Sunday, August 31, 2014

August Wrap-up

"Sedge" seemed to be the theme of the month. We had our lifer SEDGE WREN at Bombay Hook this month and I made 3 canoe trips with Greg to Great Sedge Island off Island Beach. I'm not even sure what sedge is even after reading up on it a little--apparently it is a grass with triangular stems and spiraling flowers and there are 5500 varieties of it so I'm sure I've stumbled on some this month.

The month started off with me going to Whitesbog almost every day. The bogs were drained and for a little under 2 weeks abounded in shorebirds. Then the water got too low and the birds disappeared.
Pectoral Sandpiper, Whitesbog
But for a while there, we had a mini-Brig only 15 minutes away from the house.

We had a good trip to Delaware, adding 5 year birds there, and we made a number of trips to Brig. Shorebirds there, at Barnegat, on the sandbars around Sedge Island...we even got shorebirds on dirt when we birded the sod farms in Monmouth County.

There was also productive birding around the house, surprising for summer. A Merlin made an early appearance, counting as a rarity, and continued to perch for a number of nights at the top of the same dead tree in the drainage basin.

One night last week I went out to take pictures of it and found 6 Common Nighthawks flying overhead, while a pewee called from another branch in the tree. Then, after the Merlin flew off, a Cedar Waxwing came in to take it's place.

