Wednesday, April 30, 2014

April Roundup

Brown Thrasher singing at Whitesbog
April was not the cruelest month but migration did start slowly due to the Winter-That-Will-Not-End, but it did start and it was great to see warblers that were not of the Pine or Yellow-rumped variety. Shorebird migration has also started and the waders are back too.

Despite the grumbling about the weather we had a great month. I did a lot more birding with friends than I usually do, sometimes by design but a couple of times I was just lucky to run into a friend in the field. I was especially lucky at Whitesbog where a friend put me on to my first Prairie Warbler of the year and astoundingly lucky to meet Greg at Double Trouble and finally see after three tries, the elusive Louisiana Waterthrush that he originally found along the canal next to Cedar Creek.

One rarity I missed was a Neotropic Cormorant up north in Hunterdon County. The location is 94 miles from here but somehow those 94 miles seem much farther away than the 90 or so miles I would have to travel south to Cape May. Probably because I know my way around Cape May while Hunterdon falls into the "Hic Sunt Leontes" category. Had it been a life bird I would have steeled myself for the drive. As it is, it's one bird I won't have on my state list until one shows up closer to home.

Again this month almost all the birding was done in NJ--there was one quick trip into the city. That will change next month as we're headed to New Mexico for a week.

Finally, enough time has passed to show these pictures from earlier in the month. Greg and I went to Island Beach State Park. While standing in an open, sandy area on the bay side, we spotted 4 fox kits (pups, cubs) coming in and out of the den their mother had dug into a hill. She was off to the side, watching them as they investigated the area and seemed to have only half an eye on us. I took a couple of mediocre photos and held off posting them so as to not to tempt anyone to seek out the foxes. I felt both nervous and guilty being so near them. But they were cute.

