Friday, January 31, 2014

January Wrap-up: A Good Month for Rarities

Out of the 112 species I saw this month, 8 of them were rarities, ranging from a few overwintering Pine Warblers in our backyard to the truly amazing rarities on either size of a stand of evergreens in Cape May--Painted Bunting on one side, White-winged Dove on the other.
Pine Warbler Male #2
Pine Warbler Male #1
The "Arctic Vortex" and a couple of snowstorms hampered my birding, restricting me many days to what I could find in the backyard--I was getting mighty tired of documenting the Pine Warblers for eBird. We did manage a couple of trips Brig (where we saw one of our two Snowy Owls for the month), I got down to Tuckerton a couple of times where there were a good amount of ducks, especially Hooded Mergansers congregating in the only open water for miles around, Whitesbog produced its Tundra Swans and there was one Saturday when we braved the blowing sand of Point Pleasant beach and nabbed our first Red-necked Grebe in years.
Hen Common Goldeneye (upper left) with Buffleheads & Hooded Mergansers, Great Bay Blvd, 1/31/14
The full month list with rarities underlined:
Counties birded:
New Jersey: Atlantic, Burlington, Cape May, Mercer, Monmouth, Ocean
New York: New York
Species               Location
Snow Goose     Assunpink WMA
Brant     Sunset Lake
Canada Goose     Cape May Point SP
Mute Swan     Cape May Point SP
Tundra Swan     White's Bogs
Wood Duck     Central Park
Gadwall     Cape May Point SP
Eurasian Wigeon     Lighthouse Pond
American Wigeon     Lighthouse Pond
American Black Duck     Riverfront Landing
Mallard     Cape May Point SP
Northern Shoveler     Lighthouse Pond
Northern Pintail     Cape May Point SP
Green-winged Teal     Brigantine
Canvasback     Riverfront Landing
Redhead     Lighthouse Pond
Ring-necked Duck     Lighthouse Pond
Greater Scaup     Little Silver Lake
Lesser Scaup     Lighthouse Pond
King Eider     Nummy Island--Free Bridge
Common Eider     Whilldin Ave. dune crossing
Surf Scoter     Two Mile Beach
Black Scoter     Two Mile Beach
Long-tailed Duck     Two Mile Beach
Bufflehead     Sunset Lake
Common Goldeneye     Lily Lake--Forsythe
Hooded Merganser     Cape May Point SP
Common Merganser     Assunpink WMA
Red-breasted Merganser     Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Ruddy Duck     Cape May Point SP
Ring-necked Pheasant     Warren Grove
Wild Turkey     Rt. 70
Red-throated Loon     Two Mile Beach
Common Loon     Sunset Lake
Pied-billed Grebe     Double Trouble State Park
Horned Grebe     Sunset Lake
Red-necked Grebe     Manasquan Inlet
Double-crested Cormorant     Cape May Point SP
Great Cormorant     Two Mile Beach
Great Blue Heron     Cape May Point SP
Black Vulture     Brynmore / Big Woods Rd. fields
Turkey Vulture     Cape May Point SP
Northern Harrier     Cape May Point SP
Cooper's Hawk     Lighthouse Pond
Bald Eagle     Cape May Bridge over canal
Red-shouldered Hawk     Cape May Point SP
Red-tailed Hawk     Whilldin Ave. dune crossing
American Coot     Lighthouse Pond
American Oystercatcher     Nummy Island--Free Bridge
Black-bellied Plover     Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Semipalmated Plover     Stone Harbor Point
Killdeer     Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Ruddy Turnstone     Two Mile Beach
Sanderling     Two Mile Beach
Dunlin     Two Mile Beach
Purple Sandpiper     Two Mile Beach
Bonaparte's Gull     Two Mile Beach
Ring-billed Gull     Cape May Point SP
Herring Gull     Lighthouse Pond
Lesser Black-backed Gull     Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Great Black-backed Gull     Nummy Island--Free Bridge
Rock Pigeon     Warren Grove
White-winged Dove     Whilldin Ave. dune crossing
Mourning Dove     Cape May Pt College Streets
Snowy Owl     Two Mile Beach
Rufous Hummingbird     Cape May Pt Coral & Cambridge
Belted Kingfisher     Horicon Lake
Red-bellied Woodpecker     35 Sunset Rd
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker     Crestwood Village
Downy Woodpecker     Cape May Point SP
Merlin     Imlaystown Road, East Windsor
Peregrine Falcon     Brigantine
Blue Jay     Lighthouse Pond
American Crow     Cape May Point SP
Horned Lark     Imlaystown Road, East Windsor
Carolina Chickadee     Whilldin Ave. dune crossing
Tufted Titmouse     35 Sunset Rd
Red-breasted Nuthatch     Cape May Pt College Streets
White-breasted Nuthatch     35 Sunset Rd
Brown Creeper     Assunpink WMA
Carolina Wren     35 Sunset Rd
Golden-crowned Kinglet     Whiting power line cut
Ruby-crowned Kinglet     Crestwood Village
Eastern Bluebird     Assunpink WMA
Hermit Thrush     Crestwood Village
American Robin     Cape May Pt College Streets
Gray Catbird     Cape May Point SP
Brown Thrasher     Brigantine
Northern Mockingbird     Cape May Pt College Streets
European Starling     Cape May Point SP
Cedar Waxwing     Cape May Pt College Streets
Snow Bunting     Stone Harbor Point
Pine Warbler     35 Sunset Rd
Yellow-rumped Warbler     Cape May Point SP
Eastern Towhee     Assunpink WMA
Savannah Sparrow     Brigantine
Fox Sparrow     Assunpink WMA
Song Sparrow     35 Sunset Rd
Swamp Sparrow     Horicon Lake
White-throated Sparrow     35 Sunset Rd
White-crowned Sparrow     Assunpink WMA
Dark-eyed Junco     Cape May Pt College Streets
Northern Cardinal     Cape May Pt College Streets
Painted Bunting     Whilldin Ave. dune crossing
Red-winged Blackbird     Assunpink WMA
Common Grackle     Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Boat-tailed Grackle     Nummy Island--Free Bridge
Brown-headed Cowbird     Assunpink WMA
Baltimore Oriole     Central Park
House Finch     Cape May Pt College Streets
American Goldfinch     35 Sunset Rd
House Sparrow     Whilldin Ave. dune crossing

