Friday, February 28, 2014

February Wrap-up--#@*#%! COLD

I think I can say without fear of contradiction that we're all officially sick of winter here. Even those in the household who purport to like cold weather are weary of it.

We did some good birding despite the unrelenting cold weather and seemingly endless snowstorms. The Common Murre in Wildwood was our best rarity in quite a while, and while we missed the Smith's Longspur in Stone Harbor we did get Lapland Longspurs and Snow Buntings there.  Our winter trip to Barnegat Light yielded up beautiful Harlequin Ducks and Purple Sandpipers and we didn't even have to climb on the jetty to get them. Common Goldeneyes were much easier to find this winter than at any other time I can remember. In fact, with all the frozen water, ducks were concentrated  in good numbers wherever there was open water--I saw a couple of hundred Hooded Mergansers along Great Bay Blvd., not a place they usually congregate in large flocks. Another highlight of the month was the trip we made to the Bridge to Nowhere after we'd been to Barnegat Light, both for the birds (Snowy & Short-eared Owls) and for the camaraderie of the group that ended a long day of birding there.

Pine Warbler
American Tree Sparrow
I spent long stretches of the month looking out the window at the feeders because of the inclement weather. I made sure there was plenty of seed, suet and peanut butter for the birds and it paid off with our continuing winter rarity Pine Warblers (yesterday we were up to 4 of them!) and a couple of unusual sparrows: an American Tree Sparrow was here for 3 days picking through the seeds in the snow and yesterday and today we've had our first Fox Sparrows of the year.
Fox Sparrow
The month's count was 104 species--not as good as last month, but last month we had that spectacular start at Cape May on New Year's Day.

Counties birded: Atlantic, Burlington, Cape May, Middlesex, Ocean

Snow Goose     Brigantine
Brant     Stone Harbor Point
Canada Goose     Bayview Marina
Mute Swan     Cape Island--Lily Lake
Tundra Swan     Brigantine
Wood Duck     White's Bogs
Gadwall     Cape Island--Lily Lake
American Wigeon     Brigantine
American Black Duck     Wetlands Institute
Mallard     Wetlands Institute
Northern Shoveler     Cape Island--Lily Lake
Northern Pintail     Bayview Ave Park
Green-winged Teal     Brigantine
Canvasback     Riverfront Landing
Redhead     Riverfront Landing
Ring-necked Duck     Cape Island--Lily Lake
Greater Scaup     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Lesser Scaup     Sunset Lake
King Eider     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Harlequin Duck     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Surf Scoter     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
White-winged Scoter     St. Mary’s dune crossing
Black Scoter     St. Mary’s dune crossing
Long-tailed Duck     Stone Harbor Point
Bufflehead     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Common Goldeneye     Sunset Park, Harvey Cedars
Hooded Merganser     Cape Island--Lily Lake
Common Merganser     Pemberton Lake WMA
Red-breasted Merganser     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Ruddy Duck     Bayview Marina
Red-throated Loon     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Common Loon     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Pied-billed Grebe     Riverfront Landing
Horned Grebe     Stone Harbor Point
Double-crested Cormorant     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Great Cormorant     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Great Blue Heron     Bayview Marina
Black Vulture     Eno’s Pond
Turkey Vulture     Cape Island--Lily Lake
Northern Harrier     Stone Harbor Point
Sharp-shinned Hawk     Colliers Mills WMA
Bald Eagle     Whilldin Ave. dune crossing
Red-tailed Hawk     Bridge to Nowhere
American Coot     Cape Island--Lily Lake
American Oystercatcher     Brigantine
Killdeer     Eno’s Pond
Greater Yellowlegs     Eno’s Pond
Ruddy Turnstone     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Sanderling     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Dunlin     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Purple Sandpiper     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Wilson's Snipe     Eno’s Pond
American Woodcock     White's Bogs
Common Murre   Sunset Lake
Ring-billed Gull     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Herring Gull     Stone Harbor Point
Great Black-backed Gull     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Rock Pigeon     Iselin
Mourning Dove     Whilldin Ave. dune crossing
Snowy Owl     Bridge to Nowhere
Short-eared Owl     Bridge to Nowhere
Belted Kingfisher     GSP MM 11
Red-headed Woodpecker     Ernest L. Oros Wildlife Preserve
Red-bellied Woodpecker     Cattus Island County Park
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker     Colliers Mills WMA
Downy Woodpecker     35 Sunset Rd
Northern Flicker  GSP MM 30
Merlin     Crestwood Village
Peregrine Falcon     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Blue Jay     Cape Island--Lily Lake
American Crow     St. Mary’s dune crossing
Fish Crow     Pandora Diner parking lot
Horned Lark     Vincentown-Pemberton Rd
Tree Swallow     Brigantine
Carolina Chickadee     St. Mary’s dune crossing
Tufted Titmouse     35 Sunset Rd
White-breasted Nuthatch     35 Sunset Rd
Brown Creeper     Crestwood Village
Carolina Wren     35 Sunset Rd
Golden-crowned Kinglet     Crestwood Village
Ruby-crowned Kinglet     35 Sunset Rd
Eastern Bluebird     Whiting WMA
Hermit Thrush     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
American Robin     Stone Harbor Point
Northern Mockingbird     St. Mary’s dune crossing
European Starling     Stone Harbor Median
Lapland Longspur     Stone Harbor Point
Snow Bunting     Stone Harbor Point
Pine Warbler     35 Sunset Rd
Yellow-rumped Warbler     Stone Harbor Median
American Tree Sparrow     St. Mary’s dune crossing
Savannah Sparrow     Stone Harbor Point
Fox Sparrow     Wetlands Institute
Song Sparrow     Wetlands Institute
White-throated Sparrow     35 Sunset Rd
Dark-eyed Junco     35 Sunset Rd
Northern Cardinal     Cape May SP--entrance
Red-winged Blackbird     Stone Harbor Median
Common Grackle     18 Aberdeen Avenue
Boat-tailed Grackle     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Brown-headed Cowbird     Stone Harbor Median
House Finch     35 Sunset Rd
American Goldfinch     35 Sunset Rd
House Sparrow     Wetlands Institute
Carolina Wrens like peanut butter, too.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Whitesbog 2/27--American Woodcock

