Thursday, January 31, 2008

Thurs. 1/31: Golden Eagle at Brig/Forsythe NWR, and birding tomorrow

Steve Mason and Katie Montagnaro, my friends-turned-birders, joined me for a trip around the dikes at Brig/Forsythe around mid-day. The highlight of our drive was a Golden Eagle visible from the last leg of the north dike at 12:30pm. The bird was quite distant (1/2 mile+), and probably would've been easier to see from Leeds Point Road, which is located a little north of Brig.

If you're curious as to why this was a Golden, and not a Bald Eagle, especially at that distance- in flight, Golden Eagles usually display a slight dihedral (wings held up in a slight V), appear smaller-headed and longer-tailed, have a more buteo-like structure, and are slightly more agile than Bald Eagles. Balds, on the other hand, have flat, broad, plank-like wings, a more obvious head (the head and tail will look closer to the same length), and tend to have a "heavier" appearance than Goldens when flying. The bird we saw this afternoon was hunting low at first, coursing back and forth over the marsh almost like a harrier on steroids (and flushing hundreds of Black Ducks all the while), and then found a thermal and quickly became a spot in the sky before sailing off toward the NW. This pattern of behavior is something I've seen several times while watching Goldens in winter, even though it certainly shouldn't be used as a definitive characteristic.

Other nice sightings included 4-5 American Tree Sparrows along Jen's Trail (on your right just after you leave the NW Pool) and 9 Eastern Bluebirds near the Experimental Pool. Waterfowl numbers as a whole were nothing compared to last week, courtesy of the recent warm-up.


As for tomorrow, the current forecasts have winds out of the east tonight, increasing overnight into tomorrow, and then switching to the southeast and south, at 20-30mph. Heavy rain is also expected tomorrow afternoon. Nasty? Yes indeed... but storms like these always have at least some potential to bring in neat birds from farther offshore. Keep in mind that this has been a good winter for nearshore Dovekies (one was found just yesterday in Longport, Atlantic County), and that a Black-legged Kittiwake was seen just last week from the ferry (and that was during a northwest gale). My suggestion is to make a stop at Sunset Beach at some point tomorrow, take a few minutes and see what gets blown by...can't hurt to try.

Starting out the day at -22 F

Yes, the last day of our trip to the cold mid-west started out at - 22 F. The funny thing was that I had been expecting the worst (as I do much of the time) having gone to college up there but it turned out that the cold was not quite as biting as I had remembered. I guess that's what ten years will do for the memory. While it never did get that cold during the winters I lived in Maine (the temps did approach the mid-west cold at times and I worked out side) you never really feel like you are prepared for the temps that dip down below negative 10-15 F. I was happy to realize that it just wasn't near as bad I had been thinking it would be. After all as Tom Parsons says about folks who come to Cape May on vacation; (this is paraphrased) you spend your money to get here and make the time for the journey, no matter the weather you'll get out and do some birding. This is very true! It wouldn't have mattered what the temps. were, we were there to find some birds. About the only thing that would have kept us from our intended goal would have been if the wind had not cooperated. Temperatures that cold, with a slight wind, can be bad and lead to quick frostbite if you are not prepared. Strong wind in those temps. can be much more sever and potentially life threatening.

As I said before in my previous post, all three of us ended up with a life bird which signals a successful trip, in my opinion. Five life birds topped the group given that one of us had never been to this area before. My two life birds were enough to satisfy me. Though, the big dips of Three-toed woodpecker and Great gray owl really hurt. I cannot figure out how we missed the 3-toes as they had been reported with pretty regular frequency. So much for my college friends’ encouragement of "thee-toes have almost never been so easy." I guess the word to pay attention to is "almost!" The Great gray owls while a huge disappointment is not a huge surprise. After discussions (an outside source included) it was quite apparent that the freezing temps producing a good crust on the snow was probably the primary culprit. Since Great gray owls pounce on their prey through the snow, when the crust gets thick enough to hold up a grown man (me) for even a few seconds the owls cannot break through to hunt. Subsequently, they have to move to find better hunting areas. The kicker is that there is now a Great gray only minutes from where I was when I lived in Maine. "Oh well", I tell my self, "you have to leave a few for later." Not that this really eases the "pain" of dipping on a bird you've been wanting to see for so long but it helps.

So, below are a few photos from our last morning in Sax-Zim Bog. None of them are especially good (I forgot to load my photo editing software on the laptop and had to use a free net program) but I figured I'd share the few photos that I actually was able to take. I really did not anticipate the cold inhibiting the photo taking. While I was able to get a few good shots of a Gray Jay, I had to take the shots without gloves, which ultimately hurt. It was worth it though.

Now that this vacation is over and I have actually been able to catch up on some paper work (a necessary evil), I had a little while to take a quick walk before work this morning. Since I had an errand to run in Court House, I decided to take a quick spin at the Cape May NWR Schellenger Tract. There wasn't anything crazy out of the ordinary there today but it is a nice place for a quick walk. I've had adult male Cape May warbler there in the spring; in fact it seems that this may be a good place to check for a Cape May in late May as they have been seen there on numerous occasions.

Probably the best bird of the morning was a Great horned owl which flushed from its daytime hiding place. The bird flew in front of me down the trail and perched back in the woods at the top of a snag in full sunlight. What a view! I couldn't help wondering if this was the same individual which we saw at dusk fly across the road during our evening walk. The spot was less than a mile away as the owl flies.

All of the other usual suspects were in evidence as you will see by my list below. Tomorrow is looking like a great morning to do the morning exercises and or sleep in. It's supposed to be rather nasty with wind and rain, only to get worse as the day goes on.



WINTER BIRDING PHOTOS


(female Pine grosbeak)


(cooperative Gray jay)

(look for the Hoary redpoll with the Common redpolls; any guesses as to the species of the non redpoll)


(male Evening grosbeak; you just can't ever get enough of this bird)


(A Tail of Two Grosbeaks: Pine, male and Evening, female)


Location: Cape May NWR--Schellenger Tract
Observation date: 1/31/08
Notes: 2307 steps = 1.5 miles
Number of species: 28

Great Black-backed Gull 2
Mourning Dove 4
Great Horned Owl 1
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted) 1
Blue Jay 7
American Crow 4
Carolina Chickadee 12
Tufted Titmouse 5
White-breasted Nuthatch 2
Carolina Wren 7
Winter Wren 1
Golden-crowned Kinglet 1
Eastern Bluebird 4
American Robin 5
Gray Catbird 1
Northern Mockingbird 2
European Starling 8
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) 4
Eastern Towhee 6
Fox Sparrow 1
Song Sparrow 5
White-throated Sparrow 25
Northern Cardinal 7
Red-winged Blackbird 15
Rusty Blackbird 6
Common Grackle 55
Purple Finch 4
House Finch 23

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(http://ebird.org

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Wed. 1/30: Jake's Landing update, Shovelers in Reed's Beach, more on robins

There were 3-4 Short-eared Owls at Jake's this evening, along with a distant perched silhouette of a Bald Eagle, a fly-by Wilson's Snipe, and a brief look at a distant Peregrine Falcon. Notable in their absence were Snow Geese, but the flock seems to be spending more time around Goshen Landing and Reed's Beach lately. I also noticed, for the first time this winter, a number of robins coming in to roost in the forest around the beginning of Jake's Landing Road. Based on what I've seen during the past week, it seems like there's been a small influx of robins into the bayshore region since the last mini cold-snap.

