Monday, December 26, 2016

December 26 - Christmas Rarity !

This morning our regular group went out, minus Bill, and headed south to Manasquan Inlet for a SeaWatch.  Here we saw most of the expected species of Common & Red-Throated Loons, All three Scoters, Ring-Billed, Herring & Greater Black-Backed Gulls, Brant, Cormorants, numerous Northern Gannets, Purple Sandpipers, Long-Tailed Ducks, and some Common Eider.

Our next stop was on the way back north in the area of Holmdel because the over-wintering Canada Goose flocks had some seasonal rarities amongst the ubiquitous Canadas...Immediately we saw the two Pink-Footed Geese along Willow Brook/Long Bridge Roads, and thereafter stopped at Vonage's Corporate Headquarters and saw the Ross' Goose.  While viewing the geese a rare-bird alert had my phone chiming and we headed farther north toward Somerset County's Franklin Township. This area is known for the handful of Sandhill Cranes that winter in the harvested corn fields.  As luck would have it we did see 7 of the cranes in flight as we made our approach to the rare bird location.

Here we were looking for a Rock Wren, which had been found yesterday by another birder who had been in search of the Sandhill Cranes. This is how rarities are often found...while searching for other rarities. We had to wait about 30 minutes along with a few dozen other birders, and spent that time catching up with old friends & exchanging holiday greetings.  About 1:30 pm the target bird was relocated and everyone present was able to get clear, as well as, lengthy scope views of the rarity.

credit: Ben Barkely

This Rock Wren is the second known record for New Jersey, with the last one occurring back in the winter of 1992-1993.  This was NJ State bird # 382 for me.  Here is a history of this species' records on the East Coast

The above video was created by Dave Blinder

Here is the species typical range. click to enlarge:

Saturday, December 10, 2016

December 10 - New York's City Hall

Today brought a trip to a famous landmark in New York City, specifically City Hall.  This is a very unusual destination for me to look at birds, but there have been a few lingering birds that have been drawn to the oasis of trees & plantings that surround this center of New York politics.

Our primary target was the Western Tanager and although it did not show until 9:30 we still had a fine time looking at the other seasonal rarities beforehand.  Here is the Western Tanager.  This was my first sighting of the species within New York State, and is State Bird # 368.

We had also seen a male Black-Throated Blue Warbler, and also an Ovenbird, and finally we saw the Yellow-Breasted Chat.

On our way back to New Jersey we stopped an Inwood Hill Park for a look at the flycatcher that has been the subject of many discussions as to it's species.  It appears to be a Yellow-Bellied Flycatcher, however it is also possible that this bird could be a species of Western Flycatcher.  I'll let the experts decide on it's ultimate species ID.

credit: Zach S-W

Saturday, December 03, 2016

December 3 - Sandy Hook's Pacific Loon

The regular group got together today for a visit to Sandy Hook.  A Pacific Loon has been seen for the past several days, and we were able to re-locate this bird from off the beach at B-Lot.
Here is an image taken by the finder of the bird, my buddy Jason Denesevich

credit: Jason Denesevich

Other species seen were Common, and Red-Throated Loons, Northern Gannets, Black, and Surf Scoters, Long-Tailed Ducks, Horned Grebe, and some Snow Buntings.  A Lapland Longspur was in the flock of Snow Buntgini, but I did not see the Longspur today.

Friday, November 25, 2016

November 25 - Schenk Forest

This morning I had a bit of time after the family Turkey Day Dinner so I visited the nearby Schenk Forest.  My goal was to see the Red-Headed Woodpecker.  This southern species does breed annually in a few selected spots up north where I live but they are always great to see again.
Here is a sunrise shot from North Carolina at the Schenk Forest Entrance:
click to enlarge

The target species:

A sign about Dr. Schenk

I then tied to visit the nearby Prairie View Ecological Station...but like many of the parks I tried to visit over the holiday (this one, Yates Mill County Park, and Johnson Lake Park) it was closed !!  so I headed back to Schenk Forest and made a quick stop to look at the map and get my bearings.
While parked I saw a pale-ish sparrow hopping around about 20 feet away and so I put my bins on it. To my surprise I saw this was a Clay-Colored Sparrow !    I had very nice views of this bird, and it's lores were clear, which excluded the more common Chipping Sparrow.

