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

Saturday, January 09, 2016

January 9 - Colorful Chasing

This morning the regular group got together after several weeks apart due to the Holidays, New Year etc.  We took a ride just over the border into Pennsylvania, near Tinicum, to try for a rare bluebird of the Western US.
After a short wait, Bill spotted our target of the Mountain Bluebird.   I had last seen this species over 7 years ago during my trip to Colorado in 2008.

click to enlarge

We then visited nearby Peace Valley Park and saw some good birds in Bald Eagles, Lesser Black-Backed Gulls, Brown Creeper etc.  Then we headed back toward New Jersey...

The next stop was the Monroe Township Park where Greater White-Fronted Goose and Barnacle Goose had been reported earlier in the morning.  We arrived at that area and found lots of activity and dog-walking which meant the geese had flown away to the many nearby farms of corn-stubble.
As luck would have it, we stopped at a field that had several hundred geese present.  Again Bill was the first to see the Barnacle Goose, along with two other geese that had silvery backs and may be hybrids of Canada and Barnacle.  We enjoyed the Barnacle Goose for some time before heading toward home once again.
credit: Bill Elrick (

Since we had a little time left in our day, we stopped at the Hatfield Swamp to try for the long-staying Painted Bunting. We were about to give up when the bird flew into the ad-hoc feeder that had been setup, and again Bill was the first to see the bird.  We enjoyed this immature male bird from just 10 yards away !

Dave Blinder found this bird on December 18th.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

January 6 - Owl at Home

After work this evening I went outside to collect the mail and I spotted a shape flying up into a nearby tree.  Instantly I knew it to be an Owl based on time of day & the flight style..the question was which small owl....Screech, or Saw-Whet ??   The Saw-Whet would be incredibly unlikely in my yard.  It turns out this was an Eastern Screech-Owl.   I was able to view the bird for a few minutes but it quickly flew off after I took a few steps toward it.

Here's an image form the internet showing an example of what I saw:


The next evening after work I spent a few minutes outside and mimicked the Screech-Owl call, ans sure enough the little guy came right in to check out the noise.  The Owl is a Gray-Phased type.

Here's a nice image that give a nice indication of the size of this little owl...

Friday, January 01, 2016

January 1 - Cape May New Year

My wife and I rang in the New Year's down in Cape May at the Grand Hotel with some friends.
I was able to do a little birding over this weekend, but I missed seeing the Varied Thrush which is at the Cox Hall Creek WMA, although I tried for several hours.
I did see the Red- Headed Woodpecker at Cox Hall, and also saw the Black Swan on Bunker Pond. This Swan is a likely escapee.
Other goodies were Eurasian Wigeon, Blue-Winged Teal, and Little Blue Heron...the latter two likely due to this El Nino winter which has brought warm temperatures throughout the region.