For the month I had 143 species, by far the best count of the year.
Counties birded:
New Jersey: Atlantic, Burlington, Cape May, Cumberland, Monmouth, Ocean, Union
New York: New York
Species           Location
Snow Goose     Brigantine
Brant     Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Canada Goose     Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Mute Swan     Stafford Forge WMA
Tundra Swan     Crestwood Village
Wood Duck     Whitesbog Ocean County portion
Gadwall     Brigantine
American Wigeon     Brigantine
American Black Duck     Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Mallard     Crestwood Village
Blue-winged Teal     Brigantine
Northern Shoveler     Brigantine
Northern Pintail     Brigantine
Green-winged Teal     Crestwood Village
Canvasback     Brigantine
Redhead     Crestwood Village
Ring-necked Duck     Crestwood Village
Greater Scaup     Riverfront Landing
Lesser Scaup     Assunpink WMA
Harlequin Duck     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Black Scoter     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Long-tailed Duck     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Bufflehead     Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Hooded Merganser     Stafford Forge WMA
Common Merganser     Assunpink WMA
Red-breasted Merganser     Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Ruddy Duck     Riverfront Landing
Wild Turkey     35 Sunset Rd
Red-throated Loon     Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Common Loon     Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Pied-billed Grebe     Assunpink WMA
Horned Grebe     Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Northern Gannet     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Double-crested Cormorant     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Great Cormorant     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Great Blue Heron     Brigantine
Great Egret     Cattus Island County Park
Snowy Egret     Brigantine
Little Blue Heron     Cattus Island County Park
Tricolored Heron     Cattus Island County Park
Glossy Ibis     Brigantine
Black Vulture     Assunpink WMA
Turkey Vulture     Crestwood Village
Osprey     Cattus Island County Park
Northern Harrier     Brigantine
Sharp-shinned Hawk     Island Beach SP
Cooper's Hawk     Island Beach SP
Bald Eagle     Brigantine
Broad-winged Hawk     Estell Manor Park
Red-tailed Hawk     Crestwood Village
Clapper Rail     Heislerville WMA
American Coot     Brigantine
American Oystercatcher     Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Black-bellied Plover     Island Beach SP
Killdeer     Whitesbog Ocean County portion
Greater Yellowlegs     Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Willet     Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Lesser Yellowlegs     Heislerville WMA
Whimbrel     Brigantine
Ruddy Turnstone     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Dunlin     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Purple Sandpiper     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Least Sandpiper     Brigantine
Semipalmated Sandpiper     Brigantine
Short-billed Dowitcher     Heislerville WMA
Wilson's Snipe     Cattus Island County Park
Bonaparte's Gull     Brigantine
Laughing Gull     Palmyra Cove Nature Park
Ring-billed Gull     Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Herring Gull     Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Great Black-backed Gull     Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Gull-billed Tern     Brigantine
Caspian Tern     Brigantine
Forster's Tern     Cattus Island County Park
Rock Pigeon     Bayview Marina
Mourning Dove     Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Eastern Whip-poor-will     35 Sunset Rd
Chimney Swift     Brigantine
Ruby-throated Hummingbird     Belleplain State Forest
Belted Kingfisher     Cattus Island County Park
Red-bellied Woodpecker     Crestwood Village
Downy Woodpecker     Crestwood Village
Hairy Woodpecker     35 Sunset Rd
Northern Flicker     Cattus Island County Park
American Kestrel     Assunpink WMA
Merlin     Brigantine
Peregrine Falcon     Brigantine
Eastern Phoebe     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Great Crested Flycatcher     Double Trouble State Park
White-eyed Vireo     Whitesbog
Blue Jay     Crestwood Village
American Crow     Cattus Island County Park
Fish Crow     Crestwood Village
Northern Rough-winged Swallow     Whitesbog
Purple Martin     Brigantine
Tree Swallow     Riverfront Landing
Barn Swallow     Whitesbog Ocean County portion
Carolina Chickadee     Stafford Forge WMA
Black-capped Chickadee     Central Park
Tufted Titmouse     Stafford Forge WMA
White-breasted Nuthatch     Stafford Forge WMA
Brown Creeper     Palmyra Cove Nature Park
Carolina Wren     35 Sunset Rd
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher     Colliers Mills WMA
Golden-crowned Kinglet     Whitesbog Ocean County portion
Ruby-crowned Kinglet     Central Park
Eastern Bluebird     Cattus Island County Park
Hermit Thrush     Island Beach SP
American Robin     Stafford Forge WMA
Gray Catbird     Island Beach SP
Brown Thrasher     Whitesbog
Northern Mockingbird     Bayview Ave Park
European Starling     Stafford Forge WMA
Ovenbird     Belleplain State Forest
Worm-eating Warbler     Belleplain State Forest
Louisiana Waterthrush     Belleplain State Forest
Black-and-white Warbler     Colliers Mills WMA
Prothonotary Warbler     Belleplain State Forest
Common Yellowthroat     Whitesbog Ocean County portion
Yellow Warbler     Brigantine
Palm Warbler     Double Trouble State Park
Pine Warbler     Crestwood Village
Yellow-rumped Warbler     35 Sunset Rd
Yellow-throated Warbler     Estell Manor Park
Prairie Warbler     Whitesbog Ocean County portion
Eastern Towhee     Assunpink WMA
Chipping Sparrow     35 Sunset Rd
Field Sparrow     Brigantine
Savannah Sparrow     Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Seaside Sparrow     Brigantine
Song Sparrow     Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Swamp Sparrow     Cattus Island County Park
White-throated Sparrow     Crestwood Village
White-crowned Sparrow     Assunpink WMA
Dark-eyed Junco     Crestwood Village
Northern Cardinal     Crestwood Village
Red-winged Blackbird     Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Common Grackle     Double Trouble State Park
Boat-tailed Grackle     Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Brown-headed Cowbird     Crestwood Village
House Finch     Crestwood Village
American Goldfinch     35 Sunset Rd
House Sparrow     Riverfront Landing

Monday, April 28, 2014

Double Trouble SP 4/28--Great Crested Flycatcher

Yesterday I got a call on my cell from Greg: He was at Double Trouble and had re-found the Louisiana Waterthrush he'd seen a couple of weeks ago. However, since I was at Brig, I could only hope the bird would stick around another day. This morning I went over there and started my search on the canal near the old sawmill, with no results. I did, however, hear plenty of Ovenbirds and Common Yellowthroats, came up with lots of Black-and-white Warblers, a Palm Warbler, and a couple of the more common warblers.

After a while I decided to take my long walk. I had met a photographer new to the park, so I took him out to the bogs where the sun shines warmly on the pines with perfect light for photography should any birds show up. I then walked around out to the back bogs, coming up with only the usual birds, though three calling Greater Yellowlegs were a hair unusual.

