Thursday, March 31, 2016

March Wrap-up

Eastern Bluebird, Bunker Hill Bogs
It was a good month with 120 species found in total and 12 years birds. For the first time this year I birded outside the state, having to make way too many trips to New York City in one month, but at least it got me my year Black-capped Chickadee.

Other notable birds were the continuing Harris's Sparrow in Mercer County; the continuing avocets down on Absecon Creek; FOY Piping Plovers and Wilson's Snipes on the same day; yesterday's sightings of both an American Kestrel and Monk Parakeets; birding excursions with our friends Bob, Mike, Pete, & Greg.

The March list below. April's list should look quite a bit more exotic.
Species            First Sighting
Snow Goose   Brig
Brant   Silver Lake
Canada Goose   Colliers Mills WMA
Mute Swan   Assunpink WMA
Wood Duck   Lily Lake
Gadwall   Assunpink WMA
American Wigeon   Assunpink WMA
American Black Duck   Butterfly Bogs
Mallard   Colliers Mills WMA
Northern Shoveler   Central Park
Northern Pintail   Manasquan Reservoir IBA
Green-winged Teal   Bridge to Nowhere
Redhead   Lake Como
Ring-necked Duck   Colliers Mills WMA
Greater Scaup   Lake Como
Lesser Scaup   Lake Como
Common Eider   Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Harlequin Duck   Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Surf Scoter   Long Branch
Black Scoter   Long Branch.
Long-tailed Duck   Long Branch
Bufflehead   Butterfly Bogs
Common Goldeneye   Sandy Hook
Hooded Merganser   Bunker Hill Bogs
Common Merganser   Assunpink WMA
Red-breasted Merganser   Great Bay Blvd
Ruddy Duck   Assunpink WMA
Wild Turkey   35 Sunset Rd
Red-throated Loon   Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Common Loon   Wesley Lake
Pied-billed Grebe   Cedar Run Dock Rd.
Horned Grebe   West Creek Dock Rd.
Northern Gannet   Pullman Ave.
Double-crested Cormorant   Manahawkin Lake
Great Cormorant   Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Great Blue Heron   Lake Como
Great Egret   Brig
Snowy Egret   Forsythe Barnegat
Little Blue Heron   Great Bay Blvd
Tricolored Heron   Brig
Black Vulture   Sandy Hook
Turkey Vulture   Colliers Mills WMA
Osprey   Great Bay Blvd
Northern Harrier   Great Bay Blvd
Sharp-shinned Hawk   Brig
Cooper's Hawk   Sandy Hook
Bald Eagle   Colliers Mills WMA
Red-shouldered Hawk   Brig
Red-tailed Hawk   Mercer Corporate Park
American Coot   Lake Takanassee
American Avocet   Absecon Creek
American Oystercatcher   Sandy Hook
Piping Plover   Island Beach SP
Killdeer   Colliers Mills WMA
Greater Yellowlegs   Great Bay Blvd
Ruddy Turnstone   Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Dunlin   Cedar Run Dock Rd.
Purple Sandpiper   Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Wilson's Snipe   Shelter Cove Park
American Woodcock   Crestwood Community Gardens
Bonaparte's Gull   Allenhurst
Laughing Gull   Barnegat Municipal Dock
Ring-billed Gull   Horicon Lake
Herring Gull   Butterfly Bogs
Great Black-backed Gull   Trenton Sewer Utility
Rock Pigeon   Central Park
Mourning Dove   Colliers Mills WMA
Belted Kingfisher   White's Bogs
Red-headed Woodpecker   Colliers Mills WMA
Red-bellied Woodpecker   Colliers Mills WMA
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker   Colliers Mills WMA
Downy Woodpecker   Colliers Mills WMA
Hairy Woodpecker   Manasquan Reservoir IBA
Northern Flicker   Colliers Mills WMA
American Kestrel   Robert J Miller Air Park
Merlin   Great Bay Blvd
Peregrine Falcon   Brig
Monk Parakeet   Carteret
Eastern Phoebe   Sandy Hook
Blue Jay   Colliers Mills WMA
American Crow   Colliers Mills WMA
Fish Crow   Colliers Mills WMA
Tree Swallow   Trenton Sewer Utility
Carolina Chickadee   Colliers Mills WMA
Black-capped Chickadee   Central Park
Tufted Titmouse   Colliers Mills WMA
White-breasted Nuthatch   Colliers Mills WMA
Brown Creeper   White's Bogs
Carolina Wren   Colliers Mills WMA
Golden-crowned Kinglet   Island Beach SP
Ruby-crowned Kinglet   Manasquan Reservoir IBA
Eastern Bluebird   Colliers Mills WMA
Hermit Thrush   Manasquan Reservoir IBA
American Robin   Colliers Mills WMA
Northern Mockingbird   Sandy Hook
European Starling   Colliers Mills WMA
Cedar Waxwing   Great Bay Blvd
Orange-crowned Warbler   Manasquan Reservoir IBA
Pine Warbler   Cattus Island County Park
Yellow-rumped Warbler   35 Sunset Rd
American Tree Sparrow   Old Washington Crossing Rd
Chipping Sparrow   35 Sunset Rd
Field Sparrow   Colliers Mills WMA
Fox Sparrow   Central Park
Dark-eyed Junco   Colliers Mills WMA
Harris's Sparrow   Old Washington Crossing Rd
White-throated Sparrow   Bunker Hill Bogs
Savannah Sparrow   Great Bay Blvd
Song Sparrow   Bunker Hill Bogs
Eastern Towhee   Manasquan Reservoir IBA
Northern Cardinal   Colliers Mills WMA
Red-winged Blackbird   Colliers Mills WMA
Common Grackle   Central Park
Boat-tailed Grackle   Bridge to Nowhere
Brown-headed Cowbird   Colliers Mills WMA
House Finch   35 Sunset Rd
Purple Finch   Brig
Pine Siskin   35 Sunset Rd
American Goldfinch   Colliers Mills WMA
House Sparrow   Central Park

