Monday, October 31, 2016

October's Birds

FOS Ring-necked Ducks, Butterfly Bogs
It was not a terribly "productive" month with only 4 year birds added, 3 of them, not surprisingly, sparrows. Naturally, as the year progresses, it gets harder to add birds to the list, but there are autumn birds being reported that I'm not seeing, foremost, Nelson's Sparrow, which I again looked for on Sunday with no luck. Some have the theory that they are best found at high tide  because they are pushed up into the grass (yesterday disproved that) while I think they're easier to see at low tide, when there is more area for them to run around and feed, though last week's low tide coincided with a stiff breeze and that keeps them down.

Anyway, the only true rarity of the month came very early, 2 American White Pelicans at mostly-closed Brig. I found a Lincoln's Sparrow at Island Beach, and on separate trips to Great Bay Blvd, a Clay-colored Sparrow and a Vesper Sparrow.

Here are the birds, in no particular order, that I would have like to have found this month:
Nelson's Sparrow
Lark Sparrow
Snow Bunting
Lapland Longspur
American Pipit

Now that hunting season is upon, finding places to walk and bird can get problematical. Colliers Mills scares me; Assunpink, for some reason, I feel safe at, but the gun fire is annoying. Supposedly there's hunting at Whitesbog, but I've never seen it, but, this time of year, there aren't many birds there either. Today, to end the month, I took a 5 mile walk around the perimeter of Manasquan Reservoir, which was fairly birdy (though I only added American Coot to the month list) and it is to places like that I'll have to turn my attentions to until the shooting stops.
Solitary Sandpiper at a rarely visited pond in Colliers Mills
For the month I managed 140 species. All the birding was in NJ except for a brief foray on Staten Island during one of the very many trips I made accompanying a loved one to a doctor.
Counties birded:
New Jersey: Atlantic, Burlington, Monmouth, Ocean
New York: Richmond
Species   Location
Brant   Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Canada Goose   Horicon Lake
Mute Swan   Brig
Wood Duck   Whitesbog
Gadwall   Brig
American Wigeon   Marshall's Pond
American Black Duck   Sandy Hook
Mallard   Palmyra Cove Nature Park
Blue-winged Teal   Cranberry Bogs--Dover Rd
Green-winged Teal   Forsythe--Barnegat
Ring-necked Duck   Butterfly Bogs
Greater Scaup   Bamber Lake
Surf Scoter   Island Beach SP
White-winged Scoter   Island Beach SP
Black Scoter   Island Beach SP
Hooded Merganser   Bamber Lake
Ruddy Duck   Assunpink WMA
Wild Turkey   Palmyra Cove Nature Park
Red-throated Loon   Island Beach SP
Common Loon   Island Beach SP
Pied-billed Grebe   Assunpink WMA
Northern Gannet   Island Beach SP
Great Cormorant   Island Beach SP
Double-crested Cormorant   Horicon Lake
American White Pelican   Brig
Brown Pelican   Island Beach SP
Great Blue Heron   Horicon Lake
Great Egret   Whitesbog
Snowy Egret   Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Tricolored Heron   Island Beach SP
Green Heron   Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Black-crowned Night-Heron   Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron   Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Black Vulture   35 Sunset Rd
Turkey Vulture   Wawa Rt 70 & CR 530
Osprey   Sandy Hook
Northern Harrier   Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Sharp-shinned Hawk   Crestwood Village
Cooper's Hawk   Sandy Hook
Bald Eagle   Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Red-tailed Hawk   Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Common Gallinule   Brig
American Coot   Manasquan Reservoir IBA
American Oystercatcher   Island Beach SP
Black-bellied Plover   Sandy Hook
Semipalmated Plover   Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Killdeer   Field next to Lakewood Wawa
Marbled Godwit   Holgate
Sanderling   Island Beach SP
Dunlin   Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Least Sandpiper   Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Semipalmated Sandpiper   Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Solitary Sandpiper   Colliers Mills WMA
Greater Yellowlegs   Whitesbog
Willet   Holgate
Bonaparte's Gull   Island Beach SP
Laughing Gull   Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Ring-billed Gull   Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Herring Gull   Whitesbog
Lesser Black-backed Gull   Holgate
Great Black-backed Gull   Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Caspian Tern   Holgate
Forster's Tern   Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Royal Tern   Island Beach SP
Rock Pigeon   Robert Wood Johnson Hospital Rahway
Mourning Dove   35 Sunset Rd
Yellow-billed Cuckoo   Sandy Hook
Black-billed Cuckoo   Cattus Island County Park
Chimney Swift   Palmyra Cove Nature Park
Belted Kingfisher   Whitesbog
Red-bellied Woodpecker   Whitesbog
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker   Palmyra Cove Nature Park
Downy Woodpecker   Whitesbog
Hairy Woodpecker   Assunpink WMA
Northern Flicker   Crestwood Village
American Kestrel   Island Beach SP
Merlin   Brig
Peregrine Falcon   Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Eastern Wood-Pewee   Sandy Hook
Eastern Phoebe   Island Beach SP
Blue-headed Vireo   Assunpink WMA
Philadelphia Vireo   Sandy Hook
Warbling Vireo   Sandy Hook
Red-eyed Vireo   Sandy Hook
Blue Jay   35 Sunset Rd
American Crow   Whitesbog
Fish Crow   Crestwood Village
Common Raven   Sandy Hook
Tree Swallow   Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Carolina Chickadee   35 Sunset Rd
Black-capped Chickadee   Sandy Hook
Tufted Titmouse   Whitesbog
Red-breasted Nuthatch   Whitesbog
White-breasted Nuthatch   Whitesbog
Brown Creeper   Island Beach SP
House Wren   Crestwood Village
Carolina Wren   35 Sunset Rd
Golden-crowned Kinglet   Island Beach SP
Ruby-crowned Kinglet   Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Eastern Bluebird   Colliers Mills WMA
Hermit Thrush   Island Beach SP
American Robin   Crestwood Village
Gray Catbird   Whitesbog
Brown Thrasher   Horicon Lake
Northern Mockingbird   Horicon Lake
European Starling   DaVita-Woodbridge
Cedar Waxwing   Sandy Hook
Ovenbird   Palmyra Cove Nature Park
Black-and-white Warbler   Palmyra Cove Nature Park
Common Yellowthroat   Whitesbog
American Redstart   Sandy Hook
Magnolia Warbler   Island Beach SP
Yellow Warbler   Palmyra Cove Nature Park
Blackpoll Warbler   Sandy Hook
Black-throated Blue Warbler   Palmyra Cove Nature Park
Palm Warbler   Brig
Pine Warbler   Whitesbog
Yellow-rumped Warbler   Whitesbog
Prairie Warbler   Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Black-throated Green Warbler   Island Beach SP
Chipping Sparrow   35 Sunset Rd
Clay-colored Sparrow   Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Field Sparrow   Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Dark-eyed Junco   Island Beach SP
White-crowned Sparrow   Sandy Hook
White-throated Sparrow   Island Beach SP
Vesper Sparrow   Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Savannah Sparrow   Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Song Sparrow   Horicon Lake
Lincoln's Sparrow   Island Beach SP
Swamp Sparrow   Whitesbog
Eastern Towhee   35 Sunset Rd
Northern Cardinal   35 Sunset Rd
Red-winged Blackbird   Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Common Grackle   Butterfly Bogs
Boat-tailed Grackle   Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Brown-headed Cowbird   Palmyra Cove Nature Park
House Finch   35 Sunset Rd
American Goldfinch   Brig
House Sparrow   Palmyra Cove Nature Park
Black Vultures on our roof

