jaded, after finding American Golden-Plovers in 3 or 4 different spots (it was a great season for that bird), I found myself saying to another birder that I'd seen enough of them and wasn't going to make the march out to the tip of Sandy Hook again to see one.

The most charming moment of the month occurred yesterday at the Officer's Club at Sandy Hook. I noticed something fluttering near my knee and assume it to be a falling leaf. But the leaf flew upward and turned out to be a Ruby-crowned Kinglet hovering around me.

Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cattus Island County Park
Not much in the way of raptors this month--though Northern Harriers were pretty easy to find. We didn't go to any hawk watches; maybe we'll make it down to Cape May's in October.

I found it interesting how the month split into two parts--the first half was concentrating on shorebirds and after a couple of weeks of intensive searching the sod farms, Whitesbog, and Brig, suddenly you didn't hear anything about sod farms or bogs and the search turned to warblers.

I've found a surprising number of warblers locally; the Pine Barrens are not noted for warbler diversity, but I had a hunch that the power line cut that runs to the south of Crestwood Village might be good in the mornings when a strong sun shines on the pines and jack oak and I wasn't wrong.

The month's list:
Counties birded:
Atlantic, Burlington Cape May, Mercer, Monmouth, Ocean
Species     Location
Canada Goose     CMPSP Hawkwatch Platform
Mute Swan     CMPSP Hawkwatch Platform
Wood Duck     Brigantine NWR
American Black Duck     CMPSP Hawkwatch Platform
Mallard     CMPSP Hawkwatch Platform
Blue-winged Teal     CMPSP Hawkwatch Platform
Northern Shoveler     Brigantine NWR
Northern Pintail     Brigantine NWR
Green-winged Teal     CMPSP Hawkwatch Platform
Wild Turkey     35 Sunset Rd
Common Loon     Cape May Osprey Boat Tour
Pied-billed Grebe     Brigantine NWR
Double-crested Cormorant     Cape May Osprey Boat Tour
Brown Pelican     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
American Bittern     Brigantine NWR
Great Blue Heron     CMPSP Hawkwatch Platform
Great Egret     Cape May Osprey Boat Tour
Snowy Egret     Cape May Osprey Boat Tour
Little Blue Heron     CMPSP Hawkwatch Platform
Tricolored Heron     Cattus Island County Park
Green Heron     White's Bogs
Black-crowned Night-Heron     Brigantine NWR
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron     Brigantine NWR
Glossy Ibis     Cape May Osprey Boat Tour
Turkey Vulture     Cape May Osprey Boat Tour
Osprey     Cape May Osprey Boat Tour
Northern Harrier     Brigantine NWR
Sharp-shinned Hawk     Cattus Island County Park
Cooper's Hawk     Reed's Sod Farm
Bald Eagle     Cape May Osprey Boat Tour
Red-tailed Hawk     Cape May Osprey Boat Tour
Clapper Rail     Cape May Osprey Boat Tour
Sora     Brigantine NWR
American Avocet     Brigantine NWR
American Oystercatcher     Cape May Osprey Boat Tour
Black-bellied Plover     Cape May Osprey Boat Tour
American Golden-Plover     Reed's Sod Farm
Semipalmated Plover     Cape May Osprey Boat Tour
Piping Plover     Holgate
Killdeer     Reed's Sod Farm
Spotted Sandpiper     Brigantine NWR
Solitary Sandpiper     Brigantine NWR
Greater Yellowlegs     Cape May Osprey Boat Tour
Willet     Brigantine NWR
Lesser Yellowlegs     Wetlands Institute
Whimbrel     Brigantine NWR
Hudsonian Godwit     Brigantine
Marbled Godwit     Cape May Osprey Boat Tour
Ruddy Turnstone     Cape May Osprey Boat Tour
Red Knot     Holgate
Stilt Sandpiper     Wetlands Institute
Sanderling     Holgate
Dunlin     Brigantine NWR
Baird's Sandpiper     Brigantine NWR
Least Sandpiper     Cape May Osprey Boat Tour
White-rumped Sandpiper     Brigantine NWR
Buff-breasted Sandpiper     Brigantine NWR
