Tuesday, March 31, 2015

March Birds

By far the most exciting bird of the month was the one day wonder Common Redpoll that visited our feeder on the 2nd. Even though we saw literally hundreds of them in Minnesota, it is something else to have one of them pose for you right outside your window.

I tacked on 18 birds to my year list, my favorite coming just this last weekend with the addition of American Avocet while we were in Delaware.

It was a very good month in terms of species seen--128--the most for a month so far this year. It's early. Migration starts soon (or perhaps has already started and I've just been missing it.)

I haven't been doing that well in-county, but the good thing about winter birds is that you get two shots at seeing them, so a few that I missed I can try for come November/December. But I don't want to even think about cold months right now.

Counties birded:
Delaware: Kent, Sussex
New Jersey: Atlantic, Burlington, Gloucester, Monmouth, Ocean, Salem
Species               First Sighting
Snow Goose     Assunpink WMA
Brant     Sands Point Preserve
Canada Goose     Sands Point Preserve
Mute Swan     Sands Point Preserve
Trumpeter Swan     Assunpink WMA
Tundra Swan     Whitesbog
Wood Duck     Whitesbog--Ocean Co.
Gadwall     Poplar St Boat Launch
Eurasian Wigeon     Sylvan Lake
American Wigeon     Sands Point Preserve
American Black Duck     Poplar St Boat Launch
Mallard     Sands Point--Dock Ave
Blue-winged Teal     Brig
Northern Shoveler     Mannington Marsh
Northern Pintail     Poplar St Boat Launch
Green-winged Teal     Assunpink WMA
Canvasback     West Creek Dock Rd.
Redhead     Bayview Marina
Ring-necked Duck     West Creek Dock Rd.
Greater Scaup     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Lesser Scaup     Sands Point--Dock Ave
Common Eider     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Harlequin Duck     Barnegat Lighthouse SP

Surf Scoter     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
White-winged Scoter     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Black Scoter     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Long-tailed Duck     Sands Point Preserve
Bufflehead     Sands Point Preserve
Common Goldeneye     Bayview Marina
Hooded Merganser     Eno’s Pond
Common Merganser     Eno’s Pond
Red-breasted Merganser     Sands Point Preserve
Ruddy Duck     Sands Point--Dock Ave
Wild Turkey     Assunpink WMA
Red-throated Loon     Brig
Common Loon     Sands Point Preserve
Pied-billed Grebe     Lake Como
Horned Grebe     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Red-necked Grebe     Bayview Marina
Double-crested Cormorant     Eno’s Pond
Great Cormorant     Sands Point Preserve
Great Blue Heron     Sands Point Preserve
Great Egret     West Creek Dock Rd.
Snowy Egret     Forsythe--Barnegat
Black Vulture     Waretown
Turkey Vulture     Forked River
Osprey     Seaside Heights
Golden Eagle     Brig
Northern Harrier     Sands Point Preserve
Sharp-shinned Hawk     35 Sunset Rd
Cooper's Hawk     Poplar St Boat Launch
Bald Eagle     Poplar St Boat Launch
Red-shouldered Hawk     Pedricktown Marsh
Red-tailed Hawk     Eno’s Pond
Rough-legged Hawk     Eno’s Pond
American Coot     Assunpink WMA
American Avocet     Bombay Hook NWR
American Oystercatcher     Gull Island Park
Black-bellied Plover     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Killdeer     Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Greater Yellowlegs     Eno’s Pond
Lesser Yellowlegs   Prime Hook Beach Rd.
Ruddy Turnstone     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Sanderling     Fowler Beach Rd.
Dunlin     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
American Woodcock     Crestwood Community Gardens
Bonaparte's Gull     Seven Presidents Park
Laughing Gull     Prime Hook Beach Rd.
Ring-billed Gull     Vessel Dr.
Herring Gull     Sands Point Preserve
Lesser Black-backed Gull     Assunpink WMA
Great Black-backed Gull     Sands Point Preserve
Forster's Tern     Prime Hook Beach Rd.
Rock Pigeon     Bayview Marina
Mourning Dove     35 Sunset Rd
Short-eared Owl     Mercer Sod Farm IBA
Belted Kingfisher     Eno’s Pond
Red-bellied Woodpecker     Poplar St Boat Launch
Downy Woodpecker     35 Sunset Rd
Hairy Woodpecker     Whitesbog
Northern Flicker     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
American Kestrel     Mercer Sod Farm IBA
Merlin     Lake Takanassee
Peregrine Falcon     Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Eastern Phoebe     Whiting WMA
Blue Jay     Poplar St Boat Launch
American Crow     Sands Point Preserve
Fish Crow     Schoolhouse Rd.
Horned Lark     Sandy Hook
Tree Swallow     Whitesbog
Barn Swallow     Colliers Mills WMA
Carolina Chickadee     35 Sunset Rd
Tufted Titmouse     35 Sunset Rd
Red-breasted Nuthatch     35 Sunset Rd
White-breasted Nuthatch     35 Sunset Rd
Brown Creeper     35 Sunset Rd
Carolina Wren     Bridge to Nowhere
Golden-crowned Kinglet     Whiting WMA
Eastern Bluebird     Colliers Mills WMA
Hermit Thrush     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
American Robin     Sands Point Preserve
Northern Mockingbird     River Walk
European Starling     35 Sunset Rd
Snow Bunting     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Pine Warbler     35 Sunset Rd
Yellow-rumped Warbler     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
American Tree Sparrow     Brig
Chipping Sparrow     Assunpink WMA
Field Sparrow     Assunpink WMA
Savannah Sparrow     West Creek Dock Rd.

