Monday, June 30, 2014

June Birds

Black-crowned Night-Heron, Great Bay Blvd WMA
NJ Counties Birded: Atlantic, Burlington, Monmouth, Ocean Warren
Species                First Sighting
Canada Goose     Wells Mills Park
Mute Swan     Cattus Island County Park
Wood Duck     Colliers Mills WMA
American Black Duck     Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Mallard     Wells Mills Park
Bufflehead     Brigantine NWR
Wild Turkey     35 Sunset Rd
Red-necked Grebe     Ocean County Parks Offices
Double-crested Cormorant     Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Great Blue Heron     Lakehurst NAES
Great Egret     Cattus Island County Park

Snowy Egret     Cattus Island County Park
Little Blue Heron     Cattus Island County Park
Tricolored Heron     Great Bay Bvld. WMA

Green Heron     Whitesbog

Black-crowned Night-Heron     Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Glossy Ibis     Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Turkey Vulture     Bear Swamp IBA
Osprey     Cattus Island County Park
Cooper's Hawk     Colliers Mills WMA
Bald Eagle     Brigantine NWR
Broad-winged Hawk     Old Mine Road IBA
Red-tailed Hawk     Toms River
Clapper Rail     Great Bay Bvld. WMA
American Oystercatcher     Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Black-bellied Plover     Brigantine NWR
Piping Plover     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Killdeer     Colliers Mills WMA
Spotted Sandpiper     Brigantine NWR
Greater Yellowlegs     Brigantine NWR
Willet     Cattus Island County Park
Lesser Yellowlegs     Brigantine NWR
Upland Sandpiper     Lakehurst NAES
Whimbrel     Brigantine NWR
Dunlin     Brigantine NWR
Semipalmated Sandpiper     Brigantine NWR
Short-billed Dowitcher     Brigantine NWR
Laughing Gull     Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Ring-billed Gull     Brigantine NWR
Herring Gull     Cattus Island County Park
Glaucous Gull     Brigantine NWR
Great Black-backed Gull     Cattus Island County Park
Least Tern     Brigantine NWR
Gull-billed Tern     Brigantine NWR
Caspian Tern     Brigantine NWR
Common Tern     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Forster's Tern     Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Black Skimmer     Brigantine NWR
Mourning Dove      Evert Memorial Nature Trail
Yellow-billed Cuckoo      Evert Memorial Nature Trail
Black-billed Cuckoo     Brigantine NWR
Common Nighthawk     Lakehurst NAES
Chuck-will's-widow     Collinstown Rd
Eastern Whip-poor-will     35 Sunset Rd
Chimney Swift     Union Transportation Trail
Ruby-throated Hummingbird     35 Sunset Rd
Belted Kingfisher     Cattus Island County Park
Red-bellied Woodpecker     Bear Swamp IBA
Downy Woodpecker      Evert Memorial Nature Trail
Hairy Woodpecker     Lakehurst NAES
Northern Flicker      Evert Memorial Nature Trail
American Kestrel     Lakehurst NAES
Peregrine Falcon     Brigantine NWR
Eastern Wood-Pewee      Evert Memorial Nature Trail
Acadian Flycatcher     Double Trouble State Park
Willow Flycatcher     Cattus Island County Park
Least Flycatcher     Old Mine Road IBA
Eastern Phoebe     Wells Mills Park
Great Crested Flycatcher      Evert Memorial Nature Trail
Eastern Kingbird     Cattus Island County Park
White-eyed Vireo      Evert Memorial Nature Trail
Yellow-throated Vireo     Allaire State Park
Warbling Vireo     Rancocas Nature Center
Red-eyed Vireo      Evert Memorial Nature Trail
Blue Jay     Colliers Mills WMA
American Crow     Lakehurst NAES
Fish Crow      Evert Memorial Nature Trail
Common Raven     Lakehurst NAES
Horned Lark     Lakehurst NAES
Northern Rough-winged Swallow     Ocean County Parks Offices
Purple Martin     Brigantine NWR
Tree Swallow     Rancocas Nature Center
Barn Swallow     Cattus Island County Park
Carolina Chickadee     Rancocas Nature Center
Tufted Titmouse     Bear Swamp IBA
White-breasted Nuthatch     Wells Mills Park
House Wren     Cattus Island County Park
Marsh Wren     Cattus Island County Park
Carolina Wren      Evert Memorial Nature Trail
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher      Evert Memorial Nature Trail
Eastern Bluebird     Colliers Mills WMA
Veery     Rancocas Nature Center
Swainson's Thrush     Wells Mills Park
Wood Thrush      Evert Memorial Nature Trail
American Robin     Bear Swamp IBA
Gray Catbird     Wells Mills Park
Brown Thrasher     Colliers Mills WMA
Northern Mockingbird     Wells Mills Park
European Starling     Wells Mills Park
Cedar Waxwing     Rancocas Nature Center
Ovenbird      Evert Memorial Nature Trail
Worm-eating Warbler     Old Mine Road IBA
Louisiana Waterthrush     Old Mine Road IBA
Blue-winged Warbler     Allaire State Park
Black-and-white Warbler      Evert Memorial Nature Trail
Prothonotary Warbler      Evert Memorial Nature Trail
Common Yellowthroat     Bear Swamp IBA
Hooded Warbler      Evert Memorial Nature Trail
American Redstart     Old Mine Road IBA
Cerulean Warbler     Old Mine Road IBA
Northern Parula     Old Mine Road IBA
Yellow Warbler     Cattus Island County Park
Pine Warbler      Evert Memorial Nature Trail
Prairie Warbler     Bear Swamp IBA
Yellow-breasted Chat     Assunpink WMA
Eastern Towhee      Evert Memorial Nature Trail
Chipping Sparrow     Wells Mills Park
Field Sparrow     Rancocas Nature Center
Grasshopper Sparrow     Colliers Mills WMA
Saltmarsh Sparrow     Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Seaside Sparrow     Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Song Sparrow     Cattus Island County Park
Northern Cardinal      Evert Memorial Nature Trail
Blue Grosbeak     Colliers Mills WMA
Indigo Bunting     Rancocas Nature Center
Red-winged Blackbird     Rancocas Nature Center
Eastern Meadowlark     Lakehurst NAES
Common Grackle      Evert Memorial Nature Trail
Boat-tailed Grackle     Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Brown-headed Cowbird     Wells Mills Park
Orchard Oriole     Brigantine NWR
Baltimore Oriole     Rancocas Nature Center
House Finch     Wells Mills Park
American Goldfinch     Cattus Island County Park
House Sparrow     Toms River