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Great Bay Blvd 10/23--Vesper Sparrow

After being confined to quarters for the last day and a half by wind & rain (a Friday morning trip to Sandy Hook was aborted when the showers started much earlier than predicted), I took a run down to Tuckerton, despite knowing that the wind was not going to abate. I was hoping against hope for a Nelson's Sparrow at the inlet, but Nelson's Sparrow (in fact, most birds) like me, don't like wind. So while I managed to find one sparrow running in the grass, whether it was a Nelson's or a Saltmarsh is up in the air because it quickly hunkered down and wasn't coming out.

However, at the little grove of trees just before the beach at the end of the road, I espied, briefly, a largish sparrow, streaked on the breast, with an eye ring like a whitewall tire--Vesper Sparrow. It quickly dived down into the foliage and would not come up again, but this is the time of the year for these birds and Great Bay Blvd is the place I go for my (relatively) rare sparrows.

Usually I walk the road from the inlet up to the first wooden bridge (about 1.7 miles) then back, but with the wind today that seemed like it would be unpleasant. So, looking for someplace protected, I drove up to Stafford Forge WMA and walked in the woods, where there was very little in the trees and nothing in the water. I did, however, see a pheasant in the field. Unfortunately, pheasants are stocked there so it is uncountable. Too bad. Going by my idiosyncratic (or idiotic) counting rules, if I see a pheasant outside a WMA, like on the side of the road, I'll count it, figuring it is now "wild," whereas, if I know a bird is stocked in a WMA, I won't.

By far, the greatest number of a single species today was Boat-tailed Grackle. A conservative estimate would be 250. The picture below is just a sampling of the flock that was on the mud flats off the 2nd wooden bridge at dead low tide.

