Tuesday, June 30, 2015

June Birds--139 Species

On the last day of the month, this ominous sight on the Union Transportation Trail
Counties birded: Atlantic, Burlington, Mercer, Monmouth, Ocean, Sussex, Warren
Species     First Sighting
Brant     Island Beach SP
Canada Goose     Eno’s Pond
Mute Swan     Eno’s Pond
Wood Duck     Ocean County Park
Gadwall     Bridge to Nowhere
American Black Duck     Bridge to Nowhere
Mallard     Eno’s Pond
Northern Shoveler     Forsythe-Barnegat
Wild Turkey     35 Sunset Rd
Common Loon     Island Beach SP
Double-crested Cormorant     Great Bay Blvd
Great Blue Heron     Ocean County Park
Great Egret     Eno’s Pond
Snowy Egret     Eno’s Pond
Little Blue Heron     Forsythe-Barnegat
Tricolored Heron     Cattus Island County Park
Green Heron     Whitesbog
Black-crowned Night-Heron     Great Bay Blvd
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron     Great Bay Blvd
Glossy Ibis     Great Bay Blvd
Black Vulture     Lakehurst NAES
Turkey Vulture     Lakehurst NAES
Osprey     Cattus Island County Park
Cooper's Hawk     Lakehurst NAES
Bald Eagle     Old Mine Road IBA
Red-shouldered Hawk     Old Mine Road IBA
Broad-winged Hawk     Lakehurst NAES
Red-tailed Hawk     Lakehurst NAES
Clapper Rail     Great Bay Blvd
American Oystercatcher     Brig
Piping Plover     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Killdeer     Lakehurst NAES
Spotted Sandpiper     Old Mine Road IBA
Greater Yellowlegs     Brig
Willet     Cattus Island County Park
Lesser Yellowlegs     Manahawkin WMA
Upland Sandpiper     Lakehurst NAES
Semipalmated Sandpiper     Great Bay Blvd
Laughing Gull     Eno’s Pond
Herring Gull     Eno’s Pond
Great Black-backed Gull     Great Bay Blvd
Gull-billed Tern     Brig
Caspian Tern     Brig
Common Tern     Great Bay Blvd
Forster's Tern     Eno’s Pond
Black Skimmer     Forsythe-Barnegat
Rock Pigeon     Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Mourning Dove     Lakehurst NAES
Yellow-billed Cuckoo     Old Mine Road IBA
Black-billed Cuckoo     Double Trouble State Park
Common Nighthawk     Lakehurst NAES
Eastern Whip-poor-will     35 Sunset Rd
Chimney Swift     Lakehurst NAES
Ruby-throated Hummingbird     Colliers Mills WMA
Belted Kingfisher     Old Mine Road IBA
Red-bellied Woodpecker     Eno’s Pond
Downy Woodpecker     Lakehurst NAES
Hairy Woodpecker     Old Mine Road IBA
Northern Flicker     Ocean County Park
Pileated Woodpecker     Old Mine Road IBA
American Kestrel     Lakehurst NAES
Peregrine Falcon     Brig
Eastern Wood-Pewee     Lakehurst NAES
Acadian Flycatcher     Whitesbog
Alder Flycatcher     Bridge to Nowhere
Willow Flycatcher     Lakehurst NAES
Least Flycatcher     Buttermilk Falls
Eastern Phoebe     Colliers Mills WMA
Great Crested Flycatcher     Eno’s Pond
Eastern Kingbird     Lakehurst NAES
White-eyed Vireo     Assunpink
Yellow-throated Vireo     Old Mine Road IBA
Warbling Vireo     Old Mine Road IBA
Red-eyed Vireo     Eno’s Pond
Blue Jay     Lakehurst NAES
American Crow     Eno’s Pond
Fish Crow     Eno’s Pond
Common Raven     Old Mine Road IBA
Horned Lark     Lakehurst NAES
Northern Rough-winged Swallow     Ocean County Park
Purple Martin     Manchester Blvd
Tree Swallow     Eno’s Pond
Bank Swallow     Old Mine Road IBA
Barn Swallow     Eno’s Pond
Carolina Chickadee     Eno’s Pond
Black-capped Chickadee     Old Mine Road
Tufted Titmouse     Eno’s Pond
White-breasted Nuthatch     Ocean County Park
House Wren     Lakehurst NAES
Marsh Wren     Cattus Island County Park
Carolina Wren     Assunpink
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher     Eno’s Pond
Eastern Bluebird     Assunpink
Veery     Old Mine Road IBA
Wood Thrush     Colliers Mills WMA
American Robin     Eno’s Pond
Gray Catbird     Eno’s Pond
Brown Thrasher     Brig
Northern Mockingbird     Assunpink
European Starling     Ocean County Park
Cedar Waxwing     35 Sunset Rd
Ovenbird     Eno’s Pond
Worm-eating Warbler     Old Mine Road IBA
Louisiana Waterthrush     Old Mine Road IBA
Blue-winged Warbler     Old Mine Road IBA
Black-and-white Warbler     Whitesbog
Common Yellowthroat     Eno’s Pond
Hooded Warbler     Old Mine Road IBA
American Redstart     Old Mine Road IBA
Cerulean Warbler     Old Mine Road IBA
Northern Parula     Old Mine Road IBA
Yellow Warbler     Colliers Mills WMA
Pine Warbler     Eno’s Pond
Prairie Warbler     Lakehurst NAES
Yellow-breasted Chat     Assunpink
Eastern Towhee     35 Sunset Rd
Chipping Sparrow     Eno’s Pond
Field Sparrow     Lakehurst NAES
Grasshopper Sparrow     Lakehurst NAES
Saltmarsh Sparrow     Cattus Island County Park
Seaside Sparrow     Great Bay Blvd
Song Sparrow     Lakehurst NAES
Swamp Sparrow     Whitesbog
Scarlet Tanager     Old Mine Road IBA
Northern Cardinal     Eno’s Pond
Rose-breasted Grosbeak     Old Mine Road IBA
Blue Grosbeak     Pole Farm
Indigo Bunting     Assunpink
Bobolink     Pole Farm
Red-winged Blackbird     Eno’s Pond
Eastern Meadowlark     Lakehurst NAES
Common Grackle     Eno’s Pond
Boat-tailed Grackle     Great Bay Blvd
Brown-headed Cowbird     35 Sunset Rd
Orchard Oriole     Lakehurst NAES
Baltimore Oriole     Old Mine Road IBA
House Finch     35 Sunset Rd
American Goldfinch     Eno’s Pond
House Sparrow     Toms River
Yellow Warbler, Great Bay Blvd

