Tuesday, May 31, 2016

May Wrap-up

Killdeer chick in the field next to the Lakewood Wawa
The month's birding started off cold and rainy at Brig and ended today hot and sunny in the cranberry bogs off Dover Road. In between, I participated in the World Series of Birding, saw a couple of rarities, like Fork-tailed Flycatcher and White Ibis and added 36 birds to the year list. Nothing like April of course but then, there was international travel involved with all its attendant aggravations and annoyances.

My favorite birds of the month are the beautiful ones like Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Blue Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting, & Baltimore Oriole. My biggest accomplishment of the month was tracking down the elusive Yellow-breasted Chat at Assunpink. The serendipitous moment of the month was the Summer Tanager at Horicon Lake I found with a remote assist from Pete.

June is a notoriously slow month for birding, so I don't anticipate adding many new birds to the year list, and thus, not as many posts as this month. Today was the 152nd consecutive day I listed a bird (Orchard Oriole) on Bird A Day. If I don't get sick of doing it, I think I have decent shot at 300 days in a row.

I wandered all over the state and listed 171 species, not counting the Chukar in Colliers Mills or the weirdo ducks down on Great Bay Blvd.
Counties birded: Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland, Middlesex, Mercer, Monmouth, Ocean (somehow I managed to skip Burlington this month)
Species   Location
Snow Goose   West Creek Dock Rd.
Brant   Island Beach SP
Canada Goose   Brig
Mute Swan   Assunpink WMA
Wood Duck   Brig
American Black Duck   Forsythe-Barnegat
Mallard   Brig
Green-winged Teal   Brig
Bufflehead   Assunpink WMA
Hooded Merganser   Lakehurst Railroad Tracks
Ruddy Duck   Assunpink WMA
Wild Turkey   35 Sunset Rd
Common Loon   Prospertown Lake
Double-crested Cormorant   Wawa County Line Rd
Great Blue Heron   Brig
Great Egret   Brig
Snowy Egret   Brig
Little Blue Heron   Island Beach SP
Tricolored Heron   Cattus Island County Park
Green Heron   Island Beach SP
Black-crowned Night-Heron   Great Bay Blvd
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron   Great Bay Blvd
White Ibis   Forsythe-Barnegat
Glossy Ibis   Brig
Black Vulture   W. Bay Ave--Barnegat
Turkey Vulture   Colliers Mills WMA
Osprey   Brig
Cooper's Hawk   Colliers Mills WMA
Bald Eagle   Brig
Broad-winged Hawk   Colliers Mills WMA
Red-tailed Hawk   Cloverdale Farm
Clapper Rail   Brig
American Coot   Brig
American Oystercatcher   Brig
Black-bellied Plover   Brig
Semipalmated Plover   Brig
Killdeer   Butterfly Road
Spotted Sandpiper   Assunpink WMA
Solitary Sandpiper   Cloverdale Farm
Greater Yellowlegs   Brig
Willet   Brig
Lesser Yellowlegs   Brig
Whimbrel   Brig
Ruddy Turnstone   Island Beach SP
Red Knot   Great Bay Blvd
Sanderling   Great Bay Blvd
Dunlin   Brig
Least Sandpiper   Brig
Semipalmated Sandpiper   Brig
Short-billed Dowitcher   Brig
Wilson's Snipe   Brig
Laughing Gull   Brig
Ring-billed Gull   Barnegat Municipal Dock
Herring Gull   Brig
Great Black-backed Gull   Brig
Least Tern   Great Bay Blvd
Gull-billed Tern   Brig
Caspian Tern   Brig
Common Tern   Great Bay Blvd
Forster's Tern   Brig
Black Skimmer   Great Bay Blvd
Mourning Dove   35 Sunset Rd
Yellow-billed Cuckoo   FREC
Black-billed Cuckoo   Colliers Mills WMA
Eastern Screech-Owl   Beach Ave
Great Horned Owl   35 Sunset Rd
Barred Owl   Beach Ave
Chuck-will's-widow   Beach Ave
Eastern Whip-poor-will   35 Sunset Rd