My wind-blown list for Great Bay Blvd:
17 species
Brant  50
American Black Duck  10
Double-crested Cormorant  25
Great Blue Heron  4
Great Egret  35
Black-crowned Night-Heron  3
Northern Harrier  1
Black-bellied Plover  3
Semipalmated Plover  2
Dunlin  1
Greater Yellowlegs  1
Herring Gull  25
Great Black-backed Gull  10
European Starling  40
Yellow-rumped Warbler  10
Vesper Sparrow  1
Boat-tailed Grackle  250

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Holgate 10/19--Marbled Godwit

Marbled Godwits, interspersed among American Oystercatchers Brants, Holgate
Since year birds are getting sparse this time of year and so are the entries, I'm turning to a state & county year bird for today's post. When I was last at Holgate at the extreme southern end of the aptly named Long Beach Island, it was about 10 degrees Fahrenheit with a ferocious wind in my face, but, I really wanted to see a Snowy Owl. Today, the 2nd day of an October heat wave, seemed like a good time to make the long, boring drive to Holgate and walk on the beach to look for Marbled Godwits.  In my "hey kids, collect 'em all" frame of mind, I "needed" these birds for the state and Ocean County lists, despite having them on the year list from trip to Delaware. 

They weren't hard to find. There were at least 14 of them sitting on a sand bar on the bay side with about 75 American Oystercatchers and a slew of Brants.  If you examine my digiscoped pictures, you'll see them tucked in among the orange beaks of the oystercatchers. 

Marbled Godwits are supposedly rare in the county, but they're really not. Travelers to Great Sedge Island see them a on regular basis and this group has been at Holgate for seemingly a month. True, you can't go just anywhere to see them, but it isn't really that big a deal to find them--unless you "need" them. Then you trudge out on the sand. 

Holgate seemed a lot different to me than my last warm weather visit. The "Area Closed" signs have been moved much closer to the beach, the numbered markers that gave you some idea of how far you'd walked have been removed, and maybe it was just because the tide was high, but the whole strip seemed to me much more narrow, as if storms had eroded the beach. 

I added a few other month birds along the way: Caspian Tern, a couple of Lesser Black-backed Gulls (this is a reliable spot for them) and a Western Willet. There was a Black-bellied Plover also, although at the distance I had it, it could have been an American Golden-Plover but the operative word in this sentence is "distance." 

I guess I walked about 2/3 of the way down the beach before turning around when the beach ahead just looked like more gulls. There was nothing on the ocean in the way of sea ducks, loons, grebes, or gannets. 
23 species
Brant  200     Bayside
American Black Duck  8
Double-crested Cormorant  100
Great Blue Heron  2
Great Egret  2
American Oystercatcher  75     Close count
Black-bellied Plover  1
Semipalmated Plover  25     Exact count
Marbled Godwit  18     Exact count.  Digiscope photo below.

Sanderling  500     Easily
Dunlin  3
Willet (Western)  1
Laughing Gull  8
Ring-billed Gull  30
Herring Gull  100
Lesser Black-backed Gull  2
Great Black-backed Gull  200
Caspian Tern  1
Northern Mockingbird  1
European Starling  10
Yellow-rumped Warbler  6
Song Sparrow  2
Boat-tailed Grackle  2

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Great Bay Blvd WMA 10/11--Clay-colored Sparrow

Last week I mentioned that I was giving warblers a couple of more days before I switched over to sparrows. Trips to Palmyra and Sandy Hook yielded a few warblers, but no big numbers. Sparrows though, after this rainy weekend, were abundant at Island Beach yesterday (along with Yellow-rumped Warblers, which I consider honorary sparrows), particularly White-throated Sparrows, which were present in the hundreds.

Savannah Sparrow
It was windy yesterday but today calmer, so I took a ride down to Great Bay Blvd hoping that the conditions would keep the sparrows from huddling in the reeds and grasses. At my favorite sparrow spot, just before the 2nd wooden bridge, there were mostly juncos with a Savannah Sparrow, a juvie White-throated Sparrow, a few Song Sparrows, a towhee, Chipping Sparrows, and best of all, my FOY Clay-colored Sparrow, just as I was hoping (I've seen one in this spot before). I couldn't get a picture of the Clay-colored. The Savannah will have to do.

I was hoping that the inlet would produce Nelson's Sparrow, the close cousin of the much more numerous Saltmarsh Sparrow which can usually be found running around like mice in grasses, but despite two walks along the beach I couldn't find any today. Last week, when it was windy, I saw a lot of sparrows diving for cover as I approached; none of them stayed in view long enough to determine species. I didn't even have that frustration today. Still, Clay-colored is a good one and a species I might not get for the rest of the year.

