Tuesday, September 30, 2014

September Wrap-up

Marbled Godwit, digiscoped, Winter Anchorage, Island Beach SP
As the year progresses, it obviously gets harder to add year birds (unless you travel outside your territory) so by adding 9 this month, including the lifer WHISKERED TERN, I feel pretty good about the month's forays. At the same time, there was a lot of frustration this month looking warblers and other migrants. I felt like I was slogging all month, picking up one or two birds at a time instead of a slew of them in a "fall out." My timing always seemed off. I spent a lot of time walking up and down Reed's Road (including today, when I added my last bird of the month, a Brown Creeper), hoping to replicate that one great day I had in the spring when the road and the bowl just to the north were full of birds.

We also ranged a little farther afield than usual making 2 trips to North Jersey (hic sunt leontes), doing a day at Chimney Rock Hawk Watch in Somerset County and finally getting to the Celery Farm in Bergen County. The former was frustrating; someone with my eyesight has a hard time distinguishing the hawks from the floaters. The Celery Farm was great and much more extensive than I imagined it.

Another frustration this month was missing the two American Avocets that were briefly at Forsythe-Barnegat; it was the day we went to the hawk watch. I tried for them the next day (twice) but they were gone. Avocets are always fun to see and I need them for my county list.

Greg & I canoed out to Great Sedge Island 3 times and consistently found Marbled Godwits, which pleased us immensely, along with lots of pelicans, birds that somehow just seem incongruous no matter where you find them. If the weather stays warm, we may continue the trips in October. Greg's already found an Eared Grebe in Barnegat Bay today, so who knows what kind of interesting waterfowl could be hiding in plain sight out there?

For the month I managed 152 species.
Counties birded: Atlantic, Bergen, Burlington, Cape May, Monmouth, Ocean, Somerset.
Cooper's Hawk, Whitesbog