Pectoral Sandpiper     Reed's Sod Farm
Semipalmated Sandpiper     Cape May Osprey Boat Tour
Western Sandpiper     Wetlands Institute
Short-billed Dowitcher     Cape May Osprey Boat Tour
Long-billed Dowitcher     Brigantine NWR
Laughing Gull     Cape May Osprey Boat Tour
Ring-billed Gull     Holgate
Herring Gull     Cape May Osprey Boat Tour
Lesser Black-backed Gull     Holgate
Great Black-backed Gull     Cape May Osprey Boat Tour
Least Tern     Holgate
Gull-billed Tern     Brigantine NWR
Caspian Tern     Cape May Osprey Boat Tour
Common Tern     Cape May Osprey Boat Tour
Forster's Tern     Cape May Osprey Boat Tour
Royal Tern     Sandy Hook
Black Skimmer     CMPSP Hawkwatch Platform
Rock Pigeon     Reed's Sod Farm
Mourning Dove     Reed's Sod Farm
Yellow-billed Cuckoo     Sandy Hook
Eastern Whip-poor-will     35 Sunset Rd
Chimney Swift     Sandy Hook
Ruby-throated Hummingbird     Union Transportation Trail
Belted Kingfisher     Crestwood Village
Red-bellied Woodpecker     Colliers Mills WMA
Downy Woodpecker     Union Transportation Trail
Hairy Woodpecker     Brigantine NWR
Northern Flicker     Crestwood Village
Merlin     Holgate
Peregrine Falcon     Brigantine NWR
Eastern Wood-Pewee     35 Sunset Rd
Least Flycatcher     35 Sunset Rd
Eastern Phoebe     Crestwood Village
Eastern Kingbird     Brigantine NWR
White-eyed Vireo     Brigantine NWR
Red-eyed Vireo     Sandy Hook
Blue Jay     Reed's Sod Farm
American Crow     Crestwood Village
Fish Crow     Crestwood Village
Horned Lark     Reed's Sod Farm
Purple Martin     Cape May Osprey Boat Tour
Tree Swallow     Cape May Osprey Boat Tour
Bank Swallow     Brigantine NWR
Barn Swallow     Reed's Sod Farm
Carolina Chickadee     Union Transportation Trail
Black-capped Chickadee     Sandy Hook
Tufted Titmouse     Crestwood Village
White-breasted Nuthatch     Crestwood Village
House Wren     Crestwood Village
Marsh Wren     Brigantine NWR
Carolina Wren     Reed's Sod Farm
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher     Brigantine NWR
Golden-crowned Kinglet     Sandy Hook
Ruby-crowned Kinglet     Brigantine NWR
Eastern Bluebird     Colliers Mills WMA
American Robin     Wetlands Institute
Gray Catbird     Union Transportation Trail
Brown Thrasher     Brigantine NWR
Northern Mockingbird     Wetlands Institute
European Starling     Wetlands Institute
Cedar Waxwing     Sandy Hook
Northern Waterthrush     Sandy Hook
Black-and-white Warbler     Colliers Mills WMA
Common Yellowthroat     Whiting WMA
American Redstart     Brigantine NWR
Northern Parula     Sandy Hook
Magnolia Warbler     Crestwood Village
Yellow Warbler     Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Blackpoll Warbler     Sandy Hook
Black-throated Blue Warbler     Sandy Hook
Palm Warbler     Sandy Hook
Pine Warbler     Colliers Mills WMA
Yellow-rumped Warbler     Colliers Mills WMA
Prairie Warbler     Crestwood Village
Black-throated Green Warbler     Colliers Mills WMA
Eastern Towhee     35 Sunset Rd
Chipping Sparrow     Union Transportation Trail
Savannah Sparrow     Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Saltmarsh Sparrow     Brigantine NWR
Seaside Sparrow     Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Song Sparrow     Reed's Sod Farm
White-throated Sparrow     Colliers Mills WMA
Scarlet Tanager     Allaire State Park
Northern Cardinal     35 Sunset Rd
Blue Grosbeak     Brigantine NWR
Indigo Bunting     Union Transportation Trail
Bobolink     Brigantine NWR
Red-winged Blackbird     Cape May Osprey Boat Tour
Common Grackle     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Boat-tailed Grackle     Cape May Osprey Boat Tour
House Finch     35 Sunset Rd
American Goldfinch     Crestwood Village
House Sparrow     Reed's Sod Farm
Least Sandpipers, Cattus Island County Park