Wish us luck in Trinidad and Tobago!

Great Bay Blvd 3/31--Little Blue Heron

The last day of the month was blustery and not ideal for walking along the Herring Gull Bombing Range (for almost the entire 5 mile ride I heard my tires crunching mussel and clam shells dropped by the birds to break them open), but I did score one fine FOY for the month at my first stop, the new bulwark just after the first bridge. I spotted a white heron in the marshes and my first reaction was that it was a Snowy Egret, but upon getting the scope on it, I saw that it didn't have any of the field marks for Snowy. Rather, its beak was grayish, as were its legs, and small, dark blotches were appearing on its wings. It was a juvenile ("first spring" in Sibley) Little Blue Heron.  I didn't feel comfortable with that i.d. until I looked it up in Sibley's guide and saw that immature birds retain their white plumage into April and start to change into blue adult plumage in April. March 31st is close enough. That bird was my 150th species of the year.

Despite the wind I took my long walk from the inlet up to the first wooden bridge and back and found many Great Egrets. Shorebirds were scarce--one Greater Yellowlegs and a couple of very noisy American Oystercatchers.
Great Egret

American Oystercatchers

 And I only saw one Osprey on a nest, which I found puzzling since a couple of weeks ago there were a few in the area. Some of the platforms had Great Black-backed Gulls standing on them. By now I would have thought that the birds would be busy building their nest.

Not only was this my last outing for the month, but it will be my last trip in the United States for the next couple of weeks--Shari & I are going to Trinidad & Tobago to fulfill a long-time desire of mine of visiting the Asa Wright Nature Center and to bird the island guided by Kim Risen with whom we did our Minnesota trip last year. So there probably won't be any posts here until mid-April when, with luck, many photos of life birds will appear.