Overall a nice morning at Schenk Forest which included species of Brown-Headed Nuthatch, Blue-Headed Vireo, Eastern Meadowlark, American Kestrel and others.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

November 23 - Weymouth Woods Woodpeckers

Try saying that title ten times fast !!  On a Thanksgiving trip to see my family in North Carolina I was able to steal away a few hours this morning so I headed southbound on US 1 (a/k/a The Jefferson Davis Highway) toward Fort Bragg, and the town of Southern Pines.  Here is a small park called Weymouth Woods Nature Center that hosts a colony of Red-Cockaded Woodpeckers which can be reliably seen with a little effort.  I arrived just about 8:30 am and began enjoying all of the woodpeckers...Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker, Northern Flicker, Downy Woodpecker, Red-Bellied Woodpecker, and Pileated Woodpecker.  It took about 30 minutes for the specialty birds to show up, and then I was able to get very close & very long-lasting views of the Red-Cockaded Woodpeckers.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

November 22 - Visit to North Carolina

I'm visiting family this week in the town of Cary, North Carolina.  One of my first objectives after that long 550-mile drive was to see some Brown-Headed Nuthatches.
Of course, I can see this species in Delaware but that is still about 4 hours away... and while I did see this species once in New Jersey in 2005, but again, that was in Cape May and the species has yet to make another appearance in the Garden State.  So whenever in the Tarheel State I make a point of seeing this little gem.

Other species seen today were Carolina Chickadees, Yellow-Rumped Warblers, Juncos, White-Throated Sparrows, a Gray Catbird, a Towhee, plus other common species.

Saturday, November 05, 2016

November 5 - Jones Beach & the Pink-Footed Goose

This morning we visited Jones Beach. The best birds today were Snow Buntings & Lapland Longspur.

credit: Bill Elrick

Later we stopped at Hendrickson Park for the Pink-Footed Goose that has been staying here for a few days now.  This species has become annual in the coastal northeastern region over the past few years, It's interesting to note that this species was a major-rarity just a short while ago, particularly the first time I saw it all the way up in Rhode Island back in January 2007

Sunday, October 02, 2016

October 2 - Garret Mountain

A nice surprise was in order today at Garret Mountain as a Bicknell's Thrush was seen.   The bird was spotted in the Wet Area at the north end of Barbour Pond, and to confirm the ID my friend Bill tested it's response to the playback of calls. The bird did not respond to the Gray-Cheeked Thrush call however it did immediately come closer when hearing the Bicknell's Thrush call.

Here is a nice image of this species, and the link in the credit gives a concise synopsis of the history:


Sunday, September 18, 2016

September in Cape May

My wife and I spent a few days in Cape May this week and I was able to see some nice birds.  Fall in Cape May is easy birding because the natural funnel that is Cape May results in the south-bound migrants all getting concentrated in this southern tip of New Jersey.  Also the weather is still very nice & the room rates are much cheaper.

For the birds, the highlight was the Parasitic Jaegers.  These ocean wanderers are drawn close to shore by the large flocks of Terns and Gulls feeding on small fish.  As their name implies, the Jaegers then harass these smaller birds into giving up their catch.  In the first photo below note the bulge in the throat of the white gull that is being chased by the darker Parasitic Jaeger.

In the second photo you see the results, as the chased bird 'gives up' its meal to the Jaeger.