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Barnegat Light SP 6/25--Piping Plover, Common Tern

Piping Plover chick, Barnegat Light SP
The time had come to get my Piping Plovers for the year, so I was up early and at Barnegat Light before 7 this morning. Huge swaths of the beach have been cordoned off to provide a safe haven for these little plovers, leaving a rather narrow 1/2 mile corridor down to the ocean. It is really amazing how much space has to be dedicated to a few birds--this year it seems like only a pair of PIPL nested successfully.

The path between the strings has the disadvantage, for humans, of forcing you to walk on soft sand, instead of the harder packed surface along the tidal pools by the jetty, so I was really trudging this morning to where I saw two other standing with tripods. Look for the birders, not the birds.

But, when I finally got there, huffing and puffing, I found the two photographers were waiting. The plovers had not put in an appearance yet, though they could be heard, by those with acute hearing, about 40 feet back in the dunes.

I settled in to wait but after about a half hour I decided to try to get them on the way back and continued to the seaside. There I was able to get my secondary target bird of the day, Common Tern. I could see dark terns (Forster's are "frosty" terns) diving around one of the channel markers. Because they were dark and because they were over the ocean, I knew they were Common Terns, but they looked like this:
Not a very satisfactory view. One did fly over my head and I got a quick view. Still: BVD.

I walked back to where one of the photogs remained on vigil. He seemed to know a lot about the birds--I gather he'd been tracking the nest and the chicks for a while now. Ospreys were flying back and forth with sticks--late nesters because they had made the error of trying to nest on a construction crane across the inlet on Island Beach, he told me. He also told me that the Ospreys were a strain on the plovers, who would fly up and attack the hawks, not realizing, of course, they were not a threat. He got up and went down the beach to photograph the Ospreys, while I waited. For a half a second I saw a little, pale bird jump up out of the dunes and fly at a Herring Gull, a much more credible threat to its young. I was hoping that was not going to be my only look for the day.

