Tag Archives: Weis Ecology Center

Ever want to be in a World Series?

What do you see?

A few years ago, some friends and I participated in New Jersey Audubon’s World Series of Birding and it was a hoot! (Get it? Hoot. Nudge, nudge. Eye rolling…Oh, never mind….) It is a competition and fundraising event. We were on the Passaic Pewees team out of Weis Ecology Center. But instead of the insane 24-hour marathon that the professional teams undertake, we met at the crack of dawn for owls, whippoorwills and other night birds, then birded from West Milford to Garret Mountain—all in Passaic county. I think it was more of a 12-hour thing. We saw or heard over 100 species. It was totally fun in a fast-paced non-competitive friendly, laughing, bird watching, bear-spotting kind of way. (Yes, we did see a gigantic bear; we were in West Milford after all.)

Well, the Passaic Pewees are on the prowl again on May 10th. If you would like to come and play; you can call Weis at 973-853-2160 to sign up. I won’t be able to do the whole day but I hope to do part of it. You don’t have to do all of it either. C’mon. Meet me at Weis at 4am. It will be fun!

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Birding weekend- Day 2, Garret Mountain

One of the Warbler during migration

With the warblers dripping from the trees, it was hard to leave the City (notice how it is always capitalized like it is the only one) yesterday but after walking for 5 hours and craning my neck all day, I was bushed. (Does that make me a birding lightweight?) On the ride home we chatted tiredly about what a great day it had been and how lucky we were to have hit it on a fallout. After some hemming and hawing (but being gluttons) we decided to try Garret Mountain today. I had missed some of the warblers that others had seen. More. I wanted more.

Like Central Park, Garret Mountain Reservation is a migrant trap. According to some of the emails, I had been getting there were great migrants there too. So I got up at 5 am for the second day in a row (on the weekend, may I add) and drove to Di’s house. When we got to Garret, whom did we spy, but Suzanne leading a field trip for Weis. We decided to tag along with her. Some of my buddies from the Thursday morning walks were there too.

The park was crawling with birders. Everyone was helpful in pointing out species they had seen up the path, or over on Wilson Road or down by the lake. The World Series of Birding is next week so many people were scouting.

Highlights for today were: Black-throated Blue Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Scarlet Tanager, Baltimore Oriole (I never get tired of them), Black-throated Green Warblers (You know I love them), Great-crested Flycatcher, Greater Yellowlegs, Spotted Sandpiper, Green Heron. All the rest we saw yesterday.

How is migration in your neck of the woods? Get out there, tell me what you are seeing.

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Eagle Day at Beech Road

Hey!  Everybody wave!

I stamped my waterlogged sneakers on the frosty grass. It was another 30-degree morning on Beech Road. I had rifled around in the car and found a fleece vest that I had neglected to put away. I put it on under my coat and over my blouse and sweater. I was cold and whiney. One of my fellow birders had an extra pair of gloves that she loaned me. I am sure she saved me from frostbite. (All right, probably not, but it was cold out.)

As we waited for more birders to arrive I watched the Rough-winged and Tree Swallows. They were out in full force, skimming the water and having mock battles with one another. Tree Swallows never cease to amaze me; their clean white undersides and those iridescent backs are too stunning. There was also a noticeable influx of Rough-winged Swallow over the last week. (One of the cool things about doing a once-a-week bird walk in the same place is being able to watch the migration as it happens.)

An Eastern Kingbird sat at the tippy-top of a tree. It watched us watch him. It kept looking up as if wondering what was so exciting up above him.

After snapping a few shots (see yesterday’s post) of the Kingbird, I started to scan across the water on the opposite bank. Years ago, an old timey birder in Nova Scotia told me to scan the hills and look for a golf ball among the dark evergreens. That would be a Bald Eagle, he said. I still follow his advice. As I scanned the opposite bank, there was a white blob (not really a golf ball) in a tree. It was definitely a white-headed raptor. And lo and behold, it was a well-on-the-way to being an adult Bald Eagle. (golf ball trick still works, sort of) It is always a thrill to see an eagle.

