Saturday, February 28, 2015

February Wrap up

Canvasbacks, Mallards, Black DuckRuddy Duck, Herring Gull, Dock St, Sands Point
Not to put too fine a point on it, but this month I really stunk up the county. I missed so many great birds this month that I started to question why I even bother going out. My dips on the Thick-billed Murre and Bohemian Waxwing have already been documented to the point of self-flagellation, but I also missed King Eider & Black-headed Gull this month, both of which Greg, whose instincts and persistence this month have been admirable, had at Manasquan Inlet mid-month.

Yesterday, while standing around parking lot A3 waiting for the Bowax to show (which it eventually did, two hours after I left), I administered a little test I give myself. It goes like this.
       Birding is supposed to be fun.
       Are you having fun?

The answer was no, standing around in the cold waiting 4 hours for some bird to show up is not fun. If there had been other birds to look at to pass the time, if the weather was pleasant, I could make a case for it. So I left, knowing, just knowing, the bird would eventually show.

February, along with July, is just about the deadest month for new birds in this area, so the 4 rarities I missed would have added a little spice to the list. As it was, I added 15 species for the year, not a lot, the most interesting ones being raptors (an owl and two hawks) plus the American Pipits I found at Sands Point, an area which bears more investigation. I made two trips there this month and I suspect it will be a productive spot next month for ducks and through the early spring when the marshes thaw for passing shorebirds. The fact that the water is kept warm from the Oyster Creek nuclear plant makes the spot one of the few places on Barnegat Bay this winter where you can find open water.

Almost every day I took a picture of a Pine Warbler, our alleged rarity, to post on eBird. Most of them were purely documentary but this one approaches being a decent photo in itself.
For the month I had 110 species, down from last month's count, but I didn't leave the state this month.
Species             First Sighting
Snow Goose     Assunpink WMA
Brant     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Canada Goose     Sunset Park
Mute Swan     Sands Point Preserve
Trumpeter Swan     Assunpink WMA
Tundra Swan     Brig
Gadwall     Forsythe--Barnegat
American Wigeon     Marshall's Pond
American Black Duck     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Mallard     Bayview Marina
Northern Pintail     Bayview Ave Park
Green-winged Teal     Brig
Canvasback     Sunset Park
Redhead     Assunpink WMA
Ring-necked Duck     Assunpink WMA
Greater Scaup     Sunset Park
Lesser Scaup     Wrangle Brook
Common Eider     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Harlequin Duck     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Surf Scoter     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
White-winged Scoter     Manasquan Inlet
Black Scoter     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Long-tailed Duck     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Bufflehead     Bayview Marina
Common Goldeneye     Sunset Park
Hooded Merganser     Bridge to Nowhere
Common Merganser     Assunpink WMA
Red-breasted Merganser     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Ruddy Duck     Eno’s Pond
Red-throated Loon     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Common Loon     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Pied-billed Grebe     Sands Point--Dock Ave
Horned Grebe     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Red-necked Grebe     Manasquan Inlet
Double-crested Cormorant     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Great Cormorant     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Great Blue Heron     Sands Point Preserve
Black-crowned Night-Heron     Bayview Ave Park
Black Vulture     Forked River
Turkey Vulture     New Egypt
Northern Harrier     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Sharp-shinned Hawk     35 Sunset Rd
Cooper's Hawk     35 Sunset Rd
Bald Eagle     Sands Point Preserve
Red-shouldered Hawk     Brig
Red-tailed Hawk     GSP MM 65.5
Rough-legged Hawk     Mercer Sod Farm IBA
American Coot     Marshall's Pond
American Oystercatcher     Brigantine Island
Black-bellied Plover     Bayview Marina
Killdeer     Sands Point Preserve
Greater Yellowlegs     Eno’s Pond
Willet     Brigantine Island
Ruddy Turnstone     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Dunlin     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Purple Sandpiper     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Bonaparte's Gull     Manasquan Inlet
Ring-billed Gull     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Herring Gull     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Great Black-backed Gull     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Rock Pigeon     Bayview Marina
Mourning Dove     35 Sunset Rd
Great Horned Owl     Bridge to Nowhere
Snowy Owl     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Belted Kingfisher     Eno’s Pond
Red-bellied Woodpecker     35 Sunset Rd
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker     Crestwood Village
Downy Woodpecker     35 Sunset Rd
Hairy Woodpecker     Brig
Northern Flicker     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Merlin     Brig
Peregrine Falcon     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Blue Jay     35 Sunset Rd
American Crow     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Fish Crow     Mercer Sod Farm IBA
Common Raven     Double Trouble State Park
Carolina Chickadee     35 Sunset Rd
Tufted Titmouse     35 Sunset Rd
White-breasted Nuthatch     35 Sunset Rd
Brown Creeper     Manasquan Reservoir IBA
Carolina Wren     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Eastern Bluebird     Brig
Hermit Thrush     Eno’s Pond
American Robin     35 Sunset Rd
Northern Mockingbird     New Egypt
European Starling     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
American Pipit     Sands Point Preserve
Cedar Waxwing     Island Beach SP
Pine Warbler     35 Sunset Rd
Yellow-rumped Warbler     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Eastern Towhee     Brig
American Tree Sparrow     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Chipping Sparrow     35 Sunset Rd
Field Sparrow     Brig
Savannah Sparrow     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Fox Sparrow     Bayview Ave Park
Song Sparrow     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Swamp Sparrow     Bridge to Nowhere
White-throated Sparrow     35 Sunset Rd
White-crowned Sparrow     Assunpink WMA
Dark-eyed Junco     35 Sunset Rd
Northern Cardinal     35 Sunset Rd
Red-winged Blackbird     Marsha Dr & Rt 72
Common Grackle     New Egypt
Boat-tailed Grackle     Great Bay Bvld.
Brown-headed Cowbird     New Egypt
House Finch     35 Sunset Rd
Common Redpoll     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
American Goldfinch     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
House Sparrow     Barnegat Lighthouse SP

