Monthly Archives: May 2009

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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Bird Photography Weekly

Black & White Warbler

My sister and I had just finished dragging the table and chairs out of the garage and uphill into the back yard and were enjoying our first sip and sup of well-deserved crisp white wine and creamy Saint Andre cheese when, from out of the corner of my ear; I heard it.  I stopped chewy and tilted my head.  “Weeza, weeza, weeza.”  I saw a flicker of monochromatic movement.

“What is…”

“Have you seen…”

We both spoke at once.

“It’s a Black and White Warbler,” I reached onto the chair next to me and offered her my bins.  “They nest here and will be with me all summer.”

Not all warblers, the jewels of the treetops, are high or bright.  The Black and White Warbler travels the trunk like a Nuthatch and has zebra stripes or so my littlest neighbor across the street tells me.  I love that they are so accessible.  Especially if I can see them in the backyard and the only travel involved is with a wine glass from table to lips.

To see other birds, check Birdfreak’s Bird Photography Weekly

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Ever Been Thrown a Birding Bone?

great-horned-owlet

“C’mon,” I muttered to myself, “Throw me a bone.”

I had been out for hours combing the woods when I stumbled across another birder sitting on a rock.   I stopped to exchange the usual pleasantries.  After several minutes, she pointed up in a tree behind me and whispered the magic word…”owlet.”  I whipped around.  “Where?” I tried not to shriek.  Sure enough, there was a Great Horned Owlet sitting on a stout branch.  It followed our movement with its eyes but didn’t budge, blink or otherwise seem to care.

Talk about being in the right place at the right time.  Whooooeeee, as bones go, that is a juicy one.

Have you ever driven for hours to a birding hotspot and there is nothing around or been out looking for a specific bird that everyone has seen; that is suppose to be right, THERE but isn’t or you miss the 8 Blackpolls down by the bridge because you were looking in the wrong tree?  (I’m not bitter, really.) But you end up seeing something unexpectedly terrific.  (A Blackburnian bathing, for example.)  I call that the birding bone.  It doesn’t happen often but when it does you will know it.

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Warbler Neck

birders

Warbler neck is a serious malady that affects all birders in May every year.  If you have ever spent 40 minutes staring up, searching every movement in the tree for the elusive warbler-of-the-moment, you know what I mean. Fortunately this chronic condition will relieve itself with time.  But hopefully not too soon.  What cool warblers have you been seeing?

One of my faves:

hooded-warbler

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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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Skywatch Friday at the Beach

sunrise-on-the-atlantic

I was standing at the water’s edge watching the sun’s first rays color the sand when I heard a screaming flock of gulls further down the beach.  I watched as they swirled and swooped low to the sand. 

gulls-at-sunrise

Curious, I ambled down the beach in their direction.   Always fascinated by what gifts the tide brings in the night; I was looking down as I walked.  I stopped short when I saw the first tiny fish, its silvered scales catching the light.

washed-up-fish

I followed the glistening line of fish; the beach was littered with them.  The gulls were eating what must have been a large school of  fish the was caught in the tide and washed ashore.  I have no idea what they were.  The largest was about 2 inches and the smallest about an inch.  Most of  them were pale to translucent.  A few were sandy colored.  The loose flock of gulls was having a field day.   

I love being outdoors and watching bird behavior, you just never know what you are going to see.

 To see other skies around the world check out SkyWatch Friday

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