Thursday, August 31, 2017

August Wrap Up--Mostly Whitesbog

American Golden-Plover, Whitesbog
August found me at Whitesbog 20 times: A fifteen minute drive to see if any rare shorebirds are around is just too tempting for me, plus I know I'll enjoy the company of the few regulars who make it out there. My best find of the month was the American Golden-Plover I found on the Middle Bog Monday, just as I was getting ready to call it a day.  I regret that it didn't stick for my birding buddies. Other notable rarities this month on the bogs were the Buff-breasted Sandpiper (it, or a couple of others, has been seen off and on since the middle of the month), White-rumped Sandpipers close enough to really study, Short-billed Dowitchers, and Stilt Sandpipers, the last 3 rare for Burlington, a county with way more pines than mud flats. While you don't get the huge numbers of shorebirds you might at Brig (which is good, because sorting through 5000 sandpipers gets old real fast), you do get nice diversity--12 species of shorebirds in a small area is common.

Pied-billed Grebe, Whitesbog
Another cool bird that showed up was Upland Sandpiper, 3 of them, in mowed field of the Mercer Sod Farm (which, perplexingly is in Burlington County). It took me two tries to find them (the first day was a miserably rainy one), but I found them almost immediately on my 2nd try, thin-necked, small-headed, upright sandpipers. It was the first time I've seen the species outside of the Lakehurst jump circle.

Of course, the Wood Stork at Sandy Hook was the highlight of the month. The day I saw it had a semi-holiday vibe to it due to the partial eclipse.

Two species of phalaropes at Brig, along with two species of godwits there were also notable. Yes, I did go to Brig a few times on the weekends--Whitesbog after about 8 o'clock  A.M. on a summer Saturday or Sunday gets a little too busy with the retriever people, the dirt bike people, and the let's drive around the dikes aimlessly people for birding to be productive or pleasant.

