Thursday, June 30, 2016

June Swoon

Baby bluebirds at Bright View Farm
As predicted, June was a very slow month, adding only 5 year birds and a frustrating month, missing two biggies--Upland Sandpiper at Lakehurst and Kentucky Warbler in Smithville Park . There were a few species I declined to chase because I didn't feel like driving to Cape May or into the wilds of Hunterdon County.

Horned Lark, Laurel Run Park
I spent a lot of time looking for candidates for Bird A Day--by the time the summer doldrums come around, all the "easy" birds are either used or else "in the bank" for later in the year. Yesterday was a good example of the search. I spent a very pleasant morning with Chris (of Rocky Raccoon fame) at Bright View Farm in Burlington, a place I'd never been. Bobolinks are often seen there and while we had a pretty good day, Bobolinks were not seen there yesterday. I was hoping to use Bobolink for BAD and as all the other birds I saw there were either used or "banked," I drove another 40 minutes deeper into the county, back to Laurel Run Park, where, Chris assured me, Horned Larks were still running around the parking lot. When I first arrived I didn't see any larks, and walk around the winter wheat fields didn't reveal any Dickcissels. Grasshopper Sparrow was a very small consolation prize for all the driving, I thought. But, one more walk around the stubble and gravel near the entrance found a lark beneath a tree. It, and another lark, were semi-cooperative, and I was happy to have the bird on the list because I may go a long time before I see another one.

Today, I was down at Great Bay Blvd, hoping for a pelican or a Least Tern, but came away with neither. I suspect one of the herons or egrets I haven't used yet will be "burned" to keep the list going, that is unless I see a Common Nighthawk over the house or at the Blue Claws game in Lakewood tonight.

We did have a couple of nighthawks over the house two weeks ago when we held a whip-poor-will party with Chris, Susan (who photographed Rocky) and spouses. It was wildly successful as after the appetizer of nighthawks, the whips put on a show, with probably 6 or 7 calling from every direction. It was a life bird for Susan, and Chris said he hadn't heard one in 10 or 15 years.

Other highlights of the month included my walk around Brig (for which my timing was perfect, as a week later the greenhead flies were out in all their viciousness) and our trip up to Old Mine Road.

Lowlights: the misses at Lakehurst, Smithville, and, as an omen, on the first day of the month, missing Black-bellied Whistling Duck in a nondescript park in Robbinsville. (Interestingly, Black-bellied Whistling Ducks seem to prefer out of the way bodies of water, as the dozen down in Cape May on an obscure pond confirm.)

