Category Archives: migration

Twice yearly movement of the birds up three migratory routes in the US and beyond.

Blue Skies, Nuthin’ but Blue Skies


We all stared at the flat blue expanse of the firmament. Not a cloud, not a wisp, heck, very few contrails even.  We battled eye floaties, crinks in our necks, and sunburn hoping today was the big one; when the flow of thousands of Broad-winged Hawks would come down from their summer forest homes in the north. We got excited by a plane or a vulture, to use as a point of reference.  We strained to ID distant tiny specks, hurried to count swirling kettles before the birds started to peel away, setting their wings for a drive south. These are the hard days when a  lot of eyes trained to the sky helps.

Luckily for me, lots of people showed up at the Mount Peter Hawk Watch today.  In addition to the other sharp-eyed counters, we had almost 12 members of the Fyke Nature Association come for a field trip.  Chief among them was Stiles Thomas, who established the Hawk Watch in 1958.


According to the history section of the Mt. Peter page on HawkCount! “The Montclair Bird Club of NJ sponsored the ‘Across the State Hawk Watch of 1958’.  The two day watch on September 28 and October 18 produced 349 raptors of 10 species for Mount Peter and enough excitement to propel volunteers into a full-time count.”   There has been someone standing on this mountain doing just this thing for over 50 years. Imagine.

Let me give you a glimpse of the spectacle overhead.  Although many birds were high, some did come right over the platform, giving us fabulous views.  Brilliant sunshine streamed through feathers to the appreciative croons of the watchers.

juvenile Broad-winged Hawk

This is what we had gathered to see.  Although there were only 346 pass overhead today, there were 1312 yesterday and more are gathering to the north for another push south tomorrow and the day after that and the day after that until they are all safely basking in the warmth of a South American Spring.


Filed under Local schmocal, migration, Photos

Skywatch Friday

Cedar Waxwings

I heard them first.  When I looked up, following the sound, I saw dozens of Cedar Waxwings on the overhead wires, kibitzing among themselves.  Like all travellers, I’m sure they were complaining about the weather,  the lack of appropriate food, the boredom of flying all day and Junior in the back asking “are we there yet?”


Filed under migration, Travel

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


Filed under Local schmocal, migration, Photos

Chasing a Ruff

Hark back with me to May 1995.

I was in Cape May for the Spring Weekend racking up lifebirds when a Ruff was reported.  The discovery was met with lots of excitement.    My friend and I jumped in our car like everyone else eager to see the bird but instead of speeding away, we ended up creeping in a long line of traffic.  Disgruntled, we almost gave up, thankfully we did not. Looking back on it, I have to smile.  What did I know from rare Eurasian visitors?  I had no idea that I would not see a Ruff again for 14 years.

A few days ago, a rufous phased Ruff was spotted at the Marshland Conservancy in Rye, NY.  I read the report with amazement.  Not because, hot diggity, there was a Ruff in the neighborhood, but because, I actually knew that place and it was in the next town over from where I work.  I decided to pop over Sunday afternoon.  But after standing in the sun taking pictures of the March for Babies walk, all I wanted to do was go home.  It was not a life bird for me after all.  But when I got to work on Monday and it was still being reported; I decided I had to try to see it.  The directions were vague, and never having been in the park before, I had no idea where the bird might be.  I wandered aimlessly around then gave up as the sun slipped past the yardarm, as it were.  I resolved to go again this morning.  I walked the paths but did not see another birder, the Ruff or any of the landmarks reported.  With a heavy sigh, I left for work prepared to give it just one more shot.

As I hustled down the path after work; I came across Greg,  another birder also looking for the Ruff.  We took off together determined to find it.  After an hour of floundering in the marsh, he spotted 2 other birders away on the other side of the park. We plodded, well, I plodded, over rocks carpeted in squishy seaweed, up the steep cliff path, then down the other side, through the woods (stopping to look at an owlet generously pointed out to us by a charming lady birder), across more marsh and out to the waterline.  Scanning the distant shore (a tip from the lady birder) we found a tiny red dot on a dark body.  Greg got the scope on it and low and behold, there it was a gorgeous rufous Ruff.  We watched it feed, fly a few yards, then feed again.  It got closer and we were able to see the markings more clearly.  Two more birders came by and Greg got on the bird again and again.  This was a scope bird, thank goodness Greg brought his.

