Friday, December 30, 2016

Great Bay Blvd 12/30--Rough-legged Hawk

There have been, for the last week or so, 4 or 5 chaseable birds in NJ, all of them at least an hour's drive away. So all week I've asked myself the question, "Would looking through a 1000 Canada Geese on the sod farms in Holmdel, or standing around a construction site in Franklin Twp, or driving over to the Pole Farm be fun, or obsessive?" the answer never came up "fun."

Today I had even printed out the directions to the Pole Farm in Mercer County but I just couldn't bring myself to drive an hour to take a walk in the hopes of finding a hawk I haven't recorded for the year. Instead, I hied myself down to Great Bay Blvd, knowing that I probably wouldn't find much, but that I at least I'd get an enjoyable walk in while I birded.

I stopped, as I always do, at the first bridge and walked over to the bay where there was a fairly big flock of Buffleheads and nothing else. Walking back across the road, on a whim, I set up the scope, not really expecting to find anything in the marsh since I had given it a quick scan when I first got out of the car. However, on an Osprey platform I saw a big hawk. My first reaction was eagle, but once I focused the scope I could see it wasn't that big a bird, though it was large. Not a red-tail, not a harrier. Speckled back and when it flew, white underparts, long wings. It hovered over the marsh like a kestrel and flew with a shallow dihedral. What I'm getting at is that I didn't have to drive all over hell and gone in Mercer County to my year Rough-legged Hawk. I'd found one on my own, which is much more satisfying, plus, I'd found one in Ocean County. With only one more day to go and no plans to chase tomorrow, that's probably the last bird I'll add for the year, bringing me up to 447.

The rest of the boulevard yielded little--a Northern Harrier hunting off the first wooden bridge, a smattering of Great Blue Herons, a single Greater Yellowlegs. It wasn't that cold but it was blustery and that kept the little birds down and out of sight (except for the yellow-rumps) and it was high tide, which left little area for the shorebirds. But I was surprised at how few gulls there were and the total absence of Brant was even more perplexing.

Still, after being in somewhat of slump since we got back from Florida, it was good feeling to find one more bird for the year. I'm wondering if my reluctance to chase is just end of the year ennui or a sudden return to rationality. I'll let you know in a few days.

15 species
American Black Duck  3
Bufflehead  65
Red-breasted Merganser  4
Common Loon  1
Great Blue Heron  5
Northern Harrier  1
Rough-legged Hawk  1     
Greater Yellowlegs  1
Herring Gull  10
Great Black-backed Gull  5
European Starling  1
Yellow-rumped Warbler  13
Dark-eyed Junco  3
Common Grackle  5
Boat-tailed Grackle  2

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