Wednesday, May 31, 2017

May--Migration, Rarities, Lifers

Almost every day of this month's birding was interesting. I made "migration trips" to Middlesex County and Cape May County, did a Big Day for the World Series of Birding at Brig, found a number of rarities, and even added two lifers to the list on the same day! This added up to 180 species for the month, spent entirely in New Jersey. All of this has been recounted in the posts below.

And yet...many times I'd be walking around Cloverdale Farm or Colliers Mills, or else driving to a spot that was suddenly "hot" and I'd be thinking, "Boy, this seems like a peculiar way to spend your time." I don't know that I could ever explain it to someone not already sympathetic to the obsession.

Being a birder is nothing more than being a fanatical collector with the advantage that you don't end up cluttering your house with matchbooks or vases or antiques or cast iron toys or motorcycles.

I also took a few good pictures this month:
Eastern Bluebirds, Bright View Farm
Common Yellowthroat, Assunpink
Brown Thrasher, Cloverdale Farm
Least Tern, Shark River Inlet
Counties Birded: Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland, Middlesex, Mercer, Monmouth, Ocean, Somerset
Species             First Sighting
Snow Goose   Brig
Brant   Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Canada Goose   Colliers Mills WMA
Mute Swan   Forsythe -Barnegat
Wood Duck   Brig
American Black Duck   Forsythe -Barnegat
Mallard   Colliers Mills WMA
Blue-winged Teal   Brig
Northern Shoveler   Forsythe -Barnegat
Northern Pintail   Brig
Green-winged Teal   Brig
Ring-necked Duck   Bunker Hill Bogs
Lesser Scaup   Heislerville WMA
Bufflehead   Island Beach SP
Hooded Merganser   Colliers Mills WMA
Red-breasted Merganser   Brig
Ruddy Duck   Brig
Wild Turkey   35 Sunset Rd
Common Loon   Island Beach SP
Horned Grebe   Heislerville WMA
Double-crested Cormorant   Double Trouble State Park
Great Blue Heron   Eno’s Pond
Great Egret   Eno’s Pond
Snowy Egret   Forsythe -Barnegat
Little Blue Heron   Forsythe -Barnegat
Tricolored Heron   Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Cattle Egret   New Egypt
Green Heron   Whitesbog
Black-crowned Night-Heron   Island Beach SP
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron   Meadowedge Park
Glossy Ibis   Island Beach SP
Black Vulture   Jumping Brook Preserve
Turkey Vulture   Colliers Mills WMA
Osprey   Colliers Mills WMA
Mississippi Kite   Waretown
Northern Harrier   Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Sharp-shinned Hawk   Island Beach SP
Cooper's Hawk   Double Trouble State Park
Bald Eagle   Double Trouble State Park
Broad-winged Hawk   Brig
Red-tailed Hawk   Brig
King Rail   Mercer Corporate Park
Clapper Rail   Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Virginia Rail   Brig
Purple Gallinule   Ocean Grove
Common Gallinule   Mercer Corporate Park
Black-necked Stilt   Brig
American Oystercatcher   Brig
Black-bellied Plover   Island Beach SP
Semipalmated Plover   Forsythe -Barnegat
Piping Plover   Shark River Inlet
Killdeer   Holly Lake
Whimbrel   Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Ruddy Turnstone   Brig
Red Knot   East Point Lighthouse
Stilt Sandpiper   Brig
Dunlin   Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Least Sandpiper   Holly Lake
White-rumped Sandpiper   Brig
Semipalmated Sandpiper   Forsythe -Barnegat
Short-billed Dowitcher   Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Wilson's Snipe   Colliers Mills WMA
Spotted Sandpiper   Colliers Mills WMA
Solitary Sandpiper   New Egypt
Greater Yellowlegs   Forsythe -Barnegat
Willet   Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Lesser Yellowlegs   Forsythe -Barnegat
Black-headed Gull   Brig
Laughing Gull   Forsythe -Barnegat
Ring-billed Gull   Brig
Herring Gull   Forsythe -Barnegat
Great Black-backed Gull   Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Least Tern   Brig
Gull-billed Tern   Brig
Caspian Tern   Brig