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Imlaystown Road 1/26--Merlin, Horned Lark

Ever since a flock of Horned Larks was reported more than a week ago on a tack track on Imlaystown Road, on the northern side of Assunpink, I've had an itch to go there. We finally scratched that itch this morning. Fortunately, Imlaystown Road is not heavily traveled, because with all the snow, there was really no place to pull over when we first spotted some sparrows, one of which turned out to be a White-crowned Sparrow. When we came to the field with the track, I saw that they were plowing away the snow and I figured that would keep away the birds. But, once Shari parked on a long driveway next to the field I saw some distant birds at the fence line. As I was trying to get them in the scope, Shari said, "Turn around." There was a flock of fifteen larks practically at our feet. Before Shari could get out her camera they flew off into the field, feeding on the freshly exposed dirt. We were happy with our sighting, Horned Larks are relatively hard to find in New Jersey. We usually first see them on one of our trips to Delaware. Later, driving to Tractor Supply to buy bird seed, we came across another flock of 20 or so in a field on Sharon Station Road. Since Sharon Station Road is in Monmouth County and the section of Imlaystown we were on is in Mercer, that gave me larks today in 2 counties.

Bonus bird: As we started to turn around after seeing the larks on Imlaystown, a Merlin swooped low and fast past our car and back behind the Pentecostal Church.

Brigantine 1/25--Common Goldeneye, Brown Thrasher

We took a trip down to Brigantine yesterday with our dear friend SUZE, hoping to find her a lifer Snowy Owl. The temperature wasn't bad (mid-20's) compared to what it's been of late, but the winds were vicious--hard to open the car door, forget about using the scope vicious.