The last list of the month:
23 species
Brant  200
American Black Duck  4
Mallard  2
Bufflehead  7
Red-breasted Merganser  12
Common Loon  2
Horned Grebe  2
Double-crested Cormorant  4
Great Blue Heron  1
Great Egret  16     scattered throughout the marshes
Little Blue Heron  1     
Osprey  1     
American Oystercatcher  2     boat launch before 5th bridge
Greater Yellowlegs  1
Herring Gull  100
Great Black-backed Gull  10
Mourning Dove  1
Tree Swallow  2
Yellow-rumped Warbler  1
Song Sparrow  10
Northern Cardinal  1     Heard
Red-winged Blackbird  25
Boat-tailed Grackle  100

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Carteret 3/30--Monk Parakeets

Before visiting my mother, I made what has become my annual visit to the intersection of Washington Avenue & High Street in Carteret, where a colony of Monk Parakeets has been nesting for quite a few years. Sometimes you have to wander around the neighborhood a little seeking them out, but today, before I had even parked the car I saw two sitting on a wire.

Last year when I was there I saw billboards announcing condo construction on the empty lots and I was worried that might scare the birds away, but they seem undisturbed by all the commotion. Still building their nest next to the transformer on the utility pole, which the power company hates, but the community loves its birds and gives the company hell if they try to remove the nests. I'm hoping that the new residents of the "luxury" housing going up will feel the same way about these somewhat noisy, messy, but exceedingly clownish birds.

Robert J. Miller Air Park 3/30--American Kestrel

For the last couple of weeks I've been trying to spot a kestrel in the likely places with no luck, so it figures that on the day that I'm not looking, I find one. Well, sort of not looking. If I'm standing outside talking to you, don't be offended if my eyes are darting around, looking in the sky or trees behind you--it isn't that I don't find your conversation utterly fascinating--I do, I do--but there is the possibility an interesting bird somewhere in the middle distance.  So, I'm always looking.

Last week, while I was out in New Egypt scanning the power lines for a perching kestrel, I met another birder I know who was looking for snipe, which I'd already seen. I showed her the snipe in the mud puddle in the cattle field (just about where the Northern Lapwings were 3 years ago) and she told me she'd seen a kestrel a the airport on Rt 530. The airport is 6 minutes from where we live. Much gnashing of teeth.

I've passed by there a few times in the last few days, and this morning, on my way to visit my mother, I saw a bird perched on the fence, pumping its tail and it wasn't a phoebe, yes, at the Robert J. Miller Air Park at 7:38 A.M., I had my FOY (and Ocean County) American Kestrel.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Barnegat Municipal Dock 3/28--Laughing Gull

Laughing Gulls
It is a short drive down Bayshore to the Barnegat Municipal Dock. Gulls are always in the parking lot, which is usually flooded (when I arrived there were two geese and two Mallards swimming in a couple of the larger puddles) and I thought there was a decent chance of finding my FOY Laughing Gulls there. Mixed in with about 40 Herring Gulls there they were, the first of what will soon be the ubiquitous gull of summer. The wind was blowing ever harder, but I took a look at the bay anyway and was happy to find 4 Horned Grebes, two of them already molted into breeding plumage. It is always a treat when the grebes and loons hang around long enough to change out of their drab winter outfits. A few Red-breasted Mergansers and a couple of Long-tailed Ducks were the only other birds I could find in the water, but with two year birds for the afternoon, I was fairly satisfied.

Forsythe-Barnegat 3/28--Snowy Egret

Snowy Egrets with teal and shovelers
After a rainy morning, I went out this afternoon looking for year birds. My first stop was Cloverdale Farm, another former cranberry bog turned park. I'd seen reports of early Blue-gray Gnatcatchers in the pines, but despite a thorough look through them, I couldn't find any. This park teases with potential--I feel like it will be a great place during migration. I found 27 species there, so it isn't like the place is dead, but somehow, with its combination of bogs, woods, and grassy fields, it always feels like there should be more birds there.

So it was off to the Barnegat impoundments that are part of the Forsythe NWR. My first stop was the viewing platform, which is famous for never having anything to view, lived up to its reputation with a single Great Blue Heron in sight. I drove over to the cut on Bayshore and set up my scope. The water was high (I can never figure out whether this place is tidal or just subject to the rains) so that eliminated any possibility of shorebirds and the while there were ducks, there weren't a lot and they weren't "interesting."