There were many other fine birds seen over the 4 days here.  Highlights were Brown Pelicans, and Yellow-Breasted Chat, and Philadelphia Vireo.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

August 27 - Brigantine Shorebirds & Herons

This morning brings the annual ritual of birding at Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, affectionately known by locals as Brigantine.  Late August produces the highest number of species at this location, as well as, some seasonal specialties.
The primary target is the lovely Buff-Breasted Sandpiper, and we saw many today from very close range.  Here is an image from the Audubon website:

 We saw the special herons of Little Blue & also Tri-Colored, and tern species of Least, Forster's, Gull-Billed, Caspian, and Black.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

August 14 - Wilson's Phalarope

Today I convinced my wife Donna to take a short detour from our chores to stop at Richard W. DeKorte Park in Lyndhurst to see a Wilson's Phalarope that had bee seen yesterday.  As luck would have it the bird was visible when we first arrived and it also stayed within 20-30 feet of the boardwalk so we got some great views.

Here is a video by quoteny:

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

July 19 - Oregon Plains Road

Out for another morning with Andy and Jennifer, this time along Oregon Plains Road and it's intersection with Bigelow Road.
First up being seen was the regional specialty of Black-Backed Woodpecker.  We had a female that showed well, although from about 40-50 yards. Later along the southern path toward Bloomingdale Bog I had a male Black-Backed.  Here's an image of a male

Quite a while later we had a flock of Chickadees come through and Andy was able to hear a Boreal Chickadee's call within the flock.  We all then strained but were able to locate a handful of these cousins to the more common Black-Capped Chickadee.  Here is a Boreal Chickadee image:

Here's Andy feeding an adult Gray Jay form his hand !

And here is a juvenile Gray Jay awaiting it's turn:

Monday, July 18, 2016

July 18 - Went back for a Spuce, and got a Spruce !

My second day in the Adirondacks began with meeting my friends Andy and Jennifer at their hotel in Saranac Lake.  We then took the ride out toward Tupper Lake, and eventually back out to Kildare Road to begin the trek into Spring Pond Bog Preserve.
Along Kildare Road I spotted a Ruffed Grouse along the roadside about 50-60 yards ahead of my car on the right hand side.  We got to enjoy long looks at the crested grouse, certainly the best I have ever had, before her 3 chicks made a brief appearance.  The young were excitable and before long flew across the road and into the brush.  Soon after the mother did the same, revealing her grayish rump feathers, indicating this was a Grayish Phase Ruffed Grouse.

Credit: Wikipedia

Later my friend Andy needed to commune with nature, and that stop turned out to be the exact timing we needed.  For once we started up again it wasn't another hundred yards before I spotted another grouse,  this time on the left hand side of the road.  Immediately we saw the black barring and red eyebrow of the male Spruce Grouse, then Andy spied the chestnut colored ends of the tail which further confirmed the species.

Credit: Unknown

So the two days at Spring Pond Bog gave me two exciting sightings which I will always remember as the "Moose and the Spruce"  !

Sunday, July 17, 2016

July 17 - Went for a Spruce, got a Moose !

My first day in the Adirondacks involved a trip to Spring Pond Bog, which is located north of Tupper Lake in Franklin County.  My goal was to see the ever-decreasing Spruce Grouse.  Recent estimates put the Spruce Grouse population at approximately 100 total birds....all of them located only within the 6.5 million acres of the Adirondack State Park.  One of the most reliable, and I used that term quite loosely, is the Spring Pond Bog.  This area is owned by the Nature Conservancy although within other lands that are the property of Hunting Clubs, specifically the Kildare Hunt Club.
Here's a shot of the habitat.

The day starts out along Kildare Road for about 7-8 miles before on even reaches the gate that provided access to the Bog itself.  The birding outside the gate is quite good, and I'll have more on that in my next posting.

Once inside the Kildare Gate, one has to go just over 6 miles to reach the trailhead of the Spring Pond Bog,  It was during this stretch of the trip where I was able to see a Moose !