Fox Sparrow     Double Trouble State Park
Song Sparrow     Bridge to Nowhere
Swamp Sparrow     Forsythe--Barnegat
White-throated Sparrow     Sands Point--Dock Ave
White-crowned Sparrow     Assunpink WMA
Dark-eyed Junco     35 Sunset Rd
Northern Cardinal     Bridge to Nowhere
Red-winged Blackbird     Sands Point Preserve
Eastern Meadowlark     Bridge to Nowhere
Rusty Blackbird     Prime Hook NWR
Common Grackle     River Walk
Boat-tailed Grackle     Bridge to Nowhere
Brown-headed Cowbird     Horicon Lake
House Finch     River Walk
Common Redpoll     35 Sunset Rd
Pine Siskin     35 Sunset Rd

American Goldfinch     35 Sunset Rd
House Sparrow     Barnegat Lighthouse SP

Colliers Mills 3/31--Barn Swallow

Burned field at Colliers Mills
Last day of March and I'm still wearing my winter coat and knitted cap. At least I didn't need gloves today as I walked my long 4 mile plus circuit of Colliers Mills. Now that hunting season is over, I'll try to hit this area about once a week.

The fields were burned about a week and a half ago. It  won't take long for them to grow back--already there are tiny green sprouts coming up through the blackened grass.

I found my first Barn Swallow of the year flying around with a small flock of Tree Swallows at the northern end of Turnmill Pond. I wasn't thinking about this species today, so when I saw the orange belly among the white bellies of the Tree Swallows I was so surprised that I blurted out "Barn Swallow!" as if someone was with me.

