Thursday, October 31, 2013

October Round-up

The Tea Party managed to limit our birding opportunities for the first couple weeks of the month by closing down Sandy Hook, Brig and all the other NWRs and National Parks in the country, just to keep everything in perspective. We finally made it down to Brig last weekend and there duck migration was in evidence, along with a very good helping of the shorebirds that hang around in to fall and winter, like Dunlin and Black-bellied Plover.

We've also been happy to record some new backyard birds for the year, including a Great Horned Owl we've heard hooting a couple of time, as well as a Blue-headed Vireo, which I saw a tree branch right outside my window instead of on the ground after it bashed into said window as was the case with the one we saw this time last year.

"Only" 126 species this month and only two new year birds. Obviously, as the year progresses, the new birds get scarcer. Late fall and winter are the times to pick up any birds you didn't get in the beginning of the year--I'm on the lookout for Redheads and hoping for a Barrow's Goldeneye.

This month's list:
Counties birded:
New Jersey: Atlantic, Burlington, Ocean
New York: Kings
Species      Location     
Brant      Great Bay Bvld. WMA    
Canada Goose      Prospect Park     
Mute Swan      Prospect Park     
Wood Duck      Whiting WMA     
Gadwall      Brigantine 
American Wigeon      White's Bogs     
American Black Duck      Brigantine 
Mallard      Crestwood Village     
Blue-winged Teal      Brigantine 
Northern Shoveler      Prospect Park     
Northern Pintail      Brigantine 
Green-winged Teal      Forsythe--Barnegat
Lesser Scaup      Brigantine 
Surf Scoter      Great Bay Bvld. WMA    
Bufflehead      Cattus Island County Park     
Ruddy Duck      Prospect Park     
Wild Turkey      Palmyra Cove Nature Park     
Common Loon     Island Beach SP 
Pied-billed Grebe      Brigantine 
Double-crested Cormorant      Island Beach SP
Brown Pelican      Island Beach SP
Great Blue Heron     Island Beach SP
Great Egret     Island Beach SP 
Snowy Egret     Island Beach SP
Little Blue Heron      Cattus Island County Park     
Tricolored Heron     Island Beach SP
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron      Great Bay Bvld.   
Glossy Ibis      Brigantine 
Turkey Vulture      Crestwood Village     
Osprey     Island Beach SP
Northern Harrier      Parker Preserve     
Sharp-shinned Hawk      Great Bay Bvld. WMA    
Cooper's Hawk      Whiting power line cut
Broad-winged Hawk      35 Sunset Rd     
Red-tailed Hawk      Brigantine 
Clapper Rail      Great Bay Bvld. WMA     
American Coot      Brigantine 
American Oystercatcher      Great Bay Bvld. WMA    
Black-bellied Plover      Great Bay Bvld. WMA    
Semipalmated Plover      Island Beach SP
Killdeer      Parker Preserve     
Spotted Sandpiper      Palmyra Cove Nature Park     
Greater Yellowlegs      White's Bogs     
Lesser Yellowlegs      Great Bay Bvld. WMA    
Marbled Godwit      Brigantine 
Ruddy Turnstone      Island Beach SP
Red Knot      Island Beach SP
Sanderling      Island Beach SP
Dunlin      Island Beach SP
Pectoral Sandpiper      White's Bogs     
Semipalmated Sandpiper      Great Bay Bvld. 
Long-billed Dowitcher      Brigantine 
