Sunday, April 08, 2018

April 8 - Godwit Rarity

I began this morning at Garret Mountain to take in the arriving Spring birds along with my friend Bill E. 
There weren't a lot of species around yet we enjoyed the numerous Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers as we walked to top ridge at Garret. Once we reached the lower section of the park we had a Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher.  The most action was at the bottom of Wilson Avenue where we had many Pine Warblers, Palm Warblers, a Yellow-Rumped, Brown Creepers, and both Kinglets.

I then saw a rare bird alert for a Black-Tailed Gowdit that had been found in Gloucester County's Pedricktown Marsh.  Twice previously I had tried to see this bird, one being in Massachusetts & the other attempt in Maryland, with both of those very long journeys being unsuccessful.  So discarding all logic & buoyed with hopes that 'the third time was the charm' I immediately took the hike straight up from Wilson Avenue and back to the very top of Garret Mountain, where I hopped into my car for the 115-mile drive down to southwestern New Jersey.
When I arrived in Pedricktown and it's Causeway, I met up with a few friends that had also been lured south by this rarity.  Unfortunately this marsh is tidal and by my midday arrival the tide was already out, which leaves too many other places for the birds to find better feeding opportunities than an empty mudflat.

After a short wait we all got a call from friend Larry S. that he and Steve G. had seen the bird very briefly in flight and they had found a trail that leads toward another section of the marsh that was not viewable from the Causeway. After a quarter-mile hike and then some bush-whacking, our group of a dozen hopeful birders were able to find a small clearing at the edge of the marsh and setup our scopes.  After a 30-minute wait one fellow said he could see the bird but that it had gone down into a channel before he could see it well. Thankfully after a short wait we were all able to see the tomato-colored head of the Godwit, albeit from a distance of about 250-300 yards.

A few folks then broke off in search of closer access to view the Godwit.  Shortly thereafter we were told of a way to get closer.  So, hiking back out the quarter-mile & then taking a half-mile hike into another section of the marsh, along with more bush-whacking we reach a small area that gave us very nice views of the Black-Tailed Godwit from about 60-75 yards distance.  While here we all had lovely views of the breeding plumaged bird, it's two-toned bill and other field marks.  All that was left was for the bird to take flight to show it's trademark tail.  After a few minutes that flight did happen as the bird flew even closer to us & we all had spectacular views of the tail and other markings that distinguish this bird.

Here's a photo from the e-bird checklist of John Stippick who discovered the bird today.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

February 17 - Four for Four

This weekend I wasn't feeling 100% healthy so I thought it would be best to avoid long periods of being outside, thus I decided to do some hit-and-run birding from my car.

First up was a ride out west on Route 78 toward the Pennsylvania border with a planned stop at the Alpha Grasslands. This area is composed of large open farm fields, that are on the New Jersey side of the Delaware River.  Recently the area has been hosting a very rare visitor from the Arctic in the form of a Gyrfalcon.  I was minutes away from the area, when just before 8:00 am my friend Mike W. posted that he was looking at the bird !   Soon enough I too was viewing the bird perched in a treeline about 175-200 yards from Snyders Road.  We had fine looks at the dark-morph Gyr, including it's cere.  After 20 minutes or so, there were enough people parking cars along the road & moving about that the bird took off. Shortly thereafter it was found on the large Cellphone tower much farther away.  Here's an image of the bird from today via e-bird's MacCauley Library:

Satisfied with my looks, I then headed back east toward home & made a second stop at Round Valley Reservoir.  Here an over-wintering Eared Grebe has been seen for more than a month, perhaps two.  After a short walk I was able to locate the Eared Grebe in front of the South Dam.  The bird was distant, yet I could make out the diagnostic field marks and plumage of this visitor from the Western US.