It was needling me what crappy looks I got of the terns so I gave up again on the plovers and walked back down to the end of the jetty, then turned north and walked along the beach. Finally, I was able to get decent, close looks at the birds, satisfying myself that they did not have frosted wings, that their beaks were reddish and their underparts gray. I'm terrible at distinguishing these two terns in flight, but one was decent enough to settle down on the beach and with long study, I was pretty sure it was a Common:
With the terns accounted for I turned once again back to the corridor. With my binoculars I cold see the photographer prone on the sand, looking through his view finder toward the tidal pools. By following the direction his cannon-like lens was pointing I was able to see movement and quickly put my scope on a Piping Plover chick. Then I saw an adult. Then two more chicks. Altogether I had 5--both adults and 3 chicks. The chicks would run across the corridor while the adults hunkered down in the sand, sometimes doing the broken wing display to distract us. I watched them for 15 or 20 minutes, again seeing an adult fly up and chase a gull, a bird that has to be 10 or 20 times its size.

I was very happy.

The only other notable birds on the beach today were 3 American Oystercatchers, which provided some welcome distraction while I waited the first two times for the plovers.

The day's list:
22 species
Mallard  3
Osprey  3
American Oystercatcher  3
Piping Plover  5    
Laughing Gull  25
Herring Gull  25
Great Black-backed Gull  35
Common Tern  10
Mourning Dove  1
Fish Crow  1     Heard
Barn Swallow  10
Carolina Chickadee  1     Heard, trail by visitor's ctr
Carolina Wren  1     Heard, trail by visitor's ctr
Gray Catbird  1     Heard, trail by visitor's ctr
Northern Mockingbird  1     heard, dunes
Common Yellowthroat  1     heard, dunes
Song Sparrow  1     heard, dunes
Northern Cardinal  2     visitor's ctr and trail
Red-winged Blackbird  10
Boat-tailed Grackle  3
House Finch  1     Heard, trail by visitor's ctr
House Sparrow  10

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Old Mine Road 6/21--Least Flycatcher, Cerulean Warbler

Warren County, looking east. (above)
Buttermilk Falls. (below)

Photos: Shari Zirlin

We were up early this morning--way before dawn, so we could meet our friend Mike at his house in Jackson. Mike, who was co-leading the Audubon trip to Old Mine, volunteered to drive us up there. We've always wanted to go on one of these trips, but the long drive put us off, so we jumped at the chance. 

Old Mine Road is up in northwest NJ, at the Delaware Water Gap. It is very different habitat--deciduous forest--from what we are used to birding around here. It is a great warbler spot, well after most of the warblers have passed through. This is where they go. 

We picked up Pete at the Cheesequake rest stop and continued on up north, passing through the quaint little town of Buttzville. 

It was a good group of birders, all fairly experienced, and of course, Pete and Mike do yeoman work getting people on birds. 

After stopping at New Jersey's longest stop light (really, it is about 3 minutes long to allow traffic to pass through the one lane section of the road) we started our drive. Almost immediately we were hearing lots of birds, the most interesting being a Worm-eating Warbler's dry buzzy song. About 1/2 the group got on it, the other half, in which I was, didn't. At the same spot, though, we got field guide looks at a Hooded Warbler, always a favorite around here. The same spot also offered up great looks at a Louisiana Waterthrush in the middle of the road. Very odd to see one so far away from water. 

The main bird Shari & I were interested in seeing was Cerulean Warbler. Their population over the last 50 years or so is down around 80%, due to clear cutting of the high trees they must have in order to nest. That area in norther NJ is protected habitat so they do nest up there--not in great numbers, perhaps 35 or so pairs, but at least they're there. Unfortunately, we never got a look at the warbler. Pete kept hearing them. I didn't hear what Pete was hearing until the very end of the trip as we were heading back to the starting point I heard a buzzy trill through the car window and Pete said, "You know what that was? Cerulean Warbler." So we had the bird. Not a very satisfactory record, but it counts. 

The other year bird today was a little better. At lunch we heard very clearly the "ch-bek" of a Least Flycatcher, and, after staring into the woods for an inordinate amount of time, I finally found one high up in the branches of relatively bare tree. 