Wilson's Snipe      Parker Preserve     
Laughing Gull      Island Beach SP 
Ring-billed Gull      Island Beach SP 
Herring Gull     Island Beach SP 
Great Black-backed Gull     Island Beach SP 
Caspian Tern      Island Beach SP
Forster's Tern      Palmyra Cove Nature Park     
Rock Pigeon      Prospect Park     
Mourning Dove      35 Sunset Rd     
Great Horned Owl      Whiting WMA     
Belted Kingfisher     Island Beach SP
Red-bellied Woodpecker     Island Beach SP 
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker      Palmyra Cove      
Downy Woodpecker      Crestwood Village     
Hairy Woodpecker      Cattus Island County Park     
Northern Flicker     Island Beach SP 
Merlin      35 Sunset Rd     
Peregrine Falcon      Palmyra Cove Nature Park     
Eastern Wood-Pewee     Island Beach SP
Least Flycatcher      Whiting WMA     
Eastern Phoebe     Island Beach SP
Blue-headed Vireo      35 Sunset Rd     
Red-eyed Vireo      Island Beach SP
Blue Jay      Island Beach SP
American Crow      Whiting power line cut
Fish Crow      Toms River     
Tree Swallow     Island Beach SP
Carolina Chickadee     Island Beach SP 
Tufted Titmouse      Whiting power line cut
White-breasted Nuthatch      Whiting power line cut
Brown Creeper      Whiting WMA     
House Wren      Whiting WMA     
Marsh Wren      Cattus Island County Park     
Carolina Wren     Island Beach SP 
Golden-crowned Kinglet      Crestwood Village     
Ruby-crowned Kinglet     Island Beach SP
Eastern Bluebird      Colliers Mills WMA     
Gray-cheeked Thrush      White's Bogs     
Swainson's Thrush      Colliers Mills WMA     
Hermit Thrush      Brigantine 
American Robin      Whiting power line cut
Gray Catbird     Island Beach SP 
Brown Thrasher      Brigantine 
Northern Mockingbird      Island Beach SP 
European Starling      Prospect Park     
Cedar Waxwing      Great Bay Bvld. WMA    
Northern Waterthrush      Prospect Park     
Black-and-white Warbler      Prospect Park     
Common Yellowthroat      Whiting power line cut
American Redstart      Prospect Park     
Northern Parula      Palmyra Cove Nature Park     
Magnolia Warbler      Prospect Park     
Blackpoll Warbler      Prospect Park     
Black-throated Blue Warbler      Prospect Park     
Palm Warbler     Island Beach SP
Pine Warbler      Whiting power line cut
Yellow-rumped Warbler     Island Beach SP 
Eastern Towhee     Island Beach SP 
Chipping Sparrow      35 Sunset Rd     
Field Sparrow      Parker Preserve     
Vesper Sparrow      White's Bogs     
Savannah Sparrow     Island Beach SP
Seaside Sparrow      Great Bay Bvld. WMA    
Song Sparrow      Island Beach SP 
Swamp Sparrow      Whiting power line cut
White-throated Sparrow      Prospect Park     
White-crowned Sparrow     Island Beach SP
Dark-eyed Junco      Great Bay Bvld. WMA    
Scarlet Tanager      Palmyra Cove Nature Park     
Northern Cardinal      Whiting power line cut
Red-winged Blackbird      Cattus Island County Park     
Common Grackle      Prospect Park     
Boat-tailed Grackle      Great Bay Bvld. WMA    
House Finch     Island Beach SP
American Goldfinch      Crestwood Village     
House Sparrow      Island Beach SP 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Whitesbog 10/26--Vesper Sparrow