Species               Location

Canada Goose     Brig
Mute Swan     Brig
Wood Duck     Brig
Gadwall     Cape May Point SP
American Black Duck     Brig
Mallard     Brig
Blue-winged Teal     Brig
Northern Shoveler     Forsythe-Barnegat
Northern Pintail     Sandy Hook
Green-winged Teal     Brig
Common Eider     Great Sedge Island
Hooded Merganser     Eno’s Pond
Wild Turkey     Whitesbog
Pied-billed Grebe     Brig
Double-crested Cormorant     Brig
Great Cormorant     Great Sedge Island
Brown Pelican     Holgate
Great Blue Heron     Brig
Great Egret     Brig
Snowy Egret     Brig
Little Blue Heron     Great Sedge Island
Tricolored Heron     Great Sedge Island
Green Heron     Great Sedge Island
Black-crowned Night-Heron     Brig
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron     Brig
Glossy Ibis     Brig
Black Vulture     Union Transportation Trail
Turkey Vulture     Brig
Osprey     Brig
Northern Harrier     Brig
Sharp-shinned Hawk     Chimney Rock Hawk Watch
Cooper's Hawk     Whitesbog
Bald Eagle     GSP MM 48
Red-shouldered Hawk     Chimney Rock Hawk Watch
Broad-winged Hawk     Sandy Hook
Red-tailed Hawk     Sandy Hook
Clapper Rail     Brig
Common Gallinule     Cape May Point SP
American Oystercatcher     Brig
Black-bellied Plover     Brig
American Golden-Plover     Holgate
Semipalmated Plover     Brig
Killdeer     Whitesbog
Spotted Sandpiper     Great Sedge Island
Greater Yellowlegs     Brig
Willet     Brig
Lesser Yellowlegs     Brig
Marbled Godwit     Great Sedge Island
Ruddy Turnstone     Holgate
Red Knot     Great Sedge Island
Sanderling     Holgate
Dunlin     Brig
Least Sandpiper     Brig
Buff-breasted Sandpiper     Whitesbog
Pectoral Sandpiper     Whitesbog
Semipalmated Sandpiper     Brig
Short-billed Dowitcher     Brig
Wilson's Phalarope     Brig
Laughing Gull     Brig
Ring-billed Gull     Brig
Herring Gull     Brig
Great Black-backed Gull     Brig
Gull-billed Tern     Brig
Caspian Tern     Brig
Black Tern     Great Sedge Island
WHISKERED TERN     Cape May Point SP
Common Tern     Holgate
Forster's Tern     Brig
Royal Tern     Holgate
Black Skimmer     Brig
Rock Pigeon     Sandy Hook
Mourning Dove     Holgate
Yellow-billed Cuckoo     Brig
Black-billed Cuckoo     Bunker Hill Bogs
Eastern Screech-Owl     35 Sunset Rd
Eastern Whip-poor-will     35 Sunset Rd
Ruby-throated Hummingbird     35 Sunset Rd
Belted Kingfisher     Great Sedge Island
Red-bellied Woodpecker     Bunker Hill Bogs
Downy Woodpecker     Whitesbog (Ocean Co.)
Northern Flicker     Whitesbog
American Kestrel     Chimney Rock Hawk Watch
Merlin     35 Sunset Rd
Peregrine Falcon     Brig
Olive-sided Flycatcher     The Celery Farm
Eastern Wood-Pewee     Whitesbog (Ocean Co.)
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher     Sandy Hook
Least Flycatcher     Colliers Mills WMA
Eastern Phoebe     Whitesbog
Great Crested Flycatcher     Bunker Hill Bogs
Eastern Kingbird     Brig
White-eyed Vireo     Bunker Hill Bogs
Warbling Vireo     The Celery Farm
Red-eyed Vireo     Chimney Rock Hawk Watch
Blue Jay     Brig
American Crow     Brig
Fish Crow     Forsythe-Barnegat
Common Raven     Chimney Rock Hawk Watch
Purple Martin     Whitesbog (Ocean Co.)
Tree Swallow     Brig
Barn Swallow     Great Sedge Island
Carolina Chickadee     Brig
Black-capped Chickadee     The Celery Farm
Tufted Titmouse     Brig
Red-breasted Nuthatch     Wells Mills Park
White-breasted Nuthatch     Bunker Hill Bogs
Brown Creeper     Reed’s Road
House Wren     35 Sunset Rd
Carolina Wren     Brig
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher     Reed’s Road
Ruby-crowned Kinglet     Reed’s Road
Eastern Bluebird     Whitesbog
American Robin     Brig
Gray Catbird     Brig
Brown Thrasher     Whitesbog
Northern Mockingbird     Holgate
European Starling     Brig
Cedar Waxwing     Brig
Northern Waterthrush     Reed’s Road
Black-and-white Warbler     Whitesbog (Ocean Co.)
Nashville Warbler     Reed’s Road
Common Yellowthroat     Whitesbog (Ocean Co.)
American Redstart     Bunker Hill Bogs
Northern Parula     Sandy Hook
Magnolia Warbler     Reed’s Road
Blackburnian Warbler     Eno’s Pond
Yellow Warbler     Great Bay Blvd
Black-throated Blue Warbler     Wells Mills Park
Palm Warbler     Cape May Point SP
Pine Warbler     Whitesbog (Ocean Co.)
Yellow-rumped Warbler     Brig
Prairie Warbler     Spizzle Creek
Black-throated Green Warbler     Reed’s Road
Eastern Towhee     Brig
Chipping Sparrow     Colliers Mills WMA
Savannah Sparrow     Great Bay Blvd
Saltmarsh Sparrow     Brig
Seaside Sparrow     Great Sedge Island
Song Sparrow     Great Bay Blvd
Swamp Sparrow     Spizzle Creek
White-throated Sparrow     Eno’s Pond
Northern Cardinal     Bunker Hill Bogs
Rose-breasted Grosbeak     Sandy Hook
Indigo Bunting     Union Transportation Trail
Bobolink     Reed’s Road
Red-winged Blackbird     Brig
Common Grackle     35 Sunset Rd
Boat-tailed Grackle     Brig
Brown-headed Cowbird     Brig
House Finch     35 Sunset Rd
American Goldfinch     Brig
House Sparrow     Holgate

Friday, September 26, 2014

Great Sedge Island 9/26--Final Trip of the Year?

Greg & I took advantage of the summery weather and made what is probably our final trip of the year out to the Sedge Islands. We still haven't got the tides to match the predictions but today there were lots of sand bars and lots of birds on those sand bars.