Other notable sightings today were:
Three Bald Eagles in one binocular view, one adult and two sub-adults, with one juvenile and the adult engaging in flight, the adult flipping upside down, talons out;
A Green Heron along some mudflats;
And our only two shorebirds of the trip in the same spot at the heron--Killdeer and Spotted Sandpiper;
Three Yellow-throated Vireos--ironic in that I saw my first NJ one only a couple of days ago--when it rains, etc.

Old Mine Road is a gorgeous spot (see photos) and we'd like to go back up there on our own, now that we know a little of how the area is organized. We'll probably have to make it an overnighter, though, because that's a lot of driving in our little state. 

A "Heinz" day--57 varieties:
Canada Goose  15
Great Blue Heron  1
Green Heron  1
Turkey Vulture  12
Bald Eagle  3     
Broad-winged Hawk  1
Red-tailed Hawk  1
Killdeer  1
Spotted Sandpiper  1
Mourning Dove  4
Yellow-billed Cuckoo  1     Heard
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  1
Belted Kingfisher  1
Red-bellied Woodpecker  1     Heard
Northern Flicker  1     Heard
Eastern Wood-Pewee  5     Heard
Acadian Flycatcher  1     Heard
Least Flycatcher  2
Eastern Phoebe  5
Great Crested Flycatcher  3
Yellow-throated Vireo  3     Heard 3, saw a brief glimpse of one
Warbling Vireo  1     Heard
Red-eyed Vireo  10
Blue Jay  1     Heard
American Crow  1     Heard
Northern Rough-winged Swallow  1
Barn Swallow  1
Tufted Titmouse  2     Heard
White-breasted Nuthatch  2     Heard
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  1
Veery  10     Heard
Wood Thrush  5     Heard
American Robin  4
Gray Catbird  15
Cedar Waxwing  5
Ovenbird  10     Heard
Worm-eating Warbler  1     Heard
Louisiana Waterthrush  3
Common Yellowthroat  10     Heard
Hooded Warbler  2
American Redstart  5
Cerulean Warbler  1     Heard
Northern Parula  2     Heard
Yellow Warbler  2
Pine Warbler  2
Prairie Warbler  1     Heard
Eastern Towhee  1     Heard
Chipping Sparrow  5
Field Sparrow  2     Heard
Song Sparrow  4
Northern Cardinal  1     Heard
Indigo Bunting  4     singing
Red-winged Blackbird  1
Common Grackle  10
Brown-headed Cowbird  2
Baltimore Oriole  1
American Goldfinch  1     Coming over river at visitor's ctr

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Allaire SP 6/19--Yellow-throated Vireo

I went to Allaire State Park with my friend Greg this morning. Shari & I used to go there a fair amount when we lived in Brooklyn, because it was relatively close, but since we moved it seemed out of the way, which is borderline ridiculous. Greg, on the other hand, has been birding it steadily since he moved to NJ, so I was curious to see where he birded in the park.

We started out on the eastern side of the park, not in the middle by the main entrance as Shari & I usually do. I'd been to this section once, but had only a vague memory of its geography. The multi-use path was abuzz with birds, but aside from a White-eyed Vireo, nothing really "interesting." Greg & I both had target birds. His we found after a short while. First he heard the "bee-buzz" song (which, for some perverse reason I hear as "buzz-kill") then we found his bird, a Blue-winged Warbler. A relatively hard bird to find. Greg suspects that they breed in the park, and if they're still singing at this date, I'd say that's a well-founded suspicion.

My bird took a little longer. We walked through Allaire Village (Allaire is the site of a very old iron manufacturing town) down onto the flood plain trail. It was odd to be walking on dirt and slippery clay instead of the usual sand of the Pine Barrens. Down there we heard "Pizza!" and after a bit found an Acadian Flycatcher. That makes two this week for me. Doubling back, we walked through the woods and down near the stream again when Greg heard "my" bird sing. At first, because it was doing a buzzy, scolding call too, we thought it might be a wren, but Greg excitedly pointed out and finally, after almost heroic efforts, got me the Yellow-throated Vireo I wanted. This was not only a year bird for me, but a state bird. I'd only seen them a couple of times last year in Ohio.  They apparently only make a brief stopover in central Jersey, because this bird was flagged as "rare" on eBird. After that bird everything was gravy. In the gravy were Ovenbirds, Indigo Buntings, and on the Jersey Coast Radio Control Club field, a couple of Wild Turkeys.  This last spot is a separate section of Allaire, one that neither Greg nor I had explored before. It bears more investigation, probably earlier in the day than we were there. A large grassland surrounded by woods has plenty of potential.