Tundra Swans on ice, Upper Reservoir, Whitesbog
After a trip to the dump I took a long walk around Whitesbog, from the village out to the Upper Reservoir and back. It had its frustrations. For one thing we're back in the grips of the "Arctic Vortex." For another, there weren't many birds about and the ones that were there were either being damned elusive or very skittish. Just past Union Pond I flushed a Wood Duck; it flew up out of the reeds and right back down again, never to be seen again, though I did hear it rustle its wings again. The big flock of Tundra Swans and Canada Geese on the frozen bog up and left as soon as they sensed me.  I did get a chance at another flock on the Upper Reservoir, but between the Wood Duck and the Reservoir I saw exactly: 2 chickadees and 1 junco. 

As I was coming around on the loop I took the double road back to where I saw the Wood Duck. I came across this very nice Ring-necked Duck in the channel between the roads.
As I was walking along the path slowly, hoping to find the Wood Duck again, I saw what I at first took to be a crow fly over across the road, but instantly saw that it was a hawk. A hawk of some kind and I really wanted it to be a Rough-legged Hawk (which would be a lifer) but despite all my hard looking, all I could truthfully say is that it was a dark hawk, with a slight dihedral, soaring in circles. It never came overhead for me to get any field marks. More frustration. 

Walking back through the village I flushed another bird from just off the side of the road. Its wings twittered. "Woodcock!" I said. Then another. I saw this one fly off toward the back. Then another flew off after I took a couple of steps! Perfect habitat: a wet, brushy area right next to a little stream. They were flying back toward the wet woods. I couldn't go directly to where they landed since I'd be walking in someone's backyard (people do live at Whitesbog), so I doubled back 50 feet and took the path into the woods. I walked back to where I thought they'd gone and boom, they were off again. So, while I didn't get field guide views of them, I did turn up my FOY woodcocks. That made up for some of the frustration with the hawk. 
My list for Whitesbog:
15 species (+1 other taxa)
Canada Goose  97
Tundra Swan  63
Wood Duck  1
Ring-necked Duck  1    
Turkey Vulture  4
Killdeer  1
American Woodcock  3
Blue Jay  1
crow sp.  1
Carolina Chickadee  2
Hermit Thrush  2
American Robin  6
Fox Sparrow  1
White-throated Sparrow  3
Dark-eyed Junco  3
Northern Cardinal  1    Heard, village