Cedar Waxwing

For the month I had 145 species, including 10 year birds.
Counties birded
Delaware: Kent, Sussex
New Jersey: Atlantic, Burlington, Cape May, Monmouth, Ocean
New York: New York
Species                First Sighting
Snow Goose     Bombay Hook
Canada Goose     Whitesbog
Mute Swan     Brigantine
Tundra Swan     Bombay Hook
Wood Duck     Whitesbog  (Ocean Co.)
Gadwall     Cape May Meadows
American Black Duck     Whitesbog
Mallard     Whitesbog
Northern Shoveler     Bombay Hook
Green-winged Teal     Great Sedge Island
Black Scoter     Port Mahon
Ruddy Duck     Bombay Hook
Northern Bobwhite     Bombay Hook
Wild Turkey     Whitesbog
Pied-billed Grebe     Whitesbog
Double-crested Cormorant     Whitesbog  (Ocean Co.)
Brown Pelican     Great Sedge Island
Great Blue Heron     Whitesbog
Great Egret     Whitesbog
Snowy Egret     Forsythe-Barnegat
Little Blue Heron     Whitesbog
Tricolored Heron     Great Sedge Island
Green Heron     Whitesbog
Black-crowned Night-Heron     Brigantine
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron     Brigantine
Glossy Ibis     Forsythe-Barnegat
Black Vulture     Whitesbog
Turkey Vulture     Whitesbog
Osprey     Forsythe-Barnegat
Northern Harrier     Brigantine
Cooper's Hawk     Brigantine
Bald Eagle     Prime Hook NWR
Red-tailed Hawk     Brigantine
Clapper Rail     Brigantine
Black-necked Stilt     Prime Hook NWR
American Avocet     Bombay Hook
American Oystercatcher     Great Sedge Island
Black-bellied Plover     Whitesbog
American Golden-Plover     Reed's Sod Farm--CR 526
Semipalmated Plover     Whitesbog
Piping Plover     Great Sedge Island
Killdeer     Whitesbog
Spotted Sandpiper     Whitesbog
Solitary Sandpiper     Whitesbog
Greater Yellowlegs     Forsythe-Barnegat
Willet     Great Sedge Island
Lesser Yellowlegs     Whitesbog
Whimbrel     Brigantine
Marbled Godwit     Great Sedge Island
Ruddy Turnstone     Great Sedge Island
Red Knot     Great Sedge Island
Stilt Sandpiper     Whitesbog
Sanderling     Great Sedge Island
Least Sandpiper     Whitesbog
White-rumped Sandpiper     Jarvis Sound
Buff-breasted Sandpiper     Brigantine
Pectoral Sandpiper     Whitesbog
Semipalmated Sandpiper     Whitesbog
Western Sandpiper     Brigantine
Short-billed Dowitcher     Whitesbog
Long-billed Dowitcher     Brigantine
Laughing Gull     Forsythe-Barnegat
Ring-billed Gull     Great Sedge Island
Herring Gull     Forsythe-Barnegat
Great Black-backed Gull     Forsythe-Barnegat
Least Tern     Brigantine
Gull-billed Tern     Whitesbog
Caspian Tern     Great Sedge Island
Black Tern     Brigantine
Common Tern     Great Sedge Island
Forster's Tern     Forsythe-Barnegat
Royal Tern     Great Sedge Island
Black Skimmer     Brigantine
Rock Pigeon     Berkeley--Pinewald-Keswick Rd
Mourning Dove     Whitesbog
Yellow-billed Cuckoo     Double Trouble State Park
Black-billed Cuckoo     35 Sunset Rd
Common Nighthawk     Whitesbog
Eastern Whip-poor-will     35 Sunset Rd
Chimney Swift     Double Trouble State Park
Ruby-throated Hummingbird     35 Sunset Rd
Belted Kingfisher     Cattus Island County Park
Red-bellied Woodpecker     Double Trouble State Park
Downy Woodpecker     Whitesbog  (Ocean Co.)
Northern Flicker     35 Sunset Rd
Merlin     35 Sunset Rd
Peregrine Falcon     Brigantine
Eastern Wood-Pewee     Whitesbog  (Ocean Co.)
Eastern Phoebe     Whitesbog  (Ocean Co.)
Great Crested Flycatcher     Whitesbog  (Ocean Co.)
Eastern Kingbird     Whitesbog  (Ocean Co.)
White-eyed Vireo     Whitesbog
Red-eyed Vireo     Bombay Hook
Blue Jay     Whitesbog
American Crow     Whitesbog
Fish Crow     Whitesbog
Horned Lark     Whitehall Crossroads - Leipsic
Northern Rough-winged Swallow     Whitesbog
Purple Martin     Whitesbog
Tree Swallow     Whitesbog
Bank Swallow     Whitesbog  (Ocean Co.)
Barn Swallow     Whitesbog  (Ocean Co.)
Carolina Chickadee     Whitesbog  (Ocean Co.)
Tufted Titmouse     Double Trouble State Park
White-breasted Nuthatch     35 Sunset Rd
House Wren     Whitesbog
SEDGE WREN     Bombay Hook
Marsh Wren     Bombay Hook
Carolina Wren     Whitesbog
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher     Whitesbog  (Ocean Co.)
Eastern Bluebird     Whitesbog
American Robin     35 Sunset Rd
Gray Catbird     Whitesbog  (Ocean Co.)
Brown Thrasher     Whitesbog  (Ocean Co.)
Northern Mockingbird     Island Beach SP
European Starling     Brigantine
Cedar Waxwing     35 Sunset Rd
Ovenbird     Whitesbog  (Ocean Co.)
Northern Waterthrush     Central Park
Black-and-white Warbler     Whitesbog  (Ocean Co.)
Common Yellowthroat     Whitesbog  (Ocean Co.)
American Redstart     Double Trouble State Park
Yellow Warbler     Brigantine
Pine Warbler     Whitesbog  (Ocean Co.)
Prairie Warbler     Whitesbog  (Ocean Co.)
Eastern Towhee     Whitesbog  (Ocean Co.)
Chipping Sparrow     35 Sunset Rd
Field Sparrow     Brigantine
Saltmarsh Sparrow     Great Sedge Island
Seaside Sparrow     Great Sedge Island
Song Sparrow     Whitesbog
Swamp Sparrow     Whitesbog  (Ocean Co.)
Northern Cardinal     Whitesbog
Blue Grosbeak     Brigantine
Indigo Bunting     Bombay Hook
Bobolink     Bombay Hook
Red-winged Blackbird     Whitesbog
Common Grackle     Whitesbog
Boat-tailed Grackle     Brigantine
Brown-headed Cowbird     Clara Barton rest stop
Orchard Oriole     Whitesbog  (Ocean Co.)
Baltimore Oriole     Whitesbog  (Ocean Co.)
House Finch     35 Sunset Rd
American Goldfinch     Whitesbog
House Sparrow     Clara Barton rest stop