I made my way back to the spot were on the canal where Greg had seen the birds and met up with the Terence, the photographer. We were reviewing what we had and hadn't seen when Greg called. He saw my car in the parking lot and wanted to know where I was. "Right at the spot you told me about." He came over in a few minutes and three of us started searching for birds. Again, not much. Then Greg spotted the waterthrush. At first I only got a glimpse of it. I had to construct the bird, first from it's lightly streaked breast, then a quick look at the bright pink legs, then a view of its bobbing tail. It was a bird that was easily spooked. We trailed it up and down the canal and finally we all three got good looks at as it walked along the bank--buffy flanks, white eyebrow, pink legs. Finally, on my 3rd trip to find this new Ocean County bird--and a very rare one it is in the county--I had it, thanks to Greg.

Normally, LAWA like swift running water (though the one I saw in Belleplain on Saturday was on a slow stream too) and we were wondering if the fast-moving creek on the other side of the path was what originally attracted the bird, while it did it's hunting on the calmer water. We were also wondering if this was the same bird Greg had originally seen. We'll never know because, incredibly, farther along the path, we found another one! We were able to get better, closer looks at this bird though it too was very skittish. We made certain it wasn't the very similar Northern Waterthrush which should just be arriving this time of  year. It wasn't. You can't sex LAWA so I suppose there is a possibility of nesting.

Greg saw another bird fly up from the stream and located it along a bare branch over the trail and posing nicely we both had our first Great Crested Flycatcher of the year. So things perked up nicely after Greg arrived.

I left around noon and Greg continued. Later he emailed me to let me know he'd found an Eastern Kingbird near one of the reservoirs. That makes the 3rd Eastern Kingbird I've missed in 3 days. Weather permitting, I may have to go back tomorrow and get that bird before it becomes a nemesis.

For my 4 hours and 3 something miles I had 34 species:
Canada Goose  4
Great Egret  3
Sharp-shinned Hawk  1
Greater Yellowlegs  3
Mourning Dove  1    Heard
Belted Kingfisher  1
Eastern Phoebe  1    Heard
Great Crested Flycatcher  1
Blue Jay  1    Heard
Tree Swallow  10
Barn Swallow  5
Carolina Chickadee  1    Heard
Tufted Titmouse  1    Heard
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  15
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  2
American Robin  2
Brown Thrasher  1    Heard
Ovenbird  10    Heard
Louisiana Waterthrush  2
Black-and-white Warbler  12
Common Yellowthroat  10    Heard
Palm Warbler  3
Pine Warbler  1
Yellow-rumped Warbler  3
Prairie Warbler  1    Heard
Eastern Towhee  2    Heard
Chipping Sparrow  5
Song Sparrow  4
White-throated Sparrow  1
Northern Cardinal  1    Village
Red-winged Blackbird  5
Common Grackle  1
Brown-headed Cowbird  2    Heard
American Goldfinch  1    Sweetwater Lane

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Brigantine NWR 4/27--Whimbrel, Least Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Gull-billed Tern, Chimney Swift, Yellow Warbler, Seaside Sparrow

Greater Yellowlegs
Photos: Shari Zirlin
A mammoth day at Brigantine with Pete & Mike leading the way. We arrived about a half hour earlier than the start time so our friend Joan could get a little land-birding in before we went out on the dikes. She and I found a few nice birds--Hermit Thrush, Brown Thrasher, Eastern Bluebird--but probably the best bird of the day was found by Shari while she was chasing after us--a Northern Parula. Considering how scarce warblers were today (I only had 2 species, both by ear), that's a great find.

Tundra Swan
Still, we were not disappointed. On the way to the Gull Pond Tower we stopped and looked at a very late (possibly injured) Tundra Swan in the pond itself. At the tower parking lot we came across our first Chimney Swifts (the classic "cigar with wings" description is ever apt) as well as our first small flock of Semipalmated Sandpipers.

Coming back along the Gull Pond road we heard one of the two warblers for the day--a Yellow Warbler--but we knew we couldn't all pile out of the cars in time without chasing away the bird, so we drove on.