 I have been eager for many, many years to see this animal so I was very happy that I got to watch it for almost 10 minutes, and from only about 20 yards away.  I did not see the Spruce Grouse today, but the Moose was quite the consolation.

Saturday, July 09, 2016

July 9 - Rainy Day with Great birds

While this morning started with a delay as Bill got stuck in traffic because the highway was closed at 4:30 am due to a tractor-trailer accident, and then we had to drive through lots of fog & drizzle, eventually it was a fantastic day. 
We met friends Andy & Jen at Forsythe NWR, aka "Brig".  Here we had many of the expected species...Purple Martins, Carolina Chickadees, Seaside & Saltmarsh Sparrows, Clapper Rails, Gull-Billed and Least Terns, Little Blue Heron, we also had some early migrants like Pectoral Sandpiper and Whimbrels.  Later we got our primary target, the female Red-Necked Phalarope.
Here's a dramatic picture taken by friend Chris Takacs, showing just how small these phalaropes are.

The flight shot is courtesy Steven Albert.  Click on images to enlarge

We departed Brig and headed north toward Waretown to try for the Mississippi Kite that has been seen again this year.  I saw this bird here last July 2015.

Before Waretown, Bill and I took a short detour to Tuckerton's Great Bay Boulevard.  Here we saw more Seaside and Saltmarsh Sparrows, along with an Adult Little Blue Heron, and several Tri-colored Herons.  Then we saw 5 American Avocets in flight at close range, but they quickly took off toward Brig.

Our friend Andy called and said that two Mississippi Kites were being seen, so we headed over to meet him and the now sleeping Jennifer.  Hey, its sometimes hard to get up at 4 am !
By the time we arrived Andy had located the Kite's nest !!  We saw the parents bringing food and feeding the 2 young, so this represents the first known record of breeding Mississippi Kites in the State of New Jersey !!
Here is more info on these birds: Mississippi Kites found nesting in New Jersey

While driving home, we saw the birding alert that an Adult Franklin's Gull has been found at Liberty State Park's Boat Launch.  So we headed over there.  Upon arriving we saw friend Ed Borowik who had arranged with the Park Police to allow some birders to briefly park their cars near where the bird was being seen.  We got fine looks at the bird, and moments later Andy & the now awoken Jennifer arrived and also got to see the bird.  This Franklin's Gull was my first being seen in New Jersey.

Credit: Larry Scacchetti

So it was quite a day, even after the obstacles that the early morning had in store for us,

Sunday, July 03, 2016

July 3 - Clinton Road

Today I took a solo hike along Clinton Road.  This area is part of the City of Newark's Watershed.  I'm fortunate to have such a lovely area so close to my home, and one which supports dozens of breeding birds.  I also saw a Black Bear very early this morning.

The hike is not too difficult and produces many species of Warblers, Thrushes, and Flycatchers.
The warblers seen today included Louisiana Waterthrush, Yellow, Black-Throated Green, Magnolia,  Redstart, Hooded, Black-and-White, Cerulean, Prairie, Common Yellowthroat, and Ovenbird
The Thrushes were Veery, Wood Thrush, Hermit, Robins, Catbird, and Towhee.
The Flycatchers were Least, Acadian, Pewee, Phoebe, Great-Crested, Eastern Kingbird, along with Bluebirds and Cedar Waxwings.
A juvenile Red-Shouldered Hawk was also seen.

In the section of the trail where I had the Hermit Thrushes I also saw Blue-Headed Vireos.  Other vireos seen today were Yellow-Throated and the ubiquitous Red-Eyed.

Saturday, July 02, 2016

July 2 - High Point and environs

Out today with friends Andy & Jennifer, we went north to enjoy more breeders and avoid the heat. 
Starting at Sawmill Road and Route 23 we had Least Flycatcher, Chestnut-Sided Warbler, Yellow Warbler and several thrushes.
Along Deckertown Pike we heard, and eventually saw, the Alder Flycatcher. Here we also had Ruby-Throated Hummingbird.
Along Ridge Road, and also in Kuser Bog we had Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers, which is a relatively recent addition to the breeding birds of New Jersey.