I next drove over to Pemberton Lake WMA. When I was there with Shari a couple of weeks ago, it was completely covered in snow, though parts of the lake were open. I wanted to see what it was like to walk around it a bit. 

It's a great spot for ducks. About 1/2 the water is open. I parked at one end of the lake and walked about 3/4 of its length. It snowed off and on the hour I was there. The most surprising birds there for me were the hen & drake Northern Pintails I found nestling in with a flock of Mallards.
My Pemberton WMA list:
17 species
Canada Goose  700
Tundra Swan  5    f/o
Gadwall  1
American Wigeon  10
American Black Duck  4
Mallard  50
Northern Pintail  2
Ring-necked Duck  100
Hooded Merganser  25
Common Merganser  200
Great Blue Heron  2
Sharp-shinned Hawk  1
Mourning Dove  3
Downy Woodpecker  1
Carolina Chickadee  1    Heard
Carolina Wren  2    Heard
American Robin  1

Monday, February 24, 2014

Oros Preserve 2/24--Red-headed Woodpecker

Oros Preserve: Can you find the woodpecker?
I was visiting my mother today, going over paperwork and making phone calls. After 5 hours of that, having accomplished much, I rewarded myself with a trip to the nearby Oros Preserve before I headed home. When I pulled up to the curb, there was already a car parked there and man with bins walking the trail--"Another nut," I thought.

The trails are not cleared at the preserve and most of the snow has not melted, so it is slow and hard going, and even worse, some of the trails have turned into fast-running streams where the snow that has melted. I made a couple of iffy moves trying to stay on the trail; fortunately, I wear waterproof shoes. Eventually, I just followed the other birders footprints, and found him eventually around the bend at the end of a long path that looked out onto the frozen swamp. He was staking out a Red-headed Woodpecker, my goal for the trip.

While we waited for this local rarity to emerge from behind a tree, we chatted about listing birds and I admitted to keeping many different lists--life, state, county, backyard, name it. "Well, here's one you probably don't do," he said, and proceeded to tell me about a woman he'd met down at the Bridge to Nowhere to who kept a list in which she had to list a unique bird each day of the year. "It's amazing," he said, "she got to 202 days in a row."

I smiled, and told him that A) not only do I know about that kind of listing, but B) I know the woman he met and that C) last year she beat me by one day. "Well," he replied, "I think it's a really neat idea and maybe I'll do it next year."

By this time I was thinking that the bird was not coming out from behind the tree or had flown without our seeing it, but it did eventually emerge and flew from dead tree to dead tree, actually getting closer to us instead of what usually happens (they fly away). Cropping and blowing up the photo above, here's the woodpecker, for documentary purposes only:

I was very happy to get the bird. Another case of look for the birder, not the bird. Nothing else of note was there today--a vulture, geese, a couple of gulls, a jay and a grackle.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Brigantine 2/22--Tree Swallows

Early this morning, as we were at the entrance to Brig, listening to blackbirds singing "conkaree," picking out birds on snowless ground, it felt, for a little while, like Spring. All the water was open on the ponds, the impoundments, and the bay. And to further the illusion that winter might actually end, at the beginning of the Wildlife Drive, Pete & Mike, leading our Audubon field trip, spotted two Tree Swallows racing around, presumably finding bugs that have ventured out in the relatively warm air. Tree Swallows are considered rare this time of year.

With all the open water, ducks, swans, and geese were present in abundance. The wind picked up mid-morning and got stronger as the day progressed, which meant that the passerines we'd seen in the morning were about all we were going to see.

