Tag Archives: NJ

Bird Photography Weekly

Chestnut-sided Warbler

Sitting in the car with all the windows and sunroof open, I leaned back with my eyes closed to revel in the cascade of voices around me.  Wood Warblers were singing, off in the distance a Black-billed Cuckoo called, the Wood Thrushes led the  flute section of the woodland orchestra, a Scarlet Tanager chatted hoarsely, a Least Flycatcher provided explosive commentary.  I had just opened my eyes, considering a side jaunt over to check on the Ceruleans, when a friendly Chestnut-sided Warbler popped up close to the car to meet me.

Go see what’s shakin’ elsewhere at Birdfreak’s Bird Photography Weekly.

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Birding Duke Farms

Savannah Sparrow

Once upon a time, friends and I would go to Duke Gardens every February to walk in the greenhouses and feast on the riotous color of spring flowers; a treat for our winter-weary eyes.  We did it for years.  Then Doris Duke died, we all scattered to the winds and the annual pilgrimage fell by the wayside.  So when I heard that NJ  Audubon was making arrangements for an optional grassland birding training session at Duke Farms, I jumped at the chance.

As we milled about in the cool gray morning, waiting for everyone to arrive, birds called from the trees and shrubs.  Chimney Swifts fluttered over head, a flock of Cedar Waxwings lifted to settle in another tree, a Song Sparrow belted out his song and off in the distance the call of an Indigo Bunting lifted skyward.   The assembled birders chatted about the World Series the week before, the birds they were hearing and seeing, Nightjars or the lack thereof, their grassland survey routes and the wonder of Duke Farms and its huge amount of grassland in the midst of suburban NJ.

Once we got to the fields in the western portion of the estate, the first thing we heard was the buzzing of a Grasshopper Sparrow; followed soon after by the bubbling song of Bobolinks. Lots and lots of Bobolinks.  Like everywhere you look Bobolinks.  I just love them!  We were also treated with an immature Orchard Oriole, lots of Indigo Bunting and big open sky. Part of the joy of grassland birding for me is being out in big sky country.

Here’s the list of what we saw, probably not complete and done from memory:  Cooper’s Hawk dashing past with a yellow warbler in its clutches;  Red-tailed Hawk;  Am. Kestrel; Chimney Swift; Purple Martin; Barn Swallow; Tree Swallow; N. Rough-winged Swallow; E. Bluebird; Catbird; N. Mockingbird; Cedar Waxwing; House Wren; E. Meadowlark; Red-winged Blackbird; Bobolink; Orchard Oriole; Indigo Bunting; Grasshopper Sparrow; Savannah Sparrow; Song Sparrow.

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World Series of Birding

Common Nighthawk

I peered into the darkness as the windshield wipers slapped a path through the driving rain.  The guard lights in the parking lot cast long eerie shadows.  Straining to hear night sounds with my ear angled toward the crack of the window; headlights flashed against the side of the car, sparkling the drops.  More birders had arrived.  It was 2 am and we were headed to Clinton Road to go owling; trying to get a jump on our World Series of Birding list.

The rain did not let up as we stood in the inky black woods surrounded by a chorus of frogs; they liked the streaming wetness.  We fiddled with our hoods; up, down, up, then down again.  It was nearly impossible to hear anything between the incessant amphibian chorale and the drumming of rain on our heads.  Then, a repetitive peeping sounded that was out of sync with its fellows.  It was most definitely not a frog.  Karla, our leader, hissed, “Did you hear it,” I nodded.  We stood frozen, hoping it would call again.  “It’s a Sawhet,” she murmured.  We nodded.  Our first bird of the competition and we had a Sawhet Owl.  Nice.

We continued with our owling; driving from spot to spot, but the only other one we heard was a distant Screech Owl.  No Great Horned. No Barred.  With the clock ticking, we decided to give it up and move on to regroup with the rest of the team.

After loading equipment, snacks, and people in 2 vehicles we headed off for Gould Road and the dawn chorus.  But it was still raining and the sky was not getting perceptively lighter only fading from pitch black to possibly a dark charcoal.  We sat at various places along the road but heard nothing, save a rooster singing lustily from the relative warmth of his coop.  We moved on to the Van Orden power cut.  Finally a lone Rufous-sided Towhee chirped sleepily.  At last.

We retreated to Gould Road where we were regaled with many species of warblers, chickadees, titmice, thrushes, and more Brown Creeper than I have heard in many years.  After ticking off all of the species seen and heard and with an eye on our watches, we dashed back to the power cut to get the transitional species including: Indigo Bunting, Prairie Warbler, Blue-winged Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler and Eastern Bluebird.  We stuck to our schedule birded Clinton Road, this time in daylight, picking up highland woodland species and an odd Chimney Swift that flitted overhead before heading down to Garret Mountain.

Ah, Garret, migrant trap deluxe.  The exciting birds of the day were the 10, count them, 10, Cape May Warblers that had been there in the morning.  After birding the park, we met some other birders who told us of a sleeping Common Nighthawk by the earthen dam and a Cape May in the wetland.  We got them both.

It was a fun, exhausting day with much hilarity, great snacks, terrific birds and all for a good cause.  I saw nothing new, but I did see some things I had not seen in quite a few years, like the Cape May.  I would do it again and maybe you will too next year.  Think about it.

