Sunday, November 30, 2008

November 30 - Brigantine NWR

I woke early today and headed South into the flurries, which became rain after 30 minutes. Arriving at 7:30 as the rain continued I was greeted with a Golden Eagle flying overheard. It was gone in less than 10 seconds, more likely it was 5, as the views always seem longer than they actually are. My first scans of the Snow Geese flocks didn't yield anything but the second time did. I eventually spotted the previously reported Ross' Goose.
credit: Greg Lasley

There were nice views despite the conditions. Rain with 15+ mph winds from the Northeast made scoping quite difficult. After getting wet and tough views I decided to scope from inside the car. This worked much better !!

I did not see any of the godwit species reported yesterday, although the variety of others made it interesting. Shorebirds were far away, but Dunlin, Red-Knot, Greater Yelowlegs, and Western Sandpipers were seen. An Eastern Meadowlark was a late in season surprise. Nelson's Sparrows dared the winds on brief occasions long enough to show their bright buffy colors.

Just over 50 species were seen, which is fairly good for season & especially weather !

November 29 - Ringwood area

The northern portions of Passaic County contain several very good stands of Evergreens, and today I visited a couple of them. First up was Weis Ecology Center off Snake Den Road in Ringwood. Here I had a half-dozen Pine Siskins flying about.

Also seen was a Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker, Bluebird, Junco, Hermit Thrush and Red-Breasted Nuthatch.
credit: Muskrat

Next at Ringwood Manor I saw about 2-dozen Siskins, along with a Pileated Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, and some other nice birds.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

November 23 - Sullivan County

Today I had just enough time to either bird locally for longer, or chase some goodies further away. I chose to head northwest with some friends to the Sullivan county area.
At Cooley Bog we have numerous White-Winged Crossbills as soon as we got out of the car. That certainly makes the rest of the day easier!.

This was just the fourth time I have seen this species and today was by far the best. I had been at this same location in late August of this year because the same White-Winged Crossbills were breeding here. At that time I saw just 2-3 birds and for just a minute or so.
Today was quite different, first due to the snow-covered roads and continuing flurries, but most of all due to the nearly 30 birds we got to see and hear. These were my best looks ever at the species, with both males and females being well seen by all of us.

Later we tried for some Northern Shrikes that had been reported last week, but none were seen today. However we did get to see a handful of Pine Siskins, including scope views, and that made for a nice way to wrap up this shorter day of birding.

Monday, November 17, 2008

November 16 - Cape May redux

Last weekend's rain at Cape May meant we missed some of the seasonal specialties that show up annually here. So, today we made a return trip in much drier conditions.

First up was a Rufous Hummingbird at a home on the north side of Cape Island.
credit: Howard B. Eskin

The homeowners were gracious enough to allow visitors into their yard, and Rob and I got to see the bird after less than 15 minutes of waiting. The bird returned to the feeder after another 10 minutes to give us some more views of this western vagrant that appears on the east coast every couple of years.

Later at the Cape May Hawkwatch we were treated to another increasing vagrant from the southwest in the form of Cave Swallows. These birds come up on the strong southerly flows during each November and are now annual occurrences, whereas a decade or so ago were not being seen on the East coast at all !

credit: Bob Fogg

We did see soem beautiful adult Bald Eagles, but unfortunately for us we did not see any of the larger Golden Eagles make an appearnace today.

November 8 - Cape May and Brigantine

This morning my friend Rob and I tried for the Thick-Billed Murre that had been reported in Cape May on Friday afternoon. Unfortunately for us the bird was not seen again, and on top of that the rain began falling on us after just a couple of hours.

We decided to head back north towards the Atlantic City area so we could do some birding at the Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, which is more commonly known as Brigantine. The auto-tour route here allowed us to bird from the car when the raindrops fell, and in between rain squalls we got out and saw some pretty nice birds.

Of course, most of the shorebirds seen at this time of year are very plain because the birds are in their winter plumage. While this plumage makes the identification a bit harder, it also tests your skills, which makes finding even common birds quite exciting.

Some of the highlights were Sandpipers of Stilt, Western, Least, Pectoral, White-Rumped, Semi-Palmated, Dunlin, and both Yellowlegs.

The best bird of the day was the Hudsonian Godwit that gave us very nice looks.
credit: unknown

This bird is an annual, but rare visitor to New Jersey during it's fall migration to South America.