But the real surprise today was also on Turnmill Pond. (Aside: why is Turnmill, which is much bigger than Colliers Mills Lake, called a "pond?") I saw a couple of birds on the water and my first reaction was Pied-billed Grebe, one of which I'd already seen on the "lake." But they didn't look right, especially one that was darker. I wasn't carrying the scope and they were just far enough away so that in my binoculars they might or might not be grebes. But I did have my camera and with its zoom maxed out I was able to figure out that I had two Horned Grebes, once of which had almost finished molting into breeding plumage.
Horned Grebes, breeding plumage on right
Horned Grebes are pretty unusual on fresh water in this part of the state so when I came across three more as I rounded the lake and started to walk north, I was flummoxed. Especially since I very rarely see this species in breeding plumage. Usually they're just drab black & white birds bobbing along in the bay.
I'm still missing a lot of birds that I thought I'd have by now, but spring has been late in coming and the winter birds are hanging on. As an example of that, I drove up to Prospertown Lake after I ate lunch. Mike Mandracchia had seen a Tundra Swan there on Saturday and it was still on the lake today.
Tundra Swan, Prospertown Lake
My last stop was Assunpink, where I surveyed the lake and found the continuing Trumpeter Swans. They pretty easy to pick out now from the Mute Swans because their necks are rusty from dipping into the water so much. For an unknown reason, this doesn't happen as drastically to Mute Swans.
Rusty-necked Trumpeter Swans
I walked the road that runs around the model airplane field. The sky had turned gray and threatening, the wind kicked up, and it felt like fall, especially since I was seeing lots of sparrows--Song, Field, Chipping and especially White-throated Sparrows. I haven't seen the latter much this month and I assumed they'd left but they're abundant once again as if it were mid-winter.

I had 53 species for the 3 stops today, pretty good for another cold day in spring.
Colliers Mills WMA
38 species
Canada Goose  18
Wood Duck  4     Pond north of power cut.
American Black Duck  5
Mallard  7
Ring-necked Duck  47
Bufflehead  7
Hooded Merganser  2     Turnmill Pond
Red-breasted Merganser  3     Turnmill Pond, flew off
Pied-billed Grebe  1
Horned Grebe  5     
Great Blue Heron  2
Black Vulture  1
Turkey Vulture  4
Osprey  1
Killdeer  8
Mourning Dove  3
Belted Kingfisher  3
Red-bellied Woodpecker  2     Heard
Downy Woodpecker  1
Blue Jay  1     Heard
American Crow  1     Heard
Fish Crow  2
Tree Swallow  5
Barn Swallow  1
Carolina Chickadee  9
Tufted Titmouse  2     Heard
White-breasted Nuthatch  6
American Robin  40
Northern Mockingbird  1
European Starling  20
Pine Warbler  2     Heard
Savannah Sparrow  1     
Fox Sparrow  1
Song Sparrow  3
White-throated Sparrow  2
Northern Cardinal  2     Heard
Red-winged Blackbird  100
Brown-headed Cowbird  14

Prospertown Lake
8 species
Canada Goose  9
Tundra Swan  1    
Mallard  2
Ring-necked Duck  9
Hooded Merganser  6
Common Merganser  21
Double-crested Cormorant  2
Tree Swallow  55

Assunpink WMA
31 species
Canada Goose  110
Mute Swan  8
Trumpeter Swan  3     
Wood Duck  2     Marsh on Imlaystown Rd
American Wigeon  2     Marsh on Imlaystown Rd
Mallard  5
Northern Pintail  2     Marsh on Imlaystown Rd
Green-winged Teal  15
Ring-necked Duck  75
Bufflehead  5
Hooded Merganser  2     Hen on Marsh on Imlaystown Rd, Drake on eastern side of the lake
Common Merganser  125
Ruddy Duck  12
Great Blue Heron  2
Turkey Vulture  1
American Coot  10
Ring-billed Gull  6
Mourning Dove  3
Hairy Woodpecker  1     Heard
Fish Crow  1     Heard
Carolina Chickadee  1
Tufted Titmouse  1     heard
American Robin  30
Chipping Sparrow  2
Field Sparrow  3
Song Sparrow  20
White-throated Sparrow  35
Northern Cardinal  1     Heard
Red-winged Blackbird  150
Common Grackle  100
Brown-headed Cowbird  1     Dirt road around model airplane field

Monday, March 30, 2015

Forsythe-Barnegat 3/30--Snowy Egret

Great & Snowy Egrets
After our Delaware interregnum, it was time to get back to wandering around the home county. It is still cold and damp. Migration seems far off, though it has already started. I'm just not participating in it.

