Thursday, December 31, 2015

Last Birds of the Year

Pine Siskins
The first birds of the last day of the year were the best birds--7 Pine Siskins on our thistle feeder, a record for our backyard. A few years ago we had to drive all the way up to Somerset County to get Shari some siskins for the year and now we're lucky enough to have them regularly outside the bedroom window.

Somerset County was also our destination for our last day of 2015 birding. We were hoping for some unusual birds that had been reported up there but came away empty on all counts. It's a circuitous route up there from Whiting and on the way, in Monmouth County, we were amused to find a gigantic flock of Snow Geese in a corn stubble field outside Allentown. Our first stop in Somerset County, about an hour later, was another corn stubble field where we hoped to find Sandhill Cranes. Of course, we didn't. Shari & I don't even know why we bother trying to find these birds up there--this is the 4th or 5th time in the last few years that we've struck out searching for them. The only good thing that has ever come of our looking for those cranes was finding the Northern Lapwings almost 3 years ago because we were so sick of traipsing up north that we looked for them closer to home in New Egypt and serendipitously stumbled on the lapwings. (And later, we did find the cranes, the only place in NJ that we've seen them).

It was on to Duke Island Park after that fruitless stop. In the fields were hundreds of Canada Geese. We looked carefully, but we couldn't find one Cackling Goose among them, despite a large number being listed recently. Nor could we find anything else unusual there--everything was what we could find in our own backyard.

Afterwards we stopped at nearby Duke Farms, the old Doris (Poor Little Rich Girl) Duke estate, that has been converted to an enormous nature reserve. They have a decent cafe where we had lunch. The cafe is located in the converted horse & cow barn.

This is Doris Duke's old barn:

I can only imagine what her house looked like. It is some place on the estate, but we haven't found it yet.

When we lived in Brooklyn, it always used to put money in perspective to me when I looked at the wealthy residents of Brooklyn Heights who were living in the renovated stables and carriage houses once owned by the wealthy residents of the 18th and 19th century. But this old barn beats all by an order of magnitude.

And so the year ended quietly. The lists will follow later.

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