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Pole Farm 6/27--Bobolink

Bobolink
Photo: Mike Mandracchia
Mike & I went to the Pole Farm in Mercer County early this morning. Our target was Bobolink, year bird for Mike, year state bird for me. Neither of us had ever been to this 800 acre site which was formerly an AT&T transmission installation with thousands of poles supporting antennae--hence the name. Almost all the poles are gone now and what's left is grassland, perfect habitat for Bobolink, Grasshopper Sparrow, Eastern Meadowlark...and Yellow-breasted Chat, which Mike saw fly into a tree even before we were out of the car in the parking lot. It took me 3 tries and miles of walking through tick-infested fields at the Assunpink Navigation Beacon to find my first chats this year and Mike get his year bird chat while parking the car! It's better to be lucky than good, but it is even better to be lucky AND good.

We found the chat after it flew out of the tree posted up in the field on a stalk of high grass and then, before we were out of the parking lot had 7 or 8 species including Blue Grosbeak. We walked out about 770 feet (I measured it on Google Maps) to the bathrooms and looked in the field to the left and both saw, almost at the same moment, a beautiful male Bobolink on a small bush, just where it was supposed to be. So in the space of 5 minutes, Mike had two year birds. That's pretty hard to do in June. As Mike said, all our chases should be this easy.

Meadowlarks were abundant in that field, flying and singing and being chased by blackbirds and we also saw a female American Kestrel come out of a nest box and perch up in a nearby tree. I think we both figured we would have to spend some time looking for the Bobolink and then, if we were lucky, we'd have 10 or 11 more species and then go somewhere else, but by the time we turned around we already had about 20 species on our list and we'd only been there 15 minutes. I had expected only grasslands, but looking around we saw more diverse habitat than I expected including woods. Another birder there told us that "30 paces" beyond the observation deck, about 1/2 mile away, there was a nesting Wood Thrush. I've heard plenty of Wood Thrushes this year, but I had yet to see one, so we decided to explore the area more thoroughly. We added plenty of Field Sparrows on our walk out there, as well an Indigo Bunting, plus towhees and other list builders. When we walked off our 30 paces where the thrush was supposed to be we found, instead, nesting Ovenbirds. Ovenbirds can be easily mistaken for thrushes if you're an inexperienced birder as this woman who gave us the directions admitted she was. Still, Ovenbirds are cool. We continued on the cinder trails, easy walking, and eventually did come upon a viewable Wood Thrush. We kept making rights but without a map in hand weren't sure if we were on a loop so after about a mile and half we retraced our steps. Mike had thought he'd heard a Scarlet Tanager at one point and when we came back to that part of the trail he heard it again. It wasn't until it started calling continuously that I was able to hear it. The usual description of the tanager's song is "a robin with a cold," but that is a little too poetic for me. However, once it sang multiple times, I was ready to list it.

