Sunday, November 30, 2014

November Summary

As the year progresses it obviously gets harder to add "year birds," so I'm pleased with this month's results--quality over quantity, with only 8 new birds but what birds they were! Three of the eight count as rarities: yesterday's Eared Grebe, the elusive Northern Shrike of Whitesbog, and the Black-headed Gull at the waste treatment plant in Delaware. Add in the rare (but previously encountered) Ross's Goose at Brig and the Western Kingbird in Virginia, along with some favorite birds like American White Pelican, Snow Bunting and Lapland Longspur and I'll count the month as a success.

We roved around a lot this month--many spots in NJ as well as the long weekend on the Delmarva Peninsula which really helped the bird count. Winter is not my favorite time of the year, so I don't expect spectacular results this next month. I keep buying warmer shoes, warmer gloves, adding layers, but I would still rather be inside.

Some miscellaneous birds seen this month:
Ross's Goose at Brig. I broke the speed limits to make sure I got this bird before the field trip started so I wouldn't get antsy until the group got to the spot, well along on the drive.
Purple Finch at our feeder. Finally!
Immature Bald Eagle, digiscoped 11/30 at Brig.
Boat-tailed Grackles take over the bridge at Great Bay Blvd.
Ring-necked Pheasant at Assunpink. He showed no fear of me. Which is why they're easy to kill. 
For the month I listed 149 species.
Counties birded:
Delaware: Kent, Sussex
Maryland: Worcester
New Jersey: Atlantic, Burlington, Cape May, Mercer, Monmouth, Ocean
Virginia: Accomack, Northampton
Species              Location
Snow Goose     Bombay Hook
Ross's Goose     Brig
Brant     Great Sedge Island
Canada Goose     Assunpink WMA
Mute Swan     Assunpink WMA
Tundra Swan     Bombay Hook
Wood Duck     Magothy Bay Preserve
Gadwall     Mercer Corporate Park
American Wigeon     Chincoteague NWR
American Black Duck     Bombay Hook
Mallard    Corines Millpond
Blue-winged Teal     Brig
Northern Shoveler     Bombay Hook
Northern Pintail     Bombay Hook
Green-winged Teal     Bombay Hook
Ring-necked Duck     Assunpink WMA
Lesser Scaup     Brig
Common Eider     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Harlequin Duck     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Surf Scoter     DuPont Nature Center
White-winged Scoter     Island Beach SP
Black Scoter     Chincoteague NWR
Long-tailed Duck     Island Beach SP
Bufflehead     Assunpink WMA
Common Goldeneye     LBI Bayside--24th St
Hooded Merganser     Magothy Bay Preserve
Red-breasted Merganser     Avalon Seawatch
Ruddy Duck     Assunpink WMA
Northern Bobwhite     Townsend
Ring-necked Pheasant     Assunpink WMA
Wild Turkey     35 Sunset Rd
Red-throated Loon     Chincoteague NWR
Common Loon     Island Beach SP
Pied-billed Grebe     Assunpink WMA
Horned Grebe     Island Beach SP
Red-necked Grebe     Sandy Hook
Eared Grebe     Sandy Hook
Northern Gannet     Island Beach SP
Double-crested Cormorant     Assunpink WMA
Great Cormorant     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
American White Pelican     Prime Hook NWR
Brown Pelican     Kiptopeke SP
American Bittern     Brig
Great Blue Heron     Assunpink WMA
Great Egret     Assunpink WMA
Snowy Egret     Chincoteague NWR
Little Blue Heron     Chincoteague NWR
Tricolored Heron     Chincoteague NWR
Black-crowned Night-Heron     Chincoteague NWR
White Ibis     Chincoteague NWR
Black Vulture     Rt 539 New Egypt
Turkey Vulture     Assunpink WMA
Golden Eagle     Eastern Shore of Virginia NWR