For the month I added 7 year birds (2 more than in July) and managed 143 species (30 species of shorebirds!), all but two in NJ. I listed pigeon and House Sparrow on the mean streets of Manhattan.
Green Heron, Whitesbog
Counties birded:
New Jersey: Atlantic, Burlington, Cape May, Monmouth, Ocean
New York: New York
Species             First Sighting
Snow Goose   Brig
Canada Goose   Whitesbog
Mute Swan   Cape May
Wood Duck   Whitesbog
Blue-winged Teal   Brig
Northern Shoveler   Brig
Mallard   Whitesbog
American Black Duck   Cape May
Northern Pintail   Brig
Green-winged Teal   Whitesbog
Black Scoter   Island Beach
Hooded Merganser   Brig
Northern Bobwhite   Cape May
Wild Turkey   Crestwood Village
Pied-billed Grebe   Whitesbog
Wood Stork   Sandy Hook
Double-crested Cormorant   Island Beach
Brown Pelican   Island Beach
Great Blue Heron   Whitesbog
Great Egret   Whitesbog
Snowy Egret   Island Beach
Little Blue Heron   Brig
Tricolored Heron   Scotch Bonnet
Green Heron   Whitesbog
Black-crowned Night-Heron   Brig
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron   Scotch Bonnet
White Ibis   Brig
Glossy Ibis   Island Beach
Turkey Vulture   Brig
Osprey   Island Beach
Cooper's Hawk   Whitesbog
Bald Eagle   Whitesbog
Red-tailed Hawk   Whitesbog
Clapper Rail   Brig
American Oystercatcher   Island Beach
Black-bellied Plover   Island Beach
American Golden-Plover   Whitesbog
Semipalmated Plover   Island Beach
Piping Plover   Island Beach
Killdeer   Cape May
Upland Sandpiper   Mercer Sod Farm IBA
Whimbrel   Brig
Hudsonian Godwit   Brig
Marbled Godwit   Brig
Ruddy Turnstone   Cape May
Stilt Sandpiper   Brig
Sanderling   Island Beach
Dunlin   Brig
Least Sandpiper   Whitesbog
White-rumped Sandpiper   Brig
Buff-breasted Sandpiper   Whitesbog
Pectoral Sandpiper   Whitesbog
Semipalmated Sandpiper   Island Beach
Western Sandpiper   Brig
Short-billed Dowitcher   Island Beach
Long-billed Dowitcher   Brig
Wilson's Snipe   Whitesbog
Wilson's Phalarope   Brig
Red-necked Phalarope   Brig
Spotted Sandpiper   Whitesbog
Solitary Sandpiper   Whitesbog
Greater Yellowlegs   Whitesbog
Willet   Brig
Lesser Yellowlegs   Whitesbog
Laughing Gull   Island Beach
Ring-billed Gull   Island Beach
Herring Gull   Island Beach
Great Black-backed Gull   Island Beach
Least Tern   Cape May
Gull-billed Tern   Brig
Caspian Tern   Brig
Black Tern   Brig
Common Tern   Island Beach
Forster's Tern   Island Beach
Royal Tern   Island Beach
Black Skimmer   Brig
Rock Pigeon   901 Lexington Ave, New York
Mourning Dove   Whitesbog
Common Nighthawk   35 Sunset Rd
Eastern Whip-poor-will   Whiting WMA
Chimney Swift   Whitesbog
Ruby-throated Hummingbird   35 Sunset Rd
Belted Kingfisher   Cranberry Bogs--Dover Rd
Red-bellied Woodpecker   Whitesbog
Downy Woodpecker   Crestwood Village
Hairy Woodpecker   Brig
Northern Flicker   Cape May
Peregrine Falcon   Brig
Eastern Wood-Pewee   Whitesbog
Least Flycatcher   Whitesbog
Eastern Phoebe   Whitesbog
Great Crested Flycatcher   Whitesbog
Eastern Kingbird   Whitesbog
White-eyed Vireo   Whitesbog
Red-eyed Vireo   Brig
Blue Jay   35 Sunset Rd
American Crow   Cape May
Fish Crow   35 Sunset Rd
Northern Rough-winged Swallow   Whitesbog
Purple Martin   Cape May
Tree Swallow   Whitesbog
Barn Swallow   Whitesbog
Carolina Chickadee   Whitesbog
Tufted Titmouse   Whitesbog
White-breasted Nuthatch   35 Sunset Rd
House Wren   Cape May
Marsh Wren   Brig
Carolina Wren   Cape May
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher   Whitesbog
Eastern Bluebird   Cranberry Bogs--Dover Rd
American Robin   Cape May
Gray Catbird   Whitesbog
Brown Thrasher   Whitesbog
Northern Mockingbird   Cape May
European Starling   35 Sunset Rd
Cedar Waxwing   Whitesbog
Ovenbird   Cranberry Bogs--Dover Rd
Black-and-white Warbler   Whitesbog
Common Yellowthroat   Whitesbog
American Redstart   Brig
Yellow Warbler   Cape May
Pine Warbler   Whitesbog
Prairie Warbler   Whitesbog
Canada Warbler   Whitesbog
Saltmarsh Sparrow   Brig
Seaside Sparrow   Brig
Chipping Sparrow   Whitesbog
Field Sparrow   Cape May
Song Sparrow   Whitesbog
Swamp Sparrow   Whitesbog
Eastern Towhee   Whitesbog
Northern Cardinal   35 Sunset Rd
Blue Grosbeak   Brig
Indigo Bunting   Cape May
Bobolink   Brig
Orchard Oriole   Whitesbog
Red-winged Blackbird   Whitesbog
Brown-headed Cowbird   Whitesbog
Common Grackle   Whitesbog
Boat-tailed Grackle   Island Beach
House Finch   35 Sunset Rd
American Goldfinch   Whitesbog
House Sparrow   485 Lexington Ave, New York

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Brig 8/27--Hudsonian Godwit, Red-necked Phalarope

Hudsonian Godwit
A couple of interesting shorebirds showed up at Brig on Saturday so I was already planning on going there today when Bob Auster called last night. He originally wanted to see if I was interested in doing some "sod farming" today, but instead agreed that Brig had possibilities. We met there early this morning and we weren't disappointed.