ROSEATE TERN   Shark River Inlet
Common Tern   Brig
Forster's Tern   Forsythe -Barnegat
Black Skimmer   Brig
Rock Pigeon   New Egypt
Mourning Dove   Colliers Mills WMA
Yellow-billed Cuckoo   Island Beach SP
Black-billed Cuckoo   Colliers Mills WMA
LESSER NIGHTHAWK   Lord Stirling Park
Chuck-will's-widow   Island Beach SP
Eastern Whip-poor-will   35 Sunset Rd
Chimney Swift   Brig
Ruby-throated Hummingbird   35 Sunset Rd
Belted Kingfisher   Colliers Mills WMA
Red-bellied Woodpecker   Colliers Mills WMA
Downy Woodpecker   Brig
Hairy Woodpecker   Forest Resource Education Center
Northern Flicker   Colliers Mills WMA
Merlin   Brig
Peregrine Falcon   Island Beach SP
Eastern Wood-Pewee   Double Trouble State Park
Acadian Flycatcher   Belleplain State Forest
Willow Flycatcher   Island Beach SP
Eastern Phoebe   Colliers Mills WMA
Great Crested Flycatcher   Colliers Mills WMA
Eastern Kingbird   Colliers Mills WMA
White-eyed Vireo   Colliers Mills WMA
Blue-headed Vireo   Island Beach SP
Warbling Vireo   Colliers Mills WMA
Red-eyed Vireo   Eno’s Pond
Blue Jay   Colliers Mills WMA
American Crow   Island Beach SP
Fish Crow   35 Sunset Rd
Common Raven   Brig
Northern Rough-winged Swallow   Cloverdale Farm
Purple Martin   Brig
Tree Swallow   Colliers Mills WMA
Bank Swallow   Brig
Barn Swallow   Colliers Mills WMA
Carolina Chickadee   Colliers Mills WMA
Tufted Titmouse   Colliers Mills WMA
Red-breasted Nuthatch   Island Beach SP
White-breasted Nuthatch   Colliers Mills WMA
House Wren   Cloverdale Farm
Marsh Wren   Island Beach SP
Carolina Wren   Colliers Mills WMA
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher   Colliers Mills WMA
Eastern Bluebird   Colliers Mills WMA
Veery   Double Trouble State Park
Swainson's Thrush   William Warren County Park
Wood Thrush   Double Trouble State Park
American Robin   Colliers Mills WMA
Gray Catbird   Colliers Mills WMA
Brown Thrasher   Cloverdale Farm
Northern Mockingbird   Colliers Mills WMA
European Starling   Colliers Mills WMA
Cedar Waxwing   Island Beach SP
Ovenbird   Colliers Mills WMA
Worm-eating Warbler   Brig
Northern Waterthrush   Brig
Blue-winged Warbler   Manasquan River WMA
Black-and-white Warbler   Colliers Mills WMA
Prothonotary Warbler   Belleplain State Forest
Nashville Warbler   William Warren County Park
Common Yellowthroat   Colliers Mills WMA
Hooded Warbler   Double Trouble State Park
American Redstart   Double Trouble State Park
Cape May Warbler   Ernest L. Oros Wildlife Preserve
Northern Parula   Double Trouble State Park
Magnolia Warbler   Island Beach SP
Blackburnian Warbler   Colliers Mills WMA
Yellow Warbler   Forsythe -Barnegat
Chestnut-sided Warbler   Island Beach SP
Blackpoll Warbler   Ernest L. Oros Wildlife Preserve
Palm Warbler   Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Pine Warbler   Colliers Mills WMA
Yellow-rumped Warbler   Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Yellow-throated Warbler   Belleplain State Forest
Prairie Warbler   Colliers Mills WMA
Black-throated Green Warbler   William Warren County Park
Yellow-breasted Chat   Assunpink WMA
Grasshopper Sparrow   Colliers Mills WMA
Saltmarsh Sparrow   Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Seaside Sparrow   Great Bay Bvld. WMA
Chipping Sparrow   Colliers Mills WMA
Field Sparrow   Brig
White-throated Sparrow   Colliers Mills WMA
Savannah Sparrow   Brig
Song Sparrow   Forsythe -Barnegat
Swamp Sparrow   Colliers Mills WMA
Eastern Towhee   Colliers Mills WMA
Summer Tanager   Belleplain State Forest
Scarlet Tanager   William Warren County Park
Northern Cardinal   Colliers Mills WMA
Blue Grosbeak   Colliers Mills WMA
Indigo Bunting   Belleplain State Forest
Red-winged Blackbird   Colliers Mills WMA
Common Grackle   Jumping Brook Preserve
Boat-tailed Grackle   Meadowedge Park
Brown-headed Cowbird   Colliers Mills WMA
Orchard Oriole   Brig
Baltimore Oriole   Colliers Mills WMA
House Finch   35 Sunset Rd
American Goldfinch   35 Sunset Rd
House Sparrow   Wawa Rt 70 & CR 530

