Sunday, January 29, 2017

Pinelands Survey at Whitesbog 1/29--Killdeer

Cooper's Hawk, Whitesbog Village
The 2nd annual NJ Pinelands Winter Bird Census found me very pre-dawn this morning in an old bog at Whitesbog with Greg, where we were listening for screech-owls. Judging from the eBird lists I'm seeing, everyone else doing the survey in different parts of Burlington County found owls--screech, great horned, and barred, but we struck out, trying for them in a few different spots. I was a little disappointed because last year, at least, I heard GHO hooting from the parking lot. If I'm going to rise at 5 A.M., I'd like to be rewarded with a "hoo-hoo" or a whinny.

Despite being owl-less, Greg and I did pretty well in our wanderings around the bogs, reservoirs, and woods, particularly when you consider that on Friday I had walked about 7 miles there and come up with precious little for all those miles. For me the two highlights came fairly early. While we driving out to the double-laned road on the Burlington/Ocean County border we flushed a flash of white off the dike between Union Pond and the Middle Bog. My first reaction was wrong--Snow Bunting which Greg and I had once flushed from just about the same spot. The bird landed down the road a bit and froze--we had a Killdeer in the headlights.

I was surprised to find the water so stiff. It wasn't frozen on Friday, Saturday wasn't that cold, and this morning the temperature was just a tad below freezing. This bode ill for waterfowl again, as it had last year when the temperatures had been much colder. However, out in the bogs we counted 79 Tundra Swans, a goodly number, but not out of the ordinary for Whitesbog. At least for Whitesbog, Burlington County. Later, when we were at the Upper Reservoir, in Ocean County, a flock of swans flew in, presumably the same flock, and when I listed 69 eBird flagged it as a large number for the county. This is one of the flaws of eBird that it isn't granular enough to account  borders. Obviously, the swans don't care what county they're in and fly back and forth. I've had Rusty Blackbird (likely in Burlington County) flagged as rare 100 feet on the other side of the border in Ocean. For the purposes of the Pinelands Census we listed 88 Tundra Swans--the big flock we first saw and then another 9 we found mid-afternoon on Otter Pond.

The second highlight of the day came in the village, after we had walked Whitesbog Road almost up to Fort Dix--a Cooper's Hawk was sitting in a big tree just next to the General Store and seemed to think that there was something very interesting either around or in the tree, because it did a behavior neither of us had ever seen, flying--actually fluttering--in a spirals around the trunk of the tree, then landing on picnic bench, checking out the ground, before flying back into the branches of the tree where it hopped from limb to limb.

As the day warmed more water opened up and we did decently with waterfowl--we had Mallard, black duck, hoodies, Buffleheads, and Ring-necked Ducks, plus a dozen Canada Geese. There was one duck far out on the Upper Reservoir that looked very interesting but we didn't have a scope with us and by the time we went back to the car to fetch it and drove back it was gone. We had our guesses, based on our wishes, but we really have no idea what it was. Passerines were a little difficult to find--it took us forever to find a sparrow with the word "sparrow" in its common name.

By around 2 P.M. things had quieted down (not that they were ever that active) and since we had covered our territory pretty thoroughly, checking out some hot spots a couple of times, we called it a day with 27 species, 5 more than I had last year. Aside from vultures and the Coop, no raptors, which was surprising. No Rusty Blackbirds. But a good day in the field. I'm very curious to see the total numbers for the census.

12 Canada Goose 
88 Tundra Swan 
5 American Black Duck 
1 Mallard 
4 Ring-necked Duck 
2 Bufflehead 
19 Hooded Merganser 
2 Wild Turkey 
2 Black Vulture 
17 Turkey Vulture
1 Cooper's Hawk 
1 Killdeer
10 Herring Gull 
4 Downy Woodpecker 
2 Blue Jay 
15 American Crow 
2 Fish Crow
17 Carolina Chickadee 
7 Tufted Titmouse 
4 Red-breasted Nuthatch 
11 Golden-crowned Kinglet 
42 American Robin 
1 European Starling
23 Dark-eyed Junco 
2 Song Sparrow 
3 Northern Cardinal 
100 Red-winged Blackbird 

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