For the day I had 40 or so species. I tried mightily to determine whether the dowitchers I found were Short-billed or Long-billed, but distance and movement were against me.
40 species (+1 other taxa)
Brant  15 (a sure sign that winter is near)
Mute Swan  5
American Black Duck  2
Double-crested Cormorant  30
Great Blue Heron  10
Great Egret  25
Tricolored Heron  1
Black-crowned Night-Heron  10
Bald Eagle  1
Black-bellied Plover  8
Dunlin  4
Short-billed/Long-billed Dowitcher  2
Greater Yellowlegs  10
Laughing Gull  10
Ring-billed Gull  2
Herring Gull  25
Great Black-backed Gull  6
Forster's Tern  5
Northern Flicker  3
Merlin  1
Eastern Phoebe  5
Brown Creeper  1
Carolina Wren  1     Heard
Golden-crowned Kinglet  4
Gray Catbird  1     Heard
European Starling  75
Palm Warbler  2
Pine Warbler  1
Yellow-rumped Warbler  75
Chipping Sparrow  4
Clay-colored Sparrow  1
Dark-eyed Junco  20
White-crowned Sparrow  1
Savannah Sparrow  1
Song Sparrow  6
Swamp Sparrow  2
Eastern Towhee  1
Northern Cardinal  4
Boat-tailed Grackle  80
House Finch  1
American Goldfinch  1

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Island Beach SP 10/5--Lincoln's Sparrow

Yet another dreary day, overcast, cool, windy. Memo to self: Get over it; summer's done.

To drive home that notion, we've switched in migration from warblers to sparrows, at least around here. I was at Island Beach today and saw exactly 1 warbler I could identify: Black-throated Green Warbler. On Reed's Road I saw my first juncos of the fall, along with White-throated Sparrow. There were more sparrows on the Spizzle Creek trail, and like yesterday on Great Bay Blvd, they were winning at the game of hide and seek. They don't seem too interested in being pished out either.

However, I did score one year bird sparrow. At the "T" of the trail there was some activity: chickadees, the now ubiquitous Red-breasted Nuthatches, a phoebe and couple of sparrows. One of the birds was a Song Sparrow, no big deal, but the other was different, smaller, with a buffy wash on the breast and a thin eye-ring. Lincoln's Sparrow. Not unexpected in migration, and one of those birds I probably see more often than I think and just let them go as Songs, but this one, being right next to a Song Sparrow, stood out and grabbed my attention. Despite hanging around the little thicket the birds were in for 10 minutes and then leaving and returning and hanging around another 5 minutes, and pishing, neither the Song or the Lincoln's (or that matter the phoebe, the nuthatch, or chickadee) reappeared. Very frustrating and thus no photo.

Other minor highlights of the day were 3 Tricolored Herons (getting late, I suspect) at Spizzle, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet on Reed's Road, a Golden-crowned Kinglet on Two Bit Road, and my FOS Brown Creeper, the first bird I saw on Reed's Road.

The next couple of days I'm going to make a push for warblers and then mentally switch over to sparrows, waterfowl and lingering shorebirds.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Brig 10/4--American White Pelican

American White Pelicans
I didn't think I'd be going back to Brig so soon; I figured I'd wait for its "grand re-opening" but a text alert came in while I was walking on Great Bay Blvd that two American White Pelicans were viewable from the Gull Tower and since GBB was, according to GPS, only 37 minutes away and since pelicans are big birds and hard to miss, I drove down there. I wouldn't chase a flighty bird like a warbler or sparrow, but this seemed like a pretty good bet.

And it was. I climbed up the tower, met a couple of guys there who pointed me in the general direction of the pelicans, looked through my scope and added them to the year list. I was figuring that was a species that would be a miss this year.

Almost as interesting to me as the pelicans were the 6 Common Gallinules that were in the Gull Pond. (Gallinula galeata use to be called Common Moorhen but since half of them aren't hens and there are no moors in North America, the name was, to my mind, sensibly changed, though much to the chagrin of some traditionalists. On a somewhat related note, the Toledo Mudhens minor league baseball team, uses the folk name for American Coot. The team doesn't seem to know this and its mascot looks more like a chicken than a coot.) While Common Gallinule is not rare this time of year at Brig, 6 of them is a pretty big number to find. These all looked like either females or juveniles to me.
Common Gallinule
For the 6th day in a row, the weather was nasty--blowing drizzle, gusting winds, but not enough to prevent me from getting out to bird. Great Bay Blvd had a decent variety of birds, but, the ones I was looking for, sparrows, were being extraordinarily difficult, showing themselves for a fleeting moment before diving into the reeds. The dim light and windy conditions didn't help, so I couldn't tell if the sparrows scampering around the marsh were Saltmarsh or Nelson's. Nelson's is the one I need for the year and GBB is the best place in Ocean County to find them.

Some other birds I did see down there:
Least Sandpiper
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron (juvenile)
You can see how murky the light was today. Tomorrow might be better. Then we're awaiting a hurricane to decide on its path.