Brig 2/28--Red-shouldered Hawk

I birded the frozen wastes of Forsythe-Brigantine today on a field trip with Pete & Mike. The temperature when we started our first circuit was 17 degrees. But there was no wind. So the "real feel" was, I don't know, okay. Besides, we were mostly in the car.

The first trip around we found very little open water. I thought the scenery would be very beautiful had we not been looking for birds. However, we did come up with a decent amount of species and raptors were the highlight of the day. Down at the Gull Pond tower there was a beauty of a Red-shouldered Hawk perched prominently in a bare tree. Harriers, both vultures, Red-tailed Hawks and and a Bald Eagle were ticked off the list. On the 2nd trip around we found a Rough-legged Hawk sitting atop a pole. It flew a short distance and gave us some field marks. Later, down the road one of our party saw another hawk perched in a tree. Amazingly, I got on it (I am terrible at finding birds at a distance hidden among branches). Not only did I get on it, I found another hawk close by. We got our scopes out and the first bird turned out to be another Rough-legged Hawk (of the dark morph variety) while the bird nearby was yet another, this time a light morph. So we were all feeling pretty good. Naturally, I don't have any pictures of hawks.

I do have some nice photos of the ducks that were close in at one of the exit ponds.
Northern Pintail (drake)
Red-breasted Merganser (hen) & Ring-necked Duck (drake)
Lesser Scaup
And a Great Blue Heron, stepping out:
For the day I had 40 species. That's twice as many as I expected, so, on the last day of the month, I'll consider it a victory over winter.
Snow Goose  500
Brant  100
Canada Goose  10
Mute Swan  3
Tundra Swan  50
American Black Duck  165
Mallard  10
Northern Pintail  30
Green-winged Teal  3     gull pond
Ring-necked Duck  
Lesser Scaup    1     Exit Pond
Bufflehead  50
Common Goldeneye  4     Off corner of east dike.
Hooded Merganser  10     East Dike
Common Merganser  1
Red-breasted Merganser  5
Ruddy Duck  1
Great Blue Heron  2
Black Vulture  1
Turkey Vulture  3
Northern Harrier  2
Bald Eagle  1
Red-shouldered Hawk  1
Red-tailed Hawk
Rough-legged Hawk  3
Herring Gull  10
Great Black-backed Gull  5
Downy Woodpecker  2
Blue Jay  1     Heard
American Crow  23
Carolina Chickadee  3     Heard
Tufted Titmouse  1     Heard
Hermit Thrush  1
American Robin  10
Yellow-rumped Warbler  2
Eastern Towhee  1     Upland trail
Song Sparrow  1
Northern Cardinal  3
Red-winged Blackbird  12
House Finch  4