We got back to the parking lot without having seen a robin, which seemed impossible. I saw a bird up in a bare tree which I thought might have been another sparrow but sure enough, Mike put his glasses on it and it was a robin. It took us 44 birds to get it, but we had one. We hadn't seen a Chipping Sparrow; one flew in while we were standing in the parking lot. A Carolina Wren sang. A Chimney Swift flew over. Then we saw a Black Vulture. I suppose if we stood there long enough we would have come up to 50 species on the day.

But the weather report for today was not an optimistic one; it had drizzled off and one while we walked. The weather was deteriorating by the time we returned to the parking lot and a look at the weather map didn't show any clear spots anywhere else. With 49 species, and about 20% of those what my old friend Peter in Brooklyn would call "quality" birds, we decided that despite the claim that the best birding is done in bad weather, we'd rather be inside. As I write this, a soaking rain is hovering over most of NJ.

Our Pole Farm list. We both think the place bears more investigation, especially during migration.
Great Blue Heron  3
Black Vulture  1
Turkey Vulture  1
Cooper's Hawk  1
Red-tailed Hawk  1
Mourning Dove  10
Chimney Swift  1
Downy Woodpecker  1     Heard
Hairy Woodpecker  1     Heard
Northern Flicker   1
American Kestrel  1    
Eastern Wood-Pewee  2     Heard
Red-eyed Vireo  1     Heard
Blue Jay  2     Heard
American Crow  2     Heard
Tree Swallow  10
Barn Swallow  5
Carolina Chickadee  10
Tufted Titmouse  2     Heard
White-breasted Nuthatch  1     Heard
House Wren  1     Field across from obs deck.
Carolina Wren  1     Heard
Wood Thrush  6
American Robin  1
Gray Catbird  20
Brown Thrasher  1
Northern Mockingbird  2
European Starling  25
Cedar Waxwing  1     Heard
Ovenbird  3     
Common Yellowthroat  10
Yellow-breasted Chat
 1     
Eastern Towhee  15
Chipping Sparrow  1
Field Sparrow  12
Grasshopper Sparrow  3
Song Sparrow  1
Scarlet Tanager  1     Heard
Northern Cardinal  3
Blue Grosbeak  1     Heard
Indigo Bunting  2
Bobolink  1     
Red-winged Blackbird  20
Eastern Meadowlark  5
Common Grackle  4
Brown-headed Cowbird  1     Heard
Orchard Oriole  1     Field behind parking lot
House Finch  2     Heard
American Goldfinch  1

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Barnegat Light SP 6/17--Piping Plover

Piping Plover
"Gosh, they're hard to see," said the photographer I met early this morning in the stringed-offed corridor at Barnegat Light. I had gone there to "get" my Piping Plovers for the year. This little sand-colored plover, one of 7 species of shorebird to nest in NJ, (pop quiz: name the other 6) is listed as an endangered species for good reason. When there were vast reaches of undeveloped beaches they had a chance against predators and the elements, but now there isn't nearly as much suitable habitat for them. Last year there was only one pair that successfully nested there and this year it looks like this pair are the only ones at Barnegat Light again. I didn't see the chick, but the photographer told me had. Down at Holgate on the southern end of LBI there are probably more nesting pairs, but Holgate is properly off-limits in the nesting season. You can't reasonably do that at Barnegat Light, so the compromise is to set aside a few acres of sand and hope for the best.

