Monday, February 20, 2006

Salem County - February 19th

Today was spent in Salem County looking for, and thankfully finding, the seven Brewer's Blackbirds that were found recently. This sighting represents a State-record for myself. And it was a life-bird for one of the birders that I was with !
You can see from the range map that these birds do not make it into NJ that often. They are not seen annually, and I had unsuccessfully searched for them the last time, which was in 2004.
This species is superfically similar to the larger Common Grackle, as well as, the Rusty Blackbird who typically haunts swampy areas but is rapidly declining.

Other birds seen in the area were 4 Bald Eagles, Kestrel, Merlin, Black Vultures, Tundra Swans, Northern Pintails, Northern Shovelers. At the Sod Farms in the area we also saw a Killdeer, hundreds of horned Larks, and several Snow Buntings, including the first one that I have seen in near full breeding plumage ! Unfortunately I again missed seeing Laplang Longspur which is being seen in the area.
Thousands of Red-Winged Blackbirds were around, no doubt staging for their soon-to-be assault on the northern areas once the weather turns warmer over the next 30 days or so.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Western New Jersey - February 11th

This weekend I made a few stops in Western New Jersey. First up was Round Valley Reservoir for the pair of Red-Necked Grebes. Afterwards I visited Merrill Creek Reservoir where there were approximately 40,000 Snow Geese !! Also seen here were 4 Redheads (as in ducks!), 3 Pied-Billed Grebes, Common Goldeneye & a pair of nesting Bald Eagles. Some Eastern Bluebirds were seen on the ride in. My last stop this day was Oberly Road in the Alpha Grassands area. I saw, and heard, several Horned Larks but could not locate any Longspurs nor Snow Buntings. A Northern Harrier was coursing the fields in search of prey. Numerous Savannah Sparrows were about, and to my surprise I also observed a Vesper Sparrow. This central US bird appears in NJ during migration, and rarely over-winter in the State. I had fine looks at the bird thru my scope at very close range, and saw the outer white tail-feathers on the occasions that the bird took flight.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Sussex Landfill - February 4, 2006

Today I had a nice visit to a Landfill. I'm serious !
That's where you go to see interesting winter Gulls. The aesthetics are missing, but seeing a few Iceland Gulls and the rarer Glaucous Gull is a treat only found in winter where this reliable food source is available to the birds. Surprisingly I did not see Black Vultures !

Later in the morning I was able to see an Eastern Bluebird, and another winter-only visitor in the Northern Shrike. This is the 3rd or 4th year consecutive year that this Shrike has appeared in Layton, NJ.

Montauk Point - February 5, 2006

Today was a long trip, but the result was very close looks at a great number of birds. Most ocean birding trips do not provide fora great number of species, but you do get great quantities of fewer species. And that is the case with Montauk Point & Barneget Light.

I saw the most White-Winged Scoters I've ever seen in one place. and the birds were actively flying about providing for great looks. In addition to all 3 Scoter species the other species seen were Great Cormorant, Common & Red-Throated Loons, numerous Common & a pair of (female) King Eiders, Oldsquaw, Razorbill, Red-Breasted Mergansers, Brant, Purple Sandpipers and Horned Grebe. Unfortunately specialties like Murre, Kittiwake or Guillemot were not seen today.

Some local ponds on the way back home had Redhead, Canvasback, Northen Shovelers etc.