A check of the 'Ibis Pond' along Reed's Beach Road this afternoon produced 7 Northern Shovelers and a Belted Kingfisher. Shovelers can become scarce in Cape May County in the middle of winter, but this pond has been a reliable spot to see the species the past two years.

List from Jake's Landing included-

Location: Jake's Landing
Observation date: 1/30/08
Number of species: 21
Canada Goose 25

American Black Duck 12
Mallard 2
Green-winged Teal 9
Hooded Merganser 1
Bald Eagle 1
Northern Harrier 9
Red-tailed Hawk 1
Peregrine Falcon 1
Black-bellied Plover 1
Dunlin 75
Wilson's Snipe 1
Ring-billed Gull 6
Herring Gull 45
Great Black-backed Gull 1
Marsh Wren 2
American Robin 600
Song Sparrow 2
Red-winged Blackbird 75
Eastern Meadowlark 4
Common Grackle 350

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(http://ebird.org)

Woodcock along the bayshore

Karen Johnson called me last night to report an American Woodcock in full display near her home in northern Cape May County, thanks to yesterday's relatively balmy weather - it is January, right? We host woodcock watching events every spring, but normally wait until March. This year's Woodcock Dance program will be March 1 from 7 to 9 p.m. - more under programs/daily walks.

In most years plenty of woodcock winter in Cape May, or try. Now and then a snowstorm or hard freeze will force woodcock to forage along roadsides, where many a birder has gotten their life look at this otherwise elusive bird. There is photo of woodcock in just that setting, by Lloyd Spitalnik, in our photo gallery. Unfortunately, after such weather events it is also common to find dead woodcock, but with warmer winters that may be a thing of the past.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Tues. 1/29: Two Mile Beach notes, Lily Lake goodies, Reed's Beach diving ducks, Short-ear movie

With time to spare this afternoon, and the temperature hovering around 50 degrees, there was nothing to do except go birding...


I walked down Two Mile Beach with images of alcids floating through my head, but there were unfortunately none to be found when I arrived at the jetties marking the entrance to Cold Spring Inlet. The previously-seen Harlequin Ducks and Common Eiders were absent as well. However, that didn't mean that there weren't other nice things to see. A little time spent looking offshore produced all three scoter species on the wing, as well as a few Red-throated and Common Loons, Bonaparte's Gulls and Long-tailed Ducks. Two Mile not only offers some of the best winter birding around, but also a rare look into what our barrier islands would look like if they were still undeveloped...it's a special area, and well worth the stop.



{Above is a picture from the observation deck behind the dunes at Two Mile Beach, looking south toward Cold Spring Inlet...just ignore my slanted horizon...}

A stroll around Lily Lake produced the Barnacle Goose with the usual Canada Goose flock, as well as the 5 Redheads and female Canvasback. An adult Red-shouldered Hawk was perched along the east side of the lake. A picture of the Redheads, along with a few American Coots, is included.


There were a few hundred diving ducks visible from the north end of Reed's Beach this evening- mainly Greater Scaup, with lesser numbers of Ruddy Ducks and Common Goldeneye, and a smattering of Bufflehead and Red-breasted Mergansers.
I've also included (and hopefully this will work) a brief video clip of a Short-eared Owl from Jake's Landing last week- just in case you can't get down here to see the show this winter. Keep in mind that this was taken with a digital camera, so quality and image stability aren't the best. I lose track of the bird eventually, and haven't yet been able to cut out the end of the video, which features nothing but phragmites, so consider pushing stop after the 16-second mark.

video

Monday, January 28, 2008

Mon. 1/28: Robin roost @ Woodcock Trail, Short-ear @ Reed's Beach

I took a stroll around Woodcock Trail, a tract of Cape May NWR, this evening. If you've never been (and you really should), Woodcock Trail is yet another birding locale situated off of Route 47, at the end of Woodcock Lane, a little south of Kimble's Beach Road and the Pantry One food-mart at the corner of Hand Ave & Rte 47. It has a great 1-mile walking loop that borders a fine wooded edge, and also features several paths that cut through transitional and upland-type forests, with a vista of the salt marsh available. It's a great location at any season, and features a lot of wintering passerines in winter, large numbers of migrants in spring and fall, and a good diversity of breeding birds in summer, including Blue Grosbeak, Yellow-billed Cuckoo and Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

There weren't tons of birds this evening, but still a nice mix of woodland edge species. Of particular note was the influx of robins into the area starting around 4:45pm. I estimated about 850 Robins coming in to roost, but am sure I missed quite a few, and didn't stay through dusk to see if more continued to file in.

A brief stop at the north end of Reed's Beach just after sunset produced one rather distant Short-eared Owl. I'd include more but our blog provider is issuing a "scheduled outage" (whatever that means) in moments, so that's all for now!

Weather looks pretty good overall for the week, get out there and see some birds!

South Jersey is Raptor Central. . .

. . .if you don't think so, check out the reports at the end of this blog from CMBO's field trips on Sunday to Turkey Point (8-10 a.m.) and to Tuckahoe/Corbin City (4 p.m.-dusk), led by Karen Johnson and Janet Crawford. Turkey Point walks continue through March 23, while the Tuckahe/Corbin City walks alternate with trips to Jake's Landing, also through March 23. More info under Programs/Daily Walks.

In other news, all the waterfowl species Tom Reed reported below from Lily Lake on Saturday were still there on Sunday, as enjoyed by our group from John F. Craig House B&B. I had the pleasure of doing a cooperative program for Barbara and Chip Masemore, innkeepers at the Craig House, with an informal lecture inside on Saturday night, then leading guests on a field trip Sunday. We'll definitely be doing more of this kind of program, and I can't recommend the food and accomodations at the Craig House highly enough - great people, and they pay attention to every detail.

Field trip reports courtesy of Janet Crawford follow - besides all the raptors, check out the Virginia Rail at Tuckahoe!

