Friday, February 3, 2017

3 County Birding 2/3--Cackling Goose, Lesser Scaup, Common Raven

Lesser Scaup, hen & drake, Manasquan Reservoir
Mike & I spent the day chasing down new birds for our year lists, mostly along the I-195 corridor, starting off 7:30 this morning at Manasquan Reservoir. We were hoping to add to Orange-crowned Warbler to his list but it proved elusive. However, the reservoir was mostly open with a good mix of ducks and we each added some species there--Common Merganser for Mike, Lesser Scaup for the both of us, as well as a flyover Common Raven (Mike actually saw two.) Common Raven is still considered rare in central Jersey, but they're around often enough so that it isn't a huge surprise to see one.

Then we headed west to Assunpink where we searched the lake for Trumpeter Swan. I saw an immature one there last month and then it seemed to disappear for a few weeks, only to return, slightly less gray than before. However, our first scan of the lake only turned up two Mute Swans near the far shore. We then drove east, following the road that hugs the shore and found lots of waterfowl and raptors, but no Trumpeter. When we saw that the east end of the lake was frozen, I said to Mike that perhaps we should look at those Mute Swans a little more closely. We turned around, and found what looked like only one swan, still on the far shore. But it looked like one was hiding behind it. So we drove around to the other side of the lake, put down our scopes and, behold, there were two swans and yes, one of them was a mute, but the other with the gray neck and molting feathers was the Trumpeter. To quote Yogi Berra: You can observe a lot by looking.

Then we started a wild goose chase. We stopped at the Mercer Corporate Park, famous in song and legend for the rarities it attracts to its two retaining ponds. Cackling Goose had been reported there as recently as yesterday. Cacklers are notoriously hard birds to pin down, especially since there are 3 sub-species of them, each a slightly different size and shape. We looked, but nothing jumped out at us that said "I'm your goose."

Pine Warbler, Trenton Sewer Utility
On to the Poo Ponds (Trenton Sewer Utility) which, for the first time in my many visits, actually smelled like what they are. Still, the trees along the ramp to the highway still attract an amazing variety of birds for winter, especially warblers. We had at least 5 Pine Warblers (again, supposedly rare), as well as Yellow-rumped and Palm Warblers, but, still, no Orange-crowned Warbler, hearing those dreaded words from a couple of birder friends we met there--"Oh, we just had it 5 minutes ago."

Back to the corporate park where we still found no cackler but did come up with a Merlin. East to Allentown we continued, to Corinne's Millpond where we once again met our friends scoping out the 2000 Canada Geese on the pond. They claimed a cackler was in the midst of the flock, which was continually enlarging as more geese dropped out of the sky. I started on the left with my scope and started to scan, without much hope, though finding some nice ducks along the way proved a distraction.
A very small portion of the flock of Canada Geese in which there is one Cackling Goose.
However, Mike's more discerning eye finally picked the needle out of the haystack. I looked through his scope, saw the small bird with its distinctively stubbier bill and because of the different slope of the bill, squarish head. Of all the rare geese that show up in NJ, Cackling Goose, to me, is the least exciting. And how come you never see any of them banded?

We made a couple of sweeps around the sod farms looking for Snow Geese with no luck, stopped in at Prospertown Lake which has for reasons unknown become a birding desert (a wet desert?) and then, now that we were back in Ocean County, took a ride through Colliers Mills where the most interesting bird, to me, was Brown Creeper, one of my favorites.

When started off this morning we guessed we might find 50 species for the day. We met and exceeded our goal--I listed 60 species without bothering with some pigeons, starlings and the like.
1 Cackling Goose
2260 Canada Goose 
1 Mute Swan
1 Trumpeter Swan 
16 American Black Duck 
125 Mallard 
3 Northern Pintail 
1 Canvasback
46 Ring-necked Duck 
6 Lesser Scaup 
7 Bufflehead 
4 Hooded Merganser 
54 Common Merganser 
30 Ruddy Duck 
4 Common Loon
10 Pied-billed Grebe
5 Great Blue Heron 
6 Turkey Vulture 
1 Northern Harrier
1 Sharp-shinned Hawk 
1 Cooper's Hawk 
1 Bald Eagle 
1 Red-shouldered Hawk 
5 Red-tailed Hawk 
100 American Coot 
5 Ring-billed Gull 
2 Herring Gull 
12 Mourning Dove
2 Belted Kingfisher 
2 Red-bellied Woodpecker 
3 Downy Woodpecker 
1 Hairy Woodpecker 
1 Northern Flicker
1 Merlin 
2 Blue Jay
1 American Crow 
1 Fish Crow 
1 Common Raven 
8 Carolina Chickadee 
9 Tufted Titmouse 
5 Red-breasted Nuthatch 
3 White-breasted Nuthatch 
1 Brown Creeper
3 Carolina Wren
5 Golden-crowned Kinglet
2 Ruby-crowned Kinglet 
1 Eastern Bluebird
2 Palm Warbler
5 Pine Warbler
5 Yellow-rumped Warbler
1 American Tree Sparrow 
22 Dark-eyed Junco
23 White-throated Sparrow 
2 Song Sparrow
4 Northern Cardinal
151 Red-winged Blackbird 
2 Common Grackle
4 House Finch 
6 American Goldfinch 
1 House Sparrow 

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