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Island Beach SP 2/26--Cedar Waxwing OR Chasing the Elusive Bowax

When we were in Minnesota last month, we saw puh-lenty of Bohemian Waxwings. So, when one showed up at Sandy Hook this month, I was interested, but not interested enough to brave the cold weather to chase it. I had the species for the year, I even have it on my Jersey life list, since years ago Shari picked one out at Sandy Hook in more or less the same spot that this year bird is being seen.

But, when three showed up yesterday in someone's backyard in Lavellette, which is in Ocean County, then I wanted the bird for my county list. The birds flew off from her backyard and a few people suspected that Island Beach would be a likely place to look for them. I was planning on doing that this morning but when I awoke, it was snowing. By the time it stopped snowing I had lost the momentum to go out chasing.

Greg, however, was in the park I think, just as the last flake fell and around 2:45 he called me. "Bohemian Waxwing, lot A3." It was like Thick-billed Murre deja vu all over again. Shari & I bolted for the car and made the 45 minute drive to Island Beach SP, hitting every red light, school zone, and detour possible. Once in Island Beach we found ourselves behind a student driver. Shari passed her and we found Greg at the parking lot. We also found lots of robins. Of course, we found no Bowax.

For the next hour and a half we drove up and down the road looking for flocks of robins with which waxwings often mix. Down around lot A11 we found more robins and finally, for me, two Cedar Waxwings.  It is a pretty strange birding year when I get Bohemian before Cedar, but at least I added that bird for the year. As it happens, out of all the birds on my life list, Cedar Waxwing is my favorite. I just love their mask, their crest, the little red tips on their wings, the yellow edge on their tails. They look, to me, like cartoon space cadets I saw on TV as a kid or in a dream.

So, okay, the excursion wasn't a complete waste, but after stomping around in the cold for more than hour, it looked to me like the bird, which could be anywhere, was. We started to drive north out of the park when Greg stopped and pointed out another mixed flock. In this flock it seemed Cedar Waxwings predominated--there were around 20 of them. Greg said that the Bohemian he saw was with quite few Cedars so we spent about a half hour looking carefully at each waxwing as they picked some kind of blue berry off an otherwise bare deciduous tree. So the anywhere the Bohemian could have been wasn't the where we were. (This is starting to sound like Gertrude Stein.)

I think I'll try again tomorrow. It will be cold but I'll be in the car, driving back & forth, looking everywhere.

Friday, February 20, 2015

New Egypt 2/20--Brown-headed Cowbird

Brutal weather and root canal this week have limited my birding to looking out the back windows. Today, despite the coldest weather of the week, with wind chills so low that the weathermen on the radio are making comparisons to Siberia, I had errands to run, so while I was in the car anyway, I ran through the possible places I could go where I might find a new bird for the year and not have to get out of the car.
Starlings and cattle, Inman Rd, New Egypt
The cattle pastures in New Egypt came to mind so I headed out there. Starlings are abundant out there and only move off the road reluctantly as you drive by (avoiding the cattle that don't seemed very concerned about you either) so it was in that flock that I finally found a new species for the year, albeit one that most consider a "garbage bird," Brown-headed Cowbird.  I happen to like them, especially when they "sing" their little water-dripping song.  Two glossy males were mixed in with the starlings. I probably could have found more, but I only need one. Nothing else of interest was out there. Had I stuck around perhaps I'd have found an interesting raptor, but with the wind blowing at 30 mph, perhaps not. In any case, I headed to the warmth of Wawa and then home, back to looking at the feeders, where the continuing Pine Warblers and a Hermit Thrush have been the highlights so far.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Manasquan Inlet 2/12--White-winged Scoter. OR: Chasing the Thick-billed Murre

Last night two Thick-billed Murres were reported in Barnegat Inlet. I have seen exactly one Thick-billed Murre in my years of birding--it was about 50 yards off the beach by the Gil Hodges Bridges in Brooklyn, many years ago. So that was my destination this morning. I remembered that the Brooklyn murre stayed around for a few days; I was hoping these murres would do the same. The inlet isn't very wide. If they were there, I'd find them.