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Brigantine 8/30--Buff-breasted Sandpiper

It has seemed like all summer the water has been high in the Brig impoundments. There never seems to a low tide exposing mud flats for sandbars for shorebirds. Today's field trip with Scott Barnes and Linda Mack continued that trend. There were, however, many more Great Blue Herons around the refuge than we usually see, which prompted Bob Auster, who was riding with us in the caravan to comment that "there were a lot of great blues but no muddy waters."

Our first circuit around the dikes turned up a fair amount of shorebirds, nothing exciting save for a late Whimbrel on the south dike and, a bit more interesting, a Marbled Godwit on the north dike, past one of the few sandbars, occupied by close to 30 Caspian Terns and a good flock of Black-bellied Plovers.

On the second trip around, after lunch, the water was even higher. Scott was hoping the high tide would push the birds in closer. I've always thought that was a suspect theory, since the high tide also covers any potential high spots for the birds. However: the road itself is a high spot and it was on the road that we found a Buff-breasted Sandpiper, alerted by call from another birder whose car we used as a landmark as the buffie scurried around the the tires. While I was looking at the bird I got a call from Greg Prelich, who was leading the Friends of Forsythe van tour today, to tell me he'd seen the buffie again--earlier in the day we'd met him while he was scouting and he showed me a photo he'd taken of one. I was jealous then; I was happy now. The whole group had slowly walked up the road as the sandpiper, a juvenile that didn't have much experience with people, allowed us to approach as it ran back and forth on the road, occasionally disappearing into the grass. I ran back to the car, drove up a little ways and gave Shari her camera. A few of her shots:

A pretty neat bird making a stopover on its extremely long migration from its Arctic birthplace to it's wintering grounds in southern Argentina--7000 miles more or less. And no one knows how it knows where it is supposed to go.
 The group as a whole had many more birds than I listed. Once again, as so often happens at Brig (and I can't figure out why) I had another "Heinz" list: 57 varieties of birds:
Canada Goose  75
Mute Swan  17
Wood Duck  1
Mallard  15
Green-winged Teal  3
Double-crested Cormorant  100
Great Blue Heron  10
Great Egret  75
Snowy Egret  25
Tricolored Heron  1
Black-crowned Night-Heron  3
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron  2
Glossy Ibis  30
Black Vulture  3
Turkey Vulture  4
Osprey  20
Clapper Rail  3
Black-bellied Plover  25
Semipalmated Plover  20
Greater Yellowlegs  20
Lesser Yellowlegs
Whimbrel  1
Marbled Godwit  1
Least Sandpiper  1
Buff-breasted Sandpiper  1
Semipalmated Sandpiper  125
Short-billed Dowitcher  20
Laughing Gull  150
Herring Gull  100
Great Black-backed Gull  25
Least Tern  1
Gull-billed Tern  2
Caspian Tern  30     
Black Tern  2
Forster's Tern  50
Royal Tern  2
Black Skimmer  10
Mourning Dove  3
Belted Kingfisher  1     Exit Pond
Peregrine Falcon  1
Eastern Kingbird  3
Blue Jay  1     Heard
American Crow  1
Fish Crow  2
Tree Swallow  5
Carolina Chickadee  1     Heard picnic tables
House Wren  1     Heard picnic tables
Marsh Wren  1     Heard, south dike
Carolina Wren  1     Heard
Northern Mockingbird  1
European Starling  75
Cedar Waxwing  1
Northern Cardinal  1     Near martin houses
Red-winged Blackbird  150
Boat-tailed Grackle  3
House Finch  4
American Goldfinch  5

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Winner of the "Worst Idea for Advertisement Placement" Award

I've seen many advertisements above the urinals in men's rooms. Hey, it gives us guys something to do, although the reading matter isn't usually as interesting as the surrounding graffiti. But until I entered the men's room at First Energy Park in Lakewood, NJ (home of the "low Class A" Blue Claws), I had never seen advertisements in the urinals.