The trip started off well--at the entrance ponds we saw a Brown Thrasher skulking in the bushes by the side of the road. The operative word there is "we," since Shari most often finds these birds and they disappear before I can see them. She's probably seen twice as many Brown Thrashers as I have. Then in the parking lot I ran into a birder I know and he put me onto the largest flock of Fox Sparrows I ever seen--my official count is 8, but I think there may have been as many as a dozen other the cedar tree and flying in and out of the surrounding underbrush.
Fox Sparrow--one of many
Also feeding under the tree, scratching through the snow, were about 10 cardinals, as many White-throated Sparrows, and single Hermit Thrush (naturally).

It was cold, but manageable, so we struck out for the drive. Almost all the water was frozen, even the great stretches of Turtle Cove where you look out toward Atlantic City. I've been going to Brigantine for a long time now and I've never seen so much ice. This, of course, cut down on the duckage (sorry Sue). Some Mallards, some black ducks, and a great flock of Snow Geese were all we saw for the first 2/3 of the drive. We had to content ourselves with sparrows, blackbirds, and a few Northern Harriers. Toward the end of the north dike there was some open water and within were quite a few Tundra Swans with Canada Geese and other ducks that had to go unidentified because the scope was not an option. And no snowy owls.

One trip around the frozen wastes was enough for us; on the way out we made a stop at Lily Lake. I had read that Common Goldeneyes had been sighted there and standing on the shore where it was shielded somewhat from the wind, we found one hen repeatedly diving, making the identification difficult, but in time we all saw the rusty head and white wing patch along the back and were happy. 7 Common Mergansers were also on the water--1 drake with a harem of 6 hens.
Our lists:
Edwin B. Forsythe NWR (Brigantine Unit)
Jan 25, 2014 10:30 AM - 1:00 PM
8.0 mile(s)
Comments:  overcast and very windy
26 species

Snow Goose  500
Canada Goose  100
Mute Swan  4
Tundra Swan  20
American Black Duck  25
Mallard  5
Hooded Merganser  2    North dike
Turkey Vulture  6
Northern Harrier  3
Red-shouldered Hawk  1
Red-tailed Hawk  1
Dunlin  2
Ring-billed Gull  3
Herring Gull  50
Great Black-backed Gull  3
Carolina Chickadee  1    Heard, upland portion of trail
Carolina Wren  2    Heard, parking lot & road to gull pond tower
Hermit Thrush  1    Parking lot
Brown Thrasher  1    Entrance Pond
Savannah Sparrow  10
Fox Sparrow  8
Song Sparrow  10
White-throated Sparrow  15
Northern Cardinal  10
Red-winged Blackbird  25
American Goldfinch  2

Edwin B. Forsythe NWR--Lily Lake
Jan 25, 2014 1:00 PM - 1:11 PM
Protocol: Stationary
7 species

Mute Swan  2
Mallard  50
Lesser Scaup  1
Common Goldeneye  1
Common Merganser  7    
Ruddy Duck  3
Red-tailed Hawk  1

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Crestwood Village 1/23--Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

It has been bitterly cold the last couple of days and the 8 or so inches of snow we had on Tuesday hasn't gone anywhere, so my birding opportunities have been pretty much through the window. But this morning Shari wanted to finally try out the snowshoes she bought a couple of years ago to celebrate our move to the country. We actually haven't had snow on the ground for any extended periods, so today she took advantage. I went along in my boots. I also have snowshoes, but they seemed to me like more trouble than they're worth. We're not exactly living in Alaska here.

Still, it was good to get outside, even if the temperature was only about 14 degrees. You people in the mid-west and New England can stop smirking now; in New Jersey that's cold. We walked along the trail that separates the Crestwood Village from the WMA. The snow was thick, but powdery and dry, so she made her way pretty easily.

And there were a few birds to be found. At a suet feeder 5 or so houses down from here we found two Pine Warblers actively feeding--one a female, the other a bright male. I haven't seen the female that was in our yard for a couple of weeks, so I'm wondering if she's moved locations. I did see this morning the male that regularly comes to eat peanut butter off a pine cone in our yard, so I suspect we have at least 3 PIWA in the neighborhood. Pretty good for a winter rarity.