They weren't there.

I scanned the inlet a number of times, coming up only with the expected birds. I walked out to the beach with no luck. On my way back, I stopped to talk to Steve G who was brave enough to walk on the jetty. He had a couple of Harlequin Ducks and I was just about to climb up there when my cell rang. It was Greg. "Are you busy?"

"I'm at Barnegat Light."

"Oh, because I have an alcid here at Manasquan Inlet."

"What kind."

"Not sure. Doesn't look like a Razorbill."

Inwardly I groaned. "There's a very good chance that it's a Thick-billed Murre."

"That's what I think too," he replied.

Manasquan Inlet, as the murre flies, is 23 miles from Barnegat Light. As the car drives it is 53 miles, or about an hour. When I got back to the car (after clambering up on the jetty to see the Harlequins), I called Greg and he confirmed that he had a TB Murre, loafing in the inlet. So I was at the wrong inlet.

I started to drive up there, it's a rather roundabout route, considering you have to start going south and west before you can even start heading the proper northerly direction. On the way Greg called. I stopped the car (good citizen) and he told me it had flown to the tip of the jetty. Already, I was feeling bad about this bird. By the time I got there, around 11:45, I called Greg (who was on the Monmouth County side of the inlet) and he told me he'd lost the bird. Outwardly I groaned.

The jetty at Manasquan Inlet is paved most of the way, so walking on it was no big deal like it is at Barnegat. I got to the tip and found many, many ducks and loons, but no alcid. I was there only a few minutes when I saw Steve walking toward me. Either he knows a better way to get there than my GPS device or he drives much faster than me. Together we scanned the inlet and ocean with no luck, though we did come up with two Red-necked Grebes. On any other day, that would be a good find. Today we weren't that excited about them. I could see Greg standing on the jetty across the inlet. I phoned him and we compared notes--his were a lot better than mine. What a great bird! I went back to the end of the jetty and scanned the many scoters--mostly Surf Scoters with a handful of Black Scoters. There was one duck that didn't look "right." I scoped it tight and saw the "comma" over it's eye and had my first White-winged Scoter of the year. I called it to Steve's attention and he subsequently found four more in front of the larger scoter flock. So at least I got a year bird out of the day but the murre is a teeth-gnashing miss. They are such rare birds to see inshore. And there's seems to be an influx the last two days--not only were two more found again after I left the inlet, but they've been reported also in Brooklyn and off Staten Island today.  Some inexplicable force has pushed them in from far off in the ocean.

Tomorrow, I'm sure, more will be reported, but tomorrow is going to be wicked cold and while I want to see one I'm not that much of a masochist, especially after missing the bird twice in one day, 53 miles apart.

My two lists, which on any other day, would make me happy:
Barnegat Lighthouse SP
16 species
Common Eider  150
Harlequin Duck  2     About half-way down the jetty
Surf Scoter  8
Black Scoter  10
Long-tailed Duck  25
Red-breasted Merganser  10
Red-throated Loon
Common Loon  25
Great Cormorant  6
Purple Sandpiper  3
Ring-billed Gull  2
Herring Gull  100
Great Black-backed Gull  10
Carolina Wren  1     Heard
Yellow-rumped Warbler  2
Savannah Sparrow (Ipswich)  2
Manasquan Inlet
12 species
Surf Scoter  25
White-winged Scoter  5
Black Scoter  10
Long-tailed Duck  50
Bufflehead  2     Inlet
Red-breasted Merganser  2     Just off the tip of the jetty
Common Loon  30
Red-necked Grebe  2
Dunlin  71
Ring-billed Gull  1
Herring Gull  10
Great Black-backed Gull  1

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Swans at Assunpink 2/11

This morning from the boat launch parking lot, I had in one scope view 3 species of swans. I was watching one black-billed swan dipping its head in the water, wondering whether it was the Tundra Swan that was recently reported there. Its neck didn't look dingy enough to be one of the Trumpeter Swans. Then, 3 swans that were resting on the ice with their heads tucked in that were in front of the swan stood up. They were huge in comparison and were of course the continuing Trumpeters. With the Mute Swans also in the scope view (and 2 Snow Geese for good measure) it was quite a good lesson in white waterfowl identification. Unfortunately, it was way too windy and cold to attempt a digiscope photo. 

