Saturday, January 03, 2009

January 3 - Hunterdon County & Great Swamp NWR

Today I had just a few hours for birding. So I decided to try for the Barnacle Goose that has been seen since late November in Califon, which is located in Hunterdon County. Arriving at 7:30 I was glad to see another birder here ahead of me, and sure enough he was already on the bird. I have seen this species before, in Rhode Island and New York, however I had not yet seen it within New Jersey. This is State Bird # 340 for me.

Next up was a visit to nearby Spruce Run Reservoir. Here at the Boat Launch area I saw a dozen Horned Larks, and a few Snow Buntings amongst them. It's always a treat to see the Toasted Marshmallow color of the Snow Bunting !
credit: Tom Zurowski

On the water there were thousands of Canada Geese, a pair of Snow Geese, and among the numberous Ring-Billed Gulls and Herring Gulls one stood out as distinctly larger. This was a Glaucous Gull. I had just seen this bird recently on Long Island, and mid-summer at Brigantine.
Also there were a few Lesser Black-Backed Gulls.

On the drive homeward I stopped at the Great Swamp NWR for a chance at some seasonal birds which spend the winters here almost annually. I only had about 90 minutes free so the wait for the birds seemed excruciating. After a short wait I was able to find the beautiful Red-Headed Woodpecker along Pleasant Plains Road. The next bird I was after was the Northern Shrike, also known as the Butcher Bird. I had seen this bird here last year but it was just a quick look while in flight. After another half-hour wait, and just as my friend Rob approached with a large group of birders he was leading on a field trip today, the Shrike flew overhead, but this time it did stop in a nearby tree.
From the Herony Overlook the entire group enjoyed nice scope views of the bird as it perched tree top for 5-10 minutes.
Credit: Jerry Talkington

Once this bird flew off I started on my way out of the refuge, but stopped at a clearing where Barred Owl has been reported recently. I did not see the bird and was getting back into my car when I saw it flush, from wherever it was, and fly across this clearing some 30 yards away toward another perch fairly deep within the woods. I took about 15 steps toward the bird for a better look, but he woudl have none of that and once agiain flew into the woods even further this time.
credit: Richard Etlinger

Oh well, it was a very brief look at a flying bird, but qho knows maybe next year I'll come back and get a better look, as I did this year with the Northern Shrike !