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Sandy Hook 9/29--Yellow Birds

Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Photos: Shari Zirlin
We spent a couple of hours at Sandy Hook today. Getting a late start, I didn't expect much, but as soon as we got out of the car at the Battery Potter parking lot, I looked into a tree and immediately espied a Yellow-billed Cuckoo in plain sight. I was looking there because Shari saw a cardinal fly in when we pulling in. Never saw the cardinal again. While Shari took loads of pictures of the cuckoo I continued looking into the foliage and soon saw my FOS Golden-crowned Kinglet. Shari said it was going to be yellow bird day. I crossed the road and in quick succession I found a Yellow-rumped Warbler and a Common Yellowthroat. Shari came over, saw a few more yumpers and the yellowthroat and then found a Black-and-White Warbler. "Hey, you ruined the streak," she scolded the bird. We walked along a little path in the woods (where someone had oddly dumped a batch of tomatillo plants with perfectly good fruit on them) and in a little clearing came up with a Northern Parula (which also has a lot of yellow on it).

We walked over to the Officer's Club (it must have been great back in its heyday) and there we found Ruby-crowned Kinglet central. They seemed to be in every tree on the property but especially in a huge catalpa that had foot-long pods hanging from it. We found a couple of Black-throated Blue females, easily identified by their little white "handkerchiefs" on the wings, but the most curious sighting was Shari's finding of a Northern Waterthrush on the lawn. It is very peculiar to find this bird nowhere in sight of water. But in fall migration, I guess, birds are apt to land anywhere.
That made 6 warbler species in about an hour. Add in the Cedar Waxwings (always a crowd favorite) we found over by the hawkwatch and we had a pretty good day. Quality over quantity.
23 species
Canada Goose  125
Turkey Vulture  1
Herring Gull  2
Mourning Dove  5
Yellow-billed Cuckoo  1    Battery Potter
Northern Flicker  1
Black-capped Chickadee  2    Resident chickadee of Sandy Hook. Gave slower call.
Carolina Wren  1    Heard
Golden-crowned Kinglet  2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  10
American Robin  2    Heard
Gray Catbird  3
European Starling  1
Cedar Waxwing  5
Northern Waterthrush  1    Officer's club
Black-and-white Warbler  1
Common Yellowthroat  1
Northern Parula  1
Black-throated Blue Warbler  2    Officer's club
Yellow-rumped Warbler  5
Eastern Towhee  1    Heard
Northern Cardinal  1
House Sparrow  1    Guardian Park

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Brigantine 9/28--Walking & Driving

We did something this morning @ Brig that I've always wanted to do--took a long walk around the refuge on the trails away from the Wildlife Drive. Friends of Forsythe give an early morning walk every Saturday that has two big advantages over just doing it yourself: Excellent local birders who know the turf and a leader who has permission to walk trails that are normally off-limits.  The weather was cool and breezy so bugs were not a problem. No matter how slowly you go in your car, you can't beat walking for finding passerines.

Starting out on the boardwalk of the Leeds Eco-trail we got naked eye close up looks of a couple of Marsh Wrens--I doubt I've ever seen them so near or for such extended views. Brown Thrashers (a bird I always feel lucky to see) were flying along the tree line across the marsh and when we walked the gravel part of the trail, we found an immature Blue Grosbeak sitting plainly in view in a bare tree. We also managed 3 species of warblers there--Yellow, Pine and American Redstart. A low flying adult Bald Eagle was a treat. I never really get tired of Bald Eagles (unless I'm in Alaska where they replace pigeons).

Along the road to the Gull Pond Tower we found more warblers, both races (Western & Yellow) of Palm Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, a small flock of Yellow-rumps as well as my personal favorite passerine, Cedar Waxwings.

The real fun began when we walked along the dike from the Gull Tower that is usually verboten to pedestrians. It was there that we flushed an American Bittern out of the marsh and watched it fly off for a good long while--usually they dive down pretty quickly. We were seeing parts of the refuge that are normally hidden, including the weather station they have out at the end of the dike. Making a left we walked along a path that looked recently mowed and emerged out on the road past Jen's Trail. When  you drive along this part of the road it is very hard to see birds unless you park out of the way and walk a bit--something we rarely do. But moseying along we found plenty of birds--Red-eyed Vireos were called out from every direction and we also had Black-and White Warblers, plus more redstarts. Shari had a Northern Parula, but I missed that one. So, 8 warbler species, which is not bad for Brig and the group tallied 63 species walking around, out of which I managed 50. It was a 4 mile walk so we got our exercise in--I admit to often feeling guilty about not walking on the days we bird Brig.