Three Peregrine Falcons were posing, two on the hacking tower,
and one immature on an Osprey platform.
This first year bird has been in the vicinity of the north dike for the last couple of months. Speculation is that it is a bird the migrated down from the arctic, since it is not shy around people. In other words, since it has never seen people, it doesn't know what a threat we are.

We had a very respectable 50 species for our two trips around the dikes. Almost everything we saw was recorded on the first trip, because after lunch the wind had become daunting and most birds were hunkered down, birds being, on the whole, smarter than people.
Snow Goose  2000
Brant  115
Canada Goose  250
Mute Swan  10
Tundra Swan  70    
Gadwall  2
American Wigeon  1    Southwest pool
American Black Duck  200
Mallard  15
Northern Shoveler  25
Northern Pintail  200
Green-winged Teal  75
Canvasback  36    
Ring-necked Duck  4
Greater Scaup  1
Bufflehead  25
Hooded Merganser  9    East pool
Common Merganser  4
Red-breasted Merganser  50
Horned Grebe  1
Great Blue Heron  2
Turkey Vulture  4
Northern Harrier  3
Bald Eagle  1    f/o end of north dike
Red-tailed Hawk  2
American Oystercatcher  2
Dunlin  100
Herring Gull  25
Great Black-backed Gull  1
Mourning Dove  1    Heard
Red-bellied Woodpecker  1    Heard
Peregrine Falcon  3   
Blue Jay  2
American Crow  5
Tree Swallow  2    
Carolina Chickadee  1    Heard
Tufted Titmouse  1
Carolina Wren  2    Heard
Hermit Thrush  1    Entrance road
American Robin  5
European Starling  100    Great Creek Rd
Yellow-rumped Warbler  2
Fox Sparrow  1    Entrance road
Song Sparrow  1    Heard, Gull Pond road
White-throated Sparrow  2
Northern Cardinal  1    Heard
Red-winged Blackbird  10
Brown-headed Cowbird  50    Great Creek Rd with starlings
House Finch  3    Visitor Ctr feeders
House Sparrow  1    Visitor Ctr feeders

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Burlington County 2/16--Fish Crow

We explored several spots in Burlington County that I've been curious about--the main spot being Pemberton Lake WMA, where the water is for the most part open and there was lots of waterfowl--but the only new bird that we added for the year was found in the parking lot of the Pandora Diner on Route 206--a flock of Fish Crows duking it out with a much larger flock of starlings for bread that had been tossed over the snow drifts into a scraggly field.

Let me veer off a moment here from birds to words: What is it about the name "Pandora" that makes it so popular?  Okay, it's a Greek diner, but I can think of a lot of mythological names that have better connotations than the woman who brought all the woe into the world. There's the internet music service called Pandora for no reason that I can tell and I often see billboards for a line of jewelry called "Pandora." Why? If you type in "Pandora's Box store" into Google, you'll get 1,520,000 hits. Granted, there's a lot of duplicates in there, but it seems like a pretty popular name for jewelry, antique, gift, tapestry, and clothing stores. Folks, Pandora's box is empty. Except for hope. Hope is what didn't get out of the box into the world. Cold comfort, if you ask me.

Meanwhile, back in Burlington County, after we surveyed Pemberton Lake for a half hour or so (where the rarest bird was a Red-breasted Merganser, usually a salt-water duck), we drove around the area, scanning empty fields for flocks of either geese or larks--a Greater White-fronted Goose has been seen with the thousands of Canada Geese in the area, and a Lapland Longspur has been spotted, as so often happens, with the larks. Along the way we did see 4 beefy Fox Sparrows and in one farm field, a couple hundred each of Snow Geese and Horned Larks, but no target birds.

After a very good lunch at Pandora's Diner, we made the loop around the Mercer Sod Farm IBA but had no luck finding the Rough-legged Hawk (which would be a lifer for us) that has been reported there. We had to settle for a Northern Harrier.