Location: Turkey Point
Observation date: 1/27/08
Notes: CMBO Turkey Point Walk - The highlight of the walk was 2 Short-eared Owls at 8:10 am. We also had a light-morph Rough-legged Hawk, an unaged Golden Eagle, and hunting Bald Eagles sending up clouds of Snow Geese.
Number of species: 41
Snow Goose 2000
Canada Goose 4
Mute Swan 15
Gadwall 4
American Black Duck 20
Mallard 2
Green-winged Teal 1
Bufflehead 14
Hooded Merganser 9
Common Merganser 3
Great Blue Heron 6
Black Vulture 2
Turkey Vulture 12
Bald Eagle 9
Northern Harrier 18
Red-tailed Hawk 9
Rough-legged Hawk 1
Golden Eagle 1
Dunlin 97
Ring-billed Gull X
Herring Gull X
Great Black-backed Gull X
Mourning Dove 3
Short-eared Owl 2
Belted Kingfisher 1
Downy Woodpecker 3
Northern Flicker 3
Blue Jay 6
American Crow 4
Carolina Chickadee 10
Carolina Wren 5
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 1
American Robin 60
Gray Catbird 1
European Starling 25
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) 12
Song Sparrow 6
Swamp Sparrow 2
White-throated Sparrow 2
Northern Cardinal 3
Red-winged Blackbird 120

Location: McNamara WMA - Tuckahoe
Observation date: 1/27/08
Notes: CMBO walk at Tuckahoe WMA. The highlights were a dark morph Rough-legged Hawk, which put on a great show, hover hunting over the marsh, good looks at 2 Short-eared Owls, 2 Great Horned Owls calling and 21 Tundra Swans. The suprise of the evening was a very close Virginia Rail, which gave us brief looks, and then called.
Number of species: 21
Mute Swan 13
Tundra Swan 21
American Black Duck X
Northern Pintail X
Green-winged Teal X
Great Blue Heron 2
Northern Harrier 3
Red-tailed Hawk 3
Rough-legged Hawk 1
Virginia Rail 1
Herring Gull X
Great Black-backed Gull 1
Great Horned Owl 2
Short-eared Owl 2
Downy Woodpecker 1
Carolina Chickadee 2
Carolina Wren 1
American Robin 200
Swamp Sparrow 1
Northern Cardinal 1
Red-winged Blackbird 1

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Sat. 1/26: CMBO Cape May Pt. walk- Barnacle Goose, Redheads, Tree Swallow

I'm out of action today, courtesy of a stomach virus, but received the following report from Karl Lukens regarding this morning's productive walk in Cape May Point:

"Cold, partly cloudy morning at Cape May Point Walk this morning. Most of the ponds were ice covered, but thanks to the bubblers, Lily Lake was open and loaded with water fowl. Highlights were: ~5 Redheads (at least 3 Drakes), 1 Canvasback, 3 Ring-necks, a dozen Ruddys, and while we were watching, the Canada Geese came in from the fields, and the group included the "white-headed" Canada and the Barnacle Goose. Land birds included Purple Finch, Goldfinch, Cedar Waxwings, and 8 Downy Woodpeckers."

Location: Cape May Point
Observation date: 1/26/08
Number of species: 57
Snow Goose 4
Barnacle Goose 1
Canada Goose 100
Mute Swan 3
Gadwall 25
American Wigeon 30
Mallard 30
Canvasback 1
Redhead 5
Ring-necked Duck 3
Common Eider 4
White-winged Scoter 1
Black Scoter 5
scoter sp. 20
Long-tailed Duck 5
Hooded Merganser 5
Ruddy Duck 10
Red-throated Loon 2
Double-crested Cormorant 1
Turkey Vulture 2
Sharp-shinned Hawk 2
Cooper's Hawk 1
Red-shouldered Hawk 1
American Coot 30
Sanderling 2
Ring-billed Gull 5
Herring Gull X
Great Black-backed Gull X
Rock Pigeon 25
Mourning Dove 25
Red-bellied Woodpecker 1
Downy Woodpecker 8
Blue Jay 10
American Crow 10
Tree Swallow 1
Carolina Chickadee 3
Tufted Titmouse 1
Red-breasted Nuthatch 1
Carolina Wren 5
Golden-crowned Kinglet 1
American Robin 30
Gray Catbird 1
Northern Mockingbird 2
European Starling 30
Cedar Waxwing 20
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) 20
Fox Sparrow 1
Song Sparrow 1
White-throated Sparrow 15
Northern Cardinal 5
Red-winged Blackbird 10
Common Grackle 1
Brown-headed Cowbird 15
Purple Finch 1
House Finch 20
American Goldfinch 10
House Sparrow 15

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(http://ebird.org)

Friday, January 25, 2008

Quiet evening at Goshen Landing, Brig notes from Thursday

I made a visit to Goshen Landing this evening. G.L. is another great bayshore access point, located off Route 47, about 2 miles south of CMBO's Center for Research and Education. It begins as a paved road, and then turns into a dirt road at the edge of the marsh before ending after another 1/4 mile. In winter it is another good spot to search for Short-eared Owls, Rough-legged Hawks and other winter raptors. There have been at least a couple Short-ears here this winter, but the breeze was a bit much this evening and I struck out in that department. However, there were some other nice sights, including nearly 30 Hooded Mergansers and an adult Bald Eagle which flushed 5,000+ Snow Geese from the marshes on the south side of the road. The dirt portion of the road is currently in fairly good condition, but keep in mind that this road is often impassable, and that it floods often- so any sizable puddles are likely salt water.

Additionally, I visited Brig/Forsythe NWR again yesterday and found a cast of characters similar to what was present Tuesday. Of note was a total of 20 species of waterfowl, including the continuing rafts of scaup, which numbered about 1,800 yesterday, and were close enough to sort to species, with the vast majority being Greater Scaup. There were also at least 6 Canvasbacks mixed in. Other highlights included an immature Bald Eagle sitting on the ice in the NW Pool, ~125 Cedar Waxwings feeding in the cedars just past Jen's Trail (yes, I checked for Bohemian, don't fear), and a nice mammal sighting- a Red Fox along the road to Gull Pond Tower.

Thursday waterfowl counts/estimations from Brig included-
Snow Goose 3000
Brant 2500
Canada Goose 75
Mute Swan 35
Gadwall 12
American Wigeon 25
American Black Duck 2500
Mallard 200
Northern Shoveler 75
Northern Pintail 90
Green-winged Teal 15
Canvasback 6
Ring-necked Duck 3
Greater Scaup 1800
Lesser Scaup 6
Bufflehead 30
Hooded Merganser 50
Common Merganser 6
Red-breasted Merganser 1
Ruddy Duck 2

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Two Mile Beach: Harlequins, Eiders, Gannets et. al.

George Myers reports: "Karl Lukens and I walked Two Mile Beach out to Cold Spring Inlet. Two Harlequin Ducks were in the surf at the tip of the far jetty. Also 220+ Northern Gannets headed south. Fifty Black-bellied Plovers, 3 American Oystercatchers, several Great Cormorants and a number of Ruddy Turnstones were on the jetty. From Poverty Beach we were able to see 9 Common Eiders but were unable to pick out a King."