Out on the dikes Whimbrels were pretty easy to find and we also came across a small number of Least Sandpipers--their yellow legs are the easiest way to separate them from the Semipalmateds.

Off the north dike there is a sandbar that always attracts terns and gulls--today, while stopping to look at first one, then two Caspian Terns we were happy to find our first Gull-billed Terns--right on time according to Pete. Also along the way and out on the island were American Oystercatchers, making the day complete for Shari.

Our last FOY of the day was a clearly singing but unseen Seaside Sparrow. That halfway makes up for the one I missed yesterday at Jake's Landing.

For the day my list is 80 species, not including the scaup species which was probably a lesser based on date and freshwater habitat, but I have a hard enough time calling scaups in good conscience when they're close, so this distant bird gets the slash.

Snow Goose  1    Injured bird
Brant  50
Canada Goose  10
Mute Swan  3
Tundra Swan  1    
Wood Duck  5
Gadwall  2
American Black Duck  10
Mallard  4    probably more that I just missed.
Blue-winged Teal  6
Northern Shoveler  4
Green-winged Teal  2
Greater/Lesser Scaup  1
Bufflehead  2    off north dike
Red-breasted Merganser  10
Ruddy Duck  1
Double-crested Cormorant  25
Great Blue Heron  1
Great Egret  50
Snowy Egret  25
Little Blue Heron  1
Glossy Ibis  8
Turkey Vulture  1
Osprey  10    Most nests occupied
Northern Harrier  2
Bald Eagle  2    One f/o, one off north dike
Red-tailed Hawk  2    adult f/o, juvenile by visitor's ctr.
Clapper Rail  2    Heard
American Coot  1    Gull Pond
American Oystercatcher  5
Black-bellied Plover  40
Greater Yellowlegs  50
Willet (Eastern)  100
Whimbrel  50
Dunlin  25
Least Sandpiper  4
Semipalmated Sandpiper  25
Short-billed Dowitcher  5
Laughing Gull  10
Ring-billed Gull  1
Herring Gull  50
Great Black-backed Gull  5
Gull-billed Tern  2
Caspian Tern  2
Forster's Tern  50
Chimney Swift  20
Red-bellied Woodpecker  1    Heard
Merlin  1
Peregrine Falcon  1
Eastern Phoebe  1
White-eyed Vireo  1    Heard
Blue Jay  1    Heard
American Crow  1    Heard
Fish Crow  20
Purple Martin  5
Tree Swallow  20
Carolina Chickadee  2    Heard
Tufted Titmouse  3    One seen with nesting material by picnic tables.
White-breasted Nuthatch  1    Heard
Carolina Wren  1    Heard
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  10
Eastern Bluebird  2
Hermit Thrush  1
American Robin  5
Brown Thrasher  1
European Starling  5
Common Yellowthroat  5    Heard
Yellow Warbler 
1    Heard
Eastern Towhee  3    Heard upland portion of drive
Chipping Sparrow  10
Savannah Sparrow  2
Seaside Sparrow  1    Heard, north dike
Song Sparrow  5
White-throated Sparrow  2    heard singing, picnic tables
Northern Cardinal  3
Red-winged Blackbird  20
Common Grackle  1
Brown-headed Cowbird  1    Roof of visitor's center
House Finch  2    Visitor's ctr
American Goldfinch  2    Near visitor's ctr
House Sparrow  1

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Heislerville WMA 4/26--Clapper Rail, Lesser Yellowlegs, Short-billed Dowitcher

Heislerville Rookery
Then we switched habitats entirely, going from the forest to the impoundments at Heislerville on Delaware Bay about 15 miles away. This was only our 3rd trip to Heislerville; we have Brig for all
Our caravan at Heislerville
our wader & shorebird needs. Like Brig, you can drive on the impoundments. Unlike Brig, on large stretches of the road, if you park, you block traffic. Fortunately, the place is not as heavily traveled as Brig.

The most instructive sighting there today, was getting Lesser Yellowlegs standing right next to Greater Yellowlegs. It is hard to tell them apart, especially at a distance, when they are alone--asking yourself if the bill would go through the head as on a greater, or if if the barring is lighter on a lesser, when looking at them shimmering in your scope, can be frustrating. But standing next to each other, who's who is obvious. The same cannot be said of Short-billed Dowitchers compared to Long-billed.  They can stand in close proximity and you'd still have disagreements about which is which. Happily, it is too early for Long-billed, so the dowitchers we saw were an easy i.d.