Sometimes, when I'm having a bad birding, I look at myself objectively and wonder what the hell I'm doing; today I was standing in 3 inches of water with a gusty wind blowing at my back and just as I had reached maximum disgust, I turned left and saw first one then another and eventually four Snowy Egrets off in the reeds and I felt much better. Put 'em on the list.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Another Distinction Lost

Linguists and dictionary makers divide those who care about language into "descriptivists" and "prescriptivists." Simply put, the former report how the language is used, while the latter make judgments as to how the language is used. I fall squarely into the camp of "I'm telling you, you're using the word incorrectly," but I know it is hopeless. The language changes. The language changes, unfortunately, "just between  you and I" because most people "literally" don't know what they're talking about. Language changes for the same reason that the Big Lie works--if you say it enough times, it becomes true. If everyone uses the wrong word, it becomes "for all intensive purposes" the right one.

Something can't be "very unique" because it is either one of a kind or it isn't. You can't get any "uniquer" than unique, yet my spell check doesn't even highlight "uniquer" so there's another battle lost.

The word "fulsome" is a polite word (or used to be) for "bullshit" (as in "fulsome praise") but now it seems to be an intensifier of "full." Being "artful" has nothing to do with being "artistic" or didn't, until recently.

And so when I saw the word "disinterested" used in a museum label today when what the writer really wanted to say was that McNamara was "uninterested" (if he was the former, he wouldn't have cared one way or the other) I knew another distinction was gone. It is fine for the descriptivists to take a disinterested approach to language but when two distinct words take on the same meaning the language gets just a little less precise. The language gets blurrier. And blurry, imprecise language is the refuge of politicians, advertisers, and other liars.

So, to whoever wrote the text in the label, I'm telling you, you're wrong. And, no, I don't know what you mean, anyway.

Philadelphia Museum of Art Pediment

Photos: Shari Zirlin

I took a day off from birding to go to Philadelphia with Shari to see a couple of exhibits at the Barnes Museum and the Museum of Art. While walking up the "Rocky" stairs we noticed the pediment of Greek mythological characters (we usually go in through the back, so hadn't seen it before), all painted realistically as statues were at that time, when Shari noticed one character who didn't belong, also painted realistically.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Great Bay Blvd WMA 3/18--Osprey

New birds continue to trickle in. The latest species, right on time, is Osprey. I saw 3 of them today along Great Bay Blvd, 2 sitting on nest platforms, and the one above, overhead at the inlet. Since Osprey is the most over-photographed bird in NJ, I had to grit my teeth to take the documentary photo. I think, in general, taking pictures of Ospreys is a monumental waste of time.

Otherwise, the Boulevard of Broken Asphalt was fairly quiet. No egrets or herons, no shorebirds, only a couple of species of ducks and, of course, Brant.

18 species
Brant  205
Canada Goose  2
Bufflehead  105
Red-breasted Merganser  13
Horned Grebe  1
Osprey  3    
Herring Gull  100
Great Black-backed Gull  15
Mourning Dove  3
Fish Crow  1     Heard
Tree Swallow  1
American Robin  12
European Starling  2
Yellow-rumped Warbler  5
Dark-eyed Junco  2
Song Sparrow  6
Red-winged Blackbird  25
Boat-tailed Grackle  100

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Shelter Cove Park 3/16--Wilson's Snipe

Wilson's Snipes
After lunch, having some time to kill before I had to pick up Shari at the bus station, I drove over to Shelter Cove Park in Toms River, a little park on the bay that I don't go to very often. I'd seen a few interesting listings recently and it has the bay, marshes, woods, and in the spring, the playing fields are flooded, so I figured there would be enough there to keep me interested.

The bay was fairly empty, the woods & marshes had nothing, but there were two Killdeer in the back of the parking lot. After walking around for a while, I decided to check out the flooded fields and immediately I saw two unusual shorebirds. My first reaction was that they weren't woodcocks. I ran back to the car, drove across the parking lot, set up the scope, and, as I had suspected, found my first Wilson's Snipes of the year. I didn't want to get too close to them and flush them away, but I was able to get within about 100 feet of the birds. I have a friend who lives nearby that I knew would love to see these birds. Unfortunately, his number wasn't in my cell phone. Sometimes, not having 21st century mobile technology really bites me.

