Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Assunpink WMA 1/10--Trumpeter Swan

Mute Swan, Trumpeter Swan
There is nothing duller than standing in snow waiting for a swan to lift up its head, which is what I found myself doing later in the morning at the Assunpink Lake. The bird in question is a little controversial. Trumpeter Swans have only recently come to be accept as "wild" in NJ, partly due to the 3 that spend a couple of winters here, though they skipped last year. This winter, 2 showed up for one day and then this bird, a juvenile apparently, has been around for a few weeks. Having heard the description of a very gray swan I found the bird almost immediately on the ice with a Mute Swan but the damn bird wouldn't lift its head so that I could get a confirming look at its bill. There has been some dubiety about this bird--is it just a juvenile Mute Swan, is it a Tundra Swan, or is it the much coveted Trumpeter? A juvenile mute would have a grayish bill, a Tundra Swan would be smaller. I was pretty certain I had the bird, but what an unsatisfying look at a lump of feathers on the ice.

I decided to walk to another vantage point through the fields, where, while I was walking, I also hoped to find the Dickcissel that my crazy friends had come upon on frigid Sunday. No luck there, but once I got closer to the swans and was at a different angle, I could at least see a small portion of the swan's head. Then, miracle, it raised its head for a moment, just looking around to see what's happening. In those couple of seconds I could see that the bill was black, that it looked like a Canvasback's bill and that there was perhaps a hint of pink on the bill. Good enough for me until someone tells me different.

I walked around there for a while and drove down the road hoping to find White-crowned Sparrows in their usual driveway, but nothing, other than a beautiful look at a Cooper's Hawk flying overhead, arrested my attention. Still, I felt like I made up for some lost birding time today, though I'm having a hard time rationalizing running around the state looking for birds in unpleasant conditions.
18 species
Canada Goose  85
Mute Swan  4
Trumpeter Swan  1     
Great Blue Heron  1
Cooper's Hawk  1
Ring-billed Gull  2
Mourning Dove  20
Red-bellied Woodpecker  1     Heard
Downy Woodpecker  1
Northern Flicker  1
Blue Jay  2
American Crow  5
Carolina Chickadee  2
Red-breasted Nuthatch  1     Heard
Northern Mockingbird  1
White-throated Sparrow  30
Song Sparrow  2
Northern Cardinal  2     in millet field with WTSP

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