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Waretown 5/28--Mississippi Kite

Mississippi Kite, high over Waretown
For the 3rd year running, the Mississippi Kites have returned to an obscure corner of Waretown. I stopped there this morning, intending to give myself only 15 minutes to find the bird because I figured I'd eventually find it sometime this year and I don't really like stalking a bird in a private neighborhood. I arrived to find a cohort of photographers, mostly it turned out from north Jersey, sitting on on a low stone fence, staring glumly at this perch:
Where we all wished it would be.

While the kite had been seen earlier in the day, it hadn't perched on the dead tree at the corner of Elizabeth and Walker. They'd only managed flight shots. I was the only "birder" there. I was playing a different game--I just want to see the bird.

At the 14 minute mark I was just about to go (listening to the photographers gripe about how birders don't understand photography was a bit grating; by the way, we understand, we just don't care), when Pete pulled up and I chatted with him for a while. He was going to drive down the block where he'd had luck yesterday spotting the bird overhead. Again, I was just about to leave when the bird flew overhead. Much commotion and clicking and whirring. I saw the bird well (much, much better than the photo above shows) seeing the gray coloration of the bird and it's narrow wings with white patches. I was saying goodbye to the group as they were dithering about whether they should stay and wait for better pictures or just use what they'd managed over the last few hours of intermittent waiting. One seemed surprised that I, having seen the bird enough to identify it, was going. "You know," I said, "it isn't a job."

I'm happy to have the bird on the list. I'm almost as happy that I don't have to go there anymore and feel like a voyeur.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Shark River Inlet 5/27--Piping Plover, ROSEATE TERN

Piping Plover
We know a birder who likes nothing more than to sort through large flocks of gulls or terns, looking for the odd bird sitting amidst the hundreds of standard issue larus or sterna species. He has the sitzfleisch to do this (though of course, he's standing all the while) in the wind, rain, heat, and even pleasant weather. It is amazing what he finds and what he found a couple of days ago at the Shark River Inlet would be lifer for Shari & me. (Again, for Mike, only a state bird.)

We motored back down the parkway (again the traffic gods smiled upon us) first making a stop in Ocean Grove, hoping to get the Purple Gallinule for Shari & Mike, but, unfortunately, it wasn't strutting in any of the front gardens along Webb Avenue. It was probably under some bushes but after a 15 minute search we decided to head down the beach about two miles to Belmar.