In a bare tree, climbing up a diagonal branch Shari spotted a bird. Without her binoculars (as you can see from the pictures, her hands weren't free) it fell to me to identify it as our first Yellow-bellied Sapsucker of the year.

I remember a few years ago chatting with a vendor and we got onto hobbies and when he found out that mine was birding he, said, as so many others have said to me and my fellow birders, "Oh yeah, have you seen a Yellow-BELLIED SAP-SUCKER?" And I replied, "Of course," which surprised him, since he didn't really think the bird existed.

Then I said, "Listen, there are birds with a lot funnier names than that," and the first one that sprang to mind was Blue-footed Booby, which seemed to fulfill the suggestive quality that sapsucker has. But other names occur with a few moments of thought, like Magnificent Frigatebird, Variegated Fairywren, and Laughing Kookaburra (the last 2 from Australia).

Hey kids! Send in your funniest bird name. No prizes, but I will list them in a future entry if I get enough responses.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Novel's Misplaced Birds

I'm reading E.L. Doctorow's new novel, Andrew's Brain, and I've found myself distracted by the author's  ignorance of where birds are when and how they behave. In the section I'm reading, Andrew is in Maine, in the winter. He sees, "through the fog, a green heron, out there on the piling."  Later that day, he is down on the beach as "the osprey hovers pulsingly over the sea, and the sanderlings tiptoe along the ocean's foamy edge while the shadowing bluefish waits for the tide to flip them into its razored maw." At the start of the chapter he has a gull smashing into a window, sliding down, leaving a bloody streak.

Hoo boy. Where to start? Gull striking a window hard enough to leave blood? I don't think so. A Green Heron in Maine in winter? No and certainly not hunched over on a piling. They're more secretive than that. Nor would an Osprey be flying around during a Maine winter; it would freeze to death after its first plunge. Sanderlings are all right and it is a good description, but I don't think they have much to fear from bluefish.

Quibbles, but it makes me want to say, "Ed, please, write what you know."

A little later in the book...Okay, now it's getting ridiculous. Andrew relates a story from his childhood in which a Red-tailed Hawk carries off his dachsund (!) to a tree in Washington Square Park and pecks out its eyes. As if.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Brigantine 1/19--Green-winged Teal, Peregrine Falcon, Savannah Sparrow

Snow Geese were the most abundant bird today at Brig.
Because we waited for the temperatures to rise past freezing, we got a late start on our first trip of the year to Brigantine, arriving there mid-morning, as the tide was receding. Snowy Owl mania, which I thought had peaked, was in an unusually heightened state. Lots of people with a one bird list. At the start of the drive, right before the road to the Gull Pond Tower, there was a long line of parked vehicles and a lot of cameras with attached howitzers deployed. I thought an owl must have moved from one the usual spots, but it turned out to be "only" a Red-tailed Hawk perched on a post, eating a rather bloody brunch. The qualifier to the phrase, "Look for the birders, not the bird," is, "Ignore the photographers: they'll take a picture of anything."

A couple of hundred feet onto the drive we added our first two FOY. Shari found a small group of Green-winged Teal in front of the flock of coots we were scanning, and then, while talking to our friend, David, who'd just pulled up in his car, we added Savannah Sparrow to the list. I'd seen a sparrow briefly when we'd pulled over, but, thanks to David for confirming the sighting when the sparrow flew and then, naturally, dove down into the reeds.

Up the road, past the observation tower, another bird jam alerted us to the presence of the Snowy Owl. Actually there were two there today, (and there are probably more than 2 there), but we missed the first one. I have to say, it is a bird that lives up to its hype. It wasn't in a good position to take a photo though. I'm hoping at least one stays through the week, as I have a friend coming down this weekend who'd love to add it to her life list.