I went to Wells Mills Park this morning to get in my vigorous walk. The trails there are more rugged than in most places in the county. You really have a sense of remoteness you don't get in the relatively flat WMA's like Whiting or Collier's Mills, where you can hear traffic no matter how deep in the woods you think you are.

I was hoping to get some "easy" birds that have been scarce so far this year, like catbird, thrasher, or Palm Warbler. None of them were about, but I did see a large flock of Pine Warblers in brilliant yellow, feeding on the ground and low in the trees. I had six naked eye at one time. Those were the only birds that held my attention for than a moment, but I did enjoy walking the hilly trail and was happy I could remember where I was after not being there for many months.

I decided to drive over to the Barnegat impoundments. I've been going over there about once a week, always hoping for a "good" bird that's been reported and never finding said bird. Today I broke that streak when I found three Snowy Egrets, my first of the year.  They were in a section of the impoundments that until recently I didn't know you could view--someone has knocked down the phragmites at where Bayshore Drive bends. It looks like someone just decided to plow a truck into the reeds.

After first checking the usual cut I walked down to that section and had both Great Egret and the snowies immediately.  The ducks seem to be thinning out in both number of species and number of ducks in total. If the water would recede, there might be a chance for shorebirds, but there appears to be a blocked outlet keeping the impoundments from the tidal influence.

The only other notable bird today I saw while talking to my friend Karmela who lives nearby--a bird swooped by us. My first instinct was "heh, pigeon." A second look told me it was Merlin instead.
19 species
Canada Goose  5
Mute Swan  4
Gadwall  15
American Black Duck  10
Mallard  50
Northern Shoveler  20
Northern Pintail  2
Green-winged Teal  10
Long-tailed Duck  2     Bay
Red-breasted Merganser  1     Bay
Horned Grebe  5     Bay
Great Blue Heron  1
Great Egret  3
Snowy Egret  3   
Herring Gull  5
Great Black-backed Gull  3     Bay
Merlin  1
American Crow  1     Heard
Fish Crow  15

Delaware 3/28-29--American Avocet, Lesser Yellowlegs, Laughing Gull, Forster's Tern, Rusty Blackbird

DuPont Nature Center, Mispillion, DE
Photo: Shari Zirlin
For my birthday, Shari took me on an all-expenses-paid trip to Delaware for birding and Indian food. The weather forecasts were not propitious but the best birding is done in the worst weather, right?

We arrived at Bombay Hook just in time for a snow shower. After checking out the headquarters area and finding a Chipping Sparrow in among the other sparrows, we headed for the dikes. There is only one bird in Delaware this time of year that I can't get in NJ and I got it right away in the Raymond Pool--American Avocet. There were a number of these beautiful shorebirds, scattered in the deep water. They are starting to come into breeding plumage, so their heads are taking on a soft brownish-red hue. I actually prefer them in their basic plumage when they are stark black and white, but they are great birds in whatever molt they're in.

Unfortunately, our trip was cut a bit short by car trouble. I had just had the Subaru serviced so I wouldn't have to worry about mechanical problems but a seemingly freak incident occurred. While I was driving on the dirt road, going slowly mind you, we heard a loud twang come from the back of the car. I stopped, got out, looked under the car, saw nothing. Then when we started driving a screeching sound was coming from somewhere below. When Shari drove the car, it sounded to me like it was coming from the front driver's side wheel. We limped slowly out of the refuge (ever birding, I managed to glimpse two Blue-winged Teal on the way out) and parked just outside the refuge boundary. Shari called Subaru road-side assistance and they said they'd have a truck out there within an hour. The problem was, where do you bring the car. The local Subaru dealership in Dover was going to close by 4 and we'd never get there in time and only the service dept could give us a loaner. We thought we'd be stuck there until Monday. Shari called our friends to take care of the cat and called the dealership again. They agreed to stay "a little late."