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Wed. 1/23: Short-ears and hardy lingerers at Jake's Landing

I made another visit to Jake's Landing this evening, thankfully with the temperature 15 degrees warmer than Sunday night, and with almost no wind. Remember that nights with little or no wind are best for seeing Short-ears...owls were up and flying when I arrived this evening, no doubt taking advantage of the perfect flying conditions. Here's a run-down of the highlights:
  • 5 Short-eared Owls, visible in all directions from the parking lot at one time or another.
  • 2 Bald Eagles, both adults- apparently one each from the Beaver Swamp and East Creek nesting pairs, as the two headed in those respective directions.
  • 10+ Marsh Wrens and 2 Seaside Sparrows, a rather nice count for late-January, but not totally unexpected considering the lack of any extended cold snaps so far.
  • 8+ calling Clapper Rails, another good tally at the end of January for a species that is characteristic of summer.
  • 2 duetting Great Horned Owls- this is our earliest breeding species, and the female should be on eggs pretty soon.

As usual, a complete list is included-

Location: Jake's Landing Observation date: 1/23/08 Number of species: 25
Snow Goose 7000

Canada Goose 125

American Black Duck 60

Mallard 2

Hooded Merganser 3

Pied-billed Grebe 2

Bald Eagle 2

Northern Harrier 12

Red-tailed Hawk 1

Clapper Rail 6

Dunlin 40

Wilson's Snipe 1

Ring-billed Gull 1

Herring Gull 6

Great Black-backed Gull 1

Mourning Dove 1

Great Horned Owl 2

Short-eared Owl 5

Marsh Wren 10

American Robin 45

Seaside Sparrow 2

Song Sparrow 1

Swamp Sparrow 1

Red-winged Blackbird 25

Eastern Meadowlark 1

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(http://ebird.org)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Lows of -15 F, Highs of +13 F

No, I am not talking about Cape May temps. I've taken a bit of time off to head to the Northwoods of Minnesota to look for a few species that remain absent from my personal list. While the temps. seem beyond what many people think a normal persons should willingly enter in to, remember I'm a crazy birder. If there is the possibility of seeing new birds we'll venture into the most adverse conditions. You know what I am talking about. I was ready for these temps anyway, having gone to college not far away from our base camp of Duluth.

So we've met a good friend (another crazy birder of course) and headed out to Sax-Zim Bog to try and find owls, finches and woodpeckers specifically. Keeping tabs on the Minnesota Ornithological Union listserv since late December I figured that we had a good chance to see many of our sought after species. There had been a handful of routine sightings of Great-grey owls and Northern hawk owls, two species we've been wanting to see for some time. I have been lucky enough to see a Great grey owl back in college, but before I was keeping any type of bird list. Additionally, there have been frequent sightings of Black-backed and Three-toed woodpeckers. As a friend from college emailed of this winter, three-toes are practically easier than ever to see.

Our first day in the bog we were met with the lows of -15 ºF with highs that barely crept above zero. While the birding was great, taking photos was difficult. I have a attached a few decent attempts below. I don't think that the digi-scoping concept has really saturated my brain either as I am more used to using a standard lens. But for the most part, I blame the poor quality on the old temps.

Highlights for Monday's birding were a good number of Pine grosbeaks at a feeding station along with a couple Evening grosbeaks.


One thing about coming back to this area after almost ten years, many of these species are like seeing life birds all over again as I have only seen them once, maybe twice before. I also had forgotten just how beautiful this area of the country is and how much I loved my time up here. Kind of makes me wonder why I ever left in the first place.


Back to the birds, we did get a very distant Northern hawk owl, which counts, but I'd definitely love seeing one closer. S you can see this was a distant view, approximately 1/4 mile.


We were not able to get up here for the big owl invasion so were hoping that this trip would pan out as a substitute. Leading up to our trip, as I said, there had been a hand full of sightings. For some reason in the week or so just before we arrived the owls sightings dropped off. As a matter of fact we have completely dipped on Great grey owl much to my dismay. These owls breed in the area, where are they? Well, I guess you can't win them all.

We had a Black-backed woodpecker almost first thing but have yet to catch up with a Three-toed woodpecker. Yet another species we've dipped on. Hopefully tomorrow on our last morning for birding the area. The most numerous of species has been Snow buntings and Common raven. Also at the feeding station with the grosbeaks we had a good group of Common redpolls and one Hoary redpoll. It was very nice to see this species again in particular. My first I had to work hard for as a yard bird in Maine scrutinizing the identification, but this male was a good bit easier to identify showing many classic hoary field marks. A very ghostly looking bird.

We've all been lucky enough to have at least one life bird which is always nice. Two Gray jays popped up to the top of some spruce trees on McDavitt Rd. while looking for woodpeckers and owls. Also, this afternoon we had a couple of Black-billed magpies as another surprise species. I was glad to have actually gotten to see this species since I had jumped the gun yesterday seeing a flash of white in a wing and black tail through the trees yesterday, calling a Pileated woodpecker a magpie.

Also this afternoon we did have a second Ruffed grouse and a Barred owl at dusk. We had searcher for Spruce grouse this morning well to the north of Duluth and struck out completely. So at least we had a grouse for the day. I'd rather it have been a Sharp-tailed grouse but beggars can't be choosers. It's just nice to be birding a different location and seeing different birds.

Well given the late hour and that we are getting up early to bird I should leave you with just a couple more photos. The first is the Ruffed grouse we saw yesterday. The second was an attempt to take an artsy photo of the moon rise tonight over the bog. Given that I did not have my camera on a tripod it didn't come out as bad as I figured it would so I've put it in for you to view. This is truly a magical place and one I hope to visit again in the winter and possibly the early summer. They list Connecticut warbler a virtually common! Want to come a along?



Location: Sax-Zim Bog
Observation date: 1/21/08
Notes: Counts include birding all Sax-Zim Bog area
Number of species: 22

Ruffed Grouse 1
Bald Eagle 2
Rock Pigeon 3
Northern Hawk Owl 1
Downy Woodpecker 4
Hairy Woodpecker 1
Black-backed Woodpecker 1
Pileated Woodpecker 1
Northern Shrike 3
Gray Jay 2
Blue Jay 1
American Crow 6
Common Raven 30
Black-capped Chickadee 35
Red-breasted Nuthatch 1
White-breasted Nuthatch 3
Snow Bunting 145
Pine Grosbeak 12
Common Redpoll 35
Hoary Redpoll 1
Evening Grosbeak 3
House Sparrow 15


ocation: Sax-Zim Bog
Observation date: 1/22/08
Number of species: 12

Ruffed Grouse 1
Barred Owl 1
Downy Woodpecker 1
Hairy Woodpecker 2
Northern Shrike 1
Black-billed Magpie 2
American Crow 1
Common Raven 15
Black-capped Chickadee 8
Red-breasted Nuthatch 2
European Starling 1
Common Redpoll 2

Tues. 1/22: Ducks o' plenty at Brig, Salem County Ross's Goose report

I made a late-morning stop at Brig (Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge) between classes to find that most of the impoundments and other ponds were almost completely frozen. However, that didn't mean that there weren't any birds to be seen, as there were still a few open pockets remaining along the south and east dikes where ducks were concentrated. Highlights included a single Merlin toward the end of the driving loop, an estimated 2500+ American Black Ducks roosting on the ice in the middle of the west pool, 83 Northern Shovelers and a Mallard x Black Duck hybrid along the south dike, and roughly 900 distant scaup that could not be sorted to species, well out in the bay visible from the south dike as one looks toward Atlantic City.