For the rest of the drive it was pretty much ducks, ducks, ducks, with the exception of a stop on the north dike where we scoped out a very handsome Peregrine Falcon sitting in the reeds. Along the dike another was sitting on an Osprey stand. These were much better looks than we usually get when we find them sitting on their hacking tower in the  middle of the impoundments.

One loop was enough for the day--I didn't feel like we'd missed anything and needed another look.
33 species
Snow Goose  500
Brant  100
Canada Goose  125
Mute Swan  5
Tundra Swan  3
American Black Duck  200
Mallard  25
Northern Shoveler  20
Northern Pintail  100
Green-winged Teal  10
Lesser Scaup  1    Experimental Pool
Bufflehead  5
Hooded Merganser  6
Common Merganser  7    Hen & Drake at gull pond. 4 Drakes, 1 Hen at Experimental Pool
Great Blue Heron  3
Turkey Vulture  12
Northern Harrier  1
Bald Eagle  1
Red-tailed Hawk  1
American Coot  20
Ring-billed Gull  5
Herring Gull  10
Great Black-backed Gull  5
Snowy Owl  1    
Downy Woodpecker  2
Peregrine Falcon  2
American Crow  1    Heard
Carolina Chickadee  2
Tufted Titmouse  1
Gray Catbird  1
Yellow-rumped Warbler  1
Savannah Sparrow  1
Red-winged Blackbird  4    Near start of drive

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Point Pleasant 1/18--Greater Scaup, Red-necked Grebe

It was so cold that this Ring-billed Gull
warmed his feet on the hood of our car
Photo: Shari Zirlin
I must not have been paying close enough attention to the weather reports, or else I saw what I wanted to see, but it was a lot colder, and with the unexpected wind, a lot more uncomfortable to be birding by the water than I expected it to be. We did, however, see some cool birds.

We started the day off mid-morning at Lake of the Lilies where there was a good selection of water fowl--Lesser Scaup, Ruddy Ducks, Mallards and geese primarily, with one American Coot in the mix.  A few minutes away on Little Silver Lake we found more of the same with Buffleheads, Hooded Mergansers and finally a couple of scaup with rounder heads and cleaner sides that we felt comfortable calling as Greater Scaup. A Horned Grebe was in with the scaup.

Over at the inlet I had a few birds on the wish list. The inlet was just full of Common Loons, affording close ups looks at the hounds-tooth pattern on their backs and a few Red-breasted Mergansers were scattered about. The wind was really blowing hard so the wind chill was a lot colder than the mid-30's it read on the car thermometer. I didn't want to go out on the jetty in that kind of wind, so I suggested we bird from the boardwalk, where the buildings provided something of a wind break for us. Lots of gulls on the beach but picking thoroughly through them brought up no Iceland Gulls, a disappointment. There were 3 Black-bellied Plovers in with the gulls, and hunched around some driftwood, about 15 Dunlins.

I wanted to see what was closer in shore and unfortunately to see that I had to walk down to the high tide line. At first there was no wind and I was happy to see about a dozen Long-tailed Ducks in the surf. Shari & our friend Joan followed me down and as we scoped the ocean we found a target bird, a very obvious Red-necked Grebe. It looked at first somewhat like a loon--just as Peterson describes it, but with its long yellow bill and dark neck it was soon apparent that we had this much sought after (at least by me) grebe. Another Horned Grebe was in with the loons, causing some brief confusion, but it actually confirmed our sighting seeing how short the bill was in comparison to the other grebe as well as the different facial pattern.

And that was enough of the ocean for one winter day.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Central Park 1/17--Wood Duck, Baltimore Oriole

Hen & Drake Wood Ducks
I created a deliberate deja vu today, if that's possible. Last year on January 17, I had to be in NYC and while at Central Park I saw my first Wood Ducks of the year. Today, I had to be in NYC so I went to Central Park, marched to the reservoir, went to exactly the same place as last year and once again, had my FOY Wood Ducks. Waterfowl was abundant on the reservoir, but mostly Mallards, geese, and gulls. There were a few more interesting ducks, including one that I didn't realize was considered a rarity until I got home. Ring-necked Ducks are common enough in south Jersey in the winter that I didn't pay any special heed to the drake I saw on the south end of the reservoir, but in New York, they're listed on eBird as rare. This strikes me as strange, since I remember seeing them fairly regularly at Prospect Park when we lived in Brooklyn and I don't remember having to list them as rare until the spring when, two years in a row, a drake hung around on the Upper Pool.