And what a good idea that must have seemed at the time, so long as you forgot about the implications of someone peeing all over your company name as well as the facts that it is both hard to read the phone number if you're standing the proper distance to the urinal and that most guys don't have a pen exactly handy at this moment. And who wants to be seen jotting down the phone numbers afterwards? That's a little more information than I'd be willing to give out among strangers.

Still, clever copy with the baseball references.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Monmouth County 8/23--American Golden-Plover

As a friend of mine use to say: The day gets away from you in the strangest ways.

Shari & I planned a relatively brief birding day--a trip around the drained bogs at Whitesbog to see if the recent rain had persuaded any interesting shorebirds to come in, then a look at Reed's Sod Farm up on CR 539, with the hope of finding a shorebird rarity (or two).

It quickly became apparent that Whitesbog was a washout. Even the large numbers of egrets and herons were down to single digit counts. But we did run into Greg out on the dikes who had the same ideas. Plus he told us that while we had been in Cape May yesterday, some shorebird rarities had indeed been reported on the sod farms. It just wasn't exactly clear which fields.

So, after counting 10 Least Sandpipers and 1 Spotted Sandpiper in the first bog, we three decided to try the sod farms. The eBird hotspot named "Reed's Sod Farm" is the big field on the corner of CR 539 and Herbert, our first stop, but Reed has a lot of fields in the area.

The first stop yielded nothing--the fields had not had the sod pulled up yet and, ironic as it seems, if you want to find "grasspipers" you have to look for dirt, not grass. We drove down to Gordon Road and again, the fields were green and devoid of birds. We tried the field on CR 526 which had been taken up, but again, not a bird to be found, never mind a rarity.

Shari & I, having done more birding than planned, decided to have lunch in nearby Allentown. Greg soldiered on. While I was eating my egg-white omelet, he called to tell us he had one of our targets on CR 526, east of where we'd left him. We had out that way after downing our meals and found Greg still there and, out among the clods of earth, a single American Golden-Plover, what I guess is a juvenile bird. I took a couple of documentary digiscoped photos:

It was fairly distant in the field, but it obviously isn't a Black-bellied Plover. The golden tinge on the wing feathers and back don't really show in the photos, but the dark cap and prominent supercilium are obvious. 

We then drove around some more, looking for fallow fields but most of what we saw was still green. We decided to get out of the cars and do some walking in the navigation beacon field at Assunpink. We picked up a couple of nice birds, birds that will soon be gone, like Blue Grosbeak and Indigo Bunting

Now Shari & I felt we really had to go. Greg said he was going to take a look at the lake. We said our 2nd goodbyes and Greg left. As we were driving past Eldridge Road we saw his car pulled over and Greg looking with his binoculars into a field. Naturally, we detoured. In the tiniest mud puddle he had found a Solitary Sandpiper--not a rarity, but a "good" bird.

Since the car was now pointing int he direction of the lake, we decided to go up there too. There we a large white bird swooping over the water--I at first thought it was a gull, but the flight pattern was all wrong. It looked like a tern, but a huge tern, and it was with its black cap and large red bill, the world's largest tern, a Caspian Tern, not often seen in those parts. 

So what looked like before lunch to be a lackluster day turned out quite well in the end. 