We zipped off to a decent restaurant we know for lunch and returned to do a circuit of the Wildlife Drive. About 1/3 of the way around we found Mike, Pete, Scott and Linda behind us--they had been leading a donor trip in the morning and were now doing their second trip. We drove around with them and since great birders attract great birds, it seems, we got some unusual birds. On their first trip they had seen a dozen Hudsonian Godwits so we were looking for them.  A couple of birders had one "Hudwit" in here scope on the north dike, but she mentioned that she'd seen a Buff-breasted Sandpiper at the dogleg--about 1/2 mile behind us on the one-way drive.  "Gee, missed it," I thought.

Not with that gang. Mike proceeded to back up the road and Shari took over the wheel and followed him. There was no way my driving skills were going to get us there. The last time I backed up that far was 20 years ago, getting on the freight boat to Martha's Vineyard and I had lots of crewmen directing me, patiently.  I got vaguely car sick watching the scenery recede. It reminded me of being stuck in one of the wrong-facing seats on a commuter train. But we got there with no one in the marsh or channel and once Scott found the bird and gave us a landmark there were 4 "I got its" in quick succession. It is getting a little late for a buffy to still be around if it's going to make it to the southern end of South America. The Peregrine Falcon flying above was also an ominous sign.

When we continued our tour going in the right direction the godwit, along with most of the other shorebirds, was gone, no doubt due to the falcon, and the final cool bird we found was a Tri-colored Heron that Pete picked out on an island of egrets. As I said to Linda, as we were hanging out on the upland part of the trail toward the end of the trip, "There are worse ways to spend the day."

For the great day I had 71 species. The lists:
Leed's Eco-trail, Cross-dike, Upland Section of Road
50 Species
Canada Goose  10
Wood Duck  9
American Black Duck  1
Mallard  2
Double-crested Cormorant  100
American Bittern  1
Great Blue Heron  1
Great Egret  10
Little Blue Heron  2
Turkey Vulture  5
Osprey  1
Northern Harrier  2
Cooper's Hawk  1
Bald Eagle  1
Laughing Gull  100
Ring-billed Gull  1
Herring Gull  20
Mourning Dove  1
Belted Kingfisher  1    Heard
Red-bellied Woodpecker  3    Heard
Downy Woodpecker  2
Northern Flicker  1
Eastern Phoebe  3
Red-eyed Vireo  3
Blue Jay  5
American Crow  3
Tree Swallow  15
Carolina Chickadee  5
Tufted Titmouse  1
House Wren  1
Marsh Wren  2
Carolina Wren  3    Heard
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  1
Gray Catbird  5
Brown Thrasher  2
European Starling  25
Cedar Waxwing  5
Black-and-white Warbler  2
Common Yellowthroat  1
American Redstart  3
Yellow Warbler  3
Palm Warbler (Western)  2
Palm Warbler (Yellow)  3
Pine Warbler  2
Yellow-rumped Warbler  3
Savannah Sparrow  1
Song Sparrow  5
Northern Cardinal  2
Blue Grosbeak  1    Leed's Eco Trail
American Goldfinch  5

Wildlife Drive
39 species (+2 other taxa)
Canada Goose  75
Mute Swan  7
American Black Duck  10
Mallard  15
Blue-winged Teal  2    Exit pond
Northern Pintail  1    South dike
Double-crested Cormorant  75
Great Blue Heron  10
Great Egret  70
Snowy Egret  20
Little Blue Heron  2
Tricolored Heron  1
Turkey Vulture  9
Osprey  1
Northern Harrier  1
Black-bellied Plover  50
Semipalmated Plover  3
Greater Yellowlegs  5
Willet (Western)  1
Hudsonian Godwit  1
Dunlin  4
Buff-breasted Sandpiper  1
Semipalmated Sandpiper  9
Western Sandpiper  1
Short-billed/Long-billed Dowitcher  200    Large distant flock of dowitchers 
Laughing Gull  100
Herring Gull (American)  20
Great Black-backed Gull  2
Caspian Tern  1
Forster's Tern  100
Belted Kingfisher  1
Peregrine Falcon  1
Blue Jay  1    Heard
crow sp.  3
Tree Swallow  5
Carolina Chickadee  1    Heard
Carolina Wren  1    Heard
European Starling  20
Eastern Towhee  1    Heard
Seaside Sparrow  2
Boat-tailed Grackle  5

