Sunday, January 17, 2016

January 17 - Close & Far

With my plans for a long day of driving & birding out at Long Island's Montauk Point deferred until next weekend, I started this morning with a local hike.  The Newark Watershed area of Clinton Reservoir is a great spot for birds, and just 15 minutes from home.
I hiked along Hank's Pond for about an hour simply to get some fresh air and stretch my legs, but still hoping I would see some good stuff.
On the hike out I saw my absolute favorite resident bird of New Jersey in the Pileated Woodpecker.
Click on these fantastic images to enlarge !

credit: John McKean
credit: Kevin Smith

Later I heard, then saw, a few White-Tailed Deer flush about 75 yards away.  To my surprise I then saw a Black Bear!  I guess we can thank this year's El Nino once again for the mild weather that has kept this bear from hibernating as of yet.  That will finally change this week as the temperatures and weather are quickly turning toward their normal patterns.

During the hike back I got what I was hoping for as a Ruffed Grouse flushed from the trailside in an explosion of noise and color.  Unfortunately this reddish morph bird flew far away, through the mountain laurel and blueberry bushes, and across a ravine.  I had not seen this bird in several years, so it was nice to see they are still breeding in this area.  Here'a a stuffed bird, showing the colors.

After a quick lunch at home, I then took a ride up to Ulster County, New York.   I went to the Shawangunk Grasslands NWR in search of the Short-Eared Owl.  This grassland area is a very reliable spot for these Owls.   I had hoped that the overcast skies would result in the Owls starting their feeding early, and I was correct.   Just minutes after arriving around 2:30 I saw the first of the Owls chasing one of the several Northern Harriers.  Within 30 minutes there were about 5-6 Owls flying about, and often times coming close to me, within 75 yards.
Click to enlarge this fantastic image !

Credit: Tam Stuart

Saturday, January 09, 2016

January 9 - Colorful Chasing

This morning the regular group got together after several weeks apart due to the Holidays, New Year etc.  We took a ride just over the border into Pennsylvania, near Tinicum, to try for a rare bluebird of the Western US.
After a short wait, Bill spotted our target of the Mountain Bluebird.   I had last seen this species over 7 years ago during my trip to Colorado in 2008.

click to enlarge

We then visited nearby Peace Valley Park and saw some good birds in Bald Eagles, Lesser Black-Backed Gulls, Brown Creeper etc.  Then we headed back toward New Jersey...

The next stop was the Monroe Township Park where Greater White-Fronted Goose and Barnacle Goose had been reported earlier in the morning.  We arrived at that area and found lots of activity and dog-walking which meant the geese had flown away to the many nearby farms of corn-stubble.
As luck would have it, we stopped at a field that had several hundred geese present.  Again Bill was the first to see the Barnacle Goose, along with two other geese that had silvery backs and may be hybrids of Canada and Barnacle.  We enjoyed the Barnacle Goose for some time before heading toward home once again.
credit: Bill Elrick (

Since we had a little time left in our day, we stopped at the Hatfield Swamp to try for the long-staying Painted Bunting. We were about to give up when the bird flew into the ad-hoc feeder that had been setup, and again Bill was the first to see the bird.  We enjoyed this immature male bird from just 10 yards away !

Dave Blinder found this bird on December 18th.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

January 6 - Owl at Home

After work this evening I went outside to collect the mail and I spotted a shape flying up into a nearby tree.  Instantly I knew it to be an Owl based on time of day & the flight style..the question was which small owl....Screech, or Saw-Whet ??   The Saw-Whet would be incredibly unlikely in my yard.  It turns out this was an Eastern Screech-Owl.   I was able to view the bird for a few minutes but it quickly flew off after I took a few steps toward it.

Here's an image form the internet showing an example of what I saw:


The next evening after work I spent a few minutes outside and mimicked the Screech-Owl call, ans sure enough the little guy came right in to check out the noise.  The Owl is a Gray-Phased type.