Click photo to enlarge
I walked along the narrow pathway, stopping every hundred feet or so to scan the sand, looking among the shells and sea wrack for any movement. For a while, all I came up with were a couple of American Oystercatchers. I took what I consider the "obligatory oystercatcher" photo, not noticing until I got home that this bird was banded. I can't really read the bands too well, but I reported the bird and sent in the photo. As I walked east to the ocean I kept my eyes to the south where the plovers would nest. Naturally, the first plover I saw came from my left (north) where it had been poking around one of the tidal pools by the jetty. It scampered across "no man's land" and stood for a moment next to one of the oystercatchers, giving a nice comparison shot:
I was also hoping for pelicans today, but was shut out. Not to worry. I know I'll find pelicans somewhere this summer. Piping Plovers are much more site specific.

At the ocean the water did not have a lot of avian life in it, aside from dozens of gulls following the fishing fleet. There were a few terns that I had to let go because they were too far out and they were in the sun. I did have a few Forster's Terns in the inlet.

On my way back I scanned the jetty, not really expecting find much on it. I did remember last year seeing a Black-crowned Night-Heron on it and sure enough, as my scope ran up the rocks, there was one facing the inlet. Then another.  What food they could possibly expect to find there I don't know.
Maybe they just like hanging out at the beach like every body else.
22 species (+1 other taxa)
Double-crested Cormorant  15
Black-crowned Night-Heron  2    
Osprey  4
American Oystercatcher  2    
Piping Plover  2     One banded
Laughing Gull  75
Herring Gull  50
Great Black-backed Gull  25
Forster's Tern  3
Sterna sp.  10
Rock Pigeon  1
Mourning Dove  3
American Crow  5
Tree Swallow  1
Barn Swallow  1
American Robin  1
Gray Catbird  1
European Starling  3
Song Sparrow  1     Heard
Northern Cardinal  1     Heard
Red-winged Blackbird  4
American Goldfinch  2     Heard
House Sparrow  10

Monday, June 15, 2015

Story Behind the Sign (Or, "Shari, I don't think we're in Brooklyn anymore")

Last week I was behind this Silverado and snapped a quick shot through the windshield for my signs collection. Today, as I was pulling into the Manchester town dump, the truck was in front of me again. When we parked at the dumpster I asked the owner what the sign on his tailgate meant. As I suspected, he felt the truck was a lemon and then proceeded to tell me his tale of woe. Apparently there is something wrong with the computer in the truck that is "irreparable" and neither his dealer nor GM will take the truck back and give him a new one. His misadventures with local Chevy dealerships were disheartening since one of them works on our Saturn.

Of course, I knew I was getting a biased account. It is truly hard for me to believe that any dealer would tell a customer to "get the fuck out" of his shop. It isn't hard for me to believe, though, given my own experiences with the GM ignition debacle, that something is seriously wrong with his car.

He told me that he's going to court with GM and that soon he has to give a deposition to GM's lawyers. He's a retired "prototype tester," so he feels he has an advantage over the average car buyer since he drove vehicles for a living. He's a little crusty, a little arrogant, and very pissed off. It occurred to me that all this might add up to him being the type of guy who thought he could fight GM on his own. I asked him, in parting, if he had a lawyer.

"Oh yeah! I got me one of them crazy lawyers--he's Jewish!"

I'm glad I asked him in parting, because I didn't want to talk to him anymore.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Great Bay Blvd WMA 6/10--Yellow-crowned Night-Heron

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, Great Bay Blvd.
After my 2nd trip to Lakehurst this month, where I saw pretty much everything I saw last week only in better weather and light, Mike & I decided to continue the birding day. Our first stop was Railroad Avenue in Waretown where we looked, fruitlessly, for over an hour, for the Mississippi Kite that has been reported there for the last week or so. We were joined by other frustrated birders and had to answer many questions from the locals as to why we were walking slowly up and down their street with our necks craned to perfectly cloudless, cerulean sky. Every once in a while we'd get excited if a gull or a vulture flew over to provide a false alarm. Looking for a rarity can be like holding a losing stock--you know you should cut your losses, but you don't want to take the loss. You hold or stay, hoping you'll go into the plus column. Sometimes you do, but the longer you hold or stay, the less likely you will.

After that we headed down to Great Bay Blvd, hoping to add some year birds to our lists. Mike still needed Little Blue Heron and we both needed Brown Pelican and Yellow-crowned Night-Heron. It didn't look good for any of these species until on our way back, just as we were about to go over one of the wooden bridges, Mike spotted a bird just off the water that wasn't an egret or ibis. Naturally, there was a car behind us, so we could stop. Instead we crossed the bridge, turned around and went back over. As we crossed again going south I put my binoculars on the bird and saw that it was the Yellow-crowned. It posed for pictures and we were both pretty pleased. We hadn't exactly given up, but we were in the process of leaving.