The tow truck got there a half-hour before ETA and after a loud, bumpy, ride into Dover, during which the tow truck driver vented his spleen regarding foreigners, we arrived at Winner Subaru. As the head of service backed the truck off the flatbed trailer, the screeching was loud. The chief mechanic said, "It's the backing plate, this should take five minutes."

He was wrong. It took three minutes. It took him longer to explain to me what happened than it did to fix it. The car had apparently managed to run over a stick or stone in just the right way to send it banging up again the backing plate of the wheel, bending it into the wheel. The twanging sound in the back was the object being hurled to the rear. All he had to do was adjust the plate and we were done. No charge. It wasn't even worth writing up a job ticket.

Which is great, except it leaves me wondering about those commercials where you see the car plunging into ravines and climbing mountainsides. If the car be disabled by a random stone on a well-tended, relatively smooth dirt road, how likely am I to drive it down a stream bed?

We were only 5 minutes from our hotel, so we drove over there and rested for a while before going out for the real treat of Dover, DE--Flavors of India, a restaurant in an inauspicious location. I have eaten Indian food in most of the famous NYC restaurants. I've eaten Indian food in the South Asian enclave of Woodbridge/Edison NJ. I've eaten Indian food in London. The very best Indian food I have ever eaten is in this restaurant in Dover, DE, built into the side of a Motel 8. There is a liquor store now where the lobby of the motel used to be (it has since been moved to the side of the building). When we first started to go to this restaurant, to use the rest rooms you had to leave the store and go into the motel lobby. They are now part of the restaurant.

We had a wonderful meal, as always. And by the way, it is cheap.

On Sunday we drove south to the Prime Hook NWR. I had seen interesting sightings from the area and we started finding a lot of birds in the fields and marshes along Prime Hook Beach Road. We spotted a flock of Snow Geese in a field, then a Peregrine Falcon flying overhead. A requisite Bald Eagle sitting in a dead tree. The ducks were closer in than they were at Bombay Hook and then the real treat--hundreds of avocets, some of them only a few feet away, giving glorious looks.

And then the first-of-year birds started to appear. A Forster's Tern over the marsh; Lesser Yellowlegs, easy to pick out in direct comparison with the Greater version; a couple of Laughing Gulls loafing on a sandbar.

We drove over to Prime Hook HQ area and walked around there--it was still pretty windy and cold for March 29. On the other hand, last year on my birthday we couldn't bird at all because of drenching rains. We bought the Subaru instead.
We walked around an area we hadn't explored much before and didn't find much aside from a couple of Pine Warblers and our first Rusty Blackbird of the year. Rusty Blackbirds at this time of year are misnomers. They're totally black and look pretty much like grackles without tails.