Here's a nice image that give a nice indication of the size of this little owl...

Friday, January 01, 2016

January 1 - Cape May New Year

My wife and I rang in the New Year's down in Cape May at the Grand Hotel with some friends.
I was able to do a little birding over this weekend, but I missed seeing the Varied Thrush which is at the Cox Hall Creek WMA, although I tried for several hours.
I did see the Red- Headed Woodpecker at Cox Hall, and also saw the Black Swan on Bunker Pond. This Swan is a likely escapee.
Other goodies were Eurasian Wigeon, Blue-Winged Teal, and Little Blue Heron...the latter two likely due to this El Nino winter which has brought warm temperatures throughout the region.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

December 24 - Quick Rarity Chase

As I had this day off from work I had a little time to look for some recent rarities.  First up was a Northern Shrike in the South Branch WMA.  It took me a few minutes to find the exact road and the abandoned house with the two silos.
However once there, and having walked about 100 paces, I was able to spy the Shrike in the distance atop a Cedar tree.  As I continued to walk in hopes of a better view, the bird flew in a bit closer, and then closer still.
It felt like the bird was curious about my presence, and it finally landed atop a small deciduous tree only about 20-25 yards away, which afforded my some very nice views.  Unfortunately the bird turned it's face as my photo was taken, however the image still allows me to share with you the intent of this blog, which is to share what my eyes see...

click to enlarge

Afterward I made a stop nearer to home to try for the Painted Bunting which had been found by David Blinder about one week earlier.   At the stakeout, I ran into friend Mike S. and we spent some time chatting as we waited for the bunting to appear.
After almost 90 minutes it was time to leave for both of us, and as luck would have it the bird finally appeared, however it was the briefest of views as the bird barely came out of the phragmites and only provided partial views of its unmistakable colors.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

December 12 - Long rarity Chase

Today my friends and I finally decided to go see the Prospect Park Painted Buning, affectionately known in Star Wars' jargon as '3PB'.  This bird was first report around December 1st, and was faithful to the area above the skating rink known as the LeFrak Center.  Many newspaper articles and television news shows have has reports about this bird during the month of December.
Here's just one of them Why a Painted Bunting landed in Brooklyn

We arrived just after 7:30 am, and within 15 minutes I located the bird for our group of 4.  Soon there were more than 20 birders, and novices, enjoying the spectacular colors of this bird.

Here's just one of the many lovely images of this beauty:

Click to enlarge
credit: Chun Zhou

A youtube video of the bird & some of it's watchers is found here:

A Painted Bunting in Prospect Park, Brooklyn - YouTube

After looking at a few more regular birds within Prospect Park we decided to head north up toward Greenwich, Connecticut for another recently found rarity.  I ahd last tried for this bird in Connecticut back in 2006, but I had missed it then. This target was located in the area of Cos Cob, and we arrived just after 1 pm and were told the bird had just been seen, however it had flown off.  Thankfully the wait was short as the bird returned a few minutes later.  We all got to enjoy nice looks at this western vagrant known as the Townsend's Solitaire.

credit: Frank Mantlik                                                                      click to enlarge

This bird would sing at times, and moved around quite a bit, but all in the same area so it was in view for quite some time.
I had last seen this species back in June 2008 while in Colorado.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

November 15 - Cape May Day Tripping

We took the long ride down to Cape May today so we could see the rare Cave Swallows which have been in the area for a few days.  Before we arrived a text message was sent out that nearby an Ash-Throated Flycatcher was being seen near the Magnesite Plant, so we made that out first stop.   Instantly we saw a Baltimore Oriole and then the rare Flycatcher.

We then stopped at the Rea Farm Beanery where we saw an Orange-Crowned Warbler and also a Western Kingbird that was expertly spied by friend Jennifer.

Later we saw dozens of the Cave Swallows in flight over the hawkwatch and also sitting on the beach.