Immature Black-crowned Night-Heron
On the way north up the road we came across a trio of waders--Snowy Egret, Glossy Ibis and an immature night-heron. Our first impression was that of another Yellow-crown, but after we looked more closely at the bill we thought not. When Mike said the bill was bi-colored, I said that it was a Black-crown, using Shari's mnemonic: Black bill = yellow, yellow bill = black. It's that simple and why people spend hours debating immature night-heron I don't know. Actually I do: they can't see the bill well enough and then you're thrown back on structure and "giss."

To the birder we told it was a Yellow-crown I can only say, "Oops, sorry." At least we told her where to find the adult.

I had 27 species while we  slalomed up and down the boulevard of broken asphalt avoiding the many Diamondback Terrapins making their way from one side of the marsh to the other. Mike also had a Cooper's Hawk and a distant American Oystercatcher that I missed.

Double-crested Cormorant  2
Great Egret  15
Snowy Egret  10
Black-crowned Night-Heron  5     
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron  1     
Glossy Ibis  10
Osprey  5
Clapper Rail  4     Heard
Willet  10
Semipalmated Sandpiper  20
Laughing Gull  75
Herring Gull  50
Great Black-backed Gull  5
Common Tern  3
Forster's Tern  1
Mourning Dove  3
Willow Flycatcher  1
Fish Crow  1
Tree Swallow  2
Barn Swallow  25
Gray Catbird  1
Common Yellowthroat  4
Yellow Warbler
 1     Heard, end of the road
Seaside Sparrow  10
Song Sparrow  3
Red-winged Blackbird  20
Boat-tailed Grackle  10

Monday, June 8, 2015

Double Trouble SP 6/8--Black-billed Cuckoo

I went to Double Trouble with, appropriately, 2 goals: to get in a long walk and to see if I could gather in the Acadian Flycatcher for the county list. Both goals accomplished. I walked out onto Gowdy Road and just before it intersects with Hooper Lane (quaint how what amount to levees are named) I heard the explosive "Pizza!" I waited, heard the bird call about 10 times clearly but pretty deep in the woods. I knew this one wasn't going to show, but with that part of the mission achieved, I proceeded to walk what amounts to 3 different loops around the bogs.

Across from the bog along Sweetwater Lane I heard a Veery, flagged as rare for the county in June, but I always hear one at Double Trouble, though this particular spot was an odd place to get one. It was while I was walking along Mud Dam Road, the more customary area for this bird (and where both I and another birder have already listed it there this year) where I was listening hard, if such a thing is possible, that I heard my year bird for the day, a Black-billed Cuckoo. It was pretty far up the road, but I clearly heard the repetitive "coo-coo-coo-coo." I've heard BB Cuckoos sometimes incessantly repeat the coo-coo." This bird did it in 2 sets of about of 10 coos each then shut up. Black-billed Cuckoo was not a bird I was thinking about today, so that was a happy surprise.

Walking around the loudest and most common bird that I heard was Ovenbird. They seemed to be anywhere there were woods. I finally saw one along Mud Dam and then, walking a little one-way path that goes down to the creek I came upon a crowd of them, very vocal and visible. I think I had 4 or 5 of them zipping around the branches around and above me. You hear 10 Ovenbirds for every one you see, so I took the opportunity to take a few pictures of one.

Here's an arcane reference: Doesn't the bird in the bottom photo look like Jerry Colonna? All those who know who Jerry Colonna was, raise your hand. (Hi Mom!)