In other news, Sandra Keller found a Ross's Goose among a flock of thousands of Snow Geese in Salem County this afternoon, near Mannington Marsh.

A full species list from Brig is included-

Location: E B Forsythe NWR--Autoloop
Observation date: 1/22/08
Number of species: 41
Snow Goose 1500

Brant 300
Canada Goose 75
Mute Swan 40
Gadwall 4
American Black Duck 2800
American Black Duck x Mallard (hybrid) 1
Mallard 125
Northern Shoveler 83
Northern Pintail 25
Scaup, sp. 900
Bufflehead 30
Hooded Merganser 45
Common Merganser 4
Red-breasted Merganser 2
Ruddy Duck 2
Great Blue Heron 1
Bald Eagle 1
Cooper's Hawk 1
Merlin 1
Dunlin 125
Ring-billed Gull 2
Herring Gull 60
Great Black-backed Gull 4
Hairy Woodpecker 1
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted) 1
Blue Jay 3
American Crow 6
Carolina Chickadee 2
Carolina Wren 2
Golden-crowned Kinglet 3
Hermit Thrush 1
American Robin 40
European Starling 20
Cedar Waxwing 12
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) 8
Savannah Sparrow 2
Song Sparrow 3
White-throated Sparrow 6
Northern Cardinal 2
Red-winged Blackbird 12

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(http://ebird.org)

Monday, January 21, 2008

Mon. 1/21: New CMBO Eagle Trip

If you really want to see a Bald Eagle, then you should have been on today's CMBO program, Where The Eagles Are. This was a brand new program offered for the first time, centered around some of the best areas to see Bald Eagles (including several active nest sites) in Cumberland County. And it certainly lived up to its billing, with a total of 16 Bald Eagles seen between six different sites as well as a host of other great finds, including a dark-morph Rough-legged Hawk at Newport Landing, nearly 30 Northern Harriers hunting at the same time at Turkey Point, and an entertaining mid-air battle at Beaver Dam Boat Rental between two male Red-tailed Hawks over some sort of rodent. Lists from Newport Landing and Green Swamp/PSE&G Cohansey River Restoration Site are included. It might be cold, but there are certainly birds to be found, so get out there!

Location: Newport Landing
Observation date: 1/21/08
Notes: part of CMBO Eagle trip
Number of species: 22
American Black Duck 35

Mallard 2
Bufflehead 15
Hooded Merganser 6
Turkey Vulture 3
Bald Eagle 3
Northern Harrier 8
Red-tailed Hawk 6
Rough-legged Hawk 1
Black-bellied Plover 1
Killdeer 4
Dunlin 40
Ring-billed Gull 2
Herring Gull 25
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 1
American Robin 45
Northern Mockingbird 1
European Starling 75
Song Sparrow 1
Swamp Sparrow 1
Red-winged Blackbird 25
Eastern Meadowlark 1

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(http://ebird.org)


Location: Green Swamp
Observation date: 1/21/08
Notes: part of CMBO Eagle trip
Number of species: 13
Snow Goose 10000

American Black Duck 30
Turkey Vulture 2
Bald Eagle 5
Northern Harrier 8
Red-tailed Hawk 4
Killdeer 1
Greater Yellowlegs 2
Red-bellied Woodpecker 1
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted) 1
Song Sparrow 3
Swamp Sparrow 1
Red-winged Blackbird 20

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(http://ebird.org)

Good Birding in a Cold Wind: Cape May Point, Turkey Point, & Villas for Redhead, Red-headed, Raptors, and More

Having dipped on the Redhead in Cape May Point the other day, I took a very windy, very cold stroll at Villas WMA Sunday, and found two Redheads with the duck flock on the big pond (southwest corner of the property near the old clubhouse, if you haven't been) as well as a single Red-headed Woodpecker, now sporting a partially red head. The woodpecker was excavating a cavity, presumably for roosting.

CMBO's regular Cape May Point walk on Saturday, plus a walk we conducted for a visiting group, revealed what could be found at the State Park and around the point. My sense is that you are just as well off looking offshore at St. Peter's, checking Lily Lake & the area around the Northwood Center, and strolling about the streets of Cape May Point as you are walking the state park, at least for now - there has been substantial management activity at the park and Bunker and Lighthouse ponds at least have been somewhat devoid of life. Karl Lukens reports on what was collectively found by him, Chuck and MJ Slugg, Judy Lukens, Marc and Lynne Breslow, Will Kerling and the participants: "Best ducks were on Lily Lake where the Canvasback is still hanging out. No Redhead this morning. We did run into a perched immature Red-shoulder, and flying Sharpies, a Cooper's Hawk, a Peregrine, and Red-tail. Off shore, one of each Loons, several Gannets, and the usual gulls. Good looks at a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and Red-bellied Woodpecker were enjoyed by many."

Location: Cape May Point - CMBO Walk
Observation date: 1/19/08
Number of species: 52
Canada Goose 5
Mute Swan 3
Gadwall 3
American Wigeon 5
Mallard 10
Canvasback 1
Ring-necked Duck 4
Common Eider 1
Surf Scoter 2
Black Scoter 8
Long-tailed Duck 2
Hooded Merganser 2
Red-breasted Merganser 1
Ruddy Duck 12
Red-throated Loon 1
Common Loon 1
Northern Gannet 4
Double-crested Cormorant 1
Turkey Vulture 3
Sharp-shinned Hawk 2
Cooper's Hawk 1
Red-shouldered Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 1
Peregrine Falcon 1
American Coot 20
Ring-billed Gull 3
Herring Gull 10
Great Black-backed Gull 1
Rock Pigeon 5
Mourning Dove 10
Red-bellied Woodpecker 1
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 1
Blue Jay 3
American Crow 5
Carolina Chickadee 3
Red-breasted Nuthatch 1
Carolina Wren 3
Golden-crowned Kinglet 1
American Robin 5
Northern Mockingbird 2
European Starling 20
Cedar Waxwing 10
Yellow-rumped Warbler 20
Fox Sparrow 1
Song Sparrow 1
White-throated Sparrow 10
Dark-eyed Junco 3
Northern Cardinal 3
Red-winged Blackbird 20
House Finch 10
American Goldfinch 5
House Sparrow 15