The water levels in the SW pool were best for shorebirds and it is about the only place on the refuge with a lot of exposed mud flats, perfect for "grasspipers." Bob found a very intriguing sandpiper there that we spent a lot of time debating--was it a Baird's Sandpiper, or a White-rumped, or just a big Semi? Just yesterday I had spent a lot of time at Whitesbog trying to figure out with Jim S. another sandpiper that finally devolved into a Semi, so I was a little more dubious than Bob. If we had seen this bird on a sod farm, I'd probably think it was a Baird's, but, given the difficulty of the i.d. and that fact that we didn't have a photo (the bird moved around a lot) I just couldn't put it down as anything other than "shorebird." Bob, after much thought, figures it was a White-rumped and he's likely correct. These shorebirds can be frustrating especially when they're more than 5 feet away from (in other words--always).

Red-necked Phalarope in the water
Speaking of a bird that moved around a lot, we found our first target bird up the road by the observation tower--a spinning, fidgety, Red-necked Phalarope. This is a bird that you could identify by behavior--only phalaropes whirl around in the water. The big eye patch gave it away as a Red-necked instead of the Wilson's that had been there for a good part of the month. I was able only to get really coarse photos of it due to the distance. Bob already had this species from a pelagic trip earlier this month, but it was a year bird for me.

We both got a year bird on the East Dike when we stopped near the Osprey tower to find the Hudsonian Godwit in with a group of yellowlegs. Surprisingly, this time of year Hudwits are not listed as rare at Brig, nor are the Marbled Godwits we saw nearby. Yet, announce that you have one and birders come running.

It wasn't until we were on the north dike that we found any ibises. Bob & I saw a bird that looked good for White Ibis while were making the turn at the dogleg, but by the time we stopped it had disappeared (that's also known as "flying away"). We scanned a flock of Glossy Ibises hoping for a White-faced Ibis which was seen by others but we couldn't find that either--a bird that continues to elude me this year and time for finding one is rapidly running out. It wasn't until our second trip around the Wildlife Drive that Bob & I were able to locate the White Ibis, a mottled juvenile, that promptly flew away (also known as disappearing) into the reeds at the back of the pool. With difficulty we were able to locate it for a couple of birder buddies who drove up behind us.

I had 62 species, including 16 types of shorebirds, for the day which is acceptable, especially considering that we didn't make much of an effort to find passerines and we didn't spend any time trying to turn a Short-billed Dowitcher into a Long-billed Dowitcher.

Snow Goose 1 Continuing injured
Canada Goose 15
Mute Swan 6
Wood Duck 4
Blue-winged Teal 35
Northern Shoveler 2
Mallard 50
Pied-billed Grebe 2
Double-crested Cormorant 70
Great Blue Heron 4
Great Egret 30
Snowy Egret 45
Little Blue Heron 1 North Dike
Black-crowned Night-Heron 4 Two at Gull Pond, two on south dike
White Ibis 1 Mottled white & brown Ibis on north dike. continuing.
Glossy Ibis 27
Osprey 5
Clapper Rail 2
American Oystercatcher 1
Black-bellied Plover 11
Semipalmated Plover 50
Hudsonian Godwit 1 From East Dike, near Osprey platform
Marbled Godwit 3
Ruddy Turnstone 1
Stilt Sandpiper 15
Least Sandpiper 20
White-rumped Sandpiper 1
Pectoral Sandpiper 1
Semipalmated Sandpiper 400
Western Sandpiper 5
Short-billed Dowitcher 40
Short-billed/Long-billed Dowitcher 1
Red-necked Phalarope 1 Continuing at observation tower Spinning wildly.
Greater Yellowlegs 40
Lesser Yellowlegs
Laughing Gull 300
Ring-billed Gull 1
Herring Gull 95
Great Black-backed Gull 6
Least Tern 2
Caspian Tern 3
Black Tern 1
Common Tern 1
Forster's Tern 155
Black Skimmer 60
Mourning Dove 1
Chimney Swift 1
Red-bellied Woodpecker 1 Heard upland
Peregrine Falcon 1
Eastern Kingbird 1
Blue Jay 3 Heard
American Crow 6
Fish Crow 1 Heard
Tree Swallow 40
Carolina Chickadee 1 Heard
Carolina Wren 3 Heard
Gray Catbird 3
European Starling 100
Common Yellowthroat 2
Saltmarsh Sparrow 1
Eastern Towhee 1 Heard picnic tables
Red-winged Blackbird 10
American Goldfinch 3

