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

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