Speaking of wind, CMBO's Sunday field trips to Turkey Point and Jake's Landing managed to turn up a surprising array. It's often been said that birding is better in the rain than in the wind, and rightly so. But despite the conditions, check out what was found (Turkey Point list courtesy of Chuck and MJ Slugg, see Tom Reed's post below for the Jake's Landing report):

Location: Turkey Point
Observation date: 1/20/08
Notes: Very cold, temp. 25 degrees F.; winds 20 mph with gusts of 30 mph.
Number of species: 40
Snow Goose 2000
Canada Goose 4
Mute Swan 20
American Black Duck 40
Mallard 2
Bufflehead 40
Hooded Merganser 6
Wild Turkey 50
Great Blue Heron 3
Turkey Vulture 10
Bald Eagle x
Northern Harrier 33
Red-tailed Hawk 3
Greater Yellowlegs 2
Dunlin 40
Ring-billed Gull X
Herring Gull X
Mourning Dove 10
Red-bellied Woodpecker 2
Downy Woodpecker 3
Northern Flicker 5
Blue Jay 1
American Crow 9
Carolina Chickadee 5
Carolina Wren 3
Hermit Thrush 1
American Robin 45
Northern Mockingbird 1
European Starling X
Cedar Waxwing 5
Yellow-rumped Warbler 25
Eastern Towhee 3
Chipping Sparrow 1
Fox Sparrow 3
White-throated Sparrow 20
Northern Cardinal 3
Red-winged Blackbird 20
Eastern Meadowlark 17
Common Grackle 40
American Goldfinch 2

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Sun. 1/20: Barnacle Goose and Snow Buntings in Cape May Pt., Rough-leg and Short-ears at Jake's Landing, Kittiwake report



The continuing Barnacle Goose (pictured at left) was easy to find early this afternoon on Lily Lake, roosting with a flock of Canada Geese in the northwest corner of the lake. The bird was occasionally vocalizing as well- a call that could be likened to a nasal, lower-pitched Canada Goose. Both the Redhead and Canvasback were missing in action while I was there.






A stop at Cape May Point State Park produced a flock of 25 Snow Buntings on the beach, and the trails provided a vocal Winter Wren, a brief fly-by Red-shouldered Hawk, and a flyover Pine Siskin. Additionally, a Black-legged Kittiwake was seen from the Cape May-Lewes Ferry this morning by Tony Leukering.



Several hardy folks (pictured here behind a very effective two-car windblock) came out for this evening's Nightfall at Jake's Landing program, which ran from 4pm til dusk at the end of Jake's Landing Road. The temperature at the start of the walk was 26 degrees, with a wind chill hovering around 10 degrees. Mercifully, the winds dropped down for a little while around sunset and allowed 3 Short-eared Owls to give excellent views to those who remained. Other highlights included 3 Bald Eagles, and a distant but very distinctive Rough-legged Hawk, hover-hunting for a brief time southwest of the parking area.

A complete list from Jake's is included-

Location: Jake's Landing
Observation date: 1/20/08
Notes: CMBO Nightfall at Jake's Landing program, led by Karen Johnson, Janet Crawford and BJ Pinnock
Number of species: 23
Snow Goose 2500
Canada Goose 30
American Black Duck 25
Mallard 2
Green-winged Teal 75
Hooded Merganser 5
Pied-billed Grebe 2
Great Blue Heron 1
Bald Eagle 3
Northern Harrier 18
Red-tailed Hawk 2
Rough-legged Hawk 1
Peregrine Falcon 1
Clapper Rail 1
Dunlin 55
Wilson's Snipe 1
Ring-billed Gull 2
Herring Gull 25
Short-eared Owl 3
American Pipit 2
Song Sparrow 1
Red-winged Blackbird 115
Eastern Meadowlark 8

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(http://ebird.org/)

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Sat. 1/19: Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow and more at Kimble's Beach

I spent a couple hours this morning at Kimble's Beach, which is located along the Delaware Bayshore off of Route 47, about five miles south of CMBO's Center for Research and Education. The road is home to the headquarters of Cape May National Wildlife Refuge. Likewise, almost the entire road is surrounded by accessible public land, consisting of several fields, mixed upland forest, some wet forest, salt marsh, beach and the Delaware Bay. This great mix of habitats makes it easy to see 40-50 species here in winter and summer, and 60-70+ in spring and fall. It is most certainly worth a visit any day of the year.

The nicest bird I could squeak up (literally) was a Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow in the marsh behind the south end of the beach, along a small path that is part of The Nature Conservancy's Hand Landing Preserve. To get there, park at the end of the road and walk south about 1/4 mile and look for a narrow path leading back through the marsh. Additionally, two Bald Eagles, an adult (presumably of the Beaver Swamp pair) and a bird that was likely two years old, were present along the south end of the beachfront as well. The adult bird was sitting in a cedar for a while before making an unsuccessful attempt at picking off one of the American Black Ducks sitting on the bay. It then proceeded to chase off the young eagle, which was perched atop a piling, and minding its own business... a little uncalled for, if you ask me.

Complete list included-

Location: Kimble's Beach
Observation date: 1/19/08
Number of species: 43
Snow Goose 175

American Black Duck 200
Greater Scaup 6
dark-winged scoter sp. 1
Bufflehead 15
Hooded Merganser 2
Red-breasted Merganser 3
Ruddy Duck 75
Turkey Vulture 2
Bald Eagle 2
Sharp-shinned Hawk 1
Sanderling 25
Dunlin 175
Ring-billed Gull 6
Herring Gull 55
Great Black-backed Gull 4
Rock Pigeon 2
Mourning Dove 9
Downy Woodpecker 1
Hairy Woodpecker 2
Northern Flicker 1
Blue Jay 2
American Crow 2
Carolina Chickadee 3
Tufted Titmouse 2
Carolina Wren 4
American Robin 5
Northern Mockingbird 2
European Starling 45
Yellow-rumped Warbler 6
Eastern Towhee 2
Field Sparrow 9
Savannah Sparrow 4
Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow 1
Song Sparrow 6
Swamp Sparrow 5
White-throated Sparrow 8
Dark-eyed Junco 4
Northern Cardinal 4
Red-winged Blackbird 12
Brown-headed Cowbird 9
House Finch 20
House Sparrow 12

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(http://ebird.org)

Eagles and Rough-legged on the Bayshore, Barnacle Bill the goose, lingering Osprey, and January migrants

Highlights from today's CMBO field trip, Wintering Raptors on the Delaware Bayshore, included a dark Rough-legged Hawk nicely picked by Karen Johnson at Thompson's Beach at about 11:30 a.m., a brief look at a (the?) Golden Eagle at Jake's Landing at about 2:30 p.m., and Bald Eagles aplenty, e.g. 2 adult and an immature at Heislerville and one adult and one immature at Jake's Landing.