We explored a few more roads, picking up Sanderlings, Black-bellied Plovers, a Horned Lark in a farm field just off the coastal highway and at the DuPont Nature Center, Shari's favorite, American Oystercatchers. Having checked those big birds off the list, we drove up to Bombay Hook for one more spin around the impoundments, where we didn't find anything new for the trip, and drove back home from there, with 68 species and lots of tandoori to show for the effort.
Species             First Sighting
Snow Goose     Prime Hook Beach Rd.
Canada Goose     Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge
Mute Swan     Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge
Tundra Swan     Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge
Gadwall     Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge
American Wigeon     Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge
American Black Duck     Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge
Mallard     Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge
Blue-winged Teal     Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge
Northern Shoveler     Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge
Northern Pintail     Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge
Green-winged Teal     Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge
Ring-necked Duck     Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge
Surf Scoter     Prime Hook Beach Rd.
Bufflehead     Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge
Common Merganser     Prime Hook Beach Rd.
Red-breasted Merganser     Prime Hook Beach Rd.
Ruddy Duck     Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge
Double-crested Cormorant     Prime Hook Beach Rd.
Great Blue Heron     Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge
Great Egret     Prime Hook NWR
Black Vulture     Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge
Turkey Vulture     Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge
Osprey     Prime Hook Beach Rd.
Northern Harrier     Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge
Bald Eagle     Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge
Red-tailed Hawk     Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge
American Coot     Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge
American Avocet     Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge
American Oystercatcher     DuPont Nature Center
Black-bellied Plover     Fowler Beach Rd.
Greater Yellowlegs     Prime Hook Beach Rd.
Lesser Yellowlegs     Prime Hook Beach Rd.
Sanderling     Fowler Beach Rd.
Dunlin     Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge
Laughing Gull     Prime Hook Beach Rd.
Ring-billed Gull     Prime Hook Beach Rd.
Herring Gull     Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge
Great Black-backed Gull     DuPont Nature Center
Forster's Tern     Prime Hook Beach Rd.
Mourning Dove     Prime Hook NWR
Belted Kingfisher     Prime Hook NWR
Red-bellied Woodpecker     Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge
American Kestrel     Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge
Peregrine Falcon     Prime Hook Beach Rd.
Eastern Phoebe     Prime Hook NWR
Blue Jay     Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge
American Crow     Prime Hook NWR
Fish Crow     Prime Hook NWR
Horned Lark     Bakersfield Rd & Rt. 1
Carolina Chickadee     Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge
Tufted Titmouse     Prime Hook NWR
Eastern Bluebird     Prime Hook NWR
American Robin     Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge
Northern Mockingbird     Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge
European Starling     Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge
Pine Warbler     Prime Hook NWR
Chipping Sparrow     Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge
Fox Sparrow     Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge
Song Sparrow     Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge
White-throated Sparrow     Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge
Dark-eyed Junco     Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge
Northern Cardinal     Prime Hook NWR
Red-winged Blackbird     Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge
Rusty Blackbird     Prime Hook NWR
Boat-tailed Grackle     DuPont Nature Center
American Goldfinch     Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge
House Sparrow     Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge

Friday, March 27, 2015

Double Trouble 3/27--Eastern Phoebe

One week into spring and it is cold, damp, and dismal. I took a walk in the WMA this morning, forcing myself to get going despite the gloomy skies. Immediately, I heard the buzzy trill of Pine Warblers. For the first 2/3 of the walk, most of my birding was by ear, but when I reached the lake I hit a good pocket of birds that I could actually see. The happiest find for me was a large number of Golden-crowned Kinglets, a bird I haven't seen since the dead of winter. I guess they're starting to migrate now, but in which direction, I don't know.

Then late this afternoon, after it had stopped raining, again, I drove over to Double Trouble SP. It seemed pretty dead as I walked west to the reservoir but just before I reached the water I found a little area that was busy with birds, including about 8 Pine Warblers and Brown Creeper. The lake had the first dozen or so of over 80 Ring-neck Ducks that I would find throughout the park, and a loud cheeping sound puzzled me for a moment until I looked overhead and saw an Osprey fly above me. I don't mind relearning the warbler songs each spring, but it is a sad commentary on my memory when I can't remember what an Osprey sounds like.

A look behind the sawmill flushed a woodcock and a walk on the back bogs added more ducks and an American Coot, not a bird I often (if ever) see at DT. A couple was walking on the other side of the bog and I watched them to see if they would flush any birds. One did flush, but at first I couldn't figure it out from the distance until I realized that it was pumping its tail and was a gray and white bird that could only be an Eastern Phoebe. I heard a phoebe this morning in the WMA, but I'd rather list the one I see than the one hear. I walked over to that side of the bog but I couldn't refind the bird. I did come across a Yellow-rumped Warbler. They'll soon be scarce while the other warblers will be, I hope, abundant.

17 species for my 3 miles of bogs and pine forest.
Canada Goose  7
American Black Duck  5
Mallard  46
Ring-necked Duck  82
Hooded Merganser  4
Osprey  1
American Coot  1
American Woodcock  1     
Mourning Dove  1
Eastern Phoebe  1
Carolina Chickadee  1
White-breasted Nuthatch  1
Brown Creeper  1
Golden-crowned Kinglet  1     Heard
Pine Warbler  8
Yellow-rumped Warbler  1
Song Sparrow  1