While making my 3rd and final loop, which takes me out to the lake and then back to the parking lot, I saw another cuckoo, briefly. Really, I only saw a part of the bird, enough of it to know that it wasn't a dove. I figured I'd have to let that one go as a "spuh" until, on my way back I made a minor loop of the graveyard (I believe the original owners still have an easement to bury their family in the park) when I heard the "gowp," very softly of a Yellow-billed Cuckoo. Looking up, I saw it quite clearly, though it refused to stay still and hopped up the branches of the tree it was in then flew and landed in a few different trees, each a little further away. But I did see all the field marks, so I it was a two cuckoo day and 3 county birds. And a little over 3 miles hiked.
32 speciesGreat Egret  1     Lake
Turkey Vulture  3
Cooper's Hawk  1     Mud Dam Road
Yellow-billed Cuckoo  1     
Black-billed Cuckoo  1     Heard Mud Dam Road
Northern Flicker  1
Acadian Flycatcher  1     Heard Gowdy Road
Eastern Phoebe  2
Great Crested Flycatcher  3     Heard
Eastern Kingbird  3
White-eyed Vireo  1     Heard Mud Dam Road
Yellow-throated Vireo  1     Heard Mud Dam Road
Red-eyed Vireo  5
Blue Jay  2
Fish Crow  1     Heard
Barn Swallow  4     Nest beneath bridge, customary spot
Carolina Chickadee  2
Carolina Wren  4
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  3
Veery  1     
Wood Thrush  2     Heard
Gray Catbird  25
Ovenbird  20
Black-and-white Warbler  2     Heard
Common Yellowthroat  20
Pine Warbler  5
Prairie Warbler  6
Eastern Towhee  5     Heard
Northern Cardinal  1     Heard
Red-winged Blackbird  10
Brown-headed Cowbird  2     Heard
American Goldfinch  2

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Assunpink 6/7--Yellow-breasted Chat

FAA Navigation Beacon at Assunpink WMA
There is a fine line between persistence and stubbornness. I have erased that line.

The winner of my "Most Effort Expended to Find It" award goes to Yellow-breasted Chat which I finally found today in the fields around the navigation beacon at Assunpink. It was my 3rd trip there in the last 2 weeks where I have spent hours tramping the tick infested paths looking for this very large warbler, obsessively circling back to a corner of one of the fields where last year I spotted one. It wasn't until I sincerely invoked the magical words, "Well, I guess I'm giving up on this bird," that I heard a chat in last year's place. I could count it, but I wasn't really satisfied.  I looked into the fields without much hope of seeing it--look at all that undifferentiated green. Then I saw a bird pop up in a bush. Yes, a very distant chat:
Can you find the chat? It's in there.
As I was moving along the path, hoping to at least get a better angle on the bird, I heard another chat close behind me. I turned, thinking it was deep in a tree directly in front of me, but turning a bit to my right I saw the bird "naked eye," singing.

 I looked at it closely for a few seconds through my binoculars then saw that it might be a cooperative bird and took some shots.

According to my records, I spent 7 hours and 44 minutes and trudged 6.3 miles altogether in order to find this bird and did not, amazingly, pick up one tick. In the course of looking for this bird in my 3 visits I also came up with Alder Flycatcher (a rarity hereabouts) a Horned Lark, lots of Indigo Buntings, and was able to watch the American Kestrels go in and out of their nest box. I walked out of the fields satisfied that my persistence/stubbornness had paid off but also wondering if they really had or was it just conceding defeat that made the chats show themselves?
29 species
Canada Goose  2     f/o
Mourning Dove  2
Red-bellied Woodpecker  2
Willow Flycatcher  2
White-eyed Vireo  3
Tufted Titmouse  1
Carolina Wren  1     Heard
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  1
Eastern Bluebird  2
Wood Thrush  2     Heard
American Robin  6
Gray Catbird  15
Northern Mockingbird  1
Cedar Waxwing  2
Ovenbird  1     Heard Norway Spruce grove
Common Yellowthroat  15
Yellow Warbler  4
Yellow-breasted Chat
 2     both singing.
Eastern Towhee  4
Chipping Sparrow  1
Field Sparrow  10
Grasshopper Sparrow  1     Heard
Song Sparrow  1
Northern Cardinal  2     Heard
Indigo Bunting  4
Red-winged Blackbird  5
Common Grackle  1
Brown-headed Cowbird  2
American Goldfinch  1

Old Mine Road 6/6--Cerulean Warbler

Buttermilk Falls, about 20 miles up
Old Mine Road
We made what has become our annual trip up to Old Mine Road to bird along with Mike & Pete on about 20 miles of road running along the Delaware River, looking mostly for warblers and flycatchers, of which there was no dearth.

It is a long ride up there, so to avoid arising at 4:30 in the morning we broke up the trip by staying in Bridgewater on Friday night, thanks to the hospitality of our friend Bob Auster, who, in addition, also knew the best way to get there.

It was a big group that assembled at the parking lot of the Kittatinny Visitor's Center at the Delaware Water Gap and the lot itself was jumping with birds, including Cedar Waxwings, Baltimore Orioles, a couple of soaring Common Ravens and a Bald Eagle.