Bonus birds were: a pair of Orchard Orioles, a Yellow warbler, Immature Black-crowned NightHeron, Lesser Yellowlegs, Oystercatchers, Snowy Egrets, 3 Osprey on 2 separate nests, a good sized flock of displaying Turkeys, Goldfinches, and lots of Red-winged Blackbirds.

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Bird Photography Weekly


I stood on the narrow catwalk hanging below the bridge over Oregon inlet.  The platform vibrated as the cars passed behind me; their tires whizzing by just over my head.   Although the catwalk was intended for fishing, it made a good spot for bird observation.  I resolutely turned my back on the traffic and scanned the water.  The day was flat gray from sky to sea.  Brown Pelicans plunged and bobbed on the waves; a female Bufflehead paddled with her face in the water; thousands of Double-crested Cormorants streamed in long lines from the open ocean to form a solid black mat out of the wind and crashing waves.  Mixed in all this swirling, fluttering bird life were flashes of white; appearing and disappearing like lightening in the gathering gloom.  I watched one fold its wings and plunge straight as an arrow head-first into the waves without a splash.  Ah, Gannets.  I had seen hundreds of Gannets offshore all up and down Hatteras Island; on the move, heading to their nesting grounds in the Martitimes.  What a treat.  I had not seen Gannets since 2002.

In a lull between cars passing over head, I heard thunder.  What I had taken for the rumble of traffic had been mixed with more ominous sounds.  I was standing on a metal catwalk on a metal bridge out over water as a thunder storm approached.  As I considered beating feet onto terra firma, some of the Gannets started to fly closer to the bridge.  I pulled up my camera hoping for a picture.  Of course, I had to stay.  I only managed to get in a few shots before I saw lightening flash on this side of Bodie lighthouse and the first fat drops of rain splash on the metal railing.  I looked up startled.  It was time.  I abandoned my post and hustled to shore as the Gannets swirled white amidst the monochrome black and gray of a coastal North Carolina storm.


Filed under migration, Photos, Travel

Beach Birds


I am off to the Outer Banks of North Carolina to spend a few days with my cousin.  She and her husband are not birdwatchers, but appreciate that I am, so I will be able make myself scarce a few hours of the day to see what is around.  I hope there is some interesting stuff coming through.  But, I suppose it is too early for Painted Bunting.  Bummer, that would be a life bird.


Filed under migration, Travel

Happy Spring!


At last spring has sprung and I am teasing you with the joy of birds to come.  The first wablers I see are usually Palm Warblers. And that won’t be for another few weeks.  But my friends, they are coming.


Filed under Local schmocal, migration

Chimney Swifts are on their way back

The first Chimney Swifts of the season have been spotted on the Gulf Coast.  YAY!!!  The folks at Driftwood Wildlife Association will be plotting the swifts’ movements northward over the next few months.  If you would like to contribute, let them know when you see the first ones in your area.  They will post the results to their map.

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Odd Yellow 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?


Filed under migration

Eared Grebe at Round Valley Reservoir


I rolled down my window (when is the last time you actually rolled down your window?  Funny how we still say that, when we are just pushing a button.)  to ask the cluster of birders who appeared next to my car what they were seeing.  One women gestured toward the end of the boat ramp.  “We’re here for the Eared Grebe.”  Oh, right, the Eared Grebe.  I had read on the local ListServ that one had been reported.  I had come to Round Valley Reservoir for the white-winged gulls and the Lesser Black-back Gull.  I had totally forgotten about the Grebe. 

The Grebe was diving and popping up close to the ice near the dam, so I walked out on top of  the dam to be a better view.  It was pretty far out but as we stood there it started to come closer; swimming in a meandering fashion creating a zig-zag wake in the water.  

As it approached, a discussion broke out about the differences between  Horned and Eared Grebes.  This Grebe has a dark face, white ear patch and a small up-tilted bill.  Classic.  The one thing that really amused me was the fluffy white pillow butt.  What is up with that?


Why are we so excited about an Eared Grebe?  It is a western bird that supposedly winters only as far east as Texas and Louisiana.  Yet here it is hanging around in NJ.  I love winter birding for this reason.  You just never know.


Filed under Local schmocal, migration