36 species
Wild Turkey  2     
Turkey Vulture  5
Yellow-billed Cuckoo  1     Heard
Red-bellied Woodpecker  2     Heard
Downy Woodpecker  1
Northern Flicker  1
Eastern Wood-Pewee  3     Heard
Acadian Flycatcher  1
Eastern Phoebe  5
Great Crested Flycatcher  3
Eastern Kingbird  1
White-eyed Vireo  2
Yellow-throated Vireo  1     
Red-eyed Vireo  1     Heard
Blue Jay  1
American Crow  5
Carolina Chickadee  3
Tufted Titmouse  5
White-breasted Nuthatch  4
Carolina Wren  1     Heard
Eastern Bluebird  2
Wood Thrush  2     Heard
American Robin  4
Gray Catbird  20
European Starling  5
Cedar Waxwing  1
Ovenbird  4
Blue-winged Warbler  3
Common Yellowthroat  5     Heard
Pine Warbler  1     Heard
Eastern Towhee  1     Heard
Chipping Sparrow  5
Field Sparrow  1     Heard
Northern Cardinal  1     Heard
Indigo Bunting  5
Brown-headed Cowbird  2

Yesterday, while exploring a section of Cattus Island I'd never been to, I found, to my surprise, a Red-necked Grebe, a bird that is rare here in winter and completely out of season now. I didn't report it to Jerseybirds, figuring that no one was going to be able to refind this bird way out in the bay. Of course I did put it on eBird. But Shawn Wainwright, who keeps tracks of Ocean County birds sent a message to Jerseybirds noting my find.  Sure enough, someone went back there today and found the bird again, which made me happy to have my sighting confirmed. I was never really in doubt about it, though; some birds you look at and your first reaction is "What is that?!" This bird, as soon as I had it in my binoculars just said "I'm a Red-necked Grebe, I don't care how weird that seems."

Monday, June 16, 2014

Double Trouble SP 6/16--Acadian Flycatcher

Hearing birds is the theme of the day. I was walking along Gowdy Road, trying to figure out what bird sings "A wee a wee a wee ja too," thinking that I should know the distinctive song while at the same time convinced I'd never heard it before. I was so intent on trying to figure out what the bird was (I never did) that I almost missed the bird I had come to find by hearing, but not having it penetrate, the two explosive notes of "Pizza!" That's an Acadian Flycatcher and every year I seem to get one at Double Trouble. Once I allowed the song into my brain I started looking for the bird. I always look in the easiest places first, like bare branches, figuring I can always get lucky and this time I was--some branches hanging over the path had a little flycatcher that within a few seconds rang out with "Pizza!" again. Very satisfying.

The other notable bird I heard today was a Veery. This is the 3rd year running that I have heard this thrush in the same spot in the park, in the woods near the end of Carriage Road. According to eBird they shouldn't be in Ocean County, but there is no missing that ethereal, Theremin-like song, a "Veer veer veer" with lots of tremolo. Either the area is perfect for the discerning Veery or it is a returning individual. There is no way of me ever knowing. I'm just happy to have the bird in this county.

Lots of the usual warblers in the park today and I managed to pish a few examples of each one out of the trees. For the morning I had 30 species. I wish I knew what that unidentified singer was though.

Turkey Vulture  2
Mourning Dove  4
Hairy Woodpecker  1
Eastern Wood-Pewee  1     Heard, recently cut area
Acadian Flycatcher  1
Eastern Phoebe  4
Great Crested Flycatcher  3
Eastern Kingbird  1
White-eyed Vireo  2     Heard
Blue Jay  1     Heard
Barn Swallow  1
Carolina Chickadee  5
Tufted Titmouse  1     Heard
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  1
Veery  1     
Wood Thrush  1
American Robin  2
Gray Catbird  20
Brown Thrasher  1
Cedar Waxwing  2
Ovenbird  7
Black-and-white Warbler  6
Common Yellowthroat  10
Pine Warbler  3
Prairie Warbler  4
Eastern Towhee  3     Heard
Chipping Sparrow  2
Song Sparrow  1     Heard
Red-winged Blackbird  10
American Goldfinch  1     on wire near saw mill