Chimney Swift   Lake Enno
Ruby-throated Hummingbird   Colliers Mills WMA
Belted Kingfisher   Assunpink WMA
Red-headed Woodpecker   Colliers Mills WMA
Red-bellied Woodpecker   35 Sunset Rd
Downy Woodpecker   Cattus Island County Park
Hairy Woodpecker   35 Sunset Rd
Northern Flicker   Assunpink WMA
Merlin   Manahawkin WMA
Peregrine Falcon   Brig
Eastern Wood-Pewee   Colliers Mills WMA
Acadian Flycatcher   Taylor Ln
Willow Flycatcher   Ernest L. Oros Wildlife Preserve
Eastern Phoebe   Cloverdale Farm
Great Crested Flycatcher   Cloverdale Farm
Eastern Kingbird   Assunpink WMA
Fork-tailed Flycatcher   Assunpink WMA
White-eyed Vireo   Assunpink WMA
Yellow-throated Vireo   Colliers Mills WMA
Blue-headed Vireo   Oxycocus Bog
Warbling Vireo   Colliers Mills WMA
Red-eyed Vireo   Island Beach SP
Blue Jay   35 Sunset Rd
American Crow   Assunpink WMA
Fish Crow   Brig
Common Raven   Prospertown Lake
Northern Rough-winged Swallow   Cloverdale Farm
Purple Martin   Assunpink WMA
Tree Swallow   Brig
Bank Swallow   Prospertown Lake
Barn Swallow   Brig
Carolina Chickadee   Assunpink WMA
Tufted Titmouse   35 Sunset Rd
White-breasted Nuthatch   35 Sunset Rd
House Wren   Assunpink WMA
Sedge Wren   Manahawkin WMA--Beach Ave
Marsh Wren   Manahawkin WMA
Carolina Wren   35 Sunset Rd
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher   Assunpink WMA
Ruby-crowned Kinglet   Colliers Mills WMA
Eastern Bluebird   Cattus Island County Park
Veery   35 Sunset Rd
Gray-cheeked Thrush   FREC
Swainson's Thrush   Baldpate Mt
Wood Thrush   Assunpink WMA
American Robin   Brig
Gray Catbird   Assunpink WMA
Brown Thrasher   Assunpink WMA
Northern Mockingbird   Forked River
European Starling   35 Sunset Rd
Cedar Waxwing   Colliers Mills WMA
Ovenbird   Assunpink WMA
Worm-eating Warbler   Baldpate Mt
Louisiana Waterthrush   FREC
Blue-winged Warbler   Cranberry Bogs--Dover Rd
Black-and-white Warbler   Lakehurst Railroad Tracks
Common Yellowthroat   Brig
Hooded Warbler   Island Beach SP
American Redstart   Island Beach SP
Northern Parula   Island Beach SP
Magnolia Warbler   Island Beach SP
Blackburnian Warbler   William Warren County Park
Yellow Warbler   Brig
Chestnut-sided Warbler   Lakehurst Railroad Tracks
Blackpoll Warbler   Island Beach SP
Black-throated Blue Warbler   Manahawkin WMA
Palm Warbler   Assunpink WMA
Pine Warbler   Cloverdale Farm
Yellow-rumped Warbler   Assunpink WMA
Prairie Warbler   Lakehurst Railroad Tracks
Black-throated Green Warbler   Island Beach SP
Canada Warbler   Cattus Island County Park
Wilson's Warbler   Lakehurst Railroad Tracks
Yellow-breasted Chat   Assunpink WMA
Grasshopper Sparrow   Colliers Mills WMA
Saltmarsh Sparrow   Manahawkin WMA
Seaside Sparrow   Brig
Chipping Sparrow   35 Sunset Rd
Field Sparrow   Assunpink WMA
White-crowned Sparrow   Assunpink WMA
White-throated Sparrow   Brig
Savannah Sparrow   Brig
Song Sparrow   Brig
Swamp Sparrow   Bunker Hill Bogs
Eastern Towhee   35 Sunset Rd
Summer Tanager   Horicon Lake
Scarlet Tanager   Island Beach SP
Northern Cardinal   35 Sunset Rd
Rose-breasted Grosbeak   35 Sunset Rd
Blue Grosbeak   Colliers Mills WMA
Indigo Bunting   Union Transportation Trail
Red-winged Blackbird   Brig
Rusty Blackbird   Cranberry Bogs--Dover Rd
Common Grackle   Brig
Boat-tailed Grackle   Island Beach SP
Brown-headed Cowbird   35 Sunset Rd
Orchard Oriole   Assunpink WMA
Baltimore Oriole   Colliers Mills WMA
House Finch   35 Sunset Rd
Pine Siskin   35 Sunset Rd
American Goldfinch   35 Sunset Rd
House Sparrow   Wawa Rt 70 & CR 530
Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Great Bay Blvd