I emailed him as soon as I got home and he was able to get over there, finding the birds in a different field. They were lifers for him, so I was really pleased.

I used the snipes as Bird of the Day, since I can go long periods of times without ever seeing one (I only saw them twice last year) and I figured that I can always make a trek out to Barnegat to use the Piping Plover when I need one.

Island Beach SP 3/16--Piping Plover

Piping Plover
The weather conditions this morning were just about perfect for birding Island Beach SP--mild, sunny, and dead calm. I started, as I usually do, at Reed's Road, not really expecting much as it is still too early to find any migratory birds, but I did have a nice mix of birds, including the month's first Golden-crowned Kinglet. Soon these little guys will be gone. As I was driving south on the main road, two flocks of Great Blue Herons flew over the car. So they're on the move. At Spizzle Creek, I didn't find as much as I'd have liked (but then, I never do, anywhere) but I did see a hunting Northern Harrier and a Peregrine Falcon was perched on the hacking tower out on Great Sedge Island. I was happy to see that the trail to the blind has been cleared--it had become almost impassable with downed trees. I was hoping for a FOY Osprey, but none were evident, and I didn't even get Tree Swallows for the county.

I walked the beach at the  southern tip of the park down to the outlet. I was vaguely hoping for something new, perhaps a look, finally, at the hen King Eider (oxymoron) that has been reported, though I knew that was unlikely. Aside from lots of Long-tailed Ducks and a one flock of Black Scoters, there wasn't much to see until I was almost at the inlet. Then I saw, running up the beach to the wrack line, a Piping Plover.  I usually make a special trip to Barnegat Light in the summer to find this bird on its nesting grounds, so it seemed like a bonus to get one so early in the year. I followed the bird up the beach and found that it had company--in all there were 3 plovers. I figured the plover, would qualify for Bird of the Day, & that I wouldn't have to make a special trip to LBI to "get it" this summer. However, I came across a "better" bird (see above) later in the day.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Sad Sign

I birded Colliers Mills with Greg this morning. After our loop around Turnmill Pond we were  poking around the grassy area at the entrance, when he pointed out this plaque to me, attached to a half-dead chestnut tree, up high, where it was hard to see.  Why someone would place a memorial in a half-dead chestnut tree is a mystery. Perhaps the chestnut tree had some significance to Jasiu. Because it was so high up, I couldn't really read the sign clearly, but Greg's sharper eyes found the typo. Quite a guy, that Jasiu, more than a "woodsman," he contained multitudes.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Sandy Hook 3/9--American Oystercatcher, Eastern Phoebe

American Oystercatcher
We met Bob Auster at Sandy Hook this morning and birded north from B lot and Plum Island. Sometimes you "request" a species of the birding gods and it is as if just by asking the bird appears. I said that I'd like to see our first Eastern Phoebe of the year when we crossed the road to Plum Island and within a minute Bob found one in a tree. (Maybe Bob is one of the birding gods.) I had also said as we were scanning the sand bars that American Oystercatcher would be a good bird for the day and soon I found one walking the beach in front of a flock of Brant. And those were our two year birds for the day, in the first spot we looked.

But that doesn't mean that we didn't find any more interesting birds. We next stopped at Spermaceti Cove, walking out on the new boardwalk where we were able to get better looks at oystercatchers (to Shari's delight), and we also found a couple of goldeneyes. At first there was one hen and we naturally defaulted to Common Goldeneye, by far the most likely species. But then Bob found a second goldeneye swimming with the other and it just didn't look "right" to him and we spend a long time comparing and contrasting the two birds, wondering if one of them was the much, much rarer Barrow's Goldeneye. 

As you can perhaps see from these mediocre photos that I took, the bird on the left seems to have a rounder head, with a lighter colored bill and less white on the flanks, making us wonder if it was a Barrow's. I think I could confidently call a drake Barrow's from the facial pattern, but a female is just to dicey for me, especially since I have seen exactly one Barrow's Goldeneye in my life (coincidentally, at Sandy Hook). Still, I send the photo to a couple of expert friends of mine and we'll see if we actually stumbled upon something exciting.