Last week on my walk around Whitesbog, I didn't lug the scope, figuring there would be no need for it and I was wrong. So today I carried it and it paid off a couple of times. I would never have been able to identify the fairly large flock of Pectoral Sandpipers (rare this time of year) in drained Union Pond. My first reaction when I saw them was Least Sandpiper--interesting that later, when I looked them up in Sibley, he writes that they resemble large Leasts. I was able to get a couple of mediocre digiscoped photos before the camera battery punked out on me:

I walked way back to the Upper Reservoir which I'm pretty certain is actually in Ocean County. If I ever see a bird back there that I need for my home county list I'll make the distinction on eBird. It was back there that the scope came in handy again--the only duckage I saw today was floating way out in the middle of the water--3 American Wigeons and a Ruddy Duck

Sparrows were abundant on the dikes today--I flushed lots more than I could safely identify though most of those that went unnamed were likely Song Sparrows, judging from how many I was able to call. However, one I flushed that I at first assumed was yet another Song Sparrow, flew a brief distance before disappearing behind a grassy mound showing conspicuous white outer tail feathers in flight--since it wasn't a junco, that made it a Vesper Sparrow, my first of year and first in NJ.  I only saw it briefly, but I have no doubt it was a VESP. 

Cold today--started off at the freezing mark, but with no wind until late morning, the conditions were fine for a long 4 1/2 mile walk. 
34 species (+1 other taxa)
American Wigeon  3    
Ruddy Duck  1
Great Blue Heron  2
Turkey Vulture  1
Killdeer  25
Greater Yellowlegs  10
Lesser Yellowlegs 
Pectoral Sandpiper  15    
Red-bellied Woodpecker  3
Downy Woodpecker  1
Eastern Phoebe  1
Blue-headed Vireo  1
Red-eyed Vireo  1
American Crow  10
crow sp.  3
Carolina Chickadee  1    Heard
Tufted Titmouse  3
White-breasted Nuthatch  2
Carolina Wren  1    Heard
Golden-crowned Kinglet  2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  1
Eastern Bluebird  1
American Robin  1
Gray Catbird  1    Heard
Northern Mockingbird  1
European Starling  15
Pine Warbler  1    In parking lot
Yellow-rumped Warbler  20
Chipping Sparrow  5
Vesper Sparrow  1
Song Sparrow  10
Swamp Sparrow  2
White-throated Sparrow  2
Dark-eyed Junco  3
Northern Cardinal  1    Parking lot

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Great Bay Blvd 10/22--Some Pix

I took a trip down to Tuckerton today, again hoping to find a Nelson's Sparrow. Hope is a thing without feathers. Which is to say I didn't find a Nelson's Sparrow. I did, however, find a few interesting birds along the way.

The most interesting, by far, was this very late juvenile Yellow-crowned Night-Heron. It was just north of the 5th bridge, in a little stand of trees. I almost walked right by it, pishing for sparrows.

Shari has a great mnemonic for distinguishing Yellow-crowned juvies from Black-crowned: You just have to remember that the bill is the opposite color of the bird's name, i.e. Yellow-crowned have black bills, while Black-crowned have yellow bills. Also, Yellow-crowned juvies have exclamation points on their wings, while Black-crowned just have periods. Identification by punctuation. This, by the way, was my 203rd Ocean County species this year.

Not only did I almost walk by that heron, I also almost missed this one:

This Great Blue was about 20 feet over from the other bird. They both stayed on their roosts for the more than 3 hours I was there, as I passed them 3 or 4 times.

While watching a puddle that attracted sparrows and Yellow-rumps, I caught sight of this bird behind bars: juvenile Cedar Waxwing. A lot of people think their masks make them look like bandits anyway. I think of them more as space cadets out of 1950's sci-fi movies.
Not much going on by the inlet, the tide was too high for shorebirds, though the 2nd look did turn up about 100 American Oystercatchers across the water at Holgate and one Semipalmated Plover. No beach sparrows at all, but I did see my FOS Dark-eyed Junco jumping around in the sand.

Boat-tailed Grackles and starlings were abundant. Big flocks were attracted to the puddles at the end of the road.

Yellow-rumped Warblers were all over the place, as they seem to be everywhere I go this month.
Some of them will stick around this winter, maybe more than "some" judging from the numbers I've seen the last week or so. Finally, on my way out, I saw a couple in a car scanning the marsh just north of the 4th bridge. Look for the birders, not the birds. I got out the scope one more time and found a large flock of Greater Yellowlegs sitting low in the marsh presumable trying to stay out of the wind.

So, a decent selection of birds, even if there was no lifer, again. Which I guess is okay, since I would probably feel bad (but not that bad) if I saw a lifer that Shari needs too.
25 species for the day:
Common Loon  1
Double-crested Cormorant  10
Great Blue Heron  6
Great Egret  30
Snowy Egret  3
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron  1    
Osprey  1
American Oystercatcher  100    2 on GBB inlet side, large flock on Holgate beach
Semipalmated Plover  1
Greater Yellowlegs  39
Herring Gull  100
Great Black-backed Gull  5
Mourning Dove  1
Gray Catbird  1    Heard
European Starling  150
Cedar Waxwing  1    
Common Yellowthroat  1
Yellow-rumped Warbler 
Savannah Sparrow  2
Song Sparrow  8
Swamp Sparrow  1
White-throated Sparrow  2
Dark-eyed Junco  1
Red-winged Blackbird  25
Boat-tailed Grackle  250

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Whitesbog 10/19--Gray-cheeked Thrush

