Saturday, December 22, 2007

December 22 - Great Swamp NWR

Late this morning, I stopped here on my way home because I was looking for a year-bird in the Red-Headed Woodpecker.
Earlier this year, in October, I had missed the bird here by just a few seconds. So, when I found myself in the area again I decided to give it another try. My decision was made easier based on the recent reports of other birds seen here. Those birds being Rough-legged Hawk, Short- Eared Owl and the near annual Northern Shrike.

Almost immediately I was able to locate the sub-adult woodpecker in some dead trees just up the road from the Herony parking lot. I got some nice scope looks of the bird as it fed and took some short flights. It was good to make up for the near-miss from earlier in the year.
photo credit: Marie Winn

Walking back to my car I ran into some friends, (John and his son Marcus, along with Chris and his wife Linda) and was able to tell them about the woodpecker. They reciprocated by giving me the details of where the other birds had been seen.

On my way out of the Swamp I stopped at where the other birds had been seen. While searching for the birds, I was fortunate to have the Northern Shrike fly past me going from right to left. I was only able to get some quick looks at the bird before it went out of sight.
Scanning the trees and fields once again, this time I was successful in locating the Rough-Legged hawk. This bird was a light-morph. The view was not great as the bird was deep in the trees and facing away. Oh well, that's birding sometimes !

Nevertheless, for me it was great to see all three of these specialties, particularly since little effort was needed. And adding what will likely be my final year bird seen in New Jersey in 2007, the Red-Headed Woodpecker was a true bonus.
That bird is species number 283 for the State in 2007, and number 302 for the ABA Northeastern Region this year. This is the first time I've cracked the 300-annual bird milestone in the region !

Saturday, December 15, 2007

December 15 - Sussex County

Today I made a brief tour of the Sussex County area targeting the two species of Rough-Legged Hawk and Northern Shrike.

First was stop along Oil City Road that leads to the Wallkill NWR Liberty Loop trail. Almost immediately I had a Rough-Legged Hawk(light-morph) on the New York State side of the road. I was able to get nice scope views of this bird.

Then I noticed another bird not too far away, and this bird provided for some nice flight views.
I spotted a Kestrel in flight crossing into New Jersey territory, and was then able to find 2 or 3 Rough-Legged Hawks on the NJ portion of the NWR.

Later I had beautiful look at another Rough-Legged Hawk and this one was a dark-morph.

Along the roads to the NWR there were copious amounts of White-Crowned Sparrows with a nice mixture of adults & juveniles. Other sparrows seen were American Tree, White-Throated, Song, Savannah, House, Chipping, Juncos and a possible Swamp Sparrow.

In the NY State part of the NWR I had some nice flocks of Horned Larks, who got very close when I stayed inside my car to use it as a blind. I could not locate and Longspurs, but I did see an American Pipit.

Another nice spectacle is the ink-dipped wings of the male Northern Harrier, aka Gray Ghost.

Other birds seen here were Kestrel and Eastern Bluebirds.

Next was a trip to Layton where a Northern Shrike has been wintering for 7-8 years consecutively that I know of. After a brief search, this bird too made my day easy, by showing itself in the bright sunshine and taking several short flights to show me all of its beautiful field marks.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

December 9 - Hammonasset Park

Early this morning I took the 2-hour drive up to this Connecticut State Park to view the Red Crossbills that have been reported here this week. After about a 15 minute wait I was rewarded with a life-bird in a female Red Crossbill. ABA lifer # 555 !

Soon after the flock of nearly three-dozen came in, showing many male Red Crossbills.

I had tremendous views of these birds first in a bare tree, and then later in their typical pine tree habitat, hanging upside-down cracking open the cones to get at the seeds. Wonderful !

Afterward I met some friends and we birded the other parts of the park. At East Beach we had a large group of Snow Buntings. Next we saw a large flock of Horned Larks, and mixed among these were four of the Lapland Longspur species. All enjoyed very nice views.

Then in a far away tree I saw a small bird. I was only able to get my binoculars on it for a second, and initially I thought it might be the plain old House Finch, before it flew to another nearby tree. This time I got my scope on it to reveal the two-white wings bars and red-capped look of the Common Redpoll ! I have not seen this bird since late December 2001.