The real appeal of this area and the main reason I'd venture so far from home, is nesting warblers. The Old Mine Road IBA is the only place in NJ that Cerulean Warbler nests. Since their numbers have declined by 80% in recent years, if you want to see one, here's the place to go.

Unfortunately, they're hard to see, as are all the warblers. The heavy foliage that provides protection and food in the form of bugs, also shields them from view very effectively. Last year, Shari & I only got to hear a Cerulean. It counts but... it isn't like Warbling Vireo, which is such a nothing bird that if you don't see it, you don't care. Cerulean Warbler is a lovely little sky-blue bird. You really want to see it.

This year we got lucky. We heard one fairly early on into the trip and with all those eyes searching one of our group found it, high in a tree, another factor that makes finding these birds challenging. It was only a silhouette due to bad lighting, but we did see one. Another was found a little further up the road and much of the group reassembled there, but after a few minutes, with everyone shouting out contradictory directions, I gave up and went to look with Pete for a Blackburnian Warbler (which I never found). Meanwhile, Shari & Bob stuck with it and came back to the car gushing about how beautiful the warbler was. "It was so blue, it made me want to cry," declared Bob. They did their best, in the nicest possible way, to make me feel bad. They did an okay job.

However, at another stop up the road, about an hour later, we found three more Ceruleans, and this time I got gorgeous looks at two of them as they chased each other through bare branches. Both of my previous listings of Cerulean have been of the mediocre Better View Desired variety. This time, I got them. And next year, I'd like to see them again!

I have on my list, I think, 13 species of warbler. Less than half of them I saw. We heard, very clearly, a couple of  Worm-eating Warblers, but only a few of the group managed to find this ground hugging bird. Again, multiple contradictory and/or vague directions wore me out. There were Hooded Warblers in abundance; none were seen. At least I know what they sound like. We did get great looks at a Blue-winged Warbler, its little beak positively stuffed with insects. It must have had a nest nearby. There was a pair of Prairie Warblers in the same spot. Most of the group got more excited about them than I did. I see and hear them all the time around here. There were also a couple of brief sightings of Louisiana Waterthrush one of which I was able to see. The other, at Buttermilk Falls, in Sussex County (had to start a new county list) was a "heard only."

Flycatchers were a little sparse but we did have a very close, singing, Acadian Flycatcher at lunch, which all the group got to see, some walking up to view while munching on sandwiches. Other birds I liked getting on the NJ list were Pileated Woodpecker (great views as it hacked away at a stump) and Least Flycatcher (the 2nd bird on my Sussex County list).

In all we had 58 species, one more than we managed last year (the group as a whole had, I believe, 75).
Canada Goose  6
Mallard  1     river, parking area
Wild Turkey  1     Hen
Green Heron  1
Turkey Vulture  4
Bald Eagle  3
Red-shouldered Hawk  1
Killdeer  2
Spotted Sandpiper  1     Heard, boat launch
Mourning Dove  3
Yellow-billed Cuckoo  2     Heard
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  1
Belted Kingfisher  1
Red-bellied Woodpecker  2
Northern Flicker  1     Heard
Pileated Woodpecker  1
Eastern Wood-Pewee  5
Acadian Flycatcher  1
Least Flycatcher  1
Eastern Phoebe  2     Heard
Great Crested Flycatcher  6
Yellow-throated Vireo  5     Heard
Warbling Vireo  6     Heard
Red-eyed Vireo  5     Heard
Blue Jay  1     Heard
American Crow  1
Common Raven  2
Northern Rough-winged Swallow  2
Tree Swallow  1
Tufted Titmouse  2     Heard
Veery  4     Heard
Wood Thrush  5     Heard
American Robin  3
Gray Catbird  10
Cedar Waxwing  5
Ovenbird  30     Heard
Worm-eating Warbler  2     Heard
Louisiana Waterthrush  2
Blue-winged Warbler  1
Black-and-white Warbler  1     Heard
Common Yellowthroat  4     Heard
Hooded Warbler  8     Heard
American Redstart  5
Cerulean Warbler  4
Northern Parula  1     Heard
Yellow Warbler  6
Pine Warbler  1     Heard
Prairie Warbler  2
Eastern Towhee  4     Heard
Chipping Sparrow  3
Field Sparrow  1     Heard
Song Sparrow  2     Heard
Scarlet Tanager  2
Rose-breasted Grosbeak  1     Heard
Red-winged Blackbird  10
Common Grackle  5
Brown-headed Cowbird  3
Baltimore Oriole  4