Sunday, December 17, 2017

December 17 - MacGillivray's Warbler

This morning I went down to the  Belmar Marina area of the Shark River Estuary.  From Marconi Road I was able to locate a male Eurasian Wigeon, a species that recently seems to appears here almost annually.

While returning home I received a text message that my friend Rob Fanning had discovered a MacGillivray's Warbler during the Monmouth County Christmas Bird Count along a section of the Henry Hudson Trail that is known as Popamora Point.
Fortunately for me I was just approaching the Sandy Hook exit along the Garden State Parkway and was able to make the exit and be at Popamora Point within 15 minutes.
After a few minutes of searching I saw the bird being flushed by another group of birders.  I then had two more views of this bird as it flew up & briefly landed in some leafless trees before diving back down into the thickets.

Here are two images taken by friend Tommy Boyle:

This is just the 2nd known record of MacGillivray's Warbler in New Jersey. 
The prior record is from Cape May for a two-month period between November 1997
and January 1998.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

November 7 - Corn Crake

Yet another long-distance migrant was found today, with this one at Cedar Beach Marina in Suffolk County, NY.
A Corn Crake wass reported after mid-day and I was able to go for it.  I saw the bird quite well before the rain came on. Then on the drive home  I hit a big rut in the roadway that is under construction and flattened my tire. So this will be an expensive outing, but how can a price be put on this mega-rarity ?

Update: On the morning of Thursday November 9 the Corn Crake was found to be deceased.

Steve Walter has some fine photos here:

Thursday, October 26, 2017

October 26 - Common Greenshank

I took the day off from work today to see if the Common Greenshank was still at "Brig", a/k/a the auto-loop of the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge.
The bird was first reported on Monday about mid-day but  I could not make the 2-hour drive at that time. On Tuesday it was a very stormy day and the bird was not reported. Yesterday, Wednesday, my friend Bill E. went down and was able to see the bird briefly and confirm that it had not left due to the storm.
So this morning I left the house at 5 am and made the trek down south.  The bird was located by others just before 9 am, and a group of 7 cars then caravaned over the the East Dike and saw the bird.
We had fairly close views of the bird including nice look at it's namesake legs, and later when the bird took flight we saw the white-stripe up it's back.

Here's a view of some of the hundreds of birders that came the following Saturday:

Saturday, October 21, 2017

October 21 - Sparrowing and a surprise Wren

I went out today with friends Andy E. and Jennifer C. to the sparrow hotspot of Glenhurst Meadows that is located in New Jersey's Warren County.
We had a nice diversity of birds here but the volume was down.  The highlight was a Clay-colored Sparrow that we all had good looks at several times each. We also saw the local specialty, Red-Headed Woodpeckers, along the river at the back of the park.

Next we made a stop at Cold Brook Park out in Hunterdon County. Here we had several dozen American Pipits but only in flight, and 3 of the Vesper Sparrow.

We then traveled back home to Garret Mountain because our friend Bill E. had located a very uncommon Sedge Wren earlier in the day.  Luckily we all were able to hear & then see the Sedge Wren.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

August 12 - White-winged Tern !

This morning I went out to see the White-Winged Tern which had been found in Pennsylvania on Thursday.  I couldn't go yesterday as I was still returning from a few days vacation up in Mystic, Connecticut. So I had to wait until 4:30 this morning to take the 200+ mile drive.  Thankfully my friend Bill E. took the ride with me.
We arrived just before 08:00 and saw the bird right away.  The views were very close as the bird is sitting on some pilings at the southern end of Nessum Lake. We waited a bit to see this beauty take some short flights.  While there friends Larry, Jim, and Alyssa showed up as well.  Here's some of Larry's pictures.

ABA Lifer # 650 for me !!