We stopped at Wallkill NWR on the drive back to show them the Bank Swallows.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

June 26 - Old Mine Road

With Spring Migration over and Fall Migration still weeks away I turned my attention to the local breeders that we're fortunate to have in our area.  My friend Bill E.  joined. It is an hour drive from my home to the Delaware River, but the birding is quite good.  We mostly heard, but saw a few, about 25 of the Hooded Warbler during our 15-mile drive today.  There were several Louisiana Waterthrushes, some well into their molt.  Acadian Flycatchers were plentiful. We heard then saw a pair of Red-Breasted Nuthatches, which was a first for both of us this year.
Along the River, we saw a pair of young Bald Eagles, still all brown.  In the trees along the reiver we also spotted a Porcupine !

Credit: Bill Elrick

We saw several warbler species, the aforementioned Waterthrush and Hooded, along with Chestnut-Sided, Yellow, Common Yellowthroat, Black-Throated Green, Blackburnian, Cerulean, Redstart etc
Many thrushes were seen with Veery being dominant, but Wood-Thrushes were also found.  A pair of Spotted Sandpiper were along the river, as was Belted Kingfisher.

Here's a view of the lovely scenery in this area.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

June 18 - Jamaica Bay Goodies

Today we tried a seawatch out at Robert Moses State Park at Field 2.  We did not see many ocean birds at all, but we did eventually see a handful of the Wilson's Storm-Petrels.  So we decided to head back west toward home and try Jamaica Bay's East Pond.  Here Andy was able to locate the White-Faced Ibis which has been sighted here over the past week or more.

We then too a walk over to Big John's Pond and the viewing blind which is there.  Here we were treated to incredibly close views of the lovely Yellow-Crowned Night-Herons, and then we got to see the Barn Owls in the nest box which is across the pond.  We could see there were at least 2 young birds (later I found out there are actually 3 young this year) and also the Adult inside the box.
Here is some digiscope photos taken by esteemed East Pond Marsh Warden Andrew Baksh.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

June 11 - Garganey

A mega-rarity of Garganey was reported from the Finger Lakes Region of New York State this past Sunday afternoon.  Unfortunately for me it was a very busy week at work so I could not try until today, Saturday June 11.
My regular group of friends were not available so I was unsure if I would even try for this bird.  I awoke around 4 a.m to find I did not have the desire for the 4+ hour drive up to the Montezuma NWR in Seneca Falls, NY.  I guess it was on my mind as I woke again about 45 minutes later with the will to take the trip !  I left home at 5 a.m and started on my drive west into Pennsylvania and then north into Central New York.  Fortunately 3/4 of the drive was on Interstates so the ride was relatively easy.  More good news was received when a birder posted online that the bird had been seen around 8:00.
I arrived on site at the Knox-Marsellus Marsh just past 9 a.m, and went to East Road. After parking,   a nice birder about to depart was able to immediately get me on the Garganey !
This is my 644th ABA-area species.
Click to enlarge
Credit: Jay McGowan (finder of the bird)

The bird was moving amongst the small brush at the edge of the marsh, with mostly it's head and neck in view for almost 30-minutes.  The bird the disappeared for bit and I took a short ride to the Knox-Marsellus Overlook.  Here is saw some lovely Black Terns, a pair of Caspian Terns, and a Trumpeter Swan.  I had previously only seen the Trumpeter Swan in New Jersey, so this was a bonus NY State Bird for me. In addition to the Life Bird of Garganey, my NY State List is now at 365.

Here is some pics of the Marsh

After returning from the overlook, I joined other newly arriving birders in the search to re-locate the Garaney.  I then spotted the bird swimming in open water, which gave me a complete view of the bird.  We enjoyed this view for about 5 minutes before the bird once again went into the marsh vegetation.

