Thursday, June 8, 2017

Lakehurst NAES 6/8--Upland Sandpiper, Common Nighthawk, Barred Owl, Eastern Meadowlark

Part of the jump circle--ideal habitat maintained for
Upland Sandpiper
I went on the annual Audubon trip to the former Lakehurst Naval Base (now part of the the Joint Base MDL along with McGuire and Dix). It is THE place in New Jersey to see Upland Sandpiper. This was my 6th year going to the old jump circle; in previous years the weather has been blazingly hot or miserably damp or too damn windy, but today's conditions were ideal--partly sunny, mid-60's, no breeze. The uppies were flying and chittering as we got out of the cars, so the anxiety of finding them (we got skunked last year) immediately vanished.

The jump circle's quadrants are maintained for nesting Upland Sandpipers, as well as grassland sparrows and Common Nighthawks (which we also saw flying today) by mowing 3 sections and burning one on a rotating basis. Walking up and down the dirt roads we also found Horned Larks, Grasshopper Sparrows (buzzing and perching up on bushes fairly close), and an Eastern Meadowlark that blended in nicely with the surrounding foliage except for its yellow breast.

Northern Pine Snake
My interest in animals without feathers is usually pretty low, but one of our group found a snake close to the road and when we called out to John Joyce, the base naturalist, that we had a snake he asked if it was white with black splotches. It was and he came over walked into the field and picked it up. It was a life snake for me (and most others in the group), a Northern Pine Snake. John, when he finds one, tags them by putting a little chip beneath the skin. This one turned out to be a female (slimmer in the back than a male). The males are equipped with two penises--always good to have a spare, I guess. While Pine Snakes aren't poisonous they will occasionally bite and somehow that little head is able to eat mice, bird's eggs, and sparrow chicks.

After the jump circle we made a couple of more stops at spots the yield reliable birds. Near a runway where gigantic gray cargo planes were flying 75 feet over our heads doing "touch and goes" we found the usual American Kestrel and Pete spent about 10 minutes imitating a Barred Owl.  He does an amazingly realistic call, but after a while you start to think this is pretty nutty behavior. You think that until the Barred Owl calls back!

Our final stop was at location where the Hindenburg touched down in the great disaster of 1937. "Oh the humanity!" Interesting factoid: Where the Hindenburg crashed was not Lakehurst--it is actually in Manchester (my town). In fact, none of the Lakehurst base is actually in Lakehurst--it is split between Manchester and Jackson.

On the old hangar, Common Ravens nest. There was one flying around that most of the group saw. I saw a black bird on the water tower, but without a scope to verify identity, I didn't count it--I have plenty of ravens for the year in both the state and the county.
Site of the Hindenburg Disaster
Since I was concentrating on getting the charismatic birds, I let some species go by, so my list is not as long (padded) as it could be.
35 species (+1 other taxa)
Green Heron 1
Black Vulture 1
Turkey Vulture 6
Red-tailed Hawk 1
Killdeer 2 Heard
Upland Sandpiper 5
Mourning Dove 2
Barred Owl 1 Heard

Common Nighthawk 1
Northern Flicker 1 heard
American Kestrel 1
Eastern Kingbird 4
crow sp. 1
Horned Lark 2
Purple Martin 1
Tree Swallow 1
Barn Swallow 1
House Wren 1 Heard
Carolina Wren 1 Heard
Eastern Bluebird 1 Heard
Wood Thrush 1 Heard
American Robin 3
Gray Catbird 2 Heard
Cedar Waxwing 1
Ovenbird 3 Heard
Common Yellowthroat 1 Heard
Pine Warbler 1 Heard
Grasshopper Sparrow 3
Chipping Sparrow 1 Heard
Field Sparrow 2 Heard
Eastern Towhee 1 Heard
Red-winged Blackbird 10
Eastern Meadowlark 1
Common Grackle 10
Orchard Oriole 1
House Finch 1 Heard

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