Moving on from there we walked along the Road to Nowhere and came upon a nice flock of waxwings (yet another of my requests) and at the ferry landing we heard a Killdeer calling but couldn't find it, at first. I looked up onto the peaked roof of the chapel and there it was. I've never seen one do that.

We hit a few more spots, including the newly rebuilt hawkwatch platform at the start of the fisherman's trail. It is a pretty wobbly construction. I'm sure it's safe, but trying to use your scope up there is useless because anyone taking a step, starting on the first riser, shakes the whole platform as if you were in a boat. We did enjoy watching a huge flock of Northern Gannets plunge dive into the ocean as well as just loaf in the water. After walking a few more paths at the north end of the hook we called it a day--almost 7 hours of birding produced 42 species.
Brant  100
Canada Goose  75
Mute Swan  2
American Black Duck  15
Mallard  4
Surf Scoter  15
Black Scoter  10
Long-tailed Duck  10
Bufflehead  20
Common Goldeneye  2    
Red-breasted Merganser  20
Common Loon  4
Horned Grebe  3
Northern Gannet  150
Great Blue Heron  1
Black Vulture  1
Turkey Vulture  9
Cooper's Hawk  1
American Oystercatcher  8     
Herring Gull  100
Great Black-backed Gull  5
Rock Pigeon  5
Mourning Dove  2
Eastern Phoebe  2
American Crow  2
Fish Crow  10
Carolina Wren  2     Heard
American Robin  50
Northern Mockingbird  10
European Starling  10
Cedar Waxwing  10
Yellow-rumped Warbler  15
American Tree Sparrow  1
Dark-eyed Junco  1
White-throated Sparrow  1
Song Sparrow  25
Northern Cardinal  10
Red-winged Blackbird  100
Common Grackle  20
House Finch  10
House Sparrow  20

Monday, March 7, 2016

Lily Lake 3/7--Wood Duck

And it's about time too! I feel like I've spent a month looking for Wood Ducks this year. Every place I've tried--Colliers Mills, Bunker Hill Bogs, Butterfly Bogs, Whitesbog, the exit ponds at Brig (to name just the most likely places I've searched)--I've come up empty. Today, as I was coming off my first loop around Brig, I ran into Greg who was leading a field trip for his community's nature club. He mentioned that he'd seen them over by Lily Lake (which is next to the refuge and part of Forsythe), so after my 2nd loop and still not finding them at the Gull Pond or the exit ponds, I drove over there. I stood at a corner of the lake and scanned, finding only the expected ducks. I took two more steps toward the little pond on the right that's separated by a path and BOOM! I flushed 3 squeaking Wood Ducks. Another minute and two more were on the lake and flew away into the dense thickets that line the pond. I was calling Greg to tell him I'd seen the woodies when he arrived with his group, which, of course, thanks to me, didn't get to see the ducks.

The day started off with a brief moment of panic: the Wawa on Rt 9 was closed for renovations! I have a sentimental attachment to that Wawa. When Shari & I first started going to Brig we lived in Brooklyn and didn't know a Wawa from a whoo-hoo. But after a few visits (the coffee was good and the soda was always on sale with no deposit) we started to say, "We could go to Brig this weekend--and stop at Wawa." Truth be told, it is a rather shabby store and new Wawa on the site will be welcome.