The next day I read that the bird was not spotted until after 2 pm on Sunday, so I was lucky that I went on Saturday and saw the bird as soon as I arrived.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

May 1 - Fork-Tailed Flycatcher in NJ !

A rainy day here in northern NJ meant very few birds at Garret Mountain, however just as I was leaving at 8 a.m. I received a note that yesterday afternoon's rarity was being seen again this morning !

The Fork-Tailed Flycatcher which had been found late on Saturday afternoon at the Assunpink Wildlife Management Area.  This WMA is located near Millstone, NJ in the southwestern part of Monmouth County.

I arrived at the stakeout spot just past 9 a.m, and met fellow birder Simon Lane.  We walked into the large field and immediately Simon was on the bird !  Initially we were both put off for just a moment as the bird was showing it's yellow crown-stripe in a manner I had never seen before. Perhaps it had something to do with the rain ?

Nevertheless we were not far form the bird and binoculars were all that was needed to get nice views of this beauty from Central America.

Here's some shots by friend Larry Scacchetti which were taken yesterday before the rain came in.
Click to enlarge:

I had last seen this species back in 2013, and prior to that back in 2010.  Oddly both of those records are from Connecticut, so this sighting becomes my 380th bird seen within New Jersey !

Sunday, March 20, 2016

March 20 - Bridgeport

With few rarities around, and reading that the bird was still present this morning, I took a ride to Bridgeport.  The park is named Seaside Park, and its quite a beauty.  For several miles the roadway parallels the beach and has a lane for parking.  So its quite convenient for birders!

The Ross' Goose was present as I drove up, and I had great views from the car.  I then drove around a bit looking at other species.  One of the favorites for me was a Horned Grebe is glorious breeding plumage.

Here is an image of the Ross' Goose

More can be seen here.

On my way back home I stopped at Sherwood Island Park, but there wasn't anything special to see here, so I continued on my way.  Before crossing the Hudson River,  I made a brief stop at Westchester's Croton Point Park.  Here I had fine views of the nesting Great Horned-Owl, and then the long-staying (since December) Lark Sparrow.

Credit friend John Haas

Sunday, March 13, 2016

March 13 - Farther than planned

Today the regular group headed south down to Edwin B. Forsythe a/k/a Brigantine to look for some early returning migrants.   When we arrived the gate was closed ! ....and many a birder besides us were also taken by surprise.  I see the Refuge opened later, perhaps the Gate Timer was already set for the Time Change later tonight ?
Nevertheless we walked around a bit enjoying the birds outside the refuge and got our first of season Eastern Phoebe, and my earliest ever thanks again, El Nino !   We also had our first Tree Swallows of 2016.

Just a few miles away we stopped in Absecon for the pair of over-wintering American Avocets, and these were easy to find.
Credit: Larry Scachetti

We then continued on another hour south to Cape May.  Here we started at the State Park/Lighthouse and here we saw the Eurasian Wigeon among other species like Mallard, Black Duck, Gadwall, Pintail, Coot, American Wigeon, Canvasback, etc.  On the beach we saw American Oystercatchers, and Black-Bellied Plovers. A stop at the Beanery yielded several Rusty Blackbirds.   At the South Cape May Meadows we spotted the Blue-winged Teal.

Our final stop was up at the Miami Avenue spot in the Villas.  Here we saw Forster's Terns, Laughing Gulls and my friend Bill E, a Scot, lent his experience in finding the Black-Headed Gull.

Every day will now have new migrants coming in !!

Sunday, February 28, 2016

February 28 - Bullock's Oriole

This morning the regular group took the drive about 1 hour north to Ulster County, NY for the rare Oriole which has been seen in the town of Milton.   The homeowner, Dave B, was kind enough to share the news of the rarity that has been visiting his backyard feeder.
We saw the bird upon arriving, however it was at the small pond to the south of the home.