Other species seen here today were sparrows of Song, Tree, Fox and White-Throated, along with Dark-Eyed Junco, Black-Capped Chickadee, and Red-Breasted Nuthatches.
Later on while briefly scanning the ocean I saw both the Common & Red-Throated Loons, Horned Grebes, and the Surf & Black Scoters. Overall a great little morning!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

December 1 - Sandy Hook western vagrants

This morning was spent at Sandy Hook looking for the western rarities that have shown up here recently. I had come here this past Tuesday afternoon, and was only able to see the Ash-Throated Flycatcher at that time. The return trip today again produced this bird:

However today I was able to get amazing views of the Townsend's Solitaire as well. This was a life-bird for me too!. A big thanks goes out to Lloyd Shaw for getting the bird in his scope, and for the others, like John Workman, that initially located the bird.

Afterwards we made a stop looking for the Western Kingbird, and another group alerted us to it's presence. This is the first time I have seen the Western Kingbird within New Jersey.

all photos credited to Dan Murray. More images can be seen at his website here.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

November 25 - Montauk rarities

A great day came about today as I was able to add 4 new "State of New York" birds to my lifetime total. One of these was the Pink-Footed Goose, and this is the first time ever that this species from Greenland has appeared within New York state.
The others were Barnacle Goose, Western Kingbird, and Ash-Throated Flycatcher.

Here is the Western Kingbird. Note the brighter yellow color and black tail.

Here is the Ash-Throated Flycatcher, note the duller yellow and rust-colored tail:

Oddly, the first time I ever saw these geese was earlier in 2007 up in Rhode Island.
You can read about that adventure here.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

November 18 - Calliope Hummingbird in N.J.

After a very long day yesterday I received a call from Rob about a Calliope Hummingbird being seen at a home in nearby Denville, NJ. Earlier this year we had tried for this extremely rare East Coast vagrant without success, this time we would not be foiled !

Rob got there at first light and saw the bird a few minutes before 7 am. I arrived about 20 minutes later and was able to see my second life-bird of the weekend.
credit:Stephen Bahir

The bird was quite cooperative and fed frequently. It was remarkable for me to see a hummingbird while snow was falling, but I presume that this montane-breeding species has seen many a snow squall previously.

credit: Jim Gilbert

November 17 - Winter Finches "en masse"

Very early this morning (still last night for most normal folks !) my friend and I departed for the North-Central Massachusetts town of Royalston, which is just a few miles from New Hampshire. We set out to try our luck with the early winter finches that have been reported here.
It's probable that such birds will come closer, and remotely possible to even appear in my home state, much later on during this winter but I did not want to take a chance on that. The drive was exceptionally easy as more than 90% was on Interstate highways. During the final trek on local roads we stopped at a set of feeders and picked up some views of Pine Siskins.

Upon arriving in Royalston just before 8 am we immediately had tremendous looks of a large flock of Evening Grosbeaks. Shortly afterward we walked down the road from the library and came upon our first set of Pine Grosbeaks !

This species was a life-bird for me, and just the fourth time being seen for my friend Rob. We soaked up some amazing views of these birds, and likely saw a total that approached two-dozen.
It's difficult to describe the beautiful views of the Cranberry-colored males with their gray undertones, combined with the regal Golden and jet Black colors of the Evening Grosbeaks being in your scope simultaneously, but it was breath-taking.

Also seen at this spot was a roosting Barred Owl, who was subsequently chased from it's low perch by a passing Wild Turkey.

After having such early and satisfying success here, we took the advice of the local birders we met to go further east to Mt. Watatic where another boreal vagrant was being seen.
After a short drive, and a 1.5 mile hike up to the summit we took in tremendous views of the obliging Gray Jay.

click on images for larger views

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

November 4 - Cape May and Brigantine NWR

With the clock "falling-back" an hour, I awoke earlier than usual today and decided to put that extra time to good use by driving on the Garden State Parkway !

I arrived at the Cape May Hawkwatch around 7:30 and did some seawatching in hopes of locating a Parasitic Jaeger, but the bird was not seen. I then made a stop at the Gingerbread Church around the corner and saw a Common Eider hen there. Then I made a trip over to the Meadows where I had very nice looks at a cooperative Dickcissel, along with other sparrows of Song, Swamp, Savannah, Field, Vesper, White-Crowned, White-Throated and House. At other places today I had Towhee, Junco, and Chipping Sparrows as well.