I always feel rushed when I go to NYC nowadays, since birding isn't my primary reason to be there, so I didn't do a full circuit of the reservoir. Instead, I race walked down to The Ramble. I figured the best place to rack up birds would be the feeders at Evodia Field and I was right. The happy surprise here was another winter rarity--a male and female Baltimore Oriole that have been hanging around the feeders there since the beginning of the month, feasting on the orange halves and peanut butter/corn meal mix that whoever maintains those feeders has been putting out. With all the expensive cameras and their high-powered lenses there, I was embarrassed to pull out my little p&s, but I did manage to get a couple of "for the record" shots of the female.
My only disappointment for the day was not seeing a Black-capped Chickadee. Apparently there have been a dearth of them and titmice at the park. It certainly isn't because of a lack of food. That's quite a spread put out by whoever maintains the feeders.

In an hour and 10 minutes and about a 1 mile walk I managed 28 species. That's a great concentration of birds; it would take me all day, in the winter, and a much wider circle to come up with comparable numbers around here.

I wish I could have stayed a while longer but I had places to go and people to meet. I don't know how much more I would have turned up--all the other water in the park seemed to be frozen. Still, I suppose a few raptors wouldn't have been out of the question. And thinking about it now, one bird I managed to miss was European Starling--how did that happen?
Canada Goose  100
Wood Duck  6    SW Reservoir.
American Black Duck  1
Mallard  150
Ring-necked Duck  1   SE Reservoir
Bufflehead  1    South end of  Reservoir
Hooded Merganser  2    South end of Reservoir

Ruddy Duck  7
Double-crested Cormorant  1
American Coot  4

Ring-billed Gull  X
Herring Gull  X
Great Black-backed Gull  5
Rock Pigeon  2
Mourning Dove  2
Red-bellied Woodpecker  2
Downy Woodpecker  1
Blue Jay  3
White-breasted Nuthatch  1
Brown Creeper  2
Carolina Wren  1
American Robin  1
White-throated Sparrow  10
Dark-eyed Junco  5
Baltimore Oriole  2    
House Finch  10
American Goldfinch  5
House Sparrow  40

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Whitesbog 1/16--Tundra Swans

A 4 mile walk around the dikes of Whitesbog today. Pretty quiet, though around the village there was the biggest flock of juncos I've seen in quite a while. What I wanted were the Tundra Swans and there were lots of them, both on Union Pond and the bog across from it. They were my 100th species of the year. There were also 14 swans on the upper reservoir which is across the Burlington County line, which means I can also add Tundra Swan to my Ocean County list.
15 species
Canada Goose  85
Tundra Swan  73   
American Black Duck  3
Mallard  15
Red-bellied Woodpecker  2
Downy Woodpecker  1
Blue Jay  3    Heard
Carolina Chickadee  2    Heard
Carolina Wren  2    Heard
Hermit Thrush  1
American Robin  12
Song Sparrow  1
Dark-eyed Junco  50   
Northern Cardinal  1    Heard
American Goldfinch  2
On  Union Pond

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Horicon Lake 1/15--Belted Kingfisher, Swamp Sparrow

Swamp at Horicon Lake
I awoke this morning to dense fog, but by about 9 o'clock the sun was out here in Crestwood Village. I decided to take my walk at Horicon Lake, but as I drove into Lakehurst, only a few miles away, I saw that there, the fog had not lifted. When I pulled into the parking lot at the lake, I could see a few Ring-billed Gulls on the shore and 4 geese on the water and that was it--the rest was milk. I had brought the scope, but it was useless in those conditions.