For the month I had 128 species, all in New Jersey.
Counties birded: Atlantic, Burlington, Mercer, Monmouth, Ocean
Species              First Sighting
Canada Goose   Wells Mills Park
Mute Swan   Forsythe-Barnegat
Wood Duck   Cranberry Bogs--Dover Rd
American Black Duck   Forsythe-Barnegat
Mallard   Wells Mills Park
Northern Shoveler   Forsythe-Barnegat
Wild Turkey   Old Mine Road IBA
Common Loon   Great Bay Bvld
Double-crested Cormorant   Island Beach SP
Great Blue Heron   Assunpink WMA
Great Egret   Forsythe-Barnegat
Snowy Egret   Forsythe-Barnegat
Little Blue Heron   Forsythe-Barnegat
Tricolored Heron   Island Beach SP
Green Heron   Old Mine Road IBA
Black-crowned Night-Heron   Island Beach SP
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron   Island Beach SP
Glossy Ibis   Island Beach SP
Black Vulture   Union Transportation Trail
Turkey Vulture   Assunpink WMA
Osprey   Island Beach SP
Mississippi Kite   Waretown
Bald Eagle   Brig
Red-tailed Hawk   W. Bay Ave--Barnegat
Clapper Rail   Great Bay Bvld
American Oystercatcher   Brig
Black-bellied Plover   Island Beach SP
Piping Plover   Island Beach SP
Killdeer   Old Mine Road IBA
Spotted Sandpiper   Old Mine Road IBA
Greater Yellowlegs   Cranberry Bogs--Dover Rd
Willet   Island Beach SP
Semipalmated Sandpiper   Island Beach SP
Laughing Gull   Forsythe-Barnegat
Ring-billed Gull   Lakehurst NAES
Herring Gull   Island Beach SP
Great Black-backed Gull   Great Bay Bvld
Gull-billed Tern   Brig
Caspian Tern   Island Beach SP
Common Tern   Brig
Forster's Tern   Island Beach SP
Black Skimmer   Brig
Rock Pigeon   Toms River
Mourning Dove   Wells Mills Park
Yellow-billed Cuckoo   Old Mine Road IBA
Black-billed Cuckoo   Cloverdale Farm
Common Nighthawk   Lakehurst NAES
Eastern Whip-poor-will   35 Sunset Rd
Chimney Swift   West Lake Park
Ruby-throated Hummingbird   Cloverdale Farm
Belted Kingfisher   Old Mine Road IBA
Red-headed Woodpecker   Colliers Mills WMA
Red-bellied Woodpecker   Cloverdale Farm
Downy Woodpecker   Wells Mills Park
Hairy Woodpecker   Walnford Park
Northern Flicker   Assunpink WMA
American Kestrel   Lakehurst NAES
Peregrine Falcon   Island Beach SP
Eastern Wood-Pewee   Wells Mills Park
Acadian Flycatcher   Assunpink WMA
Willow Flycatcher   Island Beach SP
Least Flycatcher   Old Mine Road IBA
Eastern Phoebe   Wells Mills Park
Great Crested Flycatcher   Wells Mills Park
Eastern Kingbird   Cloverdale Farm
White-eyed Vireo   Wells Mills Park
Yellow-throated Vireo   Old Mine Road IBA
Warbling Vireo   Assunpink WMA
Red-eyed Vireo   Wells Mills Park
Blue Jay   Wells Mills Park
American Crow   Wells Mills Park
Fish Crow   Wells Mills Park
Common Raven   Old Mine Road IBA
Horned Lark   Laurel Run Park
Northern Rough-winged Swallow   Assunpink WMA
Purple Martin   Lakehurst NAES
Tree Swallow   Cloverdale Farm
Barn Swallow   Forsythe-Barnegat
Carolina Chickadee   Wells Mills Park
Black-capped Chickadee   Old Mine Road IBA
Tufted Titmouse   Wells Mills Park
White-breasted Nuthatch   Wells Mills Park
House Wren   Cloverdale Farm
Marsh Wren   Forsythe-Barnegat
Carolina Wren   Old Mine Road IBA
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher   Wells Mills Park
Eastern Bluebird   Colliers Mills WMA
Veery   Old Mine Road IBA
Wood Thrush   Assunpink WMA
American Robin   Cloverdale Farm
Gray Catbird   Wells Mills Park
Brown Thrasher   White's Bogs
Northern Mockingbird   West Lake Park
European Starling   Wells Mills Park
Cedar Waxwing   Assunpink WMA
Ovenbird   Wells Mills Park
Black-and-white Warbler   Wells Mills Park
Common Yellowthroat   Wells Mills Park
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   Assunpink WMA
Pine Warbler   Wells Mills Park
Prairie Warbler   Wells Mills Park
Black-throated Green Warbler   Old Mine Road IBA
Grasshopper Sparrow   Colliers Mills WMA
Saltmarsh Sparrow   Great Bay Bvld
Seaside Sparrow   Great Bay Bvld
Chipping Sparrow   Cloverdale Farm
Field Sparrow   Assunpink WMA
Song Sparrow   Forsythe-Barnegat
Eastern Towhee   Wells Mills Park
Scarlet Tanager   Old Mine Road IBA
Northern Cardinal   Wells Mills Park
Blue Grosbeak   Union Transportation Trail
Indigo Bunting   Assunpink WMA
Dickcissel   Laurel Run Park
Red-winged Blackbird   Cloverdale Farm
Eastern Meadowlark   Lakehurst NAES
Common Grackle   Cloverdale Farm
Boat-tailed Grackle   Island Beach SP
Brown-headed Cowbird   Cloverdale Farm
Orchard Oriole   Old Mine Road IBA
Baltimore Oriole   Old Mine Road IBA
House Finch   Cloverdale Farm
American Goldfinch   Island Beach SP
House Sparrow   West Lake Park
Common Yellowthroat, Assunpink

Saturday, June 18, 2016

A Walk Around Brig 6/18

American Oystercatcher, from north dike
Walking is my preferred mode of birding, by far. Today, instead of driving around the Wildlife Drive at Brig, I did what for years I've wanted to do and walked the 8 mile loop. The condition seemed as amenable as they were ever going to be: not too hot, not too breezy,  & no greenhead flies to speak of (though I did attract a couple of ticks). I set off a little after 8 and arrived back at the parking lot at 12:35.