Monday, August 21, 2017

Sandy Hook 8/21--Wood Stork

Wood Stork
Generally, I avoid Sandy Hook between Memorial Day and Labor Day and I especially don't want to go there on a hot, sunny day in August, so I just watched the alerts roll in yesterday from those brave souls who were willing to put up with the traffic (both to & fro), the possibility that the park would be closed when they got there (which it was for a while), and then the long, "death march" out to the tip area, to get the latest rarity to hit NJ.

Most of the time Wood Storks are reported as flyovers down in Cape May (there was a report just last week; who knows, it might be this bird), so one just feeding in a relatively small body of water was just too hard to resist, especially when I got an early A.M. text from Bob Auster who'd detoured on his way to work to get the bird. So, after I got rid of the sprinkler repairman this morning, I packed some water and an energy bar and drove up to the Hook. The trudge through the sand was as unpleasant as it always is, but, I was propelled forward when I met a birder coming out who confirmed that the stork was still present.

Not far from Raritan Bay
A lot of birders don't even know about this little pond. Until a few years ago, I didn't know about it either, but it is a great rarity spot--Soras are often spotted in there and in migration warblers pass through. When I made the left onto the obscure little path off the main trail I saw, in the distance, a couple of other birders high on the dune overlooking the pond. Of course, the bird was hidden, but it was very close--we just couldn't see it over the phragmites. We watched the vegetation move as it foraged its way eastward, sometimes catching a glimpse of its big white body. Then, suddenly, it moved to the center of the pond and then to the back shore and the drive and the walk became worth the trouble. You can't exactly say that this ungainly bird is a good looking one, but it is striking. Shifting into "bird watching" mode instead of just being a lister, I was interested to watch it feed, shaking a leg to stir up the fish in the water.

After about a half hour of observation, I started walking back. The eclipse, which didn't interest me much, was starting. Someone offered me glasses to look at it on my way to the parking lot, but I have enough trouble with my eyes without taking glasses from strangers. At the parking lot a couple of guys had set up a telescope and were projecting the eclipse onto a piece of cardboard. It was about 30% when I got there. That was neat and now I can say I saw the eclipse of 2017. By the time the eclipse was at its maximum in NJ, 75%, I was stuck in traffic in Long Branch.

But seeing my first New Jersey Wood Stork (unpredictable) was much more interesting than seeing a very predictable celestial event.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Brig 8/19--Bobolink

Ideally, I would have seen a Bobolink by now in breeding plumage, looking like it's wearing a backwards tuxedo, but despite much searching through the spring and early summer, I didn't come up with one. Brig, in late summer, is a good place to hear Bobolinks as they migrate overhead. They go "plink." "Plink" is not very satisfying.

I went down to Brig with Mike today for his NJ Audubon trip, giving myself a break from Whitesbog for a day. We had a fabulous day on the dikes, with 19 shorebirds, including the continuing Wilson's Phalarope (rare), 3 Marbled Godwits, a couple of Long-billed Dowitchers, and some shorebirds that are dwindling in numbers this time of year, Whimbrel and Willet. Bob Auster met us there; he still needed the phalarope, which has been pretty constant between goose markers 4 & 5, a distance of maybe an 1/8 of a mile. Our 3 car caravan parked around #4 and Bob and I walked up to #5 where we saw a small congregation of birders--we felt sure the phalarope would be there. It wasn't. Supposedly it had flown back toward where we started. Bob headed back, but I stuck around, counting Stilt Sandpipers which were in ridiculous, eBird flagging numbers. I quit after about 30; the birder next me quit around 62. Then a great birder we know, who was also there called out that he had a Bobolink on the phragmites. No way to describe where it was in that undifferentiated mass of vegetation but he took pity on me and since he is a lot taller than I am, he kindly lowered his scope and I got a good look at the bird, which though it had molted into basic plumage and looked like a big buffy sparrow, was still better to see than to hear "plink." Unfortunately, Mike, who also "needed" the bird, was an 1/8 of a mile back. The bird flew and disappeared.

