Tag Archives: NJ

Housing Starts are Up

I had never actually seen a Chickadee excavating a nest hole before.  I looked up when I noticed bits of stuff raining down from on high.  All I had was the tail view until he pulled out his head, and with a toss, spit out more sawdust.  Then back in the hole he went.  Let me tell you, he was working it hard.

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Wordless Wednesday

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Still in Winter’s Icy Grasp

February is the cruelest month.

Although the evening shadows lengthen slowly over field and wood,

the biting winter winds still hold sway,

tossing the long brittle grasses,

while small sparrows ride the stems,

resigned to the cold,

looking forward to spring.

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Ghostly Encounter

After dropping off my taxes with the man, I decided to drive on down to Oberly Road in Alpha, NJ.  Oberly Road is a birding hotspot for wintering raptors, Snow Buntings, Horned Larks and the much sought-after Lapland Longspur.  Of course, I was hoping for Snow Bunting and the elusive Longspur.  While I got neither, there was a flock of dozens of Horned Larks swirling around and many sparrows.  It was a male Northern Harrier, however, that stole the show.

He appeared out of nowhere, made a few preliminary passes then dove onto a small dark something but then dropped it.  He coursed back and forth over the field intent on finding a meal.  After some minutes he wheeled off to cross the road to search in another field.  I was finally able to breathe again. I do love the gray ghost. I don’t see them often enough.

Oh yeah, and the Horned Larks were nice too.

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Northern Wheatear in DeKorte Park

no wheatear

Northern Wheatears rarely visit the metro area. They breed in the high Arctic, Alaska and Greenland.  (This bird is of the Greenland race, see how buffy it is.)  I missed a Wheatear last fall at Garret Mountain and by the time I was able to get to the Connecticut bird; it had moved on.  So when I read that there was a juvenile bird at DeKorte Park at the Meadowlands, I cleared my calendar and asked my boss for a personal day. (Although she is not a birder, she is understands the life bird thing.)

It was raining when I got up this morning and there was no report that the bird was around.  But by lunch time the reports started to dribble through  just as the sun started to peek through the clouds; so I dashed off to chase the bird.  When I arrived at DeKorte Park there were, surprisingly,  not a lot of birders. And those that were there had long faces.  The bird had been there had not been seen for an hour.  While I walked the Transco Trail peering at rocks and trailside sumac, I chatted with folks (You know how I am.)  I met BA, one of my fellow hawk counters.   She is the one who I spied waving madly from the far end of trail.  As I hustled toward her, I found my friends Diane and Suzanne were also hot on the chase.   The bird was flitting (and doing a Phoebe-like tail pumping thing) along the rocky edge down a small bank.  I watched it for almost an hour.  It is beautiful – so subtlety colored.  North American life bird 620, I think.  I’ll have to go look.

If you go, it is on the right-hand side between the 2 orange hoses.  It is about the size of a robin and prefers the rocks.

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Wordless Wednesday

female blue dasher

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Grassland Bird Survey

country road

As soon as I turned off the engine, I heard the sliding song of a Prairie Warbler.  While not one of the targeted species, at least it was something.  The grassland survey has been a disappointment so far.  The route maps were vague, and the variety and number of species were so low that I was disheartened.  Determined to persevere, and finished what I had started, I grabbed my pad and pencil, got out of the car, and sucked in a lungful of the aroma of the country: of grass, and cow manure and the sweet heady scent of the flowering Black Locusts. Ah, fresh country air.  I waited the requisite two minutes reveling in the big sky, then started to listen.

From the stream flowing through the field a Bullfrog boomed, drowning out every other sound. I listened in vain for any bird song.  I walked across the road hoping to put some distance between my ears and his voice; but it was only marginally better.  I tried tuning him out.  Red-wing Blackbirds were everywhere hopping up and down in the high grass;  Song Sparrows sang; (Bullfrog) Common Yellowthroat; (Bullfrog, again, egads were there more than one?) a Carolina Wren chortled from somewhere near the Bullfrog; a Catbird mewed in a hedge row; (Bullfrog) a Yellow Warbler sang sweetly; (Bullfrog).  Grrr, that dratted Bullfrog was getting on my nerves!  I crossed behind the car thinking my movement would startle the frog into silence.  I peered into the shadowed water.  I didn’t see it. Or hear it. I guess the ploy worked.  As flash of yellow caught my eye as a Meadowlark  landed in a tall roadside Cedar tree; I made a note, finally one of the target birds.  Hearing the faint buzz of a Grasshopper Sparrow, I whirled around to listen and look behind me.  Off in the distance wafted the bouncing song of a Field Sparrow.  I made more notes.  I glanced at my watch; my time was up.  As I walked back to the car, the Bullfrog started to bellow again.  I smiled to myself in a childish way and thought “Ha, ha, fooled you.” It will be interesting to see if he is still at it in a few weeks when I come back for Survey part II.

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