Northern Harrier     Great Sedge Island
Sharp-shinned Hawk     Island Beach SP
Cooper's Hawk     Eastern Shore of Virginia NWR
Bald Eagle     Assunpink WMA
Red-shouldered Hawk     Magothy Bay Preserve
Red-tailed Hawk     Assunpink WMA
Virginia Rail     Saxis WMA
American Coot     Assunpink WMA
American Avocet     Bombay Hook
American Oystercatcher     Chincoteague NWR
Black-bellied Plover     Great Sedge Island
Semipalmated Plover     Great Sedge Island
Killdeer     Saxis
Greater Yellowlegs     Bombay Hook
Willet     Queen Sound Flats
Lesser Yellowlegs     Prime Hook NWR
Marbled Godwit     Bombay Hook
Ruddy Turnstone     Prime Hook NWR
Sanderling     Great Sedge Island
Dunlin     Great Sedge Island
Purple Sandpiper     Avalon Seawatch
Western Sandpiper     Chincoteague NWR
Long-billed Dowitcher     Chincoteague NWR
Bonaparte's Gull     Great Sedge Island
Black-headed Gull     Wolfe Neck WTP
Laughing Gull     Island Beach SP
Ring-billed Gull     Double Trouble State Park
Herring Gull     Great Sedge Island
Great Black-backed Gull     Great Sedge Island
Forster's Tern     Great Sedge Island
Royal Tern     Great Sedge Island
Rock Pigeon     Maddox Blvd
Eurasian Collared-Dove     Magotha Road
Mourning Dove     35 Sunset Rd
Belted Kingfisher    Corines Millpond
Red-bellied Woodpecker     Double Trouble State Park
Downy Woodpecker     35 Sunset Rd
Northern Flicker     Chincoteague NWR
American Kestrel     Seaside Rd
Merlin     Sandy Hook
Peregrine Falcon     Great Sedge Island
Eastern Phoebe     Island Beach SP
Western Kingbird     Seaside Rd
Northern Shrike     Whitesbog (Ocean Co.)
Blue Jay     35 Sunset Rd
American Crow     Double Trouble State Park
Fish Crow    Corines Millpond
Horned Lark     Cartanza Road
Tree Swallow     Chincoteague NWR
Carolina Chickadee     35 Sunset Rd
Tufted Titmouse     35 Sunset Rd
White-breasted Nuthatch     35 Sunset Rd
Brown-headed Nuthatch     Chincoteague NWR
Brown Creeper     Stone Harbor Point
Winter Wren     Double Trouble State Park
Marsh Wren     DuPont Nature Center
Carolina Wren     Double Trouble State Park
Golden-crowned Kinglet     Double Trouble State Park
Ruby-crowned Kinglet     Bombay Hook
Eastern Bluebird     Chincoteague NWR
Hermit Thrush     Chincoteague NWR
American Robin     Double Trouble State Park
Gray Catbird     Assunpink WMA
Brown Thrasher     Prime Hook NWR
Northern Mockingbird     Assunpink WMA
European Starling     Assunpink WMA
Cedar Waxwing     Assunpink WMA
Lapland Longspur     Island Beach SP
Snow Bunting     Avalon Seawatch
Common Yellowthroat     Chincoteague NWR
Palm Warbler     Brig
Pine Warbler     35 Sunset Rd
Yellow-rumped Warbler     Double Trouble State Park
Eastern Towhee     Double Trouble State Park
American Tree Sparrow     Sandy Hook
Chipping Sparrow     35 Sunset Rd
Field Sparrow     Eastern Shore of Virginia NWR
Savannah Sparrow     Double Trouble State Park
Nelson's Sparrow     DuPont Nature Center
Fox Sparrow     35 Sunset Rd
Song Sparrow     Assunpink WMA
Swamp Sparrow     Double Trouble State Park
White-throated Sparrow     Double Trouble State Park
White-crowned Sparrow     Assunpink WMA
Dark-eyed Junco     35 Sunset Rd
Northern Cardinal     Assunpink WMA
Red-winged Blackbird     Assunpink WMA
Eastern Meadowlark     Bombay Hook
Common Grackle     Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Boat-tailed Grackle     Chincoteague NWR
Brown-headed Cowbird     Cartanza Road
House Finch     35 Sunset Rd
Purple Finch     Chincoteague NWR
Pine Siskin     Assunpink WMA
American Goldfinch     35 Sunset Rd
House Sparrow     Avalon Seawatch