Here's John Haas' photo form earlier this week.

We enjoyed fine looks at the bird and other friends, like Arie Gilbert, also arrived to see the bird.
This is species # 363 that I have seen in New York State Bird !!

Then we made a brief stop at Bates Lane,  which bisects Blue Chip Farms.  Here we saw 500 plus Canada Geese, along with 3-4 of the Cackling Geese, and finally Bill E spotted a Greater White-Fronted Goose.

Afterward we visited the nearby Shawangunk Grasslands where we saw a few of the Rough-Legged Hawks, a bird that has been scarce in this atypically warm winter.  We saw about a dozen harriers, and a few other common birds.

Working our way back toward home we stopped at Oil City Road.  Here we saw thousands of Canada Geese in flight, and then a few hundred Snow Geese - with about 6 of the Blue Morph too.

At nearby Skinner's Lane we saw a lovely Western Red-Tailed Hawk with it's spectacular dark plumage.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

February 23 - Harris' Sparrow

After the long chase on Sunday for the Thick-Billed Murre I was just too tired to get out yesterday.  So this morning I took a drive before work to try for the Harris' Sparrow down in Titusville, NJ.

I arrived at 7:30 and within just a few minutes the bird made its first appearance in the shrub next to the homeowner's porch.  The Harris' would try to get underneath the array of feeders but always seemed to squabble with other species there, like the White-Throated Sparrows, and quickly get chased off.

I stayed in the car as the mixed flock was very skittish. This technique seemed to pay off as the Harris' made several attempts at the feeders, and also had many appearances under that shrub by the porch.

This is bird # 378 seen within the State of New Jersey !

Here is an image of the bird, credit to Fred Pfeiffer:

Sunday, February 21, 2016

February 21 - Montauk Point

The group took the long trip out to the easternmost point of Long Island today so we could search for a rarity a Montauk Point.  We arrived at Lake Montauk, technically not a lake but rather an inlet, and headed for the eastern jetty.   I scanned just outside of the jetty and immediately located the rarity of the Thick-Billed Murre.  This bird was a lifer for Jennifer !
I had seen this species very briefly last February while up in Gloucester, Massachusetts when the bird was mostly diving but I was able to get 3-4 glimpses of it.  Today's views much far superior as this bird stayed above the water almost the entire time.  Here's a pic taken by Bill E.
click to enlarge.

We then walked out onto the jetty itself and were able to see the bird from a distance of 40-50 yard away.  Through my scope I could make out the indentation of the eye-line that will appear once the bird reaches full breeding plumage.  At one point the bird opened its mouth wide to reveal the remarkable yellow inside of it's bill.

Here's the only image I could find of this, and thanks goes to Angus !
credit: Angus

Later at Camp Hero, Jennifer was able to locate a drake King Eider.  Undoubtedly one of my favorite ducks because of it's scarcity in this region and it's lovely colors.  Here's an image showing the species:

We saw both Loons, Oldsquaw, Red-Breasted Megransers, Razorbills, Bonparte's Gulls, Herring Gulls, Greater Black-Backed Gulls, Black Scoter, Surf Scoter, White-Winged Scoter, Common Eider, Great Cormorant, Black Duck etc.

On a peculiar note, when we arrived at Montauk Point's Camp Hero later in the morning, we came upon this sight...which I conclude was an up-and-coming band producing a video of their performance, using the Long Island coast as their background:

Another reason to include this image is its background.  Here you can get an idea of the number of birds...all of those black dots on the to enlarge !

Saturday, February 13, 2016

February 13 - Northern New Jersey and Black Dirt Region

Today I made a stop at the Sussex Landfill in search of Gulls.  I was only able to find the Iceland Gull this year and could not locate any Glaucous Gulls.