Still, we found good birds and got the feel for another section of Burlington County. 28 species in the county.
Species                Location
Snow Goose     Pemberton Lake WMA
Canada Goose     Pemberton Lake WMA
Gadwall     Pemberton Lake WMA
American Wigeon     Pemberton Lake WMA
American Black Duck     Pemberton Lake WMA
Mallard     Pemberton Lake WMA
Canvasback     Pemberton Lake WMA
Ring-necked Duck     Pemberton Lake WMA
Common Merganser     Pemberton Lake WMA
Red-breasted Merganser     Pemberton Lake WMA
Turkey Vulture     Pemberton Lake WMA
Northern Harrier     Mercer Sod Farm IBA
Red-tailed Hawk     Pemberton Lake WMA
American Coot     Pemberton Lake WMA
Blue Jay     Pemberton Lake WMA
American Crow     Vincentown-Pemberton Rd
Fish Crow     Pandora Diner parking lot
Horned Lark     Vincentown-Pemberton Rd
Carolina Chickadee     Mercer Sod Farm IBA
White-breasted Nuthatch     Mercer Sod Farm IBA
American Robin     Pemberton Lake WMA
Northern Mockingbird     Mercer Sod Farm IBA
European Starling     Pandora Diner parking lot
Fox Sparrow     Simontown & Stockton Bridge Rd
White-throated Sparrow     Mercer Sod Farm IBA
Dark-eyed Junco     Pandora Diner parking lot
Northern Cardinal     Mercer Sod Farm IBA
Red-winged Blackbird     Vincentown-Pemberton Rd

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Last 100 Books I've Read

Nabokov (#99 on this list) wrote that you can't read a book; you can only reread one. By that notion, I haven't read about 2/3 of this list. The books I did reread these last 16 month tended to be novels. Philip Roth, who announced his retirement during this period, is heavily represented. Since there weren't going to be any more Zuckermans, Kepeshes, or fictionalized Roths coming from him, I went back and immersed myself in his work for a couple of weeks at a time.

I reread Richard Ford's Bascombe trilogy; now that I live in New Jersey, some of the descriptive writing resonated more strongly with me, especially in the third novel which is set in an area very much like where we live now. The philosophical maunderings I found much less compelling than the first time, if I even remember how I felt the first time I read them.

I read a book on the history of the toothpick. It was written by the author who wrote a book on the history of the pencil. I read books that on Big Data and Prescriptive Analytics that I thought were just BS. I read books on birds, of course.  I read some poetry, though not as much as I used to.

Looking back on the list I can see that there are books that already have faded from memory. A mild panic comes over me--should I start rereading them or just let them sit on the shelf?

Without checking, it feels like it took me a lot longer to read 100 books than it has in the past. Something else always seems to beckon. I know that's a 21st century complaint, but it isn't always a digital distraction. Birds outside the window, the urge to take a walk in the woods, these take me away from turning pages too. Plus, I don't ride the subway anymore.