Monday, May 30, 2016

Colliers Mills WMA 5/30--Chukar (Can't Count It)

Tropical Storm Bonnie passed through early this morning, and by 9 the skies were clear. Thinking that the grasslands birds are usually active later in the day, I went over to Colliers Mills to do my walk up Success Road and around Turnmill Pond, then a check of Colliers Mills Lake and finally a check of some rarely birded fields.

It was toward the end of the walk, on the east side of Colliers Mills Lake that I saw this Chukar, a game bird of Asia that is surely a release by one of the hunting clubs and thus, not countable for my list, just as the pheasants I sometimes see there are not countable. I have counted bobwhite there because they are native to the state and I've seen family groups there (chicks following mom) so that indicates breeding.

But Chukar (which is countable in Utah because there is a viable wild population, though we missed it last year) as much as I'd like to pad my Ocean County list I cannot in good conscience check off. Many years ago, when we lived in Brooklyn, near the docks, Shari & I took a walk down there on a quiet Sunday evening and found a Chukar wandering the streets, running up the stairs of stoops and hiding in garage doorways. "Can't count it," I told her.

"Why not?" she asked indignantly.

"Turn around," I told her. There, up half a block, was a live poultry market (Brooklyn was not completely gentrified at that time) from which our little friend had obviously made his escape. Who knows, he may have avoided the chopping block altogether.

Blue Grosbeak
There were birds, of course, at Colliers that I could count, including some nice looks (and audibles) from Grasshopper Sparrows, a Blue Grosbeak in the same field as the groppers, a Red-headed Woodpecker by its nest site, and some still-singing warblers, mostly in the woods.

On a curmudgeonly note, once again I ran into a minor annoyance of birding. This has happened to me so many times that I've lost count. Invariably, if a guy in a pick-up truck stops and asks if you've seen any good birds, he is not really interested if you have. It is merely his opening gambit to launch into a disquisition called "Eagles I Have Seen." He will then tell you about places he has seen eagles with good directions to find them. He, of course, doesn't realize that
A) Eagles aren't rare
B) I see them all the time
C) If I want to see an eagle I know where to go and
D) If the bird I was interested in at the time (say Grasshopper Sparrow, like today) were to land on the hood of his truck, he wouldn't know, or care, what it was.

I understand that, on the whole, it is good that non-birders are interested in the charismatic species like eagles and that their interest can, sometimes, be channeled into a more positive attitude toward conservation policies (which is I why I am always polite and listen to their stories) but I have limited time on this decaying planet and once I have my eagle for the year and the county my interest in them falls off precipitously.

A list of all the birds I did count today:
46 species
Canada Goose  5
Turkey Vulture  1
Osprey  1     f/o Turnmill  Pond
Red-tailed Hawk  2     Perched on dead limb by police shooting range
Mourning Dove  4
Yellow-billed Cuckoo  1     Heard, CM Lake
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  1
Belted Kingfisher  1     Pond on Hawking Road
Red-headed Woodpecker  1    
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Northern Flicker  1
Eastern Wood-Pewee  2     Heard
Eastern Phoebe  2
Great Crested Flycatcher  4
Eastern Kingbird  7
Warbling Vireo  1
Red-eyed Vireo  1
Blue Jay  2
Barn Swallow  1
Carolina Chickadee  1
Tufted Titmouse  1     Heard
White-breasted Nuthatch  2
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  5
Wood Thrush  1     Heard
American Robin  10
Gray Catbird  25
Northern Mockingbird  2
European Starling  10
Cedar Waxwing  1
Ovenbird  4
Black-and-white Warbler  4
Common Yellowthroat  3
Pine Warbler  1
Prairie Warbler  2     Heard Hawkin Rd
Grasshopper Sparrow  4
Chipping Sparrow  2
Field Sparrow  1     Heard
Eastern Towhee  6
Northern Cardinal  4
Blue Grosbeak  1     
Indigo Bunting  1
Red-winged Blackbird  20
Common Grackle  2
Orchard Oriole  4
Baltimore Oriole  1     Hawkin Rd
American Goldfinch  2

