Sunday, January 1, 2017

Kick Off the New Year 1/1--American White Pelican, Red-necked Grebe, Yellow-breasted Chat

American White Pelican, Tip Seaman County Park
We started off the new year with last year's last rarity. Yesterday our friend Bob Auster came down to bird with us and stay over for our trip down to Cape May today. Bob hadn't had a Snowy Owl this year, so we went to Island Beach SP to look for one that has been reported on & off the last week or so. No luck there and with a wind gusting to around 30 mph, it was no fun birding, either on the ocean side or the bay side. We had practically nothing to show for our efforts by lunch time at the Winter Anchorage. Then a text alert came in that an American White Pelican was in the lake at Tip Seaman Park in Tuckerton. Bob didn't have that bird either for the year so we scurried on down there and found it before the car was even parked. But then the bird is as big as a bus, so it wasn't exactly like turning up a skulking sparrow. Thanks to Becky Laboy who found the bird after stopping there on a whim.

Last night Shari suggested that we leave a little early for Cape May and detour to Tuckerton on our way to get the pelican for this year. What a great idea! Unfortunately, when we got to the park, the gates were locked. A park closed for New Year's Day? But Shari had another brainstorm, so we got back in the car, drove back onto Rt 9, parked across the street and from the sidewalk we immediately spotted the big white bird, dwarfing the nearby Mute Swans. Great bird to start the year.

On the way down on the parkway, Bob & I discussed just how obsessive we were going to be this year about chasing down rarities and by about mile marker 40 Shari was sick of listening to us debate the various levels of neurosis that chasing involves so she ordered us to change the subject. Silence in the car for a few minutes. Then, "Gee, Bob, doesn't that cloud look like a duck?"

At Cape May SP we joined a large group of birders for a Cape May Bird Observatory Kick Off Your Year List trip. After birding from the Hawk watch and looking at Lighthouse Pond where I was the only one of our threesome to spot the Yellow-breasted Chat that 10 different people were giving 10 different instructions to find, and only because I was looking through someone else's scope for a Brown Thrasher which I didn't find, we wandered around the lower Cape, ticking off a number of "good" birds, like Bonaparte's Gull and Purple Sandpiper at the Concrete Ship and Tundra Swan at the Cape May Meadows.  All day the weather was perfect with a warming sun and barely a hint of breeze.

We then crossed the canal and stopped at a couple of spots on the east side of the peninsula, the last stop being Sunset Lake which was remarkably smooth. In with a couple of Common Loons Shari spotted an odd bird that said "grebe" but in the fading light was hard to see. I kick myself because I should have known just from the large "dagger-like" bill what the bird was, but it was only after she dug out the field guide from the car that we realized it was a Red-necked Grebe. The trip leader confirmed our i.d., saying that part of our confusion stemmed from its incomplete molt. But the bill should have told me. Unless it is a very cold winter, Red-necked Grebes are relatively rare in these parts, so it was a good bird to start the year. We might not see another all year.

In the end, with all our birds, including a Bald Eagle in Atlantic County, seen on its typical perch along the parkway just before exit 48, I had 68 species for the day, which is just under 25% of what I'll probably see in New Jersey all year.

And Bob: I still don't know how obsessive I'm going to be this year and Shari: I promise, I'm not doing Bird A Day.

My first 2017 day list:
Species   First Sighting
Brant   Cape May Harbor.
Canada Goose   35 Sunset Rd
Mute Swan   Tip Seaman Park
Tundra Swan   Cape May Meadows
Gadwall   Cape May Point SP
American Wigeon   Cape May Point SP
American Black Duck   Cape May Point SP
Mallard   Cape May Point SP
Northern Shoveler   Cape May Point SP
Northern Pintail   Cape May Point SP
Green-winged Teal   Lily Lake
Ring-necked Duck   Lily Lake
Greater Scaup   CMBO Northwood Center
Surf Scoter   Cape May NWR--Two Mile Unit
Black Scoter   Cape May Meadows
Bufflehead   Lily Lake
Hooded Merganser   Cape May Point SP
Red-breasted Merganser   Cape May Harbor.
Red-throated Loon   Coral Ave. dune crossing
Common Loon   Cape May Harbor.
Horned Grebe   Sunset Lake
Red-necked Grebe   Sunset Lake
Northern Gannet   Coral Ave. dune crossing
Double-crested Cormorant   Cape May Point SP
American White Pelican   Tip Seaman Park
Great Blue Heron   Cape May Point SP
Great Egret   Cape May Point SP
Turkey Vulture   Tip Seaman Park
Cooper's Hawk   Lily Lake
Bald Eagle   GSP MM 48
Red-shouldered Hawk   Cape May Point SP
American Coot   Cape May Point SP
Ruddy Turnstone   Coral Ave. dune crossing
Sanderling   Coral Ave. dune crossing
Dunlin   Cape May NWR--Two Mile Unit
Purple Sandpiper   Sunset Beach/Concrete Ship
Bonaparte's Gull   Sunset Beach/Concrete Ship
Ring-billed Gull   Cape May Point SP
Herring Gull   Tip Seaman Park
Great Black-backed Gull   Cape May Meadows
Rock Pigeon   Cape May Point SP
Mourning Dove   35 Sunset Rd
Red-bellied Woodpecker   CMBO Northwood Center
Downy Woodpecker   CMBO Northwood Center
Northern Flicker   Cape May Point SP
Blue Jay   Cape May Point SP
American Crow   35 Sunset Rd
Tree Swallow   Cape May Meadows
Carolina Chickadee   Cape May Point SP
Tufted Titmouse   CMBO Northwood Center
Red-breasted Nuthatch   Harvard Ave, Cape May Pt
White-breasted Nuthatch   35 Sunset Rd
Carolina Wren   Cape May Point SP
American Robin   Coral Ave. dune crossing
Gray Catbird   Cape May Point SP
Northern Mockingbird   Cape May SP--entrance
European Starling   Cape May Point SP
Yellow-rumped Warbler   Cape May Point SP
Yellow-breasted Chat   Cape May Point SP
White-throated Sparrow   Cape May Point SP
Song Sparrow   Cape May Point SP
Northern Cardinal   Cape May Point SP
Red-winged Blackbird   Cape May Point SP
Common Grackle   Coral Ave. dune crossing
Brown-headed Cowbird   Coral Ave. dune crossing
House Finch   35 Sunset Rd
American Goldfinch   35 Sunset Rd
House Sparrow   Cape May--Lehigh Ave


  1. Hey Larry, you mentioned a text alert in this post. I wasnt aware of any alert besides the South Jersey Keekeekerr. I was wondering if you could direct me to another alert? You also mentioned a Pinelands Survey in a previous post, any way I could participate?
    Thanks much and good birding,
    Dan H.

  2. Daniel, it was a GroupMe post for South Jersey Birders a group you can join but obviously need a phone #.

    I could give you the email of the guy running the Pinelands survey, but not on a public page like this one.

    Thanks for reading!

    1. Thanks for the reply Larry. Would you be able to send the address to my email? It's horvathd114 {at} gmail {dot} com. I can also send you my phone number from there if you could add me to the GroupMe. Keep up the good writing!