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Sandy Hook 11/29--Eared Grebe

Scott Barnes sent out an email yesterday about a "flash" field trip for today at Sandy Hook; the main attraction (aside from the good company these trips always provide) was the continuing Eared Grebe, a rarity 'round these parts that Scott found last week. I was eager for the EAGR since I hadn't seen one in 5 years and that was off Staten Island. I'm counting it as a state bird; Shari says we saw one years ago in the Shark River, but I'm dubious about our sightings from so long ago, before we had decent optics.

For an impromptu field trip attendance was pretty good--13 birders with nothing better to do showed up at Lot B. Scott & Linda led us up to Lot L across from Horseshoe Cove. Some birders were already scanning the extremely calm waters (miraculously, no wind today) and after a short time Scott (of course) located our target bird about 1/2 way out in the cove.  It took just a little doing to get everyone on the bird--grebes dive and dive a lot. I got good looks at the bird--it's pointy head, it's dusky neck and was able to compare it to the numerous Horned Grebes in the cove. The bonus birds were a Red-necked Grebe also present in the cove and a few Common Goldeneyes, providing very good looks.  (I'd seen a few yesterday in Barnegat Bay but under less than ideal conditions--gale force wind in my face so I looked at them just long enough to verify they were goldeneyes.)

While looking around the other side of the cove I spotted an immature male Common Eider. Unfortunately, I couldn't get Linda on the bird (there were no good landmarks) and it drifted out of sight before most of the group caught up to us. I didn't think it was any big deal (it was a Common Eider, after all) but everyone seemed inordinately disappointed that it had disappeared.

While we were standing around bemoaning our now lost eider a small flock of Horned Larks flew overhead, cheeping away, and that raised everyone's spirits.

Other notable sighting were a large flock of Snow Buntings on Gunnison Beach, a Merlin in the same location, and American Tree Sparrows and White-crowned Sparrows in the dunes around the hawk watch. We also had the largest flock of House Finches I've ever seen--at least a 100 flying around and landing on the telephone wires.

We ended the day sea watching at Lot C where we had our goofiest sighting of the day. A lone Snow Goose flew past us and, seeing other black & white birds landed in with a flock of gulls to the south. I guess that's why decoys work!

Our original plan for the day was to go to the Parker Preserve and search for a Sedge Wren reported there. I met some Burlington County birders today at the Hook who'd searched unsuccessfully for the bird recently, so I was happy that we called an audible and got the grebe.

My list for the day. I missed a few passerines, but nothing I really needed to see.
40 species (+1 other taxa)
Snow Goose  1
Brant  50
Canada Goose  25
Common Eider  1     
White-winged Scoter  3
scoter sp.  10
Bufflehead  20
Common Goldeneye  4
Red-breasted Merganser  25
Red-throated Loon  
Common Loon  4
Horned Grebe  10
Red-necked Grebe  1
Eared Grebe  1     
Northern Gannet  2
Double-crested Cormorant  12
Black Vulture  3
Northern Harrier  2     Lot C
Bald Eagle  1     Lot C
Red-tailed Hawk  1
American Coot  2
Black-bellied Plover  2
Sanderling  5
Ring-billed Gull  10
Herring Gull  100
Great Black-backed Gull  10
Downy Woodpecker  2
Northern Flicker  1
Merlin  1
American Crow  1
Horned Lark  8
Northern Mockingbird  2
Snow Bunting  50
Yellow-rumped Warbler  6
American Tree Sparrow  1
Savannah Sparrow  1
Song Sparrow  2
White-throated Sparrow  20
White-crowned Sparrow  3
Dark-eyed Junco  20
House Finch  100

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


I love to collect to typos and other printing errors--they make up most of the "words" entries in this blog--so I was delighted to find an essay about mislabeled pictures of birds in Pete Dunne's entertaining Small-headed Flycatcher. Seen Yesterday. He Didn't Leave His Name.

I was even more delighted when I read this sentence:
At one pregnant moment, a point-blank house finch was shown that, to everyone's astonishment, threw back its head and belted out a beautiful morning warbler song.
Perfect. A typo in an article poking fun at copy-editing errors. A meta-typo. For you non-birders, t'aint no such thing as a morning warbler. Try Mourning Warbler with the easy-to-read initial caps.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Whitesbog (Ocean County) 11/11--Northern Shrike

I hadn't really checked email while we were doing the Delmarva tour so I was surprised to find an message from Mike Mandracchia asking me if I wanted to try to find the shrike that had been spotted at Whitesbog on Monday. What shrike?

Doing a little research on Jerseybirds and eBirds I quickly found that Greg had discovered what seemed to be a Northern Shrike in the bogs and then refound it a few hours later. I remembered a couple of years ago chasing a shrike at Whitesbog that was a one-day wonder and that frustrating memory, coupled with my dead tiredness from the long weekend and the drive back dampened my enthusiasm for the hunt. But the idea that it was in Ocean County overwhelmed my disinclination and besides, I hadn't seen Mike in a while.

Greg emailed me the couple of places he'd seen the bird and Mike & I set out this morning to look. We did about 2/3 of the circuit around the main bogs with very little bird activity. But at the dogleg there was a pocket of sparrows jumping around and when we got out of the car to investigate a really interesting one we'd seen well but couldn't identify (and still can't) Mike looked up in a bare tree not fifty feet from us and found the shrike. We got pretty good looks at it with our binoculars and then it flew into a small tree in the bog. By the time we set up our scopes, Mike had a brief look, enough to convince him that it was Northern Shrike and not a Loggerhead (they are notoriously difficult to tell apart and since NJ is the southernmost range of the Northern and northernmost range of the Loggerhead we can get either one), but then it flew again. Actually, we never saw it fly. It disappeared, Only to turn up about an 1/8 of a mile to the west atop another tree. Unfortunately, we had committed the cardinal sin of wandering away from our scopes, so by the time I had run down the road to retrieve one, it flew. Again. Disappeared. Again.