Heislerville continues to have some nice bird diversity, including a single Bonaparte's Gull, 4 Great Egrets, 15+ Great Blue Herons, 40+ Greater Yellowlegs, Hooded and R.B. Mergs, ~50 Ruddy Ducks, Belted Kingfisher, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper's Hawk, and an assemblage of scaup including one female Greater and 8-10 Lessers.

I'm not including a full day list because I did a bad job of taking notes during the trip, but I've come upon a notion I'd like others to consider: whatever birds you decide to keep track of during your travels, keep actual counts of all the birds of prey. I've started doing this, for the same, obvious reason we count hawks in Cape May each fall: top predators are the canaries in the coal mine, as we so often say, indicating environmental disturbances early on.

A drive-by of Lily Lake in Cape May Point yesterday afternoon at around 4:00 p.m. yielded the Barnacle Goose there with a flock of Canadas, as well as the female Canvasback. No Redhead, however. I feel pretty safe saying this is the only Barnacle Goose in the area (though others are being seen elsewhere in the mid-Atlantic), and so it may be deserving of a name. Barnacle Bill? Barney?

An Osprey was detected along Route 47 north of the CMBO Center for Research and Education in Goshen yesterday, and why not? Nothing's frozen down here so far. It's still a pretty crazy record, however.

A final thought for the day: a Winter Wren appeared at my house last Monday, a yard bird for me (I've only been here 9 months), and was still chimp-chimping in the yard this morning. This is of interest simply because it begs the question, where did that bird come from? It's January, for pete's sake, was it a migrant? The short answer is, yes. Once you start paying attention, you realize there is bird movement throughout the year, sometimes a lot of it when you don't really expect it. One reason birds are so engaging and successful as a group is because they can travel almost at will - something humans long to emulate.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Cape May Birding Hotline January 18, 2008

CAPE MAY BIRDING HOTLINE January 18, 2008

The Cape May Birding Hotline is a service of New Jersey Audubon Society's Cape May Bird Observatory. This week's message was prepared on Friday January 18, 2008. Highlights this week include sightings of BARNACLE GOOSE, KING EIDER, COMMON EIDER, REDHEAD, CANVASBACK, HARLEQUIN, ORANGE CROWNED WARBLER, SNOW BUNTING, GOLDEN EAGLE, BALD EAGLE, SHORT-EARED OWL, ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK.

A BARNACLE GOOSE continues in Cape May, with the most recent report being January 14 along Seashore Road in farm fields south of the "No Frills Farm." Other favored hangouts for this bird include the fields along Batts Lane, Lily Lake, and the South Cape May Meadows.

8 COMMON EIDERS and 1 KING EIDER were near Poverty Beach January 15, and a single Common was reported south of the St. Peter's jetty January 17.

A male REDHEAD and female CANVASBACK continue, the latest sightings on Lily Lake January 17.

40 HARLEQUINS and 40 PURPLE SANDPIPERS continue at Barnegat Light January 16 with the usual assortment of ducks.

An ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER was on Reed's Beach Road opposite the "ibis pond" on January 16.

6 SHORT-EARED OWLS and 4 ROUGH-LEGGED HAWKS were at Mott's Creek, north of Forsythe a.k.a. Brigantine NWR January 12.

20 SNOW BUNTINGS were at Stone Harbor Point near the pond along the path leading south from the parking area at 2nd Ave. on January 16.

187 BALD EAGLES (105 adults, 66 subadults, 16 unknown age) is the preliminary total from last weekend's survey of southern NJ Bald Eagle habitat. One GOLDEN EAGLE was also found, in the Lower Mullica River area.

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

CMBO'S Cape May School of Birding “Gulls Simplified” Workshop scheduled for February 17 still has a few spaces available; check http://www.birdcapemay.org/ under programs for info on this and other programs and events.

CMBO is offering a special to new and upgraded membership renewals. Join CMBO for the first time or upgrade from Individual or Family to The Hundred and receive Charley Harper's Migration Mainline- Cape May lithograph poster, valued at $50. Call either CMBO center to ask an associate about joining today!

******CMBO Bookstore hours are as follows; Northwood Center on East Lake Drive in Cape May Point, starting December 1, will be closed on Tuesdays. The center will be open Wednesday-Monday for the winter. Hours are 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The Center for Research and Education on Rt. 47 in Goshen is open Tuesday- Sunday 9:30- 4:30.******

The Cape May Birding Hotline is a service of the New Jersey Audubon Society's Cape May Bird Observatory and details sightings from Cape May, Cumberland, and Atlantic Counties. Updates are made weekly. Please report sightings of rare or unusual birds to CMBO at 609-884-2736. Sponsorship for this hotline comes from the support of CMBO members and business members, and should you not be a member, we cordially invite you to join. Individual membership is $39 per year; $49 for families. You can call either center to become a member or visit. Become a member in person and you’ll receive a FREE gift (in addition to member discount in the stores).

Good Luck and Good Birding!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Thurs. 1/17: Canvasback, Redhead, Common Eider @ Cape May Pt.

A cold rain, occasionally mixed with sleet, overtook the Cape this afternoon and made birding a rather uncomfortable thing to do. However, an early evening visit to Cape May Point produced a few nice birds, highlighted by the continuing Redhead (male) and Canvasback (female) on Lily Lake, as well as a single female Common Eider just offshore from the dune crossover at the end of Coral Avenue (a little bit south of St. Peter's Church). I also checked a few fields on Cape Island for the Barnacle Goose, but came up empty-handed this time around.

According to the National Weather Service, winds are supposed to continue out of the east and northeast overnight at 15-25mph before gradually shifting to the north and northwest by tomorrow. If you're in town and looking for birding ideas, seawatching from Cape May Point first thing tomorrow morning could be rather productive. The rain should stop tomorrow morning as well. If you're out, let us know what you find.

Leica HD review now live on FeatherEdgeOptics.org and new poster

First and foremost, you may have noticed that we have an additional poster on View from the Cape. We have asked Tom Reed to help us keep the View from the Cape section more up to date by adding sightings information at times when it will be difficult for Don or I to make more routine sightings posts. Since Tom is young and energetic he will bring a new component to this section of BirdCapeMay.org when he is posting. We'd like to thank Tom for agreeing to work on this endeavour with us. You may already have seen some of his writing on BirdCapeMay.org in the Take A Kid Birding section. If not, he has written a great How To Guide for birding Cape May in the fall which is applicable for young birders and those birders who are young at heart!

We are also proud to announce the launch of our new on-line optics store; FeatherEdgeOptics.org. While we still maintain that you need to handhold an optic before you purchase, we are now providing you the ability to shop our store (with the same great customer service) on-line. Like our physical locations we have done some of the work for you and provide only optics we feel are applicable to stand up to the rigors of birding. This way you don't have to sort through all the riff-raff to find what you are looking for, like you have to do at other on-line optics stores. This is a store maintained by birders, for birders. The best part; all proceeds go to furthering the NJAS/CMBO conservation, research and education mission. You do have to be a member of NJAS or CMBO to purchase just like in our physical stores. Take a look around, even if you are not in the market for a new optic.