Then the phalarope reappeared in front of us and I called Bob to get him back up the drive. Bobolinks are practically a backyard bird for Bob so he was amused and amazed that it had taken me this long to find one this year. Yeah, yeah, you wanna see this phalarope or not?

Earlier, before the trip started, Mike and I had 3 Black Terns (a quantity that was also flagged on eBird) at the Gull Pond. The rest of our group missed them, but on the 2nd trip around, back on the south dike, we came across a nice flock of gulls and terns in which there was one Black Tern. The best landmark for the Black Tern was another bird--"the largest tern in the world," as all trip leaders are required to say, a Caspian Tern. The size disparity is striking:
Caspian Tern in back, Black Tern middle, flanked by Stilt Sandpipers, with Black Skimmers in foreground. 
I had 85 species for the day (the trip list was 90) and that was with missing some supposedly easy birds like robin, towhee, oystercatcher, and Red-tailed Hawk.
Snow Goose 2 Continuing injured one w broken right wing the other w broken left wing
Canada Goose 15
Mute Swan 5
Wood Duck 6
Blue-winged Teal 12
Mallard 4
American Black Duck 8
Northern Pintail 2 Smaller, scalloped back, brown head, black bill
Hooded Merganser 1 Small duck with sawtooth bill. All gray. Hen Continuing?
Pied-billed Grebe 1 Gull Pond
Double-crested Cormorant 65
Great Blue Heron 5
Great Egret 35
Snowy Egret 15
Green Heron 3
Black-crowned Night-Heron 7
Glossy Ibis 25
Turkey Vulture 2
Osprey 10
Bald Eagle 1 In tree line at end of drive before Jen's Trail
Clapper Rail 1 Heard
Black-bellied Plover 3
Semipalmated Plover 50
Killdeer 1
Whimbrel 1
Marbled Godwit 3
Stilt Sandpiper 40 Undercount probably by half
Dunlin 1
Least Sandpiper 1
White-rumped Sandpiper 1
Pectoral Sandpiper 2
Semipalmated Sandpiper 300
Western Sandpiper 2
Short-billed Dowitcher 65
Long-billed Dowitcher 2 Two very humpy birds, long straight bills,barring up to vent.
Wilson's Phalarope 1 Continuing @ goose marker 5
Spotted Sandpiper 2
Greater Yellowlegs 25
Willet 1
Lesser Yellowlegs 15
Laughing Gull 175
Ring-billed Gull 1
Herring Gull 10
Great Black-backed Gull 5
Least Tern 6
Caspian Tern 7 one on south dike, balance off north dike
Black Tern 3 Exact count
Common Tern 5 At NE corner
Forster's Tern 40
Black Skimmer 35
Mourning Dove 3
Chimney Swift 1
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 1
Belted Kingfisher 1
Downy Woodpecker 1
Hairy Woodpecker 1
Northern Flicker 1
Peregrine Falcon 2
Eastern Wood-Pewee 1 Heard
Eastern Phoebe 1
Eastern Kingbird 3
White-eyed Vireo 1 Heard
Red-eyed Vireo 1 Heard
Blue Jay 1 Heard
American Crow 2
Fish Crow 1
Purple Martin 1
Tree Swallow 500
Carolina Chickadee 3
Tufted Titmouse 1 Heard
Carolina Wren 2
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 2
Gray Catbird 1 Heard
European Starling 20
Common Yellowthroat 1 Heard
American Redstart 1
Pine Warbler 1
Song Sparrow 2
Northern Cardinal 1
Blue Grosbeak 4 Juveniles: one in parking lot, one upland, 2 just before start of Drive
Bobolink 1
Red-winged Blackbird 6
Brown-headed Cowbird 1
Boat-tailed Grackle 2
American Goldfinch 2