We'd seen it and Mike had seen it better than I had but it was still a BVD bird. Greg, by this time, was on the dikes and after comparing sightings from yesterday and today we split up to look for the bird. Mike and I circled the bogs a couple of times with no results and then decided to plant ourselves in good habitat and hope the bird would show up. That didn't work either.

Around noon we decided our looks were decent enough that we could leave and feel successful. I was driving out Whitesbog Road when my cell phone rang. I stopped the car and answered, only because I thought it was Shari. It was Greg; he'd found the bird.

My Saturn Ion really isn't built for Whitesbogs' roads, but I went bumping along to where Greg was, even though I was sure that the 5 minutes it took to get there would be 1 minute too long and it was. The bird disappeared. Again.

It is at these points that I start to hate birding. Why? Why am I doing this?

Greg got into my car and we drove around, meeting other birders along the road, none of whom had been successful until one of them got a text that the bird was all the way down by the double-laned road. We drove down there and found birders intent on their scopes. By the time we set up our scopes, the bird disappeared. Again.

We shouldered our scopes and started walking back to where we'd met. Greg was saying that when he had the bird about an hour before it was actually vocalizing. Then we heard something. Now, it might have been the shrike, or it might have been the flicker we saw flying across the bog that made the sound. But the flicker flew to a tree and in that tree I saw the shrike. The shrike and flicker fought a bit for possession of the limb the shrike occupied with the shrike winning the skirmish. And finally, we were both able to get the bird in our scopes and finally I was able to convince myself that it was a Northern Shrike, based on color, mask, bill, and the negative factor that it didn't look like a mockingbird as Loggerheads will.

After more than 6 hours (and not much bird life other than the shrike) I was content to leave.

12 species
Turkey Vulture  3
Red-shouldered Hawk  1
Belted Kingfisher  2
Downy Woodpecker  2
Northern Flicker  2
Northern Shrike  1    
Golden-crowned Kinglet  2
Song Sparrow  10
Swamp Sparrow  5
Dark-eyed Junco  5
Red-winged Blackbird  1
American Goldfinch  1     Heard, Dogleg

Delmarva 11/7-11/10--List & Index

Saxis Marsh
Photo: Shari Zirlin
Shari & I went on a van trip, led by Scott Barnes & Linda Mack of NJ Audubon down to the Delmarva Peninsula. Our major stops were Bombay Hook, Chincoteague NWR, Eastern Shore of Virginia NWR, Kiptopeke State Park, Magothy Nature Preserve, and Prime Hook. While only a few of these spots were new to us, it always a pleasure to go to familiar areas with experts who have the patience and knowledge that allow you to "get on" birds you would probably overlook.

Wolfe Neck Waste Treatment Plant 11/7--Black-headed Gull
Chincoteague NWR 11/8--White Ibis, Brown-headed Nuthatch
Saxis WMA 11/8--Virginia Rail
Seaside Road 11/9--Western Kingbird
Eastern Shore of Virginia NWR 11/9--Golden Eagle
Prime Hook 11/10--American White Pelican

For the 4 days I listed 114 species. The cumulative number for the group is always more. I would guess there were probably 5 or 6 species I missed. I'm very happy with what I got, including 6 years birds.

Snow Goose
Canada Goose
Tundra Swan
Wood Duck
American Wigeon
American Black Duck
Northern Shoveler
Northern Pintail
Green-winged Teal
Ring-necked Duck
Surf Scoter
Black Scoter
Hooded Merganser
Ruddy Duck
Northern Bobwhite
Red-throated Loon
Common Loon
Pied-billed Grebe
Horned Grebe
Northern Gannet
Double-crested Cormorant
American White Pelican
Brown Pelican
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Little Blue Heron
Tricolored Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron
White Ibis
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Golden Eagle
Northern Harrier
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
Bald Eagle
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Virginia Rail
American Coot
American Avocet
American Oystercatcher
Black-bellied Plover
Semipalmated Plover
Greater Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs
Marbled Godwit
Ruddy Turnstone
Western Sandpiper
Long-billed Dowitcher
Bonaparte's Gull
Black-headed Gull
Laughing Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Forster's Tern
Royal Tern
Rock Pigeon
Eurasian Collared-Dove
Mourning Dove
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
American Kestrel
Peregrine Falcon
Western Kingbird
Blue Jay
American Crow
Horned Lark
Tree Swallow
Carolina Chickadee
Brown-headed Nuthatch
Winter Wren
Marsh Wren
Carolina Wren
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Eastern Bluebird
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Brown Thrasher
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Common Yellowthroat
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Nelson's Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Boat-tailed Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Purple Finch
Pine Siskin
American Goldfinch