June is in between migrations, so there weren't a tremendous amount of birds in the pools, but by walking I was able to consider almost every bird that I saw. I didn't feel rushed the way I often do when driving the loop (what's next, what's up there?), and a few birds might have gone unnoticed had I not been walking.
Black-crowned Night-Heron from east dike
I didn't see anything I wouldn't expect to see; Common Tern was probably the most "difficult" species I found, sitting in the usual place on the spillway before the turn onto the north dike. Unfortunately, it flew away when a Snowy Egret decided that that was just the place for it to be.

The diamondback terrapins are crossing the road now and digging their holes in the most inopportune spots. I moved one to the side (they're surprisingly dense) because some drivers are just oblivious.

Terrapins define the word "doggedness." With tremendous effort they haul themselves out of the water, crawl along the road on legs not meant to crawl, dig a hole with legs not meant to dig, and lay their eggs, the majority of which end up like this not long after the mother has left:
A study in futility
That they exist at all is a testament to the law of large numbers.

The most surprising absence on my day list is the lack of raptors aside from the ever-present Ospreys and the resident Peregrine Falcons. Not even a Turkey Vulture, much less an eagle or hawk. Just one of those would have boosted my list up to the magic Heinz number of 57.
56 species
Canada Goose  150
Mute Swan  5    
Mallard  95
Double-crested Cormorant  8
Great Blue Heron  2
Great Egret  30
Snowy Egret  35
Black-crowned Night-Heron  3
Glossy Ibis  16
Osprey  15
Clapper Rail  1     Heard
American Oystercatcher  7     flock of five flew by, two from north dike
Black-bellied Plover  24
Greater Yellowlegs  2     One from north dike, one in Jen's Trail pond
Willet  40
Semipalmated Sandpiper  16
Laughing Gull  150
Herring Gull  25
Gull-billed Tern  8
Caspian Tern  2
Common Tern  1
Forster's Tern  50
Black Skimmer  12
Mourning Dove  4
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  1
Red-bellied Woodpecker  1     Heard
Peregrine Falcon  3
Eastern Phoebe  1     Heard upland area
Great Crested Flycatcher  1     heard, picnic tables
Eastern Kingbird  2
Blue Jay  1
American Crow  1     Heard
Fish Crow  4
Purple Martin  20
Tree Swallow  10
Tufted Titmouse  3
White-breasted Nuthatch  2
House Wren  1     Field just past Experimental Pool driveway
Marsh Wren  3     Heard
Carolina Wren  2
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  1
Eastern Bluebird  1
American Robin  1
Gray Catbird  20
Common Yellowthroat  15
Yellow Warbler  
Pine Warbler  1     Heard, upland area
Seaside Sparrow  10
Chipping Sparrow  8
Field Sparrow  1     Heard, fields just past Experimental Pool driveway
Song Sparrow  6
Eastern Towhee  1     Heard upland area
Northern Cardinal  3
Red-winged Blackbird  125
House Finch  5
American Goldfinch  6

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Laurel Run Park 6/11--Dickcissel

Digiphoto: Ray Duffy
I have a special fondness for Dickcissels, since we got our life bird the same day we first saw the house we now live in, 5 years ago. I most often see them in a grasslands preserve up in Somerset County, but when three were reported in nearby Burlington County yesterday, I decided to drive over to the park. That I'd never been there before just added to my interest, since my regular birding spots are in the June doldrums. I didn't expect that my quest for a year bird would turn out to be an adventure.

