Sunday, January 28, 2007

January 27 - Hunterdon County stops

A friend and I visited several spots today, the first being Echo Hill Park for this lovely Western Tanager that has been over-wintering in N.J. Also seen were Bluebirds and Cedar Waxwings.

Afterwards we stopped at Assicong Marsh, which was frozen over, but we were lucky enough to see a female Pileated Woodpecker. This is still my favorite species of them all !
Most surprising was the small Mink that I spotted just underneath a small bridge there !!

Next up we went to Round Valley Reservoir. There we had some nice birds too. A surprise was the Long-Tailed Duck, which is the first time I have seen this bird inland. Also seen were Common Loon, Common Goldeneye, Canvasback, Lesser Scaup and several other species.

Spruce Run Reservoir then provided 3 Bald Eagles (1 Adult, 2 immatures) and a group of Horned Lark, and a flyover Black Vulture.

A quick drive to Oberly Road in Alpha had more Horned Larks, Northern Harriers, and a big surprise in three Ring-Necked Pheasants that were seen in flight and then through the scope.

The last stop was Merrill Creek Reservoir which hosted thousands of Snow Geese, more Canvasbacks, Ring-Necked Ducks, Pied-Billed Grebe, Goldeneyes and Black Ducks.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

January 20 - Iceland Gull

I made a brief stop at the Sussex Landfill in Lafayette, NJ today.

It's not the nicest place to spend a Saturday, but it can offer up some nice birds.

I went there to see three target gulls (Iceland, Lesser Black-Backed and Glaucous), but I was only able to find an Iceland Gull.

The bird was seen on the ground, as well as, in flight which provided for very nice looks at this "white-winged" gull that visits from the north each winter.

Also seen here today was a Common Raven.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

January 18 - New Jersey's first Long-billed Murrelet

Today I saw the first Long-Billed Murrelet ever seen in New Jersey. The bird was seen at Sandy Hook beach, part of the National Gateway Recreation area.
When originally spotted by another birder this morning the bird was thought to be a Black Guillemot. The Guillemot is a rare to casual visitor to the state, yet infrequently enough to meet the threshold of a rare-bird alert, which I received in my e-mail. Later in the morning, it was thought the bird maybe a western vagrant in the species of Pigeon Guillemot. Ultimately it's correct identify was established, resulting in yet another RBA. This one prompted me to leave work and give it a go. I quickly went thru the mental checklist of stuff that birder's have, well "listers" is a more accurate word, as they are always prepared for birding, as well as, the seasonal weather. Bins - check, Scope - check, Boots - check, Jacket - check etc., etc.

I arrived just before 2 p.m. and got on the bird after a hasty walk over the beach. Immediately I got on the bird and had nice scope views as well. In certain positions I could make out the "whitish spots" on the nape of the bird, although calling them white is misleading as the color barely appeared. Even less so, I could distinguish a slightly lighter color around the eye.

Watching the bird dive and appear repeatedly, I also was very fortunate to see this bird take a flight! Most others nearby were chatting an did not see this excellent view. The black underwings were seen on this 30-foot flight. An excellent way to top-off this life bird.

Later the bird moved even closer for very nice views on calm water. Eventually the bird drifted north and east away from the observers. Then the light drizzle turned to a snow squall so it was time to go.

Monday, January 15, 2007

January 14 - Rhode Island

Took a big trip to Newport, RI for the two Pink-Footed Geese, and we saw them right-away at the Golf Course. They were chased by the caretaker, and then we saw them again near Fort Adams State Park. A very nice life bird to get.

Mixed in were some Cackling Geese, and this was only the second time that I have ever seen these birds.

We did some sea-watching and had lots of Common eider, Red-Necked Grebe, Horned Grebe, all 3 Scoters, but no alcids were seen.

Finally, we went to nearby Portsmouth, RI and I saw another life bird in the Barnacle Goose.

And we also saw a Greater White Fronted Goose there as well.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

January 11 - Piermont, NY

For the first time since 2002, I have again seen a Snowy Owl. The bird was first seen on the shore, and was shortly later harassed by Crows. The Crows were, well, being crows, -- quite gregarious. And this provided for a very animated Owl as it bobbed and weaved to avoid the dive-bombing corvids. Ultimately the Owl was chased which gave me my first looks at this bird in flight. It was fantastic, because I had previously only seen these birds on the ground. The Owl flew about 500 feet landing on a pile of debris, all the while avoiding the black marauders.

I walked down to where the bird was and now it was directly facing me. At about 125 feet from the shore this bird was incredibly close. The beauty of the scope views of this bird would be difficult to describe. The bird took one or two short flights on this debris pile giving me even better looks of the wings, as well as, feet. The only thing more impressive than the morning sunrise would be the yellow of this bird's eyes. What a treat today was!!

January 6 - North Shore / Barnegat Light

Made two sea watching stops today. First up was a quiet Manasquan Inlet. A flock of about 50 Purple Sandpipers was nice, both Loons were seen, Gannet, Oldsquaw, RB Mergs, and Surf Scoter were seen. Boat-Tailed Grackles were found in Manasquan.

Barnegat Light in January with nearly 70 degree temps was unthinkable, until today. Incredible!
I timed it go get here towards low tide to see the birds come into feed on the exposed rocks etc.
Seen here were more Purple Sandpipers with some Dunlin. The now annual flock of more than 2-dozen Harlequin Ducks is always a treat, especially when there is no ice upon the jetty!
White-Winged Scoters are another specialty here, and several were seen. Scanning the dozens of Common Eider revealed a 1st-year male King Eider. Although easier to spot in flight, the orangey-bill was also evident while the bird was bobbing in the surf.

2007 - New Year's Day at Montauk Point

Started the new year with some sea watching at the eastern end of Long Island. Surprisingly there were many, many people here also kicking off the year with the first sunrise. Although that was short-lived as it began to rain almost immediately.
Nevertheless great birds were seen with highlights being 5 fly-by Razorbills, both Common and Red-throated Loons, all 3 of the Scoter species, Oldsquaw, hundreds of Common Eider, fantastic displays of nearby diving Gannets, and a few Purple Sandpipers seen in flight.

On Dune Road we stopped at a few ponds with the highlights being Redhead, Canvasback, both Scaup species, plus some Dunlin too.

Lastly at Shinnecock Inlet, we found a Lesser Black-Backed Gull.