The list:
1.      11/27: Sweet Tooth—McEwan
2.      11/30: The Professor of Desire®--Roth
3.      11/30: The Prague Orgy®--Roth
4.      12/4: The Counterlife®--Roth
5.      12/18: Watchers of Time—Todd
6.      12/19: Stop Me If You’ve Heard This—Holt
7.      12/20: The Holy or the BrokenLight
8.      12/20: Goldfish and Rose—Hershon
9.      12/22: Joseph Cornell’s Manual of Marvels
10. 12/22: Dime Store Alchemy®—Simic
11.  12/26: Six Armies in Normandy®--Keegan
12.  12/29: Hello Goodbye Hello—Brown
13.  12/29: Seize the Day—Bellow
14.  12/30: 100 Diagrams That Changed the World
15.  1/7: A Fearsome Doubt—Todd
16.  1/10: Providence of a Sparrow—Chester
17.  1/23: Bright Earth—Ball
18.  1/24: Tenth of December—Saunders
19.  1/25: Chromophobia—Batchelor
20.  1/26: Flatland®—Abbot | I guess this was big yuks in the 1880’s
21.  1/28: Heart of Darkness®—Conrad
22.  1/29: Writers Writing Dying—C.K. Williams
23.  1/31: The Sights Along the Harbor®—Shapiro
24.  2/2: A Possible Life—Faulks
25.  2/2: The Tablets I-XV®—Schwerner | Don’t actually remember reading it
26.  2/8: Naked Statistics—Wheelan
27.  2/11: Encounters with the Archdruid®—McPhee
28.  2/13: Plutonium—Bernstein
29.  2/17: Twice Told Tales®—Stern
30.  2/20: Twice Upon a Time®—Stern
31.  2/21: The House of Barnes—Rudenstine
32.  3/1: The Aztec Treasure House®--Connell | Compilation of 2 previous books
33.  3/7: The Toothpick—Petroski
34.  3/16: The Idea Factory—Gertner
35.  3/28: Sabbath’s Theatre—Roth
36.  3/28: Marcel Duchamp: The Afternoon Interviews—Tomkins
37.  4/9: Predictive Analytics—Siegel | Cheerleading
38.  5/2: The Accursed—Oates | Long Book
39.  5/4: Woodrow Wilson®—Auchincloss
40.  5/14: Spy Dust—Mendez
41.  5/20: The Great Gatsby®--Fitzgerald
42.  5/26: A Man Without Breath—Kerr
43.  6/3: The Battle of Bretton Woods—Steil
44.  6/7: Tubes-Blum
45.  6/11: How to Lie with Maps—Monmonier
46.  6/21: Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking—Dennett
47.  6/27: Labyrinths®--Borges
48.  7/4: The Disappearing Spoon—Kean   
49.  7/11: Jewels--Finlay
50.  7/13: Marcel Duchamp: 1: La Chute D`Eau—Banz
51.  7/16: Speedboat—Adler
52.  7/18: Sleepless Nights®—Hardwick
53.  7/22: Pitch Dark—Adler
54.  7/24: Gone—Adler
55.  7/28: The New York Stories of Elizabeth Hardwick
56.  8/8: The Theory That Would Not Die—McGrayne
57.  8/14: Thinking in Numbers—Tammet
58.  8/15: My Face for the World to See—Hayes
59.  8/22: The Plot Against America®--Roth
60.  8/27: Young Man with a Horn—Baker
61.  8/30: New Jersey Noir
62.  9/4: Ravelstein®--Bellow     
63.  9/5: Betrayal®--Pinter
64.  9/6: Picasso/Duchamp: “He was wrong”
65.  9/10: You Gotta Have Wa®--Whiting
66.  9/16: Notes on a Cowardly Lion—Lahr
67.  9/16: Waiting For Godot®--Beckett
68.  9/23: The Lay of the Land®--Ford
69.  9/27: The Sportswriter®--Ford
70.  10/3: The Quest for Corvo—Symons
71.  10/11: Revolutionary Road—Yates
72.  10/23: Independence Day®—Ford
73. 10/25: On the Beach®--Shute
74.  11/1: Roth Unbound—Pierpont
75.  11/5: Exit Ghost®--Roth
76. 11/6: The Ghost Writer®--Roth
77. 11/8: Everyman®--Roth
78.  11/12: Something I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You—Munro
79.  11/14: City of Glass®--Auster
80.  11/15: Ghosts®--Auster
81.  11/22: On the Map—Garfield
82.  11/22: The “Alabama Insert”—Dawkins
83.  11/24: What I’ve Stolen, What I’ve Earned—Alexie
84.  11/24: A Mathematician’s Apology®--Hardy
85.  12/3: God: A Biography®--Miles
86.  12/6: ROY G. BIV—Stewart
87.  12/22: Saul Steinberg: A Biography—Bair
88.  12/22: Saul Steinberg®—Rosenberg
89.  12/29: Renoir, My Father—Renoir
90.  1/2/14: More Than Birds—Shushkewich
91.  1/4/14: Duveen—Behrman
92.  1/6: The Birds of New Jersey—Boyle
93.  1/7: The Lost Weekend—Jackson
94.  1/13: On Such A Full Sea—Lee
95.  1/21: Farther & Wilder—Bailey
96.  1/23: Andrew’s Brain—Doctorow
97.  1/27: Ghosty Men®--Lidz
98.  2/1: BUtterfield 8—O’Hara
99.  2/5: Pnin®--Nabokov
100. 2/12: Naomi--Tanizaki