Sunday, August 06, 2017

August 6 - Gaa-Lib, Waa-Hib, Waa-Fib

Today saw an early-morning drive down to Edwin B. Forsythe NWR, affectionately known as 'Brig".
My goal was to see the southbound shorebird migration that is getting underway.
I arrived just before 6:30 and got started with nice views of a Blue Grosbeak.  Soon after I saw a Caspian Tern hunting over the marsh.
Next up was some Gull-Billed Terns before turning my attention to the most-recent rarities to be seen in the refuge..The expected species here is the Glossy Ibis (GLIB) however a pair of juvenile White Ibis (WHIB) have been seen for about a week now.  These White Ibis have been faithful to the area near Goose Marker 5, and today was no exception. As I drove toward Marker 5 I saw the White Ibis in flight & they landed in the grassy marsh to feed.
Up the Wildlife Drive roadway about 200 yards further east I spotted the other recent rarity of the American Avocet.  Soon after I spotted the over-summering, and presumed injured, Snow Goose by Marker # 7.
Later on the north dike I spotted a Marbled Gowdit that was feeding near the traditional Tern/Plover mudflat roosting area. I was glad that many others were able to see this bird later throughout the day.
Since I had not yet seen my friend Jason D. on the wildlife drive I took another quick loop of the refuge.  On the north dike I ran into Jason, along with friend Chris and his wife Paula.  Here those 3 showed me the White Faced-Ibis (WFIB) that had been reported yesterday.
So  I was able to have a 3-Ibis species day in New Jersey, which is not a common occurrence!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

July 16 - Liberty Marsh

After some time off from birding recently I was finally able to get out today.  I went up north to the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge's Liberty Marsh section.  This section straddles the stateline between NJ and NY.  
The Liberty Loop is a few mile long trail that gives you access to some of the best freshwater marshes that are closest to my home.
My target was the Least Bittern and today I was able to have great views of a pair !
Also seen was a Common Gallinule/Moorhen, who finally made an appearance after 30 minutes of calls from within the reeds.
I also heard at least 3 different Sora rails, although none of these ever made an appearance.

Saturday, June 03, 2017

June 3 - Local Specialties & A pair of Rarities

With the northbound migration almost completed June becomes the time of year where I look for the local specialties & the local-breeders, which we are fortunate to have many species of !

Our first stop today was along Ironwood Drive in Sterling Forest.  Here we saw the expected, yet quickly diminishing, specialties of Golden-Winged Warbler.

We also had point-blank views of a lovely male Cerulean Warbler after he had come down to bathe.

Next we headed up to Ulster County, New York to visit the Shawangunk National Wildlife Refuge.
Here for several days have been two rarities and fortunately I was able to catch up with them before their departure !
The first rarity is the Dickcissel.  Typically this species breeds in the Central US, so to have a singing male that is defending it's breeding territory in NY State is unusual.

Click on the maps/images below to enlarge.

Here's the Dickcissel:

credit: Bill Elrick

The other rarity was also present, and just about 100 yards away !   This species is the Henslow's Sparrow.  This species can & does breed here in New York State however there is a very small population of these birds on the eastern edge of their range as they require large tracts of grassland.

Here is the Henslow's Sparrow:

Note the greenish nape/neck & the dark spot on the cheek.

credit: Bill Elrick

Thursday, June 01, 2017

June 1 - Lesser Nighthawk

Having been out-of-state for the past week today was my first chance to try for the mega-rarity that had been reported since last week.  New Jersey's second known record of a Lesser Nighthawk had been reported from Somerset County's Lord Stirling Park.  Evidently an injured bird had been found earlier in May and brought to the nearby Raptor Trust. Here the bird was rehabilitated and subsequently released at the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge.

The bird apparently settled in at Lord Stirling park, which is about one-mile away from it's release.  Fortunately for me the bird stuck around long enough that I could give it a go.  I did see the bird straight away.

credit: Me

The bird was seen once more the next evening, and not since !

Here's the bird's typical range:

Sunday, May 28, 2017

May 27 & 28 - Hatteras Pelagics

I was able to cross off an item from my Birder's Bucket-List by finally getting down to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, specifically the island of Cape Hatteras.
My first scheduled boat trip was cancelled due to strong winds coming from the West.  I was able to re-schedule and thus went two straight days !

Unfortunately for me the strong westerlies had blown all of the deep-water specialty birds further east and away from the Gulf Stream. Nevertheless I did manage one life bird in the Black-Capped Petrel.
We saw dozens of these birds, and at quite close range over the two days.

Other species seen were Sooty Shearwaters, Cory's Shearwaters, Audubon's Shearwaters, Wilson's Storm-Petrels, and several Band-Rumped Storm-Petrels.

So, it was not quite the adventure I had hoped for, but the one that I had expected.  The open ocean of the Gulf Stream that is 30-miles offshore is rather like a liquid-desert.  There's a lot of territory between where you are & where the birds are...

Band-Rumped Petrels:

Sooty Shearwater:

Black-Capped Petrel:

Audubon's Shearwater

Saturday, May 06, 2017

May 6 -Veni, Vidi, Vici !

Avenged !   Following my miss of New Jersey's First State Record of the species of Little Egret on April 28, the bird was re-found once again visiting Heislerville WMA on Thursday evening and was then reported again on Friday (yesterday)..So my friends and I decided to give this bird another try.