I found the park easily enough, just under an hour's drive from here and as I was pulling into the parking lot I recognized a birder I know, Ray, from way up in Hudson County. We had both read the same instructions on where to find the bird in the open fields which were planted with winter wheat and we set off walking to the spot we thought they'd be in. We were disabused of this by another birder named Chris, who regularly visits the park. He told us we were as far from the right place as one could be when walking a loop--about 180 degrees. So, taking expert advice we walked around the loop with Chris and sure enough, just in the spot he all but guaranteed the bird we heard the bird calling it's name, at least the first part of it--"dick dick dick." It didn't take long to locate the singing male, sitting on a stalk or stick. Then, from the other side of the path we heard another. When we found that one, it was joined by a female, so speculation was rampant about nesting. Happily, those fields won't be mowed until August, giving the birds plenty of time to nest and raise their brood.

The "original" Dickcissel crossed the road and was fought off by the 2nd male. Unless another female shows up, it looks like he's SOL.  By now, we'd been joined by a few other birders including Susan (whose name I knew, but had never met) who was taking some pretty good shots. I was getting okay shots with my little camera, but the bird was fairly distant. I decided to try to digiscope with my new iPhone (not bragging) and had no luck at all. Ray took my phone, put on his scope and not only got some good shots (above) but also recorded a video of the bird (below).
So, that was a successful outing and it was only about 9 o'clock. On the way to the park I passed another park I'd heard about but never visited, Boundary Creek, only about a mile away from my Laurel Run, and asked Chris and Susan if it was worth looking into. Oh, definitely, they told me and we 3 went over there for a good walk and some fine birds like Willow Flycatcher, Baltimore Oriole and a nesting Barn Swallow. Talk turned to other Burlington hot spots, none of which I'd visited, so the next thing I knew we were caravanning to the Delaware River, after a stop at a Wawa in Edgewater Park, a new one for my list.

Rocky ready to attack
Photos: Susan Jarnagin
The first stop was Amico Island Park and it was here that the very pleasant day turned turned scary. Amico, like nearby Palmyra, is formed from dredge spoils out of the Delaware. The river is so heavily and often dredged that there are small sections of Salem County where the spoils have been dumped that are technically part of Delaware, since it's boundary goes all the way to the Jersey shore line. We were walking a loop, where the highlight was a large heron rookery, full of immature Great Blue Herons, when off a side trail we saw a raccoon--immediately dubbed "Rocky." I don't like raccoons and I especially don't like them in the day time because they're supposedly nocturnal and if one is out during the day there's a good chance it is rabid. We were about 25 feet away from the critter, with Chris in the middle when Rocky decided to attack. With a growl it hunched down then sprang at Chris, who kicked it away while I was yelling at it to get out of here. Luckily, the kick was enough to make the raccoon run off, because the kick made Chris lose his balance and fall to the ground. Not so luckily, the raccoon was able to draw blood even through Chris' heavy jeans and that meant he was going to need a prophylactic rabies shot. It was a stark reminder how thin the membrane is between every day life and disaster.

(I received an email from Chris this evening and he had the shot and is fine. A ranger at the park also encountered the raccoon and both agreed that there was no foaming at the mouth, so it more likely that the animal was protecting its unseen young.)

Chris went off to seek medical attention. I followed to Susan to the 4th spot of the day, Taylor's Preserve, which shows up on eBird alerts in winter and during migration, but was pretty quiet today.

In all, I garnered 41 species for the day and have a tale to tell. And there is going to have to be a pretty damned good bird before I go back to Amico Island.
Species   First Sighting
Canada Goose   Laurel Run Park
Mallard   Amico Island Park
Great Blue Heron   Boundary Creek
Turkey Vulture   Taylor's Wildlife Preserve
Red-tailed Hawk   Boundary Creek
Mourning Dove   Laurel Run Park
Red-bellied Woodpecker   Amico Island Park
Willow Flycatcher   Boundary Creek
Great Crested Flycatcher   Boundary Creek
Eastern Kingbird   Boundary Creek
Warbling Vireo   Laurel Run Park
Red-eyed Vireo   Amico Island Park
Blue Jay   Boundary Creek
Horned Lark   Laurel Run Park
Tree Swallow   Laurel Run Park
Barn Swallow  Boundary Creek
Carolina Chickadee   Amico Island Park
Tufted Titmouse   Boundary Creek
House Wren   Boundary Creek
Marsh Wren   Boundary Creek
Carolina Wren   Taylor's Wildlife Preserve
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher   Amico Island Park
American Robin   Laurel Run Park
Gray Catbird   Boundary Creek
Northern Mockingbird   Laurel Run Park
European Starling   Laurel Run Park
Common Yellowthroat   Boundary Creek
Yellow Warbler   Amico Island Park
Grasshopper Sparrow   Laurel Run Park
Chipping Sparrow   Laurel Run Park
Song Sparrow   Laurel Run Park
Eastern Towhee   Taylor's Wildlife Preserve
Northern Cardinal   Amico Island Park
Blue Grosbeak   Laurel Run Park
Dickcissel   Laurel Run Park
Red-winged Blackbird   Laurel Run Park
Common Grackle   Boundary Creek
Brown-headed Cowbird   Amico Island Park
Baltimore Oriole   Boundary Creek
House Finch   Amico Island Park
American Goldfinch   Amico Island Park