Friday, September 20, 2013

Cutting Down More Trees

I guess the HOA here is worried about a tough winter because the guys from the tree cutting service showed up this afternoon to do prophylactic tree removal on the three dead trees in the front corner of our property. One of the trees was precariously close to a lamp post. Actually, they were just beyond the front corner of our property, so not our responsibility. Otherwise, Shari would have had them down long ago.  I have to say I am of two minds about them coming down: on the one hand, the dead tree were unattractive; on the other, they did attract a lot of birds, particularly woodpeckers. While the crew was working, a Mourning Dove flew in, alighted on the tip of the tallest tree, realized this was not a steady perch and flew off.

I wish I'd known they were coming--I would have taken some "before" photos. Here are the "after" shots:
I thought they would use the bucket on a crane to bring down the largest tree, but instead, one guy just peeled the bark away from the tree, made some strategic cuts with his chain saw, and pushed the tree over!
Spewing out the wood chips.
Cleaning up.
My neighbor timed the whole job: 53 minutes to take down 3 trees and clean up. Fully half the time was spent sweeping, blowing, and raking twigs, bark, and wood chips off the grass and out of the street. So 27 minutes, roughly to make 3 trees completely disappear. To quote Leonard Cohen: We are so lightly here.
Why only two stumps if I said there were 3 trees? Two of the trees were joined at the very bottom and shared a root system. I suppose it is a minor philosophical botanical question as to whether it was one tree with two trunks or two trees. Here's the solution: the HOA is getting charged for 3 trees.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Barnegat Light SP 9/19--Brown Pelican

Brown Pelican
I went to Barnegat Light SP this morning determined to add Brown Pelican to my year list--it's damn embarrassing for that big a bird to be absent this late. I'd seen a couple of days ago that large numbers had been recorded--I figured at least one would stay around. As it happens, many more than one were present--I found a few across the inlet on the Island Beach side on my first scope view and, as I continued along the walkway, more and more kept popping up, either resting on the sand bar or else gliding by like, looking, I don't know why this image comes to mind, like the old Pan Am flying boats of the 30's. Pterodactyls are the more usual simile--they look like that too.
Royal Terns (Juvenile begging from adult)
I also wanted to finally add Royal Tern to my Ocean County list. Again, there was an abundance of birds on the beach, many of them juveniles still begging food from the adults. They're great looking birds with their tonsures and huge beaks, just slightly small than Caspian Terns, which, as every field leader will tell you, is the largest tern in the world.

Another interesting sight this morning was the huge flock of Tree Swallows I at first saw swirling over the dunes. Later, as I made my way to the beach, I found most of the flock sitting on the beach. The picture below gives you an idea of how many were on the sand--you'd have to extend the picture both left and right to get a true grasp of the numbers. I listed the number at 1000, but doing a quick & dirty count on this photo alone gives me that number.
Tree Swallows on the beach
With the Brown Pelican added to the list, I'm up to 195 species for Ocean County--I have a good chance to make 200 if I can find some more warblers, and/or add a couple of ducks before the year is out. The Royal Terns brought my county life list up to 219--good enough for #4 in Ocean County. I'll never get to #1 here unless I give up my fear of pelagic trips. But you know, it's not a competition (unless I'm winning).

For the day I had 22 species at Barnegat Light, plus a Forster's Tern and a couple of Belted Kingfishers on the bay side after I left the park.
Double-crested Cormorant  100
Brown Pelican  30
Great Egret  2    Across inlet
American Oystercatcher  4
Ruddy Turnstone  5
Sanderling  40
Laughing Gull  20
Herring Gull  200
Great Black-backed Gull  20
Royal Tern  45
Mourning Dove  2
Merlin  1
American Crow  3
Fish Crow  5
Tree Swallow  1000    
Carolina Wren  1    Heard
Gray Catbird  2    Heard
European Starling  2
Northern Cardinal  1    Parking lot
Common Grackle  1
House Finch  2
House Sparrow  7