Forsythe-Barnegat 5/29--White Ibis

White Ibis, immature, with Great Egret & Glossy Ibis
I was noodling around Double Trouble SP yesterday morning, doing more walking than birding when I got a text from my friend Karmela who lives across the street from the Barnegat impoundments. Unfortunately, it was a picture message and my 1990's-technology phone wasn't able to open the file. A few minutes later I got a text alert from SNJbirds: White Ibis found by Karmela. Now I knew what was in her file and I raced down the path from Ore Pond to the parking lot. Double Trouble is around 20 minutes away from Barnegat, right down the parkway, so I was there at about 9 o'clock. While driving down there I was really hoping the bird would stay in sight, not only because it is a great county bird that I already missed once this year, but because I started the day out in a bad mood and if I missed this bird I would be plunged into the abyss of terminal moodiness.

I pulled up to the cut, grabbed binoculars and camera and asked the photographer already there, "Where's the bird?" She pointed and it was nearby, close enough for my camera to get decent pictures. (Many times the cool birds at Barnegat are visible but distant.)

The bird is immature with it's brown wings just molting into adult plumage. Karmela came down and we talked and watched the bird work along the edge of the phragmites. After a few minutes and another birder showing up we were still talking but had lost track of the bird which had walked around the end of the phragmites stands and out of sight. A couple of extra stoplights and I might have missed the bird.

Not a year bird--we had a small flock fly over when we stayed overnight in Florida in April. Not even Bird of the Day (used it in Florida). I had to use Marsh Wren yesterday, two of which were singing in the reeds while we looked at the ibis.

Highlight of the day reached at 9 A.M. I then drove home, dressed in a suit & tie and Shari & I drove to Staten Island for a wedding. The phrases "suit & tie" and "Staten Island" give you an idea of my mood for the rest of the day.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Assunpink WMA Navigation Beacon 5/28--Yellow-breasted Chat

It could be anywhere!
My annual pursuit of the Yellow-breasted Chat in the navigation beacon field at Assunpink was successful. At 7:25 A.M., on my third try, walking through the high grass along a line of bushes and trees I heard the chattering of a bird that didn't sound like any other I know of, though mockingbird did cross my mind. Chats are aptly named & as the bird chittered and chattered and whistled and sang, I pished until I felt like a fool and to no avail. But then, peering through a small opening in the leaves I saw a yellow spot moving and found the bird, yellow breast, "spectacles" and all. And, after checking myself thoroughly, no ticks!

I then did my usual walk through the fields, up through the Norway Spruce grove and down to Stone Tavern Lake and back, picking up the usual birds I would expect to see, though practically no warblers. Even the Common Yellowthroats were sparse. Birds are probably starting to nest (I saw a Cedar Waxwing carrying a stalk of grass) or the early heat of the morning was already putting them back into the cool shadows.

I managed 29 species for the morning and unless something amazing shows up there, I think my tick-risking days there are over for the summer.
Canada Goose  1     Stone Tavern Lake
Mourning Dove  3
Red-bellied Woodpecker  1     Heard
Eastern Wood-Pewee  1     Heard
Great Crested Flycatcher  1
Eastern Kingbird  1
White-eyed Vireo  5
Warbling Vireo  1     Heard, parking lot
Red-eyed Vireo  1
Blue Jay  1     Heard
American Crow  1     Heard
Tree Swallow  1
Carolina Chickadee  3
Wood Thrush  1     Heard
American Robin  5
Gray Catbird  15
Cedar Waxwing  1
Common Yellowthroat  5
Yellow Warbler  2
Yellow-breasted Chat
Chipping Sparrow  1
Field Sparrow  6
Song Sparrow  1     Heard
Eastern Towhee  5
Northern Cardinal  2     Heard
Indigo Bunting  3
Red-winged Blackbird  1
Brown-headed Cowbird  1     Norway Spruce grove
American Goldfinch  1

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Horicon Lake 5/24--Summer Tanager