Having walked in the WMA behind the house almost all week, I needed a change of venue for my vigorous walk, so after a visit to the town dump, I drove over to Whitesbog. From the village parking lot all around the bogs and reservoirs, which takes you back into Ocean County (Whitesbog Village is in Burlington) is a good 4 mile walk. There's a variety of habitat along the way. The picture to the left is the road that leads out to the bogs. It was at the spot that I added my latest FOY bird--Gray-cheeked Thrush. I heard a strange call I couldn't place--actually two birds calling, one near and the other a little more distant--and after a minute or so I was able to find, in the bare branches of a tree, a spotted thrush making the call. Since I was only able to view the bird looking straight up, I didn't have a lot of field marks. I eliminated Hermit Thrush because the bird wasn't lifting its tail and and the spotting was all wrong. The spots were wrong for Wood Thrush too. This left me with Swainson's and Gray-cheeked and judging from the coloring on the breast, the pattern of the dots, and the size of the beak, I finally landed on Gray-cheeked.

Most of the time I bring my scope along to Whitesbog, but I didn't feel like lugging it around and didn't think there would be any need for it as the impoundments start to refill. I was wrong. Where there are usually shorebirds there were none, so I felt justified in my decision. But when I got to the back of the loop I found those reservoirs were in the process of draining. The first shorebird I saw was a Wilson's Snipe that I flushed. Then I heard the familiar "doo-doo-doo" of Greater Yellowlegs in a reservoir across from the where I flushed the snipe. Had I brought my scope I wouldn't have had to walk along an overgrown trail to get a good look at the birds. Of course, I wouldn't have seen the Swamp Sparrows I also found along there. But where I really regretted not having the scope was when I came out at the end of that trail where there is a very large pond that was about 80% drained. There were yellowlegs there too, along with at least a dozen Killdeer, one Semipalmated Plover that I could pick out (rare this time of year) and some peeps that I couldn't i.d. with just binoculars--probably Semipalmated Sandpipers, but they might have been least or something even more interesting--but without a scope they had to go down as "peep sp."

No raptors and only two ducks (Mallards). Lots of colors along the roads. If you look closely at the photo below, you'll find a Great Blue Heron standing on the water control structure.
My list for the 3 hour walk:
24 species (+1 other taxa)
Mallard  2
Great Blue Heron  4
Semipalmated Plover  1    
Killdeer  12
Greater Yellowlegs  15
peep sp.  3    
Wilson's Snipe  1
Mourning Dove  1
Belted Kingfisher  2
Red-bellied Woodpecker  1
Downy Woodpecker  1    Heard
Eastern Phoebe  3
Blue Jay  1    Heard
American Crow  3    Heard
Fish Crow  1    Heard
Carolina Chickadee  1    Heard
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  3
Gray-cheeked Thrush  2  
Gray Catbird  1
European Starling  10
Yellow-rumped Warbler  10
Eastern Towhee  2
Chipping Sparrow  1
Song Sparrow  3
Swamp Sparrow  5

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

This Year's 200th Ocean County Bird

A new backyard bird.

Yesterday I took a little stroll back in the WMA to the see how the state fire fighters were doing thinning out the pine trees before the planned prescribed burn this winter. One of the guys told me they'd seen a falcon back there; I figured it was a Merlin, one of which I've seen in the vicinity lately. I wasn't carrying binoculars, of course, when I saw a fairly large bird swoop out of one tree and perch in another. Immediately I knew it wasn't a Merlin--too big. Yet, for a hawk, fairly small. Looking at it naked eye I could see it was striped on the neck and a little on the breast. When it flew it was dark, without much banding on the tail. I was pretty certain it was a Broad-winged Hawk, but because that would be a county life bird, I didn't want to "call it" without seeing it better. It certainly behaved like one in flight through the woods, staying low, agilely flying between the trees.

This afternoon, Shari was on the patio and saw a hawk sitting on a low branch in the little wooded area abutting our backyard. This time I was able to get binoculars on it, and even though it was difficult to see through the branches and pine needles, I got a good enough view to preclude Merlin, Cooper's Hawk, or sharpie. A walker in the woods spooked it and the bird glided away, a dark bird low off the ground.

So now I have 200 species for Ocean County, which is at least an eBird record. I have no idea if anyone else keeps track of how many species have been seen in a year in the county. There are a couple of birders in the county I know of who could certainly have more; but for the nonce, I'm #1.