Still, I have to walk. In the field across from the parking lot I found my first Ocean County bluebirds, always a good sight, plus some of the usual birds I'd expect. I walked back to the swamp (above) and there was some activity there, mostly Golden-crowned Kinglets not being bashful. A sparrow was in the bush on the left seen above and it popped out long enough to let me have my FOY Swamp Sparrow. On the other side of the road, on the lake there were Buffleheads and Hooded Mergansers close enough to be seen in the haze coming off the water. As I started to walk back on the trail along the swamp's edge I thought I heard the rattle of a Belted Kingfisher. A little further on and I knew I had. Usually, if I can hear kingfishers, I can find them, but I figured I'd have to have my first one as only "heard" since the fog was not burning off. But, amazingly, I looked through a scrim of branches and on the tallest dead tree in the back of the swamp there was the kingfisher and more than a silhouette; I could see its gray-blue back and brownish breast band.

As I walked back out of the woods I saw that the curtain had been lifted and the lake was clearly visible and mirror smooth. More Buffleheads, a few more geese, and some Mallards.

20 species made for a decent walk:
Canada Goose  7
Mallard  4   
Bufflehead  5    
Hooded Merganser  2    
Ring-billed Gull  8
Belted Kingfisher  1
Downy Woodpecker  1    
Blue Jay  1    Heard
Carolina Chickadee  5
Tufted Titmouse  1
Carolina Wren  1    Heard
Golden-crowned Kinglet  8
Eastern Bluebird  4
American Robin  2
Northern Mockingbird  1
Song Sparrow  3
Swamp Sparrow  1
White-throated Sparrow  6
Northern Cardinal  3    
American Goldfinch  1    Heard

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Riverfront Landing 1/14 Canvasback

Canvasbacks in the rain
I dropped Shari off at the Toms River bus station this morning and despite the soaking rain, made a run over to nearby Riverfront Landing.  Peering through the rain-streaked car window I saw a couple of Mallards and a Bufflehead and way out the water some duck-like forms. Undeterred by the annoying precipitation, I walked to the end of the little park to check out those ducks and found them to more Buffleheads and a raft of Ruddy Ducks. Not what I wanted.

Now that I was out of the car it was in for a dime in for a dollar. I decided to walk back up aptly-named Water Street to a marina where ducks like to gather. There I found many more Mallards, Lesser Scaup, one Ring-necked drake, and finally, out beyond the boats, a good-sized flock of Canvasbacks. (Completely off topic, but aren't boxers who are always getting knocked out also called "canvasbacks"?) It is another mystery why this location is so reliable for these ducks. Later the ducks moved closer to the pier I was viewing them from, until a work boat lifted the flock up and moved them back to where I was parked. That's where I managed to get the good for i.d. photo above.

After that I went home and resumed watching the feeders where there was, as we used to say in Brooklyn, bupkus, except for the recurring Pine Warbler.

11 species (+1 other taxa)
Canada Goose  22
Mallard  100
American Black Duck x Mallard (hybrid)  1
Canvasback  25
Ring-necked Duck  1   
Lesser Scaup  25
Bufflehead  20
Ruddy Duck  25
Ring-billed Gull  50
Herring Gull  1
Blue Jay  1    Heard
Song Sparrow  1

Monday, January 13, 2014

Double Trouble SP 1/13--Pied-billed Grebe

The first two birds I saw at Double Trouble were the highlights for the morning. As I usually do, I first walked north out to the lake, scope on shoulder. In winter there are usually waterfowl if the water is open and I was hoping to snag some Tundra Swans for the year. But the lake, viewed through binoculars, was devoid of bird life. Since I had the scope, I figured I might as well use it and while scanning I quickly found the explanation for the empty waters--an immature Bald Eagle sitting on a weedy patch in the middle of the lake, tearing something apart. Only a single Pied-billed Grebe hadn't take the hint and vacated the area.