Afterwards, we made a stop at Jake's Landing where I didn't pick up anything new, though some in the group, including Shari, were lucky enough to see Seaside Sparrow displaying. Clapper Rails, our first of the year which we heard at Heislerville, were calling pretty loudly at Jake's and one even made a brief appearance.
30 species
Canada Goose  5
Mute Swan  4
Gadwall  2
American Black Duck  5
Mallard  4
Blue-winged Teal  4
Green-winged Teal  2
Red-breasted Merganser 4    
Double-crested Cormorant  100
Great Egret  75
Snowy Egret  50
Glossy Ibis  7
Turkey Vulture  1
Osprey  5
Bald Eagle  1
Clapper Rail  1    Heard
Greater Yellowlegs  75
Willet  5
Lesser Yellowlegs  5
Dunlin  50
Short-billed Dowitcher  5
Bonaparte's Gull  2
Laughing Gull  5
Ring-billed Gull  1
Herring Gull  25
Great Black-backed Gull  5
Forster's Tern  5
Tree Swallow  1
Red-winged Blackbird  2    Heard
Boat-tailed Grackle  1

Belleplain SF 4/26--Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Ovenbird, Worm-eating Warbler, Louisiana Waterthrush, Prothonotary Warbler

Today was what I think of as our annual NJ Warbler trip to Belleplain State Forest, led by Pete Bacinski and Mike Mandracchia. Belleplain is great place to get warblers in migration. The only better places are way up in north Jersey. Unfortunately, like last year, migration seems to be late so Pete thought that there was "a dearth of birds" in the forest. Migration has a lot of moving parts--the length of the day signals the birds to start moving but the weather patterns can hold them up or move them away from where they might "normally" touch down. Overall, birds seem to be arriving in the north earlier but the last couple of years a lot of them are "late." It is the same with butterflies according to my brother--everything seems to be about two weeks behind.

With all that said, we did, I think, pretty well. While we didn't have big numbers of warblers, we got the sought-after birds for that spot: a couple of Worm-eating Warblers, a beautiful & cooperative Prothonotary Warbler, a few Yellow--throated Warblers (though Shari & I had them last week at Atlantic County Park) and a calling Louisiana Waterthrush, which, when it appeared, appeared as a brown bullet flying right at and over our group. 10 warbler species in all and I missed Yellow-rumped, somehow.

By the way, doesn't "worm-eating warbler" sound like an insult one cowboy would throw at another just before a bar fight in a "B" western? The poor bird does not deserve such a wretched name, especially since the worms it eats aren't true worms--they're inch-worms, i.e. larvae. We don't call the robin a "Worm-eating Thrush."

40 species
Canada Goose  1
Double-crested Cormorant  5
Black Vulture  1
Turkey Vulture  1
Osprey  1
Red-tailed Hawk  1
Laughing Gull  3
Mourning Dove  2
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  1    Feeder at HQ
Red-bellied Woodpecker  1    Heard
Downy Woodpecker  1    Heard
Eastern Phoebe  3
White-eyed Vireo  5
Blue Jay  2    Heard
Fish Crow  1
Barn Swallow  1
Carolina Chickadee  5
Tufted Titmouse  3
White-breasted Nuthatch  2
Carolina Wren  1    Heard
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  10
Eastern Bluebird  2
American Robin  5
European Starling  5
Ovenbird  10    Heard
Worm-eating Warbler  2

Louisiana Waterthrush  1
Black-and-white Warbler  5
Prothonotary Warbler  1
Common Yellowthroat  1    Heard
Palm Warbler  1
Pine Warbler  5
Yellow-throated Warbler  3
Prairie Warbler  2
Eastern Towhee  1    Heard
Chipping Sparrow  10
White-throated Sparrow  4
Northern Cardinal  2
Brown-headed Cowbird  3
American Goldfinch  1

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Atlantic County Park 4/20--Broad-winged Hawk, Yellow-throated Warbler

Estellville Glassworks arch
Atlantic County Park--or Estell Manor Park--or Belcoville--is a very strange park made from the ruins of a 19th century glassworks and a 20th century munitions compound. It also incorporates a veterans cemetery. Belcoville refers to the Bethlehem Loading Company, a huge munitions complex built during World War I by Bethlehem Steel deep in the Pine Barrens, with railroad tracks between buildings and an entire town for the workers. The thinking was that should the place blow up, it was remote enough that nowhere important would be harmed. Of course if you lived in Belcoville...

