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.