Our Monmouth County list:
Species                 Location
Canada Goose     Assunpink
Double-crested Cormorant     Assunpink
Great Blue Heron     Assunpink
Great Egret     Reed’s Sod Farm
Turkey Vulture     Reed’s Sod Farm
Red-tailed Hawk     Reed’s Sod Farm
American Golden-Plover     Reed’s Sod Farm
Semipalmated Plover     Reed’s Sod Farm
Killdeer     Reed’s Sod Farm
Solitary Sandpiper     Assunpink
Caspian Tern     Assunpink
Ruby-throated Hummingbird     Assunpink
Tree Swallow     Assunpink
American Robin     Assunpink
Gray Catbird     Assunpink
European Starling     Reed’s Sod Farm
Common Yellowthroat     Assunpink
Yellow Warbler     Assunpink
Field Sparrow     Assunpink
Song Sparrow     Assunpink
Northern Cardinal     Assunpink
Blue Grosbeak     Assunpink
Indigo Bunting     Assunpink
American Goldfinch     Assunpink

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Great Sedge Island 8/21--Marbled Godwit

Marbled Godwit
all photos © Greg Prelich
 Another beautiful day out on the water in a canoe around Great Sedge Island in Barnegat Bay. Greg & I had a specific target bird for the day, one we felt should be there, but it wasn't until about 4 1/2 hours into our trip, on the way back to the boat launch, that Greg finally spotted this beauty of a Marbled Godwit feeding right where it should have been, on a sand bar exposed by the receding tide.

We beached the canoe and walked across the sand until we were able to get close looks at the godwit, even though from a 1/4 mile away we knew what we had--it is one of those unmistakable birds with that bi-colored bill and huge size compared to the other sandpipers feeding around it. It is considered a rarity, this time of year in this area. It certainly was for me. It is my first Ocean County MAGO, bringing my lifetime county total up to 239.

Until we came across the godwit we had to make do with 10 other species of shorebirds. Oystercatchers seemed to be on every mud flat, beach, and out by the inlet, every rock. Out in the inlet we found a large flock of Brown Pelicans--we stopped counting at 30, agreeing that it was the most pelicans we'd seen at one time in NJ
Many pelicans
Pelican in flight
 There were also skimmers skimming
Black Skimmer
And many opportunities to really get to know 4 species of terns in their various molts.
Caspian Tern (the world's largest tern) in the middle of adult and juvenile Royal Terns (above)
Juvenile Royal Tern (below)

I think we have at least one more trip to the area before the weather changes--we want to explore going north to Spizzle Creek. It looks like good habitat to find an interesting wader (like a bittern) or perhaps some relatively rare shorebirds. So far we've tallied close to 60 species altogether in our wandering around the island's waters.
Today my list (Greg's is slightly different) totaled 39 species:
Double-crested Cormorant  70
Brown Pelican  30
Great Blue Heron  1
Great Egret  25
Snowy Egret  15
Little Blue Heron  2
Tricolored Heron  2
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron  1 Juvenile
Glossy Ibis  5
Osprey  15     Many still on nests
Clapper Rail  2     Heard
American Oystercatcher  50
Black-bellied Plover  75
Semipalmated Plover  50
Willet  5
Marbled Godwit  1     
Ruddy Turnstone  25
Red Knot  1
Sanderling  75
Least Sandpiper  4
Semipalmated Sandpiper  10
Short-billed Dowitcher  25
Laughing Gull  50
Ring-billed Gull  1
Herring Gull  25
Great Black-backed Gull  20
Caspian Tern  4
Common Tern  25
Forster's Tern  10
Royal Tern  46
Black Skimmer  17
Mourning Dove  1
American Crow  1
Tree Swallow  5
Carolina Chickadee  1     Heard, boat launch
Gray Catbird  2
Northern Mockingbird  1
Red-winged Blackbird  3
Boat-tailed Grackle  1

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Delaware Trip List 8/15-8/17

We traveled around Bombay Hook each day, made our trip south to Prime Hook, and on Sunday hit a couple of favorite spots--the DuPont Nature Center in Mispillion and the very rocky, sandy, torn up Port Mahon Road, where we found both Red Knots and Black Scoters.