Belcoville ruins
Not much remains of either concern--the glassworks operated from about 1825 to 1877 and by the time the munitions factory really got rolling the war was over and there wasn't much need for it any longer. The pines and cedars took back the land long ago and with an elaborate network of trails and boardwalks, many of which follow the rail beds of the munitions complex, Atlantic County has turned it into a great park with fine habitat.

We went down today in search of warblers. I had good reports from my friend Greg. We hadn't been there in a couple of years so at first I didn't really know my way around, but then, looking at the map, it all started to come back to me. Unfortunately, the weather was cold for April and windier than it should be for productive birding, so the morning was slow except for one species--I said to Shari that for every gnat there seemed to be a gnatcatcher.

The day began to warm up as we left the boardwalk and started back on one of the trails--a few warblers made themselves known along with some phoebes. The first "interesting" bird of the day was the Broad-winged Hawk that flew overhead. As we were walking on Crossover Trail I heard a warbler sing and having this morning reviewed its song, I knew we had our target bird of Yellow-throated Warbler. Unfortunately, we couldn't find the bird, high up in tree. Couldn't find it until it flew out and away that is and all we saw was a small could-be-anything bird zip away. Not very satisfying.

Glassworks ruins
We drove around Purple Heart Drive, stopping a few places, including the glassworks where Shari
was distracted by the glittering shards of furnace waste scattered on the ground. There wasn't much to be found along Stephen's Creek aside from a few Purple Martins and in Cribbers Field we found a beautiful bluebird, a few more Pine WarblersChipping Sparrows and not much else.

We decided that we walk again on the boardwalk for a short ways since the wind had calmed and the sun was out. At the Nature Center, Shari ran into a friend of ours who was feeling pretty good about a bird she'd seen and photographed--a Prothonotary Warbler. She took us to the spot where she'd found it, about 1/2 mile away on the boardwalk, but of course, the bird was gone. As we walked back Shari heard a bird sing and thought at first it was a Yellow Warbler. The three of us started to scan the trees while the bird sang. It didn't seem quite right for YEWA, yet it didn't seem like the song I'd heard earlier, but when I found it there was not doubt--a bee-yoo-tee-ful Yellow-throated Warbler in plain and easy sight. When the sun hit the yellow on its throat the effect was incandescent. The day was made. Warblers are to be seen--hearing them is just a tool for location.

So, while our day list isn't huge, we did pick up a couple of new birds for the year and got to walk in some very odd scenery.
25 species (+1 other taxa)
Canada Goose  2
Mallard  1    Crossover Trail
Turkey Vulture  3
Osprey  2
Broad-winged Hawk  1
Mourning Dove  1
Red-bellied Woodpecker  1    Heard
Hairy Woodpecker  1
Eastern Phoebe  3
Blue Jay  1
Fish Crow  1    Heard
crow sp.  5
Purple Martin  3
Carolina Chickadee  9
Tufted Titmouse  7
Carolina Wren  2    Heard
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  16
Eastern Bluebird  1    Cribbers Field
Pine Warbler  6
Yellow-rumped Warbler  2
Yellow-throated Warbler
Eastern Towhee  1    Heard
Chipping Sparrow  11
Northern Cardinal  2
Red-winged Blackbird  1    Heard
Brown-headed Cowbird  4

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Cattus Island CP 4/19--Forster's Tern

Little Blue Heron
A walk of just under 2 hours in Cattus Isalnd County Park found 33 species today--it helps to hear a lot of birds. I was limited in where I could go by both dog walkers on the peninsula (dogs=no shorebirds) and by a continuing reconstruction project on Scout Island which today involved many youthful volunteers pushing wheelbarrows of mulch for the trails.