I'd say about 2/3 of the lake is frozen (really frozen--I saw 5 guys drilling holes in the ice for ice fishing!) so that concentrates all the waterfowl in one large area. Thousands of Canada Geese make up the vast majority of birds on the water, but there are also Ring-necked Ducks, a Redhead, a Common Merganser, Ruddies, and a few coots. A Bald Eagle was sitting on the ice, watching the passing parade. 

At the driveway across from the burnt house I did not see any White-throated Sparrows, which is surprising, though I did find a couple while walking around. There was, however, an Eastern Towhee in the driveway, scratching away at the dirt. 

A gigantic flock of grackles kept up a constant racket.

A small portion of the grackle flock

Snow Goose  2
Canada Goose  2000
Mute Swan  12
Trumpeter Swan  3    
Tundra Swan  1    
Mallard  1     from boat launch parking lot
Redhead  1     From north side of lake
Ring-necked Duck  15
Bufflehead  1     From boat launch parking lot
Common Merganser  1     From north side of lake
Ruddy Duck  6
Turkey Vulture  1
Bald Eagle  1     
American Coot  3
Ring-billed Gull  8
Mourning Dove  1
Red-bellied Woodpecker  2     Heard
Downy Woodpecker  4
Blue Jay  5
American Crow  1     Heard
Carolina Chickadee  3
Tufted Titmouse  2
White-breasted Nuthatch  1     Heard
American Robin  1
Northern Mockingbird  1
Eastern Towhee  1     
Song Sparrow  10
White-throated Sparrow  30
White-crowned Sparrow  2
Dark-eyed Junco  2
Northern Cardinal  6     Near burnt house and along Clarksville-Robbinsville Rd
Red-winged Blackbird  3
Common Grackle  1000
American Goldfinch  1     Heard

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Mercer Sod Farm IBA 2/8--Fish Crow

Mercer Sod Farm, which is, perplexedly, in Burlington, not Mercer, County is a hard place to bird since you are not actually allowed on the property. Instead, you can only bird the periphery. I don't understand why, since it is supposedly part of the Burlington County Parks Department, though I've been told that the active eagle's nest has something to do with the ban.

American Tree Sparrow
Photo: Shari Zirlin
We drove over there after lunch, having birded Shelter Cove briefly, looking for Horned Larks which didn't appear, Cattus Island, where the feeders were active and Shari was able to take a good photo of an American Tree Sparrow, but the water was frozen and the woods were dead, and Marshall's Pond just to reassure ourselves that the laughable sighting of 3 (THREE!) Tufted Ducks was indeed just that. It was; they turned out to be, of course, Ring-necked Ducks.

Last year we looped around the fields that make up the sod farms probably a dozen times on a number of trips, trying to find a Rough-legged Hawk before we were finally successful. Today we got it on the first try but only after a false alarm. When we first drove onto Warner Road, in the back of the fields, Shari pointed out a hawk above and it was white beneath with black wingtips and I thought it was a Roughie until it landed in the field and I saw a white rump and I realized that instead we had a very beautiful "Gray Ghost" Northern Harrier. It wasn't the bird I wanted it to be, to paraphrase Pete Bacinski.

We drove around to the Burlington County Fairgrounds on the corner of Rt 206. From the parking lot you can view the fields pretty well. It always feels like we're trespassing when we drive onto the empty grounds, but apparently it is perfectly legal. There were other cars there, one couple monitoring the Bald Eagles on their nest and a family riding their bikes. I was also looking at the eagles and the swirl of starlings in the field below them when I realized, after about 10 seconds, that I was hearing a familiar call, one I hadn't heard in quite a few months. "Heh-heh." I looked up and flying just above me was a huge flock of Fish Crows. For some reason, in the winter you're more likely to find these crows which are usually around water (where else are they going to get fish?) inland rather than on the coast. All I've seen in Ocean County are American Crows. My first Fish Crows last year were in this area too--across the street in the Pandora Diner's parking lot. (BTW, who had the idea of naming their Greek Diner after the woman who let all the woes of the world escape from her box?)