Lastly, also found on FeatherEdgeOptics.org, you will find the new Leica Ultravid HD's for sale as well as a review of this new optic. I have to say that I think it's quite a good review but, I am a bit biased. On this new site we will strive to bring you timely reviews of new product and occasionally older products which warrant a review.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Wed. 1/16: Tree Swallows & Harlequins at Barnegat Light, Orange-crowned Warbler in Reed's Beach

I took a trip outside the Greater Cape May Area this afternoon to Barnegat Light State Park. Barnegat makes for great winter birding in general (see Don's post from 12/17/07 for a review of a recent CMBO trip here). It is easily accessed via Exit 63 of the Garden State Parkway, where it is then a 15-minute drive east across Route 72 to Long Beach Island, and another 20 minutes north up Long Beach Boulevard/Central Avenue to the state park- all told, about 1.5 hours from the Cape May area.
Two hours spent there around high tide this afternoon produced about 40 Harlequin Ducks doing their thing, 6 rather cold-looking Tree Swallows shooting north across the inlet, several close adult Northern Gannets, and 6 Great Cormorants perched atop the markers at the end of the dual-jetties enclosing Barnegat Inlet.

My evening jog along Reed's Beach Road was highlighted by a calling Orange-crowned Warbler, which was located across the street from the wooded pond where Green-winged Teal are often numerous in winter, as are Glossy Ibis in spring. The bird was on private property when I heard it, but there is quite a bit of suitable Orange-crown habitat along the road between this pond and the marsh edge, so if you visit this pond in the near future, keep an eye and an ear out for this guy (Orange-crowns have a rather strong, relatively low-pitched, accented chip note). Other notable birds from my jog included 2 lingering Great Egrets in this wooded pond (which I'll likely be referring to as the "ibis pond" in the future), and several calling Clapper Rails in the marsh north of Reed's Beach Road.

Lists from both locations included-

1) Barnegat Lighthouse State Park
Observation date: 1/16/08
Number of species: 21
Brant 25

Lesser Scaup 1
Harlequin Duck 40
Surf Scoter 4
Long-tailed Duck 35
Red-breasted Merganser 120
Red-throated Loon 24
Common Loon 8
Northern Gannet 4
Great Cormorant 6
Black-bellied Plover 3
Ruddy Turnstone 12
Purple Sandpiper 40
Dunlin 55
Ring-billed Gull 1
Herring Gull 750
Great Black-backed Gull 20
Tree Swallow 6
Yellow-rumped Warbler 1
Song Sparrow 2
House Sparrow 12
---------------
2) Reed's Beach
Observation date: 1/16/08
Number of species: 30
Snow Goose 25

American Black Duck 2
Mallard 4
Hooded Merganser 2
Great Blue Heron 1
Great Egret 2
Clapper Rail 4
Ring-billed Gull 2
Herring Gull 5
Mourning Dove 8
Red-bellied Woodpecker 1
Carolina Chickadee 2
Tufted Titmouse 2
Red-breasted Nuthatch 2
White-breasted Nuthatch 1
Carolina Wren 2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 1
American Robin 5
European Starling 12
Orange-crowned Warbler 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler 3
Eastern Towhee 2
Fox Sparrow 2
Song Sparrow 1
Swamp Sparrow 4
White-throated Sparrow 25
Northern Cardinal 4
House Finch 4
American Goldfinch 6
House Sparrow 8

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2 (http://ebird.org)

187 Eagles Tallied (preliminary), and Birds at Stone Harbor Point

187 Bald Eagles (105 adults, 66 subadults, 16 unknown age) is the preliminary total from last weekend's survey of southern NJ Bald Eagle habitat. One Golden Eagle was also found, in the Lower Mullica River area. I also heard tell of numbers of Short-eared Owls and Rough-legged Hawks at Tuckahoe/Corbin City.

I walked Stone Harbor Point on Monday. The highlights included two distinguished vistors to Champagne Island (the island at the southern tip of Stone Harbor). One was a very interesting dark raptor that I couldn't quite make out until I got to the tip, and even then could only say it was a falcon (which made it even more interesting). However, when I asked to borrow my son's 10X Leicas (I was carrying 8X Zeiss), I could detect the mustache of a very dark immature Peregrine. The other neat find on Champagne was a hauled out Harbor Seal.

Stone Harbor Point itself hosted 31 American Oystercatchers, plus a raft of ~500 scoter offshore, with a couple dozen gannets fishing over them and a single female Common Eider drifting off to one side. On the return walk, we flushed about 20 Snow Buntings from the dunes along the path leading from the parking lot south towards the point. The buntings were feeding just north of the pond. A full list follows.

Location: Stone Harbor Point
Observation date: 1/14/08
Notes: With Tim and Becky. Also saw a Harbor Seal on Champagne Island.
Number of species: 29
Brant 75
American Black Duck 50
Common Eider 1
Surf Scoter 100
Black Scoter 400
Long-tailed Duck 12
Red-breasted Merganser 1
Red-throated Loon 1
Common Loon 5
Northern Gannet 25
Great Blue Heron 1
Peregrine Falcon 1
Black-bellied Plover 5
American Oystercatcher 31
Ruddy Turnstone 5
Sanderling 50
Western Sandpiper 2
Dunlin 150
Ring-billed Gull 5
Herring Gull 100
Great Black-backed Gull 25
Rock Pigeon 5
Mourning Dove 10
American Robin 25
Yellow-rumped Warbler 5
Song Sparrow 5
Dark-eyed Junco 25
Snow Bunting 20
Red-winged Blackbird 3

Monday, January 14, 2008

Eagle Survey Continues, with Ruminations on Telling Eagles Apart

And I'm not talking about telling Balds from Goldens, either. Part of the task in surveying for anything is to avoid double-counting - you're always asking, did I count that bird before or is it a new one? Happily, Bald Eagles have gotten to the point in southern NJ where there are so many of them that the day is continually spent re-assessing that question.

Highly skilled birders get in the habit of not only identifying a bird to species, but then noticing the differences between the bird in front of them and others of the same species they've seen before. Start doing this, and you'll notice there are pale first-year Herring Gulls and lighter ones, for example, or Mallard hens with more or less orange on the bill, or Hermit Thrushes that are exceptionally heavily spotted below, or waxwings that seem bigger and have white spots on the wing. . ."hey, wait a minute!" You get the idea - once more we learn the value of the old adage, know your common birds well. It's also just plain fun to get to know an individual bird, so you can it's not a redtail, it's that redtail I saw perched there yesterday.

I'm quite confident that Bald Eagles can tell each other apart just fine, but for humans it's not such a simple matter. With immature eagles it's a bit