Still, I was happy with what I saw, though I did miss Tricolor Heron. Last year a few birders from the northern part of the state were emailing me about where to get Tricolor (it rarely gets north of Ocean County) and I simply suggested Cattus Island--go to the first marsh, look left, there's usually at least one. The other day in Linden a birder asked me to email him when the Tricolors came in--"They're already there," I told him, "Saw 2 on Monday."

So of course, I didn't see one today.
Glossy Ibis
Before I went out I checked my records from last year, looking to see what potential gaps in the year list I might fill today. Last year, coincidentally, I was at Cattus Island too. And just as I had last year, today I saw 2 Forster's Terns, plunge diving in the big marsh by the Nature Center as I was walking out. One more little gap in the year list filled.

Canada Goose  1    Heard in marsh
Mute Swan  1
Bufflehead  43
Horned Grebe  2    
Great Egret  3
Snowy Egret  5
Little Blue Heron  2
Glossy Ibis  5
Osprey  8
Greater Yellowlegs  1
Laughing Gull  3
Herring Gull  10
Great Black-backed Gull  1
Forster's Tern  2
Mourning Dove  2    Heard
Belted Kingfisher  1
Red-bellied Woodpecker  1    Heard
Northern Flicker  1    Heard
Blue Jay  2    Heard
American Crow  1    Heard
Fish Crow  2
Tree Swallow  5
Barn Swallow  1
Carolina Chickadee  6
Tufted Titmouse  2    Heard
Carolina Wren  1    Heard
American Robin  1
Eastern Towhee  1    Heard
Chipping Sparrow  1    Heard
Song Sparrow  1
Northern Cardinal  1    Blue trail
Red-winged Blackbird  10
American Goldfinch  2

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Whitesbog 4/16--White-eyed Vireo, Common Yellowthroat, Prairie Warbler

Spring snow at Whitesbog
It snowed early this morning. April 16 and it snowed. April 16 and I'm scraping snow off the windshield. April 16 and it is literally freezing out.

I waited for the temperature to warm up a little, figuring that the birds weren't going to be active until there was at least a little warmth in the air. I drove over to Whitesbog where I knew I could take a good long hike.

Before I was even in the parking lot I thought I'd be having a good day--not because 2 Turkey Vultures were perched on the big sign in the blueberry field on the road in, but because just beyond and above them, on a wire, I spotted an American Kestrel. It's been a good month for kestrels--that was the 4th one I've seen.

I walked through the village and out onto the bogs. It must have been warm enough to get the insects out since the first bog on the right was swarming with swallows--Tree, Barn, Northern Rough-winged, and later on, Purple Martins. On Union Pond there was a lone Tundra Swan. It's very late for these swans and I found out when I ran into my friend Len out on the road that this swan was injured (perhaps a stray shotgun pellet) and could only fly short distances. It will be interesting to see how it fares.

Things picked up when I crossed back into Ocean County. (Looking at a map, while Whitesbog Village is in Burlington County, I would say that probably 60 to 70 per cent of Whitesbog is actually in Ocean.  For those of us keeping county lists, it makes a difference.  Blue-gray Gnatcatchers were giving their sibilant little cat calls and turning off the main road for a bit I heard then quickly found my first Common Yellowthroat of the year. It was being chased through the underbrush by a Swamp Sparrow--not enough room in that bog for both birds, apparently. The sparrow was huge in comparison to the warbler and got its way.

I saw Len's truck up the road, so I made a left instead of my usual right and we caught up with each other. He told me he'd been watching warblers up the road behind us where the sun was warming the brush, so after we chatted I walked up there and sure enough, there were more yellowthroats, gnatcatchers, and yes! as he said, my FOY Prairie Warbler. Two new warblers for the Ocean County List.

At the end of my loop around the impoundments I heard for the 2nd time a song I knew I should know but it wouldn't come to mind--it sounded, at first like a flycatcher, but not like a flycatcher I knew and besides, it's too early for the flycatchers except phoebes. Then I thought "vireo" and it all came back to me--White-eyed Vireo. I pished and had the good fortune to actually have it show itself for a couple of moments. Too bad I was back in Burlington County!

So 3 new birds + a kestrel + a good chat with a friend and the temperature all the way up to 45 degrees--a good few hours on the bogs.