I was feeling that luck was on my side, so I decided to try for a third rarity today in the Pink-Footed Goose that had been recently and continually reported from the Warinanco Park that is located in Union, NJ.  After a 45 minute ride I was in this urban-park scanning flocks of Canada Geese.  In the second flock I was able to see the Pink-Footed Goose. This species has only recently been found occurring in North America during winter months yet has quickly become almost annual. I have seen this species in x of the past x years !
Credit friend: Don DesJardins

Euphoric from my good fortune today and with some time to spare I went for my fourth rarity in the Ross' Goose that has been frequenting the Overpeck Park in Leonia, NJ.  This bird was a drive-up as it was quite easy to locate the one white bird amongst the flock of Canada Geese that were feeding on the large lawn of the park.
Credit: Chris Takacs

So, a successful day of hit-and-run birding where all my targets were seen.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

February 11 - Nanday Parakeet life birds

I was in Tampa, Florida to visit my father who is in the hospital in nearby Clearwater, Florida.  So I decided to see if & where I might be able to see the Nanday Parakeet because I needed this species for my American Birding Association Life List.

As luck would have it, these birds can be found just 4 blocks from the Morton Plant Hospital in the Lake Belleview park.   Since I was near the hospital and there was still some time before Visiting Hours began, I decided to give the park a try.  I was there only a few minutes before I heard the call of the Nanday Parakeet, so I moved closer to the sound and there on the telephone wires was the bird  !

Here's a pic from the MacCauley Library on e-bird taken by a local birder named Wendy.
I want to thank her for reporting the parakeets to ebird so that I could find a lifebird and also a brightspot on an otherwise dour trip to visit my ailing Father.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

December 17 - MacGillivray's Warbler

This morning I went down to the  Belmar Marina area of the Shark River Estuary.  From Marconi Road I was able to locate a male Eurasian Wigeon, a species that recently seems to appears here almost annually.

While returning home I received a text message that my friend Rob Fanning had discovered a MacGillivray's Warbler during the Monmouth County Christmas Bird Count along a section of the Henry Hudson Trail that is known as Popamora Point.
Fortunately for me I was just approaching the Sandy Hook exit along the Garden State Parkway and was able to make the exit and be at Popamora Point within 15 minutes.
After a few minutes of searching I saw the bird being flushed by another group of birders.  I then had two more views of this bird as it flew up & briefly landed in some leafless trees before diving back down into the thickets.

Here are two images taken by friend Tommy Boyle:

This is just the 2nd known record of MacGillivray's Warbler in New Jersey. 
The prior record is from Cape May for a two-month period between November 1997
and January 1998.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

November 7 - Corn Crake

Yet another long-distance migrant was found today, with this one at Cedar Beach Marina in Suffolk County, NY.
A Corn Crake wass reported after mid-day and I was able to go for it.  I saw the bird quite well before the rain came on. Then on the drive home  I hit a big rut in the roadway that is under construction and flattened my tire. So this will be an expensive outing, but how can a price be put on this mega-rarity ?

Update: On the morning of Thursday November 9 the Corn Crake was found to be deceased.

Steve Walter has some fine photos here:

Thursday, October 26, 2017

October 26 - Common Greenshank

I took the day off from work today to see if the Common Greenshank was still at "Brig", a/k/a the auto-loop of the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge.
The bird was first reported on Monday about mid-day but  I could not make the 2-hour drive at that time. On Tuesday it was a very stormy day and the bird was not reported. Yesterday, Wednesday, my friend Bill E. went down and was able to see the bird briefly and confirm that it had not left due to the storm.
So this morning I left the house at 5 am and made the trek down south.  The bird was located by others just before 9 am, and a group of 7 cars then caravaned over the the East Dike and saw the bird.
We had fairly close views of the bird including nice look at it's namesake legs, and later when the bird took flight we saw the white-stripe up it's back.

Here's a view of some of the hundreds of birders that came the following Saturday:

Saturday, October 21, 2017

October 21 - Sparrowing and a surprise Wren

I went out today with friends Andy E. and Jennifer C. to the sparrow hotspot of Glenhurst Meadows that is located in New Jersey's Warren County.
We had a nice diversity of birds here but the volume was down.  The highlight was a Clay-colored Sparrow that we all had good looks at several times each. We also saw the local specialty, Red-Headed Woodpeckers, along the river at the back of the park.

Next we made a stop at Cold Brook Park out in Hunterdon County. Here we had several dozen American Pipits but only in flight, and 3 of the Vesper Sparrow.

We then traveled back home to Garret Mountain because our friend Bill E. had located a very uncommon Sedge Wren earlier in the day.  Luckily we all were able to hear & then see the Sedge Wren.