We began our morning at the relatively nearby to Heislerville birding area of Belleplain State Forest. Here we sought out and found the specialty of this forest, the Yellow-Throated Warbler.  We heard, but did not see a Prothonotary Warbler...

Next we moved onto Heislerville WMA and found there to be quite a gale blowing. We also heard that the Little Egret was seen moments ago and had flown into the marsh.  We then drove up on the dirt road separating the tidal impoundment & the marsh and we connected with the bird !!

credit Bob Brown

This species is my 648th official ABA-species !!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

April 16 - Garret Mountain

The annual ritual of birding Garret Mountain Park has returned.  I have been visiting the park a few times recently.
The first time was on March 29 because my friend Bill E. had seen an American Bittern in the phragmites at the north end of Barbour Pond, so I went there the next morning before work and was able to see the bird.
Since April started I have made a few visits, with last weekend rewarding me with Louisiana Waterthrush, Pine Warbler, Palm Warbler, Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher, Eastern Phoebe, Winter Wren, and Northern Rough-winged Swallows

With mid-April now here the new birds are starting to arrive daily.  This weekend brought in Blue-Headed Vireos, Purple Finch, and my earliest-ever Northern Waterthrush.

I'll start going daily before work beginning tomorrow.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

March 25 - Brooklyn Birding

A visit to Prospect Park in Brooklyn was on tap for today.  We had a few spring migrants like the Eastern Phoebe, Pine Warbler, and Wood Duck.  An Iceland Gull was unexpected.

Our primary target was the Northern Goshawk that has been exploiting the recent heavy snowfall that covered much of the available food and has caused many birds to rely on the feeders.  After about 2 hours we saw the Goshawk in a long flight.   Soon after we again saw the Goshawk flying a shorter flight.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

March 12 - Owl Prowl

Our first stop today was in Pelham Bay Park.  We were looking for the Owls that are prevalent during the winter months.  After a short search I was able to locate some tell-tale signs of Owl activity, and then Jennifer immediately saw the bird. It was a Saw-Whet Owl.  I had not seen this species last year, so it was nice to see it again.

Next up was our search for a species that I had not seen in many years....After a short search I was able to spot an interesting silhouette, and upon further inspection the bird was revealed to be a Long-Eared Owl !!

Lastly we made a stop at Croton Point Park and were able to locate a red-phase of the Eastern Screech-Owl.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

February 19 - Owling in New York

I took advantage of a nice Sunday afternoon to head north up to the NJ-NY Stateline.  I went to the Wallkill National Wildlife Refuge at Liberty Marsh.  Here I stopped at the overlook platform along Oil City Road.
As I hoped for, just before dark the Short-Eared Owls began putting on a show. There were 4-5 owls and they were quite active.  The first one I saw had a rodent in it's talons and was flying off somewhere to eat it.
The others were hunting and interacting with the Northern Harriers.  Several times the Owls came very close, and often perched in the trees a short-distance away. the binoculars, and the scope provided great views of the owls and also a dark-morph of the Rough-Legged Hawk.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

February 11 - Nassau County birding

With snow and sleet predicted for Sunday, the regular group of 4 got together on this Saturday.  With there not being reports of many goodies being around we decided to find our own good birds.

We found the Lido Beach parking lot closed due to the snowfall from Thursday so began at Point Lookout and scanned the ocean.  There wasn't a tremendous amount of activity on the ocean although Scoters and Gannet could be seen well offshore.  Turning our attention to the Jones Beach Inlet we immediately had Razorbills leaving the bay and heading out from the incoming tide.  A Great Cormorant was on a triangle-shaped channel marker, and a single female Common Eider was seen.
We then had fine views of a handful of Harlequin Ducks at very close range, several Horned Grebes, and a flyby Bonaparte's Gull.  I could not locate any Purple Sandpipers, but Jennifer did find us a few Ruddy Turnstones.

We then went to Jones Beach with the first stop being the Coast Guard Station.  Here we had close Razorbill, Black Scoter, RB Mergs, and other commoners.  We then hiked the median of West End 2 and found numerous Red-Breasted Nuthatches, Yellow-Rumps, Juncos, etc  At the Swale we had groups of Horned Lark, Snow Bunting and a nice count of 10 Lapland Longspurs.

Heading back west toward New Jersey we stopped at Camman's Pond.  Here we saw the Black-Headed Gull as soon as we arrived.  Departing the car to take a close look the bird took off toward the ocean.