The day's list:
34 species
Canada Goose    1
Tundra Swan    1
Mallard    15
Double-crested Cormorant    1
Great Blue Heron    1
Turkey Vulture    3
Osprey    1
Mourning Dove    1
Northern Flicker    1
American Kestrel    1
White-eyed Vireo    1
Blue Jay    1
American Crow    1
Fish Crow    1
Northern Rough-winged Swallow    5
Purple Martin    4
Tree Swallow    30
Barn Swallow    20
Carolina Chickadee    1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher    11
American Robin    2
Black-and-white Warbler    1
Common Yellowthroat    3
Pine Warbler    1
Yellow-rumped Warbler    3
Prairie Warbler    1
Eastern Towhee    5
Savannah Sparrow    3
Song Sparrow    3
Swamp Sparrow    1
Northern Cardinal    1
Red-winged Blackbird    3
House Finch    1
American Goldfinch    1
Daffodils in snow

Monday, April 14, 2014

Cattus Island CP 4/14--Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron

I met Greg at Double Trouble this morning. Yesterday he saw a Louisiana Waterthrush along the drainage ditch that runs along the trail to the big reservoir. He'd emailed me yesterday and rushed over there, but didn't find the bird. We didn't have any better luck this morning. Louisiana Waterthrush is not officially a "rara avis" 'round here, but there are very few sightings listed on eBird. Greg's was the first in about 7 or 8 years! So we both would really have liked to refind the bird. We saw plenty of other expected warblers, and Greg, before I got there, had the first Common Yellowthroat of the year at the power line cut, but despite diligent searching up and down the trail, we could get the waterthrush to materialize. Too bad; I don't see them that often anywhere and it would be a really good bird for my Ocean County list.
Double Trouble State Park
22 species
Mallard  5
Great Egret  3
Turkey Vulture  1
Downy Woodpecker  1
Northern Flicker  1    Heard
Eastern Phoebe  5
Blue Jay  3
Fish Crow  1
Tree Swallow  10
Barn Swallow  2
Carolina Chickadee  5
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  3
American Robin  2
Black-and-white Warbler  5
Palm Warbler  4
Pine Warbler  3
Yellow-rumped Warbler  1
Chipping Sparrow  5
Savannah Sparrow  2
Song Sparrow  4
Red-winged Blackbird  3
Brown-headed Cowbird  1

My original plan for this morning was to go to Cattus Island County Park and look for new waders, so after a full morning at Double Trouble we headed over there. We met a guy I know taking photographs and asked if any of our target birds had been seen--of course they had and we had just missed 'em. 

We were not so easily dissuaded--after all we'd spent a few hours trying to find a little warbler bobbing along a stream, big shorebirds should be easier to spot. So we walked almost to the end of the road when Greg spot a wader far out in the marsh. Too far out to be sure what it was. Happily, the trail to Scout Island, which was damaged by Superstorm Sandy, has been restored. We walked out on the boardwalk and over to the "island," which is more like a hard spot in the marsh than an actual island, and peering through the phragmites, Greg found a Tricolored Heron. A little farther on we were able to get better looks. 

On the way out we stopped again to scan the marshes and found the second target bird of the day, a Little Blue Heron. Good thing I lugged the scope today because it too was pretty far out in the marsh but we sighted it through the scope perfectly. A little before that a second, beautiful Tricolored Heron flew over us--absolutely spectacular breeding plumage. And the bonus bird for the day was Glossy Ibis, a few of which we could see flying in to an inaccessible area of the marsh--inaccessible because the boardwalk that goes out there still hasn't been repaired since the storm. 

So, despite dipping on the waterthrush, we had a pretty good day in the field.
Cattus Island County Park
22 species
Canada Goose  2
Mallard  5
Bufflehead  1    Crossway Creek
Double-crested Cormorant  1
Great Egret  10
Snowy Egret  3
Little Blue Heron  1
Tricolored Heron  2
Glossy Ibis  3
Turkey Vulture  1
Osprey  3
Northern Harrier  2
Red-tailed Hawk  1
Great Black-backed Gull  1
Belted Kingfisher  1
Carolina Chickadee  1    Heard
Tufted Titmouse  1    Heard
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  1    Heard
Pine Warbler  1
Eastern Towhee  1    Heard, Scout Island
Song Sparrow  1    Heard, Scout Island
Red-winged Blackbird  5