It seemed like every time I saw a hawk fly in the field it was another Harrier. Finally, looking over the tree line on the east side of 206, I saw more crows mobbing a larger bird. At first I thought it was a Turkey Vulture, but I've never seen crows bother with vultures and the bird didn't look right for vulture. It had white linings under its wings, similar to a TUVU,  but Turkey Vultures don't have white bases to their tails as this one did. Watching it and watching it I realized it didn't fly like a vulture either. I watched it some more and finally was able to convince myself that I did have a Rough-legged Hawk in the scope. Not a year bird; we saw 3 in Minnesota, but it is a new one for the state.

So, only 7 species for the spot. I sure would like to walk the fields but the guys I know who did both had run-ins with the police.

Turkey Vulture  6
Northern Harrier  4
Bald Eagle  3     Two on nest
Rough-legged Hawk  1     
Red-bellied Woodpecker  1
Fish Crow  70
European Starling  500

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Ocean & Atlantic Counties 2/7--American Oystercatcher, Willet, Great Horned Owl, 3 Sparrows

Mike Mandracchia and I did an impromptu Big Day, starting out just before dawn in Manahawkin, ranging over to Long Beach Island, down to Brigantine Island, then a loop around Brig (Forsythe) and finally ended up back in Manahawkin at the Bridge to Nowhere at and after sunset. Along the way I picked up 6 year birds including 3 new ones for the county.

We were hoping for owls and a Sedge Wren on Beach Avenue as we had during the Christmas Count but were just a little too late. However, we did get Great Horned Owl after sunset along Stafford Avenue after striking out on Short-eared Owls in the marshes around the burnt out bridge.

The other two highlights for me came on Brigantine Island (not to be confused with the wildlife refuge officially called E.W. Forsythe NWR (Brigantine Unit)), where, in the marshes we picked up American Oystercatchers and Willets (of the Western sub-species). We didn't find, alas, any Marbled Godwits, nor did we find the reported Red-necked Grebe.

At Barnegat Light we did one of my least favorite things, a long rock-hopping walk on the jetty for more than half a mile. We were rewarded though with 4 Harlequin Ducks, not new for me, but year birds for Mike and always a delight to see. A little bonus was an Ipswich Savannah Sparrow the color of sand which posed twice nicely on the rocks as we went out and came back.

Most of the water at Brig was frozen, so we only tallied 24 species there, a very low number, but we did better than expected on the upland portion of the trail with Hairy Woodpecker, Eastern Bluebirds, Field Sparrow, plus the "chwink" of an Eastern Towhee.

I think Mike had 62 species to my 60--I didn't bother listing Rock Pigeon and he heard cardinals that I didn't. Not a bad number for a mid-winter day when so much of the water we surveyed was "stiff."

My list:
Brant   225
Canada Goose   204
Mute Swan   4
Tundra Swan   200
American Black Duck   410
Mallard   55
Northern Pintail   20
Green-winged Teal   10
Canvasback   1
Greater Scaup   220
Common Eider   100
Harlequin Duck   4
Surf Scoter   1
Black Scoter   100
Long-tailed Duck   10
Bufflehead   250
Common Goldeneye   1
Hooded Merganser   32
Red-breasted Merganser   47
Ruddy Duck   220
Red-throated Loon   2
Common Loon   13
Horned Grebe   6
Double-crested Cormorant   4
Great Cormorant   5
Great Blue Heron   5
Turkey Vulture   6
Northern Harrier   5
Bald Eagle   1
Red-tailed Hawk   4
American Oystercatcher   10
Willet   20
Dunlin   258
Ring-billed Gull   1
Herring Gull   370
Great Black-backed Gull   3
Mourning Dove   1
Great Horned Owl   1
Hairy Woodpecker   1
Merlin   2
Blue Jay   3
American Crow   7
Carolina Chickadee   6
Tufted Titmouse   2
Carolina Wren   1
Eastern Bluebird   6
American Robin   34
Northern Mockingbird   1
European Starling   50
Yellow-rumped Warbler   3
Eastern Towhee   1
Field Sparrow   1
Savannah Sparrow   1
Song Sparrow   5
Swamp Sparrow   2
White-throated Sparrow   2
Dark-eyed Junco   6
Red-winged Blackbird   2
American Goldfinch   1
House Sparrow   1
One of the many Wawas (a birder's best friend) at which we stopped today
Photo: Mike Mandracchia