We had 87 species for the trip--I'm sure with a lot more patience and a little more knowledge I could have added 5 or 6 others. But looking through large flocks of gulls, terns, or skittering peeps, is not something I'm often inclined to do.
Sculpture of Moonbird, a Red Knot that has traveled the equivalent distance to the moon in its migration life.
DuPont Nature Center, Mispillion Delaware
Species                   Location
Snow Goose     Bombay Hook
Canada Goose     Bombay Hook
Tundra Swan     Bombay Hook
Wood Duck     Bombay Hook
American Black Duck     Bombay Hook
Mallard     Bombay Hook
Northern Shoveler     Bombay Hook
Black Scoter     Port Mahon
Ruddy Duck     Bombay Hook
Northern Bobwhite     Bombay Hook
Double-crested Cormorant     Bombay Hook
Great Blue Heron     Bombay Hook
Great Egret     Bombay Hook
Snowy Egret     Bombay Hook
Little Blue Heron     Bombay Hook
Green Heron     Bombay Hook
Black-crowned Night-Heron     Bombay Hook
Glossy Ibis     Bombay Hook
Turkey Vulture     Bombay Hook
Osprey     Bombay Hook
Cooper's Hawk     DuPont Nature Center
Bald Eagle     Prime Hook NWR
Clapper Rail     Bombay Hook
Black-necked Stilt     Prime Hook NWR--Broadkill Marsh
American Avocet     Bombay Hook
American Oystercatcher     DuPont Nature Center
Black-bellied Plover     Bombay Hook
Semipalmated Plover     Bombay Hook
Killdeer     Whitehall Crossroads - Leipsic
Spotted Sandpiper     Bombay Hook
Greater Yellowlegs     Bombay Hook
Willet     DuPont Nature Center
Lesser Yellowlegs     Bombay Hook
Ruddy Turnstone     DuPont Nature Center
Red Knot     Port Mahon
Least Sandpiper     Bombay Hook
Semipalmated Sandpiper     Bombay Hook
Short-billed Dowitcher     Bombay Hook
Laughing Gull     Bombay Hook
Ring-billed Gull     Bombay Hook
Herring Gull     Bombay Hook
Great Black-backed Gull     DuPont Nature Center
Caspian Tern     Bombay Hook
Forster's Tern     Bombay Hook
Royal Tern     DuPont Nature Center
Mourning Dove     Bombay Hook
Yellow-billed Cuckoo     Bombay Hook
Ruby-throated Hummingbird     Bombay Hook
Red-bellied Woodpecker     Bombay Hook
Downy Woodpecker     Bombay Hook
Northern Flicker     Bombay Hook
Peregrine Falcon     Bombay Hook
Eastern Wood-Pewee     Bombay Hook
Eastern Phoebe     Bombay Hook
Great Crested Flycatcher     Prime Hook NWR
Eastern Kingbird     Bombay Hook
Red-eyed Vireo     Bombay Hook
Blue Jay     Bombay Hook
American Crow     Bombay Hook
Horned Lark     Whitehall Crossroads - Leipsic
Tree Swallow     Whitehall Crossroads - Leipsic
Barn Swallow     Whitehall Crossroads - Leipsic
Carolina Chickadee     Bombay Hook
Tufted Titmouse     Bombay Hook
House Wren     Bombay Hook
SEDGE WREN     Bombay Hook
Marsh Wren     Bombay Hook
Carolina Wren     Bombay Hook
Eastern Bluebird     Bombay Hook
American Robin     Bombay Hook
Gray Catbird     Bombay Hook
Northern Mockingbird     Bombay Hook
European Starling     Bombay Hook
Common Yellowthroat     Bombay Hook
Eastern Towhee     Bombay Hook
Chipping Sparrow     Prime Hook NWR
Field Sparrow     Bombay Hook
Song Sparrow     Bombay Hook
Northern Cardinal     Bombay Hook
Blue Grosbeak     Bombay Hook
Indigo Bunting     Bombay Hook
Bobolink     Bombay Hook
Red-winged Blackbird     Bombay Hook
Boat-tailed Grackle     DuPont Nature Center
Orchard Oriole     Bombay Hook
American Goldfinch     Bombay Hook
House Sparrow     Bombay Hook