Oh yeah, the point of doing a century run is to get to 100 species and we surpassed that.  The Passaic Pewees ended up with 113 species.

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Citizen Science

grasshopper-sparrow

Have you ever been involved in a citizen science bird survey?  New Jersey Audubon conducts several every year: Shorebirds, Piedmont, Pinelands, Nightjar, Harbour Herons, and Grasslands.  Pick one.  Participating allows you and me to be part of something bigger.  It lets the average John Q. (Or in the case, Jane) Birding-Public help collect large amounts of data on bird species across a wide geographic area.  The Christmas Bird Count?  Same thing.

When the call went out this year for the participants for the Grasslands Bird survey, I signed up.   As a group grassland birds are declining more than any other species.  But through NJ’s Landowner Incentive Program that  provides technical and financial assistance to private landowners interested in conversation, there is hope.  Or at least we are hoping there is hope. That is what we are trying to find out.

DJ Brown, Suzanne and I went to the mandatory training session, got our routes, street maps, aerial maps, forms to be completed, grassland bird call CDs and super official letters and car placards.  The instructor reviewed the expected bird species, survey methodology, and answered questions.  Honestly it has a little more rigor than I was thinking it would.  I was thinking of it more as a drive in the country with a few stops, when in actuality, I am part of the control group.  You heard me right, control group.  Remember them?  Holy flash back, shades of 9th grade science class.

But, I also remember growing up to the bouncing call of Field Sparrows in the farm fields all around us; the flash of black and white as Bobolink leapt out of the grass and being curious about grasshoppers impaled on barbed wire.  But I now live in NJ where suburban sprawl is eating up the grassland and the birds are disappearing.  So I am doing my part in providing the science in the hope that someone else may have those same memories.

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Birding Clinton Road

btgw

I live close (seriously, like 5 minutes) to one of the most amazing birding hotspots in NJ and I don’t take advantage of it.  That is going to change. I popped over this morning in the cold and misty rain to see what had come in.  As I crept along the road with the windows down straining to hear; pulling over whenever someone would roar up behind me, the sky brightened.  Starting at the north end, the lake is on the left and there is a marsh on the right; I birded south stopping at most of the pull-offs.  Parking lots 4 and 5 were the birdiest with a stop at the field next to the tree farm and and a side trip up Paradise road.  The highlights were the singing of lots and lots of Black-throated Green Warblers, the insistent tooting of a Red-breasted Nuthatch, the unexpected call of a Barred Owl rolling across the ridge, and the arrival of Prairie and Blue-winged Warblers at the powercut.

Birds Seen:
Yellow Warbler
Tree Swallows
Barred Owl
Mute Swan
Baltimore Oriole
Red-winged Blackbird
Carolina Wren
Song Sparrow
Catbird
Jay
Black-throated Green Warblers – everywhere, Yay
Turkey
Red-breasted Nuthatch
Blue-winged Warbler
Red-shouldered Hawk
White-throated Sparrow
Purple Martins (Lake Lookover)
Titmouse
Robin
Crow
Raven
Chickadee
Ovenbird
Chipping Sparrow
Great-crested Flycatcher
Common Yellowthroat
Black and White Warbler
Hooded Warbler
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Great Blue Heron
Louisiana Waterthrush
Parula
Scarlet Tanager

At the Van Orden Powercut.  You remember we bird the powercuts, right?
Prairie Warbler
Towhee
Yellow Warbler
Blue-winged Warbler
Pewee
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Yellow Warbler

Alas, I did not hear any Golden-winged Warblers.

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Odd Yellow Pine Siskin

green-morph-pine-siskin

While chatting on the phone and idly looking out the window, I noticed an odd Siskin with a small flock pecking around on the ground under the feeders.  It looked positively lemony compared to the other hundred or so swirling around the yard.  People have been reporting “green-morph” Pine Siskins here and there.  I wonder if that is what I have.  I looked in big Sibley and he calls it a “Yellow Adult.”  Look at it on the bottom right of the feeder.  It has more pronounced yellow on the wing and look at that butter butt!  It’s undertail is a pale yellow too.  Being only 1% of the population, I did not think I would see one.  But, by Jove, I think I have one.  What do you think?  Have you ever seen one?

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Birding Liberty State Park

lsp

Loads of toursits visit the Statue of Liberty when they come to New York City for the first time.  Few of them realize that Liberty State Park,  located smack-dab on the Hudson River amidst the crush of humanity in Jersey City, is a local birding hotspot.  With a mix of large open fields, marshland, a pine grove, weedy margins and mudflats when the tide goes out, it offers up a plethora (I love that word) of birding habitats.  It is especially good in winter.  There is a Snowy Owl there most years, living large on the rats.  There are also lots of different types of ducks, gulls and shorebirds.

I went down to the park with friends today to try for the Snowy.  It has been hanging around the golf course and waterfront.   I was also hoping to see the Eurasian Widgeon, immat. male Common Eider and 7 Woodcock that had been reported.  But I skunked on all of them.  I did see Green-winged Teal, loads of Brant, 2 Killdeer, 2 Horned Grebe, lots of Buffleheads,  DC Cormorants, Ruddy Ducks, Gadwalls, Black Ducks and the regular seagulls crowd-Herring, Greater Black-backed and Ring-billed.

Now that I know the lay of the land, so to speak, I plan on going back when it is a nicer and hopefully less windy day.  I wonder when Snowy Owls leave to go back north???

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