I then took a drive through the Black Dirt Region of Orange County, New York and found very few birds here today.  Some Horned Larks, and a Rough-Legged Hawk were the only noteworthy species that I could see today.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

February 7 - New York's 'Southern Shore'

Coastal birding was on the agenda again today, this time in New York State along the southern shore of Long Island.  We began at Point Lookout and Jones Beach inlet.  The best birds were some Razorbills, White-Winged Scoters, a flyby female Harlequin Duck, Purple Sandpipers on the Jetty.

Later we visited Jones Beach State Park's West End, where we saw the over-wintering Lark Sparrow.
From the Coast Guard Station we had some Common Eider, Ruddy Turnstone, both Loons, and some Black-Bellied Plovers.

From Oak Beach we had Boat-Tailed Grackles, and some Common Goldeneye on the bay.

Finally we stopped ad Capri Lake in West Islip and had several duck species.  The beautiful redhead is plentiful here, we found one Canvasback, one Shoveler, a Pied-Billed Grebe, and both species of Scaup with the Lesser species being predominant.

Overall a fair day of birding, spent with good friends !

Sunday, January 31, 2016

January 31 - New Jersey's "North Shore"

This morning I began the day with a seawatch at Manasquan Inlet.  The numbers of birds was not great but there was some good diversity.  One of my first target birds was the Purple Sandpiper and these were easily seen on the concrete breakers which form the jetty.   One slight surprise was a Red-Necked Grebe, because this mild winter has not resulted in the Great Lakes freezing, so many of this species have remained outside of the Tri-State area.   A pleasant surprise was a Razorbill feeding within the inlet and affording very close views, although they were brief as this bird was actively feeding so it spent much of the time underwater.

 I was able to see all 3 species of Scoter, Long-Tailed Ducks, Red-Breasted Mergansers, both Loons etc.  I then stopped at the various lakes & oceanfront viewing areas as I made my way northward. Of note on Wreck Pond was the expected Lesser Black-Backed Gull, and I saw yet another on Sylvan Lake.

The final stop today was at Monmouth Beach's Cultural Center for a distant view of the Western Grebe.  This bird has appeared here for several winters now.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

January 17 - Close & Far

With my plans for a long day of driving & birding out at Long Island's Montauk Point deferred until next weekend, I started this morning with a local hike.  The Newark Watershed area of Clinton Reservoir is a great spot for birds, and just 15 minutes from home.
I hiked along Hank's Pond for about an hour simply to get some fresh air and stretch my legs, but still hoping I would see some good stuff.
On the hike out I saw my absolute favorite resident bird of New Jersey in the Pileated Woodpecker.
Click on these fantastic images to enlarge !

credit: John McKean
credit: Kevin Smith

Later I heard, then saw, a few White-Tailed Deer flush about 75 yards away.  To my surprise I then saw a Black Bear!  I guess we can thank this year's El Nino once again for the mild weather that has kept this bear from hibernating as of yet.  That will finally change this week as the temperatures and weather are quickly turning toward their normal patterns.

During the hike back I got what I was hoping for as a Ruffed Grouse flushed from the trailside in an explosion of noise and color.  Unfortunately this reddish morph bird flew far away, through the mountain laurel and blueberry bushes, and across a ravine.  I had not seen this bird in several years, so it was nice to see they are still breeding in this area.  Here'a a stuffed bird, showing the colors.

After a quick lunch at home, I then took a ride up to Ulster County, New York.   I went to the Shawangunk Grasslands NWR in search of the Short-Eared Owl.  This grassland area is a very reliable spot for these Owls.   I had hoped that the overcast skies would result in the Owls starting their feeding early, and I was correct.   Just minutes after arriving around 2:30 I saw the first of the Owls chasing one of the several Northern Harriers.  Within 30 minutes there were about 5-6 Owls flying about, and often times coming close to me, within 75 yards.
Click to enlarge this fantastic image !

Credit: Tam Stuart