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Eno's Pond 2/4--Greater Yellowlegs

First pool seen from the second platform
I drove up Rt 9 to Eno's Pond to take a walk around the trails after I left Sands Point. I wandered around, making a kind of figure 8, looping around the woods and skirting the ponds, finding pretty much what I would expect. I was going to walk back to the car when I heard a distinctive "doo-doo-doo" call. I'd heard that the last time I was there, but only once so I didn't think too much about it--there were a lot of robins around and I thought it possibly could be one them. I thought the same thing this time, but when I heard it again, I decided to go back to the edge of the pond and check it out again. There had only been Mallards when I looked the first time, but this time I found first one, then 8 more Greater Yellowlegs not quite knee-deep in the water.
Greater Yellowlegs

Given my misidentification of the pipits, how do I know these are greater instead of lesser. Well, I'm only 90% certain, but 
  1.  I heard the call of the greater,
  2.  They have thick knees
  3.  Their bills are long and more importantly
  4.  When I was looking at them, their bill seemed to curve slightly upwards and
  5.  Lessers, despite being listed on eBird, on much less likely in winter. 

However, if anyone wants to correct me, please do. 

So for the day I added 3 year birds, all going on to the county list which is moving up into respectable territory.

16 species
American Black Duck  1
Mallard  43
Bufflehead  2     First pool
Ruddy Duck  1     First pool, with Buffleheads
Great Blue Heron  1
Turkey Vulture  2
Greater Yellowlegs  9     
Downy Woodpecker  1     Male
Blue Jay  1     Heard
American Crow  3
Carolina Chickadee  12
Tufted Titmouse  2     Heard
Hermit Thrush  1
American Robin  20
White-throated Sparrow  3
American Goldfinch  1     Heard

Sands Point Preserve 2/4--Killdeer, American Pipit

There's a lot of interesting habitat on the west shore of Barnegat Bay that I haven't investigated much, partially because I don't the know area well and partially because it's easier to bird the spots you know are reliable. But today I drove over to Sands Point, just south of the Oyster Creek nuclear generating plant for a couple of reasons. Looking on Google maps I saw a good viewing point to look out on the bay and surrounding marshes, plus, there have been a lot of dubious sighting coming from that area on eBird and before I started to make a stink, I wanted to be sure that my skepticism was justified.

Of course, I didn't find the 60+ species that had been reported a couple of times from that spot--in a typical day in all of Ocean County this winter you'd be hard-pressed to have 60 species listed from everyone birding--but it is a good spot. When I first arrived I immediately found the kind of ducks you'd expect, plus other common waterfowl. It wasn't until I heard Killdeer that I got interested. I found at least 4 of them picking at the washed up seaweed on the beach.
But what really got my attention were a couple of small passerines that kept eluding me, giving tantalizing looks, then jumping behind a shrub or a heap of seaweed.  The bobbing tails were my first hint. Striped breasts. My first reaction was American Pipit, but the photos I took and what I could catch through the binoculars didn't match up well enough with my Sibley's, so I listed them as Palm Warblers. I wasn't totally convinced that they were warblers, but the pipits I've seen are spread out on the time line.
American Pipit
However, there are good birders in Ocean County and one them (part of his email address is "eagleeyes") looked at my eBird list and told me that I had a much better bird than the Palm Warbler, that it was indeed, a pipit.  Wow!

Other interesting sightings along the way were 7 Great Blue Herons and an immature Bald Eagle. What with the pipit sighting Sands Point definitely warrants more investigation. I only walked a bit on the beach and salt marsh because what I thought was just icy ground turned out in a couple of places to be iced over streams. Waterproof shoes saved me from any discomfort. 