We almost never go to Belmar after the winter season, because the ducks, loons, grebes, alcids, and gannets are gone and the beaches are full of people. There is, however, a large tern colony on the beach on the south side of the inlet that we weren't aware of. It is mostly nesting Common Terns, Least Terns and Black Skimmers (actually, I think the skimmers are just roosting there), but within those flocks a couple of ROSEATE TERNS have been found. Roseate Tern looks very much like a Common or Forster's Tern, except that it's bill is black, and, if you're lucky, you might see some blush on its breast. Flight pattern is different but in a big flock of terns, picking out a bird with stiffer wing beats (and you decided what "stiffer" means) can be a challenge.

We got on to the beach, started to approach the colony and a few birds lifted into the air. Shari immediately called out that one had a black beak. Amazingly, I got on the bird instantly and indeed, it did have a black cap with a black beak, was about the same size as the commons and that was the bird. It landed just behind a rise in the sand. We never found it again.

We looked at, I swear, each and every of the more than 100 Common Terns on that beach and never found the Roseate again. However, while looking the tern, I did spot a Piping Plover just inside the protected area. It too disappeared into some beach grass and was never seen again, but at least I was able to get one distant shot of it.

So the Roseate Tern, while seen clearly and well, still ranks as if not a BVD than an LVD (Longer View Desired) bird.

As an extra, special bonus for Shari there were oystercatchers on the beach and the cherry on top was that they had chicks--we saw three balls of fuzz running around and under the parents.

It was an excellent day of birding all around (3 counties, 60+ species) bookended with turkeys gobbling on the lawn and waking us and a whippoorwill calling constantly as we go to sleep.
Least Tern

Lord Stirling Park 5/27--LESSER NIGHTHAWK

Quite a day.  It is a rare day in New Jersey that we add one life bird to the list. It has probably been years since we added two in the same day.

The lump of feathers pictured above is a LESSER NIGHTHAWK, a nightjar of the south and west, and one that has only been recorded in New Jersey once before (and that was in Cape May which is south of the Mason-Dixon line). It was discovered a couple of days ago by the naturalist at Lord Stirling Park in Somerset County. He at first thought it was a Common Nighthawk, which any birder would, though I might mistake it for a Chuck-Will's-Widow or even a whippoorwill because you hardly ever see goatsuckers (nightjars, goatsuckers, what names for these poor birds!) during the day and when you do, let's face it, they don't give you a lot of definition. However, there are buffy spots on the bird and that is diagnostic for Lesser. (There are other field marks that have been seen when the bird flew, but, sitting in the middle of the trail as you see it, the bird becomes a "if you say so" sighting.)

Shari & I went on the 4th of Mike's Birds of Jackson trips this morning (highlight: 2 Blackburnian Warblers at Colliers Mills) and when the trip finished up in the early afternoon, we decided to make the trek up to the park, hoping the traffic would not be a disaster. It wasn't and finding the bird was hardly a chore--there it was, sitting on the left side of the trail, which was blocked by traffic cones to prevent anyone from disturbing it, about 50 yards from the parking lot. We met a few birding friends, took photographs and Shari & I had a life bird. (Mike has it on his life list from out west, but it was a state bird for him.) As Mike said, if seeing rarities was always this easy, birding wouldn't be any fun. And I have to say that this is not a bird that makes my heart got pitter patter. Now, had I seen it flying, that would be different, because when they take to the air they are completely different birds--instead of being a torpid brown mound they become very active hunters, snatching bugs out of the air in their huge, gaping mouths. Still, funny to find a Lesser Nighthawk before I've seen a Common Nighthawk this year.

How did this bird end up here? The story goes that originally, the bird was found in Hillsborough emaciated and was taken to the Raptor Trust for rehabilitation. After about a week the trust released the bird. The trust is located about a mile from Lord Stirling so the bird didn't go have to go far to find a place to live. The real question is, How did it wind up in Hillsborough? That we won't know, but there have been some impressive storms lately coming up from the south.  

Here is how the bird looked when we first came upon it:

My first impression was that a turtle was on the side of the trail.

Then, with a good day already on the books, we decided to push our luck and make the day a total twitch--down to the shore we went. (see above)