I walked back, left the scope in the car trunk, and then did my usual figure 8 around the bogs. While it is impressive to see a couple of hundred Canada Geese all come in for a landing on the bogs, they are, in the end, Canada Geese. I looked through flocks pretty carefully, but couldn't come up with anything exotic--a few smaller geese had my hopes up for Cackling Goose, but they were just a little smaller. I had Mallards to compare them with and they were bigger than those ducks. No sparrows where I usually see them, and not much going on in the village or behind the sawmill. Having seen my friend Greg's lists from last week at the park, I was hoping for more, but, hey, that's birding.
14 speciesCanada Goose  200
Mallard  50
Ring-necked Duck  9    2nd bog, Hooper Ln.
Pied-billed Grebe  1
Bald Eagle  1    Lake
Ring-billed Gull  1
American Crow  3
Carolina Chickadee  6
Carolina Wren  1
Golden-crowned Kinglet  1
American Robin  2
Yellow-rumped Warbler  5
Northern Cardinal  1    behind sawmill
American Goldfinch  1    heard

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Assunpink WMA 1/12--Snow Goose, Common Merganser, Brown Creeper, Eastern Bluebird, Sparrows, Icterids

The weather finally permitted us to go on field trip this morning. We birded Assunpink in Monmouth County with Scott & Linda and while the conditions were not quite as pleasant as predicted, we still managed to find some interesting birds, starting at the lake where there were about a dozen Common Mergansers. There was some open water on the lake, not as much as you'd like, so only a smattering of ducks and a mixed flock of gulls.

We drove back down Imlaystown Road to a farm's driveway just outside the confines of the WMA and there, reliably, was a small flock of White-crowned Sparrows. It is a mystery to me why this driveway consistently hosts these sparrows. It is just one of those hot spots you check off: White-crowned Sparrows? Driveway on Imlaystown Road. Also in the farm fields (sheep & horses) were a couple of species we can't count--a Ring-necked Pheasant (stocked) and Helmeted Guineafowl (pets), as well as birds that some people don't want to count like starlings and a Brown-headed Cowbird. I, putting aside their detrimental natures, happen to like these birds for how they look; starlings in winter are gorgeously speckled and cowbirds have good looking hoods. I also like the way cowbirds "sing" in spring; they sound like a water faucet dripping into a full basin.

A walk up through and around the navigation beacon field turned up a couple of new sparrows, but unfortunately, they were only heard by most of the party. Fox Sparrows were very shy and afforded only glimpses of their backs to me, and the towhee was clearly heard but only partially seen as it flew across the path. I did see perfectly one of my favorites, a Brown Creeper crawling up a cedar. Twice today I missed Savannah Sparrow. Not a rarity, as the towhee is this time of year, but still one I'd like to get.

The birds I did get today totaled 42 with 9 FOY, bringing my count up to 95.
Snow Goose  50    flyovers
Canada Goose  150
Mallard  4    Lake
Ring-necked Duck  9
Lesser Scaup  6
Common Merganser  12
Ruddy Duck  1
Great Blue Heron  1
Black Vulture  5
Turkey Vulture  6
Northern Harrier  3
Cooper's Hawk  1    Beacon field
Red-tailed Hawk  4
Ring-billed Gull  75
Herring Gull  5
Great Black-backed Gull  2    Lake
Rock Pigeon  5
Mourning Dove  3
Red-bellied Woodpecker  2
Downy Woodpecker  1
Blue Jay  2    Heard
American Crow  3
Carolina Chickadee  2    Heard
Tufted Titmouse  3
White-breasted Nuthatch  1    Heard
Brown Creeper  2
Carolina Wren  2    Heard
Golden-crowned Kinglet  2
Eastern Bluebird  2
European Starling  100
Yellow-rumped Warbler  1
Eastern Towhee  1    Heard in Norway Spruce grove, clearly, "chwink."
Fox Sparrow  1    Heard. There were many more, but I didn't see them clearly.
Song Sparrow  2
White-throated Sparrow  5
White-crowned Sparrow  10    
Dark-eyed Junco  2
Northern Cardinal  4
Red-winged Blackbird  20
Common Grackle  20
Brown-headed Cowbird  1    
American Goldfinch  1    Heard