Happily, I remembered the location of the next nearest Wawa and drove over there for my coffee. Since I was now about halfway to Absecon Creek, I figured I might as well drive there and get the American Avocets for the month. These 2 birds have been there since early January and are absolutely reliable. Great looking birds and I finally relented and used them for Bird A Day. I was sort of hoping to hold off and use the species if we went to Delaware later this year, but I'm running out of winter birds to use and migration won't start for at least a few weeks.
American Avocets with Greater Yellowlegs
My two trips around the impoundments produced nothing new for the year. The number of Snow Geese there was really impressive. I would estimate 2500. I didn't bother to look for a Ross's in the marsh multitudes. Because it was so windy, land birds were at a premium today. In all, for my 3 stops, I had 45 species. They were:
Species   Location
Snow Goose   Brig
Brant   Brig
Canada Goose   Absecon Creek
Mute Swan   Brig
Wood Duck   Lily Lake
Gadwall   Brig
American Wigeon   Brig
American Black Duck   Brig
Mallard   Absecon Creek
Northern Shoveler   Brig
Northern Pintail   Brig
Green-winged Teal   Brig
Ring-necked Duck   Lily Lake
Bufflehead   Absecon Creek
Hooded Merganser   Brig
Common Merganser   Brig
Red-breasted Merganser   Brig
Double-crested Cormorant   Absecon Creek
Great Blue Heron   Brig
Turkey Vulture   Brig
Northern Harrier   Brig
Bald Eagle   Brig
Red-tailed Hawk   Lily Lake
American Avocet   Absecon Creek
Greater Yellowlegs   Absecon Creek
Ring-billed Gull   Brig
Herring Gull   Absecon Creek
Great Black-backed Gull   Absecon Creek
Rock Pigeon   Absecon Creek
Mourning Dove   Brig
Red-bellied Woodpecker   Brig
Peregrine Falcon   Brig
Blue Jay   Brig
American Crow   Brig
Fish Crow   Absecon Creek
Carolina Chickadee   Brig
Tufted Titmouse   Brig
White-breasted Nuthatch   Brig
Carolina Wren   Brig
American Robin   Brig
Yellow-rumped Warbler   Brig
Savannah Sparrow   Brig
Song Sparrow   Brig
Eastern Towhee   Brig
Red-winged Blackbird   Brig

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Central Park 3/3--Black-capped Chickadee

The Lake @ Central Park, looking west.
I had to go into the city today, so I did my first extra-Jersey birding of the year in Central Park. I looked at eBird last night and there had been nothing unusual reported there lately. I walked in The Ramble and made my way to the feeders. I had one bird in mind to find.

The feeders were very active, but there was nothing there that I couldn't see out the back window in Whiting. The most common bird was House Sparrow (actually, I rarely see them out our back window) and the runner up was White-throated Sparrow, some of which are molting into crisp breeding plumage:
Another birder came along and we chatted about what birds around. I told him, "I know this sounds silly, but the only bird I'm really interested in finding is Black-capped Chickadee." Although they're common in Central Park, I missed them last year on my few visits to the park (and to Prospect Park too) and I figured it would be the only bird I wouldn't regret using up for Bird A Day. He said that so long as there wasn't a hawk around, they usually show up in 10 minutes. Well, I'd been there for 20, but I guess he meant they show up in 10 minutes once he gets there, because one did fly in and sampled a few feeders, albeit too fast to get a photo.

I checked out the lake and only found a flock of Northern Shovelers doing their spinning feeding behavior, which I always find amusing. Geese and a few Mallards were the only other birds in the water.
Northern Shovelers shoveling
I checked out Turtle Pond from Belevedere Castle and it was devoid of birds. But I did hear and see two more chickadees on my way back to the feeders, where another birder pointed out a Fox Sparrow to me. I told him that earlier I'd had a couple of juncos there and he was very excited--he hadn't seen any juncos yet this year, which seems impossible to me. I also saw a Brown-headed Cowbird associating with a big flock of grackles; I remember last year seeing a birding group avidly chasing after a cowbird, which certainly seemed weird to me, but as is often pointed out, what's common in one place is a big deal in another (cf: Harris's Sparrow).

After a little over 2 hours I left the park with a decent list and went to my appointment:
25 species
Canada Goose  30     Lake, exact count
Mallard  3     Lake
Northern Shoveler  18     Lake, exact count
Ring-billed Gull  1
Rock Pigeon   4
Mourning Dove  2
Red-bellied Woodpecker  2
Downy Woodpecker  2     Feeders
Blue Jay  5
Black-capped Chickadee  3
Tufted Titmouse  2
White-breasted Nuthatch  4
American Robin  3
European Starling  5
Fox Sparrow  1     Feeders
Dark-eyed Junco  2     Feeders
White-throated Sparrow  50
Song Sparrow  1     Feeders
Northern Cardinal  4
Red-winged Blackbird  3     Feeders
Common Grackle  40
Brown-headed Cowbird  1     Feeders
House Finch  10
American Goldfinch  25
House Sparrow  150