Finally we stopped at Hendrickson Park and easily located the Pink-Footed Goose that's been here since November, and also the Red-Headed Woodpecker.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

February 5 - Black-Backed Oriole

Today we went to the Keystone State to try for a potential first record for the US in the form of a Black-Backed Oriole.  The bird is visiting a feeder that is about 2 hours from my home in the town of Sinking Spring.  We arrived about 7:45 and saw the crowd in the driveway across the street from the feeders that the bird is frequenting.

We saw bird straight away.  There were some periods where it was in the center of the arborvitae, but often it was out on the platform feeder giving the assembled crowd very nice views.
credit: Franklin Haas

Afterward we stoped at Brenneman's Quarry where we saw a dozen Greater White-fronted Geese, which is the most that I have ever seen at one time.  Also seen were Redheads, Cackling Geese, Wigeons, Pied-Billed Grebes, Northern Shovelers, Ring-necked Ducks, and a Lesser Scaup.

The final stop today was at Owl Creek Reservoir.  Here we initially saw the flock of Red Crossbills flying overhead but it took us another 90-minutes to locate the flock in the trees.   We had some nice, but backlit, views of this species that I had not seen since New Year's Day 2013.

credit: J Mcclure

Sunday, January 29, 2017

January 29 - Ross' Gull on Tupper Lake

From Richard Guthrie's article in the Albany's Times-Union newspaper:
"The Ross’s Gull is one of the most sought after birds in the world. Usually the only way to see them is to visit Siberia where they nest or stop by Point Barrow in October to catch a few migrating to their wintering grounds – the Arctic Ocean. Ross’s Gulls don’t leave the Arctic ever. That is except for one every now and then, usually at intervals of about ten to fifteen years."

This mega-rarity was made known to the public earlier this week on Thursday, however I had obligations yesterday (Saturday) and I could not join my my only chance was today.  Fortunately my considerate wife agreed to accompany me on the 275-mile drive up to the Franklin County town of Tupper Lake.
A trip to the Adirondacks isn't complete until you see these conditions !
click to enlarge

We arrived about 12:15 and luckily I spotted some birders alongside the roadway getting  ready to depart. I inquired about any updates and they told me the bird was right there on the ice about 30-40 yards off shore.
I quickly got out with my scope and within minutes I was enjoying seeing this life bird. For the next 15 minutes I watched the bird eating the snow and also taking a short flight, only to return to the precise spot from whence it came.
Inevitably nature called and my wife and I took a 5-minute break to attend to a deserved rest after that 4.5 hour drive...We returned and I was able to view the bird for another 15-minutes.  A snow squall came and the bird flew off and could not be quickly re-found.  So we decided to take a lunch break.
We returned about 45-minutes later and the bird had not been seen for about 15-minutes.  I looked for the bird for a bit longer and sat out a squall or two, but the bird never returned.  Hopefully it will be seen again tomorrow as I'm sure many others are still making their way to look for it.

Based on the Range Maps for each species, when I began chasing specific birds I would never have guessed that I would ever get to see either Ivory Gull or Ross' Gull and I've been lucky enough to see both species.  As of this writing, the Ross' Gull is ABA Life-Bird # 647 for me.

Here's some images, with proper attributions to the generous photographers, coming shortly.

credit:  Larry Scacchetti

credit: James Smith

credit jewforgsoc

Thursday, January 26, 2017

January 26 - Gyrfalcon

This afternoon I was finally able to see the Gyrfalcon from the Stateline Lookout in Alpine, NJ !!

The bird has been sporadically reported since last Sunday the 22nd, however other obligations & stormy weather has kept me from seeing this beauty.  The Stateline Lookout is only 8-10 miles from where I work so once fellow birder Ray Gilbert sent out the word that the bird had just re-appeared at 1:30 pm I was instantly off to see it.
While it was just a short drive the exhilaration was in full swing as I headed north on the Palisades Parkway. Upon arriving I could see a handful of birders peering north along the western side of the Hudson River, and there perched in a tree just above the Palisades Cliffs one could see the bright white chest of the bird !
Quickly I setup my scope, which I had kept in my car all week in anticipation of this moment, and  was then able to get wonderful views of this fierce predator.
I have seen the Gyrfalcon previously in Massachusetts, and on Long Island, and Upstate New York, however these views in New Jersey may be my best thus far, particularly since it was a sunny afternoon.