I get by with a little help from my friends
Yesterday, like just about every day I suppose, had its frustrations and rewards, and one of its rewards came belatedly. I started the day by driving up to Brick to look into a "new" WMA that the local birders have suddenly started to visit. A lot of good birds have been reported there in the last two weeks. The place is kind of a pain for me to get to, with a lot of unfamiliar roads like Burnt Tavern & Sally Ike, but I eventually made it there with only a few wrong turns (road construction in the area has made my GPS out of date), just in time for the persistent drizzle that began half way there to turn to a steady rain. I didn't see rain in the forecast or else I wouldn't have gone. But being there already, I started out, not really sure where to look. I'm of two minds about birding new spots. On the one hand, I like to discover it for myself. On the other, it really helps if someone with experience can point you the way to go.

Whether it was the weather, my lack of knowledge of the place, bad luck, or a combination of all three piled on top of my mediocre birding skills, I didn't see (or certainly hear) nearly the birds everyone else has. I did, however come out of the spot with two good experiences. Firstly, I found, almost immediately, an Indigo Bunting, new for the county. Secondly, while working a wooded trail I heard what I identified as a Hooded Warbler: "weeta-weeta-weet-teeyoo." The bird was loud and continued to sing and I couldn't find it. It sang so much and so long that I began to doubt my identification, until finally, while scanning through the leaves I came up with the bird exposed in a "window" singing heartily and with all the field marks of the bird I thought it was. A victory for ear birding.

There was a large field that I walked around, finding few interesting birds. About 2/3 of the way around the rain, which had stopped for a while, returned much more forcefully and I covered my binoculars and got back to the car as fast as I could. I was soaked when I unlocked the door.

Of course, as I was driving home the rain stopped and there was even a hint of sun, so I thought I'd continue birding and getting my walking in, by doing a couple of miles on the Lakehurst RR tracks. Think again. They're doing some kind of construction there/rehabilitation there and the tracks were busy with workmen and yellow vehicles with big tires.

Horicon Lake was my next option, not usually a very birdy place this time of year, but at least I could walk for a while. Guess again. I had just reached the end of the paved road, was about to walk in the woods, when the rain returned. I retreated to the car. Just before I reached it, I heard a bird singing a song I couldn't identify (nothing unusual there), looked up and found the bird (that is unusual) and through the rain drops and general gloom found that it was a tanager. A Scarlet Tanager, I presumed. I took some photographs (only I can get a bird back lit in an overcast) and finally, sick of being wet, drove home.

When  I looked at the photographs I took, the tanager didn't look right to me. I couldn't see any black on the wings (but that could just be a function of light and lousy photography) and the bill looked all wrong. The song, as I remembered it, didn't match the songs I found on the internet (if the AP can decapitalize the word, so can I).

Happily, I have the good fortune to be friends with Pete Bacinski. I sent him the photo and today he confirmed my suspicion--it was indeed a Summer Tanager, an all red tanager with a heavy bill and one that it much more sought after in NJ and especially in the county as it is fairly rare here. It was not only a year bird for me, but somewhat more importantly, a life county bird. It was especially happy news to read after returning from yet another Yellow-breasted Chat-less expedition to Assunpink.

Ironically, Horicon Lake held more birds for me than did the big WMA in Brick, which I will have to explore more, now that I have something of a feel for the place.

My Horicon Lake list:
28 species
Canada Goose  10     
Turkey Vulture  1
Spotted Sandpiper  1
Mourning Dove  1
Chimney Swift  2
Red-bellied Woodpecker  1     Heard
Eastern Phoebe  4
Great Crested Flycatcher  3
Eastern Kingbird  3
Tree Swallow  2
Barn Swallow  1
Carolina Chickadee  1
Carolina Wren  1     Heard
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  5
Wood Thrush  1     Heard
Gray Catbird  18
Cedar Waxwing  3
Ovenbird  2     Heard
Black-and-white Warbler  1
Common Yellowthroat  2
Prairie Warbler  1     Heard
Song Sparrow  1
Eastern Towhee  2
Summer Tanager  1     In dead tree near parking lot
Northern Cardinal  1     Heard
Red-winged Blackbird  1     Marsh
Common Grackle  6
Brown-headed Cowbird  3