Other birds of note, a few Blue Gray Gnatcatchers, quite a lot of RC Kinglets, over 20 DC Cormorants, and the usual forest birds. Don’t you want to join us next week?

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Beech Road Bird Walk

With only a cursory look at the shoreline, we headed off to the woods with its inviting green blush of tiny leaves.  The light shining through was translucent and limey, like a long drink of a margarita on a hot day-tangy, refreshing, relaxing but a little exciting too.  As we birded along the road leading to the woods, a Cooper’s Hawk then a Red-tailed Hawk graced us with their presence.  And tantalizingly close was the liquid sweer, sweer, sweer…of a Louisiana Waterthrush.  It sounded near, yet far…no, no, really close, wait, maybe not….  We squeezed around the metal gate at the end of the road and onto the woodland path.

The trail repair from last week has been completed but they threw good-sized stones so there was lots of crunching, even on tiptoe.  With this kind of noise every bird in the tri-state area knew we were coming.  The Waterthrush led us on a merry chase deeper into the woods.  We scanned high and low.  We saw Titmice, a Phoebe, heard Chippies, Chickadees, Flickers, and Cardinals.  There was drumming off in the distance.

The Louisiana Waterthrush sang its fool head off.  We never did see it.  But it is nesting there.  According to Suzanne it has been there for 3 weeks.  Next week I am going to feign indifference.  By then there will be more warblers and if he wants us to oooh and ahhh, over his fresh new plumage then he had better show himself.  Harumpf!

On the way back to my car, I saw a beautiful male Commom Merg with his harem of 3 lovely ladies.  Suzanne, the volunteer leader from Weis Ecology Center will be emailing us the trip list.  I’ll post it when it arrives.

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Thursday Morning Bird Walks

April morning at Monksville Reservoir

I lagged behind; dazzled by fuzzy willow catkins glowing in the pale morning light while the rest of the group went ahead. It was a cold but not frosty morning on Beech Road. Monksville Reservoir was flat and still with only one boat of fisherman tucked against the far bank. It was quiet with very few birdsongs.

The Thursday morning bird walks led by Suzanne, a volunteer at Weis Ecology Center started a month ago. I am a laggard or maybe a slug or need ginkgo biloba in the worst way. Thursday would roll by and on my way to work I would glance over and see all of the cars, wonder what was going on, then mutter CRAP! under my breath. It must be Suzanne’s walk. I would make a mental note–next week I am going to go. This went on for weeks. Yesterday, I remembered.

I like these bird walks they give me chance to get out in the early, albeit frosty, morning air; meet fellow birders; and experience nature before I sit in my windowless office for the next 8 or 9 or 10 hours. AND the birding is good there during migration.

While I was distracted by the catkins, one of the women on the walk yelled out in an excited voice, “ There is a bird with a long nose.” I whirled toward the group. Suzanne, got her bins on it and identified it as a Wilson’s Snipe. I abandoned the catkins and dashed over to the group. That is a good bird. I have not seen a Snipe since they changed its name from Common to Wilson. We searched for it in vain.

We continued the walk into the woods hoping for warblers, gnatcatchers or maybe a waterthrush. What we got instead were trucks and bulldozers. The freeholders were repairing a trail in the woods that had been washed out. While a good thing, heavy earthmoving equipment does put a damper on birdlife.

We did see, Great Blue Heron, DC Cormorant, migratory Canada Geese, Chipping Sparrows, Song Sparrows, Red-winged Blackbirds, Grackles, Crows, Wood Ducks, 2 female Buffleheads, Tree Swallows, A Rough-winged Swallow, the ubiquitous Cowbirds, and of course, there was the Wilson’s Snipe.

I left the group early, but I’ll be back next week, if I remember.

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