Friday, June 10, 2016

Bridge to Nowhere 6/10--A Victim of GPS

I came upon this scene this morning where Stafford Avenue ends at the Bridge to Nowhere. I asked the tow truck driver why the trucker was there to begin with. He told me that he'd followed his GPS to the very end. "It happens all the time," he said. It was dark and there's no sign that says "Dead End" or the more gentle "No Outlet."  It's hard enough to make a U-turn (or K-turn) in a sedan at the terminus of the road; it's impossible with a tractor-trailer. Even the tow truck driver had to make what I'd call a double double-you turn to get positioned with his hook to the truck. The trailer was filled diesel or gasoline; fortunately, nothing was spilling into the wetlands. The tow truck driver also wasn't hooking up the truck until higher ups in the company came to survey the mess.

When he figured out that I was birding the road, he asked me the inevitable question: "Do you see any eagles?"

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Lakehurst NAES 6/9--Common Nighthawk

Landscape with Pete
(Jump circle at Lakehurst)
A somewhat disappointing, very windy day at the Lakehurst base, mostly because the main target bird, Upland Sandpiper, was not showing, though Shari's keener ears did hear one half of the wolf whistle call. Since this is the last scheduled trip to the base and since Lakehurst is really the only place in the state where I have a realistic chance of seeing uppies, it looks like that is one species that will be a lacunae in my year list. In my 6 trips to Lakehurst since 2012, this is the first time I've missed the species. A lot of disconsolate faces today out at the jump circle, especially those for whom the bird would be a lifer. Theories, abound, particularly since they were very active on a trip yesterday: too windy, too much helicopter activity, not warm enough, not enough helicopter activity...whatever the reason (& the reason is probably just bad luck) we left without our uppy fix.

I did learn, though, why you can't find uppies at nearby Colliers Mills, which, to my eye, has the same habitat--large swaths of grasslands. The swaths aren't large enough. The jump circle at Lakehurst is 300 acres of unbroken grassland. I don't know what it is at Colliers Mills, but the fields there, large as they are, are broken up by lines of trees and berms, so the fields don't contain enough territory for the birds to breed. They want a lot of room

Consolation prize for the day was a decent look at a Common Nighthawk chasing a Red-tailed Hawk that was probably perilously close, in the nighthawk's mind, to its nest. A very close look at a singing Eastern Meadowlark (county bird) also helped pass the time while we waited for Godot.

Shari also heard the little buzz of a Grasshopper Sparrow for her year list. Everyone else there was more interested in "groppers" than me--a walk along Success Road at Colliers will usually turn up one or two or three.

My list consisted of 24 species. They were:
Great Blue Heron  1
Turkey Vulture  6
Osprey  1
Red-tailed Hawk  2
Ring-billed Gull  1
Herring Gull  1
Rock Pigeon 4
Mourning Dove  1
Common Nighthawk  1
Chimney Swift  2
American Kestrel  2
Willow Flycatcher  1     Heard
Eastern Kingbird  1
American Crow  1
Purple Martin  1
Tree Swallow  5
Barn Swallow  2
American Robin  1     Heard
Gray Catbird  1
Cedar Waxwing  2
Red-winged Blackbird  2
Eastern Meadowlark  1
Common Grackle  1
Brown-headed Cowbird  1