Here is a fine image of this bird taken earlier this week by Greg Gard.
Please visit Greg's website for images of much better quality:

click to enlarge

 This is NJ State Bird # 383 for me !

Saturday, January 21, 2017

January 21 - Evening Grosbeaks

I have been longing to see these birds again for many, many years now...because my last sighting was back in 2008...and I was presented with my best chance for this with a reliable flock that has been appearing at a residence in Canaan, Connecticut.

So, I was up early and off to the rural northwestern corner of the Nutmeg State. Just under 2 hours later I had made the 110 mile drive to home at the corner of Under Mountain Road & Cobble Road.

I was the first one on site at 7:45 and the birds were not yet around, but within a few minutes I could hear the squawks of the flock as they flew into the large tree above the home. There were about 32 of the birds and shortly thereafter they began the ritual of coming into the platform feeder in small groups  only to abruptly head off back into the trees, only to be replaced by yet another small group of Grobseaks.  I really enjoyed seeing this species again so I stayed for just over an hour, until the birds made a longer trip onto another feeding site.

credit: Corey Hayes

Saturday, January 14, 2017

January 14 - North Fork birds

The regular group of Andy, Jen, Bill and I went out to eastern Long Island's North Fork this morning for some birds.  The first stop was in the town of Southold for the previously reported & week-long staying Townsend's Solitaire.  Fortunately for us this was a drive-up bird as it was seen perched atop a tree as we arrived.  The bird does move around a bit, however stays in the same general area so viewing can be done from one spot.  At one point the bird had circled around behind us and was seemingly taking a look at us !
This was my 369th species seen within New York State.

Click to enlarge
credit: Bill Elrick

We then did some seawatching into the Long Island Sound where we saw some lovely White-Winged Scoters, Black Scoters, Long-Tailed Ducks, and Common Goldeneyes.

We then headed back west toward Riverhead and stopped at the home of Margaret, a nice woman that is welcoming small groups of birders into her backyard to see some rare hummingbirds.  As we were told the first hummingbird arrived in October, being attracted to her extensive flower plantings.  As the seasons progressed and these blooms died, she has setup a few heated hummingbird feeders.  To her further surprise yet a second hummingbird then began calling her yard home.   The hummingbirds appear to be Rufous Hummingbirds, and these birds will continue to be studied by local aviary experts to confirm their species.  The one bird was sporting a small gorget, indicating that it is a male.  Here is a fine gif of the bird showing it's wonderful colors, and respiration.

credit: Bill Elrick

With a short day today we then headed toward home, and made a final stop at Lake Ronkokoma. Here we saw a pair of Tundra Swans amongst the numerous Mute Swans, a surprising Red-Throated Loon on this freshwater lake, and many Common Mergansers.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

January 7 - Black Dirt region

A few hours of birding today up in the Black Dirt Region of New York's Orange County.  Here we saw some Rough-Legged Hawks, a large flock of Horned Lark that contained some Snow Buntings, and a pair of Lapland Longspurs.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

January 1 - Do You Hatsuhinode?

Do you ?
Hatsuhinode is the first sunrise of the year and is one of many firsts that the Japanese take note of during the celebration of the new year. This tradition has been practiced since ancient times – originally performed at the beginning of spring based on the lunar calendar, hatsuhinode is now practiced faithfully on January 1st . The ideal place to perform hatsuhinode is at the waters edge.

I ask this question because back in 2014 during my last New Year's Day visit to Montauk Point I learned that many people, including a majority of these folks being of Japanese heritage, enjoy taking in the first sunrise of the new year at the water's edge of the easternmost point of Long Island.  This morning we witnessed this event once again...

For the birding, we arrived at Montauk Point State Park, at the easternmost point of the Long Island's South Fork, just before 9:00 am.  Straight away we had Razorbills in flight, and throughout the next two hours we saw more than 50 of these alcids.

Bill E. had a brief view of a Dovekie, but it was not long enough for the rest of our group to get on it.  Along with the expected Red-Breasted Mergansers, Common Loons and Red-Throated Loons, Common Goldeneye, Long-Tailed Ducks, Common Eider, and three scoters of Black, Common, and Surf we were able to locate one Black-Legged Kittiwake.
Credit: Ron Knight

On our drive back west, we stopped at Hook Pond and saw a Greater White-Fronted Goose along Further Lane.

The next stop was Shinnecock Inlet.  Here I was able to spot a Snowy Owl, a species that likely will be rare this year as it is not an irruption year for them.  Later we saw a Harlequin Duck, and then I saw the Glaucous Gull sitting on the bay side jetty.