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.
Tag Archives: NJ
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.