I was there for about an hour and a half and turned up 19 species--about what you'd expect given the day, given the habitat.
Canada Goose  75
Mute Swan  2
American Black Duck  2
Bufflehead  10
Red-breasted Merganser  15
Common Loon  1
Horned Grebe  1
Double-crested Cormorant  8
Great Blue Heron  7
Bald Eagle  1     Flying south over marsh
Killdeer  4     
Dunlin  1
Ring-billed Gull  1
Herring Gull  5
Great Black-backed Gull  6
American Crow  1     Heard
American Pipit  2     
Song Sparrow  2
House Finch  9

Sunday, February 1, 2015

LBI 2/1--Fox Sparrow

We went on Scott & Linda's field trip to Barnegat Light SP and points along the bay on the north end of Long Beach Island. Quite a big group turned out for a relatively balmy day at the beach. We saw most of the Barnegat Light specialties (Harlequin Duck, "Ipswich" Savannah Sparrow, loads of scoters), missing only Purple Sandpiper, but the best bird for me was finally finding Common Redpoll in the county. One birder in our group had seen one with a flock of goldfinches early in the morning, so the group spent a lot of time combing the dunes looking for the finch flock. We finally came across activity about midway to the ocean, but it was frustrating finding the redpolls among the darting Yellow-rumped Warblers and goldfinches. Just to add to the fun, an American Tree Sparrow kept popping up at inopportune times. Someone would get a redpoll in his scope and then it would dive away. Someone would call out that one was "on the cedar" but by the time  you located which cedar, it flew. Finally I went to where Scott and a few others seemed to be getting better views and there on the ground I saw one feeding, getting its distinctive little red cap as a field mark, which made me feel better than when I was seeing light colored little birds flitting about. After seeing literally hundreds of redpolls in Minnesota easily, it was making me crazy that it was so hard to find these redpolls. There was probably a flock of about a dozen, but I only counted the two I couldn't definitely identify with good looks.

But the only new bird for the year was found on the bay side. There's a little stand of cedar trees by what I think is some kind of pumping station where for the last few trips we've found Black-crowned Night-Herons roosting. They weren't in the trees behind the building as they were the last couple of times but Linda found 2 around the corner on 20th Street. While we were looking at them, Shari spotted a sparrow on the edge of the phragmites. I got the bird in my bins for a couple of seconds--gray nape, heavy barring, fat bird--Fox Sparrow.

The final excellent find was at Sunset Park in Harvey Cedars, a usually reliable spot for Common Goldeneye as it was today with a flock of about 20, evenly split between drakes and hens. No Barrow's though.

For the day we had 42 species on LBI and I added 5 species to my county list for the year and 1 species (redpoll) to my county life list.
Species               First Sighting
Brant     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Canada Goose     Harvey Cedars--Sunset Park
American Black Duck     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Mallard     Bayview Marina
Northern Pintail     Bayview Ave Park
Greater Scaup     Harvey Cedars--Sunset Park
Common Eider     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Harlequin Duck     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Surf Scoter     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Black Scoter     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Long-tailed Duck     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Bufflehead     Bayview Marina
Common Goldeneye     Harvey Cedars--Sunset Park
Red-breasted Merganser     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Red-throated Loon     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Common Loon     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Horned Grebe     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Double-crested Cormorant     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Great Cormorant     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Black-crowned Night-Heron     Bayview Ave Park
Northern Harrier     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Black-bellied Plover     Bayview Marina
Ruddy Turnstone     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Dunlin     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Ring-billed Gull     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Herring Gull     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Great Black-backed Gull     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Rock Pigeon     Bayview Marina
Northern Flicker     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Peregrine Falcon     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Blue Jay     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
American Crow     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Carolina Wren     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
European Starling     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Yellow-rumped Warbler     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
American Tree Sparrow     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Savannah Sparrow     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Fox Sparrow     Bayview Ave Park
Song Sparrow     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Common Redpoll     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
American Goldfinch     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
House Sparrow     Barnegat Lighthouse SP