Here is an image of a Dickcissel:

Returning to the Hawkwatch I was able to see 4-5 of the annual, but rare, Cave Swallows.

Then I went down to the beach near the old military Bunker, and in the weedy field there saw a lone Snow Bunting, at least two Lapland Longspurs, and several American Pipits.

Then I decided to break up the long ride home with a stop at Brigantine (aka Forsythe) NWR.
Here is was able to find 4 Marbled Godwits, the continuing White Pelican along with late sandpipers of Pectoral & Semi-Palmated, and a late Semi-Palmated Plover.

October 29 to November 2 - Saint Kitts island

The wife and I took a few days off and visited the Caribbean island of Saint Kitts, formerly known as Saint Christopher. This island is in the Lesser Antilles section of the Caribbean, and is southeast of Puerto Rico.
There is very little published info on the birds of the island, and even less about the birding spots. I did manage to locate this fine birding report by a British ornithologist. It was helpful to get an idea of what birds might be seen during my trip.

I stayed at a hotel on North Frigate Bay, and walked to the areas of Muddy Point, as well as, the Frigate Bay Salt Pond. This map illustrates where I was.

All totaled I saw 51 species of birds, most of which are regular North American shorebirds and warblers. Some of my favorites were the Brown Booby, which I had previously seen once on Key West in Florida and once on the Hawaiian island of Kauai.

Also nice to see were the birds less common to my home state.
These being the Snowy and Wilson's Plovers.

Finally another bird I enjoyed seeing again is the honeycreeper like Bananaquit:

Overall a nice trip, and some good birds were seen on this non-birding trip.

Here is the complete list:
Pied-billed Grebe, Brown Pelican, Brown Booby, Magnificent Frigatebird, Great Blue Heron,Great Egret, Little Blue Heron, Snowy Egret, Cattle Egret, Green Heron , Black-crowned Night-Heron , Yellow-crowned Night-Heron , Blue-winged Teal, Osprey, American Kestrel , Merlin , Peregrine Falcon , Common Moorhen , Black-necked Stilt , American Avocet , American Golden-Plover , Black-bellied Plover , Semipalmated Plover , Wilson's Plover , Killdeer , Snowy Plover , Wilson's Snipe , Short-billed Dowitcher , Greater Yellowlegs , Lesser Yellowlegs , Spotted Sandpiper , Ruddy Turnstone , Red Knot , Sanderling , Semipalmated Sandpiper , Western Sandpiper , Least Sandpiper , Pectoral Sandpiper , Stilt Sandpiper , Royal Tern , Zenaida Dove , Common Ground-Dove , Belted Kingfisher , Gray Kingbird , Bank Swallow , Barn Swallow , Yellow Warbler , Northern Waterthrush , Bananaquit , Black-faced Grassquit , Lesser Antillean Bullfinch.

Monday, October 22, 2007

October 21 - Sandy Hook sparrow hunt

With hopes of seeing the rare Henslow's sparrow a large group of birders assembled in the northernmost parking lot at Sandy Hook this morning. This bird is very elusive as it prefers to stay in thick grasses and does not fly too much. Unfortunately we did not have any luck with this rare bird today, nor any "rare"sparrows for that matter. However the day was still very productive, and full of time with friends.

At dawn I birded the Plum Island section of the Hook with John W. Together we looked for, and ultimately found, nice views of the Nelson's Sharp-Tailed Sparrow as well as the Saltmarsh Sharp-Tailed Sparrow. I also saw extremely brief views of a Seaside Sparrow as it flew away from me.

Unquestionably the highlight of the day was a Short-Eared Owl that was spotted just north of the Salt Ponds !

October 20 - Warren Green Acres again

With only a few hours free today I once again made a stop here. Also known as Glenhurst Meadows, this place is probably nice all year round, but I only visit in late Fall for the sparrow show.

Today did not disappoint either. I had a Vesper Sparrow in the rear of the park, along the river's edge. The bird had just awoken and was preening on a pile of logs. This gave me a great chance to repeatedly view the white outer tail feathers of this bird.

