Monday, March 2, 2015

Backyard Bonus Birds

It's no secret, looking at the past month's entries, that I've been in a birding slump. There's been a lot of factors--weather, luck, skill, attitude--and they all seemed to be continuing into this month. Yesterday, while Shari & I were kicking around Sands Point & Manahawkin before it began to snow, 4 species I "need" for Ocean County were reported at Barnegat Light SP. I considered going there this morning, but I just didn't feel like driving there. I like to go someplace to see what I can find, which is a subtle distinction from going someplace and looking for a bird (or birds).

So instead, I drove down to Eno's Pond in Forked River. I like the walk there, I like the various habitat (salt marsh, woodlands) and I seem to find a good mix of birds there. I also figured it would be one of the few places I could actually walk without worrying about breaking an ankle--the trails are snow covered there but don't seem to ice up as they have been everywhere else.

The first interesting species I found there was Common Merganser, a duck I haven't encountered there before. These big ducks aren't that usual in the county and I wouldn't expect to find them in the little ponds here but with most of the water in the vicinity iced up they take what they can get, I suppose.

There was also a large flock of Hooded Mergansers (the little hens you see in front of the drake COME) but that's a species I'd expect. While
I was walking the trail that runs along the first pond I heard the familiar cry of "doo-doo-doo" and quickly found my first Greater Yellowlegs, another bird that I've come to expect there, but one I'm always happy to see.

Far out over the marsh I saw a Bald Eagle and right over my head a Red-tailed Hawk flew, so after about a mile and half of the slushy trails I was satisfied. On the lawn in front of the parking lot I counted 92 robins. I was just getting into my car when I spotted another hawk flying overhead. Immediately I knew I had a good one--it had a white tail with a black band, dark "wrist" patches and white underwings. It was my Ocean County lifer Rough-legged Hawk. Now the day went from good to excellent. I didn't feel so bad about blowing off Barnegat Light.

So, what's this about "backyard bonus?" I got back home around 1 and was entering the day's sightings in eBird when I looked out the window at the thistle feeder, which I had just smeared with peanut butter. I hadn't seen "our" Pine Warbler around in a couple of days--the wrens had eaten all the peanut butter. What I saw was a finch. My first reaction was that I don't usually see the House Finch on the thistle feeder. Then I realized it wasn't a House Finch. I grabbed my camera and went into the other room, where I had a better shooting angle and miraculously I got good photos:

Common Redpoll showing red cap.
A Common Redpoll! A rarity anywhere in NJ, very rare in Ocean County, and certainly the first one in our backyard. And then, a few minutes later, just to make it a truly spectacular day, our first Pine Siskin of the year (and first one in a couple of years) flew onto the same feeder, and again, I was able to get photos, though not a crisp as the redpoll pix:

Pine Siskin
Unfortunately, Shari wasn't home when all this was happening. She was at the dentist instead. When she got home about an hour later and I told her what we'd had, she plunked herself down in front of the bedroom window and in about 15 minutes was rewarded with the return of the redpoll. She said she didn't really care about the siskin--she's seen those here before.

And smearing the peanut butter did payoff. The Pine Warbler showed up too:
It may be only one day, but I feel like I broke out of my slump with a couple of doubles and a home run.

No comments:

Post a Comment