The Marbled Godwits remain in place. We saw 5 today.
Marbled Godwit with oystercatcher & gull
Photos © Greg Prelich
We managed to conjure up a couple of new birds (for the islands). I told Greg we should be on the lookout for Great Cormorant and within 5 minutes of my saying it, he'd found one, then later another. 
I was also searching for "winter" sandpipers and the last bird on our list turned out to be a couple of Dunlins we found mixed in with plovers and a Sanderling

For the trip we had 34 species:
Canada Goose  16
Double-crested Cormorant  75
Great Cormorant  2
Brown Pelican  25
Great Blue Heron  2
Great Egret  50
Snowy Egret  30
Little Blue Heron  1
Tricolored Heron  1
Osprey  1
Clapper Rail  1
American Oystercatcher  25
Black-bellied Plover  30
Semipalmated Plover  20
Greater Yellowlegs  1
Willet (Western)  10     Exact count
Lesser Yellowlegs  3
Marbled Godwit  5    
Sanderling  1
Dunlin  2
Least Sandpiper  6
Semipalmated Sandpiper  3
Short-billed Dowitcher  2
Laughing Gull  25
Ring-billed Gull  1
Herring Gull  100
Great Black-backed Gull  20
Caspian Tern  5
Common Tern  2
Forster's Tern  3
Royal Tern  15
crow sp.  1
Tree Swallow  250
Northern Mockingbird  1
Red-winged Blackbird  1

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

IBSP Reed's Road 9/24--Black-throated Green Warbler

It seems like every other day there's a good warbler flight at Island Beach SP and I'm there the next day, when there isn't. Sometimes I doubt my birding abilities; but then I run into someone else on Reed's Road who isn't finding much and I just chalk it up to bad timing.

I can't truly complain today though, because just to the north of Reed's Road in a grove of pine and oak which often acts as a migrant trap, I came across, finally, two Black-throated Green Warblers, a relatively easy bird but one that I've missed, to my embarrassment, up until today.

I even managed to get a picture of one of them. Can you find it? It in the lower left quadrant of the photo. I like this picture because, really, this is how we see most of our warblers--through foliage and twigs, skipping around, not standing up right on a bare branch, posing.
I also came across my FOS Ruby-crowned Kinglet; it was following the warbler. And along the way I managed 3 Red-eyed Vireos, a couple of Magnolia Warblers, and one Palm Warbler, wagging its tail. I didn't have the 10 or 12 species of warblers that were being found yesterday, but I'll take it.
17 species
Osprey  1
Herring Gull  1
Belted Kingfisher  1
Red-bellied Woodpecker  1     Heard
Downy Woodpecker  1     
Northern Flicker  6
Red-eyed Vireo  3
Blue Jay  2     Heard
Tree Swallow  20
Carolina Chickadee  1
Carolina Wren  1     Heard
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  1
Gray Catbird  5
Magnolia Warbler  2
Palm Warbler  1
Black-throated Green Warbler  2
Eastern Towhee  2     Heard

I also checked the Winter Anchorage, where Greg & I launch the canoe for our explorations of Great Sedge Island. If the tide is low enough you can scope the sand bar out about 1/4 mile from the boat launch. There were hundreds of, perhaps a thousand sandpipers on the narrow sand bar and while I could have guessed that they were Sanderlings and Semipalmated Sandpipers, I just let them go as peeps. What I really was checking to see was if the small flock of Marbled Godwits that have been hanging out there since late August were still around--they were. They are a supposedly rare bird for Ocean County and since this is the only spot where you'll find them this year, I guess they are.
12 species (+1 other taxa)
Double-crested Cormorant  12
Brown Pelican  1
Great Egret  2
American Oystercatcher  2
Marbled Godwit  6     
peep sp.  500     Conservative estimate. 
Laughing Gull  1
Herring Gull  50
Great Black-backed Gull  1
Caspian Tern  2
Royal Tern  15
Tree Swallow  25
Gray Catbird  1

Finally, I took a walk on the Spizzle Creek Blind Trail, hoping for something out of the ordinary, which I didn't find. However, there were tremendous swarms of Tree Swallows. "Flocks" to me indicates some form of organization, whereas these birds were just swarming haphazardly through the skies (going mostly north, oddly) presumably feasting on the many mosquitoes I was swatting. A mere hint of what I saw in this photo:
I didn't notice the Caspian Tern (extreme upper right) until I was working on the photo.
17 species
Double-crested Cormorant  1
Great Egret  5
Snowy Egret  11
Tricolored Heron  2
Laughing Gull  1
Herring Gull  5
Caspian Tern  1
Mourning Dove  1
Belted Kingfisher  1
Tree Swallow  300
Carolina Chickadee  1     Heard
Gray Catbird  1     Heard
Common Yellowthroat  1
Palm Warbler  1
Swamp Sparrow  1
House Finch  3
American Goldfinch  1

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Celery Farm 9/20--Olive-sided Flycatcher

Defunct Tractor
Photos: Shari Zirlin
Shari & I have always wanted to explore The Celery Farm, a refuge in the Bergen County exurbia that once actually produced an impressive amount of celery, but never got there when we lived relatively close in Brooklyn. Now that it is exactly 100 miles from where we live, we decided to go, prodded by the prospect of being guided there by Rob Fanning, who knows the place like it is his own backyard. Rob was leading a trip for the Monmouth County Audubon Society but they were fine with us Ocean County interlopers.

It is probably the easiest place I've ever been to see Wood Ducks. Usually these ducks skulk in hard to find places in among the reeds and other vegetation and you're lucky to see a couple. Today there were at least 10, out in the open. Though this is the time of year Wood Ducks are mostly in "eclipse" there were a couple of full breeding plumage males. The most beautiful duck in the North America.

It is also a good place to see raptors. Not in great abundance, as at a hawk watch (where they look like fly specks and pepper) but one or two birds, fairly low, affording great looks. The pond also is good habitat for shorebirds, including an  9 Pectoral Sandpipers, an unusually large number for the area & date. There was a flock of peeps there too, but even with Rob's scope I had to let them go as "spuhs" ("sp" = "spuh"="species").

But the "bird of the day" came toward the end of the trip when Stephanie Seymour found a bird high in a tree's bare branches. Unfortunately we were looking both into the sun and into what ballplayers call a "high sky," but we narrowed the bird down to a flycatcher and then Rob put it into his scope and figured out that it was an Olive-sided Flycatcher, a hard to find bird. When I first saw the bird I noted the white patch, but I couldn't run through my mental database of field marks fast enough to get an idea for an i.d. This is only the 3rd time I've encountered this bird--first in California, then last year in Ohio and finally, I have it on my NJ list. The photo, taken under adverse conditions and greatly cropped and enlarge should in no way be taken as an example of Shari's photography skills.

For the day I had 35 species. I should mention that I got inordinately excited about the Black-capped Chickadee I saw near the outset of the trip. It's a very common bird--if you're north of I-195, which I rarely am.

Canada Goose  27
Wood Duck  10
American Black Duck  1
Mallard  30
Green-winged Teal  5
Great Blue Heron  3
Great Egret  1
Turkey Vulture  1
Osprey  2
Northern Harrier  1
Cooper's Hawk  1
Red-shouldered Hawk  2
Red-tailed Hawk
Lesser Yellowlegs  8
Pectoral Sandpiper  9     Exact count. 
peep sp.  20
Mourning Dove  1
Belted Kingfisher  1
Red-bellied Woodpecker  2
Downy Woodpecker  2
Northern Flicker  1
American Kestrel  1
Olive-sided Flycatcher  1
Eastern Phoebe  1
Warbling Vireo  1     Heard, briefly
Blue Jay  5
American Crow  3
Black-capped Chickadee  3
House Wren  1     Heard
Carolina Wren  1     Heard
American Robin  1
Gray Catbird  10
Common Yellowthroat  1     Pirie obs deck
Palm Warbler  2
Northern Cardinal  4
American Goldfinch  10

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Rt. 539: Unsafe for Any Species

As an addendum to my previous post, regarding the danger of being on Rt 539, here is an eBird report from today:
Black-billed Cuckoo
Bird was glanced by a car and sitting stunned in the middle of the road. I moved it off the road and sat with it until it flew to a low branch.
It's bad enough I have to keep an eye out for impatient drivers who think they can make the turn into oncoming traffic (me); or pass that north-bound dump truck while I'm going south; or that I have to watch for deer loping across the road. Now I have to worry about low-flying cuckoos.

Eno's Pond 9/18--Blackburnian Warbler

A detour led me to a year bird today. I started out for Great Bay Blvd on Rt 539, probably the most ill-fated road around here. The road seems to be closed at least once a week due to a traffic accident--bad drivers and dump trucks don't mix.

Today's "detour" route took me east, then north, then west and back to where I started. In order to go south toward Tuckerton, I had to take Lacey Road which, if I drive it almost to its end, dumps me off at Eno's Pond, so I decided to go there first, figuring the woods might have some migrants.

The pond and inlet weren't as busy as I'd hoped, though the continuing hen Hooded Merganser was a nice find. There were warblers and woodpeckers scattered through the woods along with a Red-breasted Nuthatch, but the warblers weren't anything "exciting" until I returned to the first viewing platform. There was one oak tree in the sun that was particularly busy with birds flying in and out; again, mostly common species, but there was one warbler that was different--a deep orange-yellow throat and yellow surrounding a dark cheek patch--Blackburnian Warbler, probably a female, or else a male molting. Not only is Blackburnian a year bird, it is also an Ocean County lifer.
25 species
Canada Goose  18
Mallard  12
Hooded Merganser  1    
Great Blue Heron  1
Snowy Egret  1
Belted Kingfisher  1
Red-bellied Woodpecker  2
Downy Woodpecker  1     Heard
Northern Flicker  1
Blue Jay  5
American Crow  1     Heard
Tree Swallow  1
Carolina Chickadee  1
Tufted Titmouse  2
Red-breasted Nuthatch  1
White-breasted Nuthatch  1
Carolina Wren  3     Heard
Gray Catbird  5
Northern Waterthrush  1
Black-and-white Warbler  4
Common Yellowthroat  1
American Redstart  2
Blackburnian Warbler  1
Pine Warbler  5
Northern Cardinal  2     First platform

As long as I was "in the neighborhood," I decided to give the impoundments down in Barnegat a try. On Sunday, two American Avocets were in among the yellowlegs, but we were going to a hawk watch up in Somerset County, so I hoped that they would stick around. But on Monday morning, they were absent. Then on Monday afternoon I saw that they'd been observed again. I rushed down there only to come up empty again. And again today. I would really like to have avocets on my county list. 

I did hear a Fish Crow while I was there--the first one this month which seems odd. And I did see a drake Northern Shoveler, which tells me "winter icumen in."
13 species
Canada Goose  8
Mute Swan  4     Seen from cut on Bayshore
American Black Duck  4
Mallard  1
Northern Shoveler  1     Seen from cut on Bayshore
Double-crested Cormorant  5
Great Egret  2
Snowy Egret  28
Tricolored Heron  1
Greater Yellowlegs  10
Lesser Yellowlegs
Laughing Gull  2
Fish Crow  1     Heard, Bayshore 

Finally, I made it down Route 9 to Great Bay Blvd, about 2 1/2 hours later than I'd planned. Tide was low, yet aside from 16 Black-bellied Plovers, I saw no shorebirds. Good numbers for waders (wish I knew which night-herons I was inadvertently flushing) and 5 Yellow Warblers were a tiny bit surprising--they must be moving. 
29 species
Double-crested Cormorant  115
Great Blue Heron  1
Great Egret  50
Snowy Egret  40
Tricolored Heron  2
Turkey Vulture  5
Osprey  10
Black-bellied Plover  16
Laughing Gull  75
Herring Gull  50
Great Black-backed Gull  40
Caspian Tern  3
Forster's Tern  10
Royal Tern  1
Mourning Dove  2
Belted Kingfisher  3
Northern Flicker  1
Gray Catbird  2
European Starling  150
Common Yellowthroat  1
Yellow Warbler
Savannah Sparrow  1
Saltmarsh Sparrow  1
Seaside Sparrow  1
Song Sparrow  6
Northern Cardinal  1     before 5th bridge
Red-winged Blackbird  1     Before 4th bridge
Common Grackle  2
Boat-tailed Grackle  10