Unfortunately I missed the Clay-Colored Sparrows that was reported by Jonathan K.
Oh well, thankfully I saw this species here last weekend.

Similar species to last weekend's visit were seen here today, but much less numbers of birds and less diversity of non-sparrows too.

Along with the Vesper I enjoyed views of Song, Swamp, Savannah (most numerous species today), Field, Lincoln's, White-Throated, White-Crowned, Towhee, and Junco.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

October 16 - Overpeck Park stables

This morning I stopped here briefly before work. The highlights would be the Blue Grosbeak, and a pair of Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers.

Sparrows seen were: Song, Swamp, White-Throated, White-Crowned, Lincoln's, Chipping, Field, and Towhee. Hermit Thrush and Golden-Crowned Kinglets were also viewed today.
A non-birding highlight was the Red Fox seen at very close range before he noticed me.

Finally when arriving at work I saw a Common Raven.

This species nests along the Palisades cliffs, and often resorts to dumpster-diving at the diner that is two doors south of my workplace.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

October 14 - Sandy Hook

An early start here at dawn today as I was looking for the Nelson's Sharp-Tailed Sparrows that are typically found on Plum Island. Not only were the birds seen but I also ran into Tommy B., one of the Hook regulars and sparrow hunter extraordinaire.

Here is the wonderfully-colored Nelson's ST Sparrow:
Next we went to K-Lot and before long had found a Grasshopper Sparrow, followed by another!
Also in this lot today was Vesper Sparrow, Field Sparrow, White-Crowned Sparrow, along with Song, Swamp & Savannah Sparrows.

Near Gunnison Lot the group found a female Blue Grosbeak, and I was eventually able to get nice views of the bird. And it was a new bird for me to be seen at Sandy Hook.

Shortly afterwards we heard, and had brief flyover views of a Pine Siskin, which was another first for me at the Hook.

At North Pond we saw a Northern Shoeveler, and checking my records later I realized that this was the first time I had seen this species here.

Later at the Salt Ponds we flushed Rusty Blackbird, which is uncommon on this barrier island.
You guessed it, yet another new Hook bird bringing today's total to 4, and my lifetime list here up to 217 !.

Tomorrow morning should be another good day, and I'll squeeze in some birding before work.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

October 13 - Warren Twp. Green Acres

With the first major cold front of the fall passing through yesterday I knew the birding would be good today. The problem was I didn't have enough time!
So with the few hours I had I decided to bird at Warren townships Green Acres site. This former golf-course has laid fallow for decades now, and is one of the best migrant sparrow spots in the northern half of the state.

There were 10 species of sparrows seen today, with the highlight being another Clay-Colored Sparrow. Others seen were Song, Swamp, Savannah, White-Throated, White-Crowned, Chipping, Field, Lincoln's, and House.

Here is the regal White-Crowned Sparrow:

There was a warbler I hoped would be the Orange-Crowned species, but the white undertail coverts revealed this bird to be a Tennessee Warbler. Also seen were Nashville, Yellow-Rumped, Black-throated Green, Palm (both eastern and western races) and Yellowthroat warblers.

Several Purple Finches were seen, including the beautiful males.

Also a late Swainson's Thrush was also seen. Both Ruby-Crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglets were seen along with the resident Bluebirds. A pair of Kestrel were seen, along with both accipiters of Sharp-Shinned and Cooper's hawks.

Tomorrow promises to be very good too, and I have the full day to soak up the fall migration.

October 6 - Cape May State Park & Meadows

After dipping on the Calliope Hummingbird in the nearby town of Woodbine, we decided to make a stop at the Cape May Hawk watch. to our surprise we saw a juvenile Ruff at Bunker Pond. This eurasian species is more likely to be seen in April during spring migration, or early fall migration during August!
credit: K. Lukens

Other shorebirds seen here were Pectoral Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs, Least Sandpiper, and Killdeer.

Also around the hawkwatch were Peregrine Falcons, Kestrel, Osprey, black & Turkey Vultures, Sharp-Shinned 7 Cooper's Hawks, Broad-Winged Hawk, Black Skimmers.

At the Meadows we had waterfowl of the most blue-winged Teal I have ever seen, with 4-dozen plus, Northern Shoveler, Gadwall, Pied-Billed Grebe, Wigeon, Pintail, Green-Winged Teal, and a Common Loon in the surf.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

September 30 - Allendale Celery Farm

This morning I stopped at Garret Mountain. Many of the species I saw yesterday were again present, and a few new ones as well. Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers, Osprey, Raven, BH Vireo and RE Vireos, Lincoln's Sparrow, Indigo Bunting, Rose-Breasted Grosbeak.

After birding here briefly I was called away by my buddy Rob F., who told me of a Clay-Colored Sparrow at the Celery Farm. I rushed over to Allendale to see this mid-western sparrow.
I saw it as soon as I arrived and then later we had fantastic views for about a half-hour or more.

Also seen here today were several Purple Finches, Nashville Warbler, Palm Warbler, and Northern Waterthrush.

September 29 - Garret Mountain

A small cold front passed through last night, so I decided to visit a local migrant trap. The birding was pretty good for this unusually slow fall migration. One highlight was a late Yellow-Throated Vireo.
This bird is typically out of the area by late August. Also seen today was Blue-Headed and Red-eyed Vireos. Fifteen species of warblers were seen with Bay-breasted and Wilson's being noteworthy. Others seen were Parula, Chestnut-Sided, Magnolia, BT Blue, Yellow-Rumped, BT Green, Pine, Palm, Blackpoll, B & W , Redstart, Ovenbord and Yellowthroat.

Scarlet Tanagers were seen frequently, and a Brown Creeper was my first of the fall.
Sparrows were represented by Chipping, Savannah, Song, Lincoln's, Swamp, White-Throated and Junco, Towhee and House.

Here is an image of a Lincoln's Sparrow:

Sunday, September 23, 2007

September 23 - Sandy Hook

Philadelphia Vireo

After a small cold front last night I returned to the Hook today. Although it was slow, friends Rob and Tommy, along with new acquaintance Rich today brought me 4 new birds for my Sandy Hook list. These were Philly Vireo, Western Sandpiper, Sora, and Caspian Tern.
That brings my total to 213 species seen here over the years.


Saturday, September 22, 2007

September 22- Sandy Hook again

Once again the weather did not cooperate and the birding was light today. Of course, some good birds were seen, especially the ones where the calendar says they should be migrating south already.
Great-Crested Flycatcher

Highlights from today's walk were Common Nighthawk, Merlin, Great-Crested Flycatcher, Eastern Kingbird, Phoebe, Pewee, Royal Terns, Ruddy Turnstone, the plovers of both Black-Bellied and American Golden, Oystercatcher, Osprey, and Yellow-Billed Cuckoo.
Royal Tern .
credit Greg Downing

Warblers were represented by Parula, Black and White, Blackpoll, Blackburnian, Black-Throated Blue, Redstart, Northern Waterthrush, and Common Yellowthroat.

Black-Throated Blue Warbler
credit Greg Downing

So, I'll be waiting for the long overdue cold-front to bring in some new migrants

September 15 - Sandy Hook

A rainy morning kept the birds to a minimum, yet I did see some good ones. with friends Rob and Stephanie we birded for passerines, hoping for a Connecticut Warbler.
We never did find that species but did see these: Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Green Heron, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Merlin, Black-bellied Plover, American Oystercatcher, Willet, Laughing Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Royal Tern, Belted Kingfisher, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Eastern Kingbird, Red-eyed Vireo, Blue Jay, American Crow, Tree Swallow, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Nashville Warbler, Northern Parula, Magnolia Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, American Redstart, Ovenbird, Northern Waterthrush, Common Yellowthroat, Scarlet Tanager, Eastern Towhee, Field Sparrow.

American Oystercatcher

Friday, September 14, 2007

September 12 - Connecticut Warbler at Garret Mountain

I made a brief stop after work today, and was fortunate to find a Connecticut Warbler here.
This bird is typically hard to see as it tends to stay in very thick brush and stay very close to the ground.

Luckily for me this bird had just bathed, and was perched on a branch preening it's feathers for about a minute.

I've spent many hours over the past years searching for this bird, which passes through New Jersey mainly in the fall only, and have now seen it 4 times over the past 6 years.
Here is it's range map:

So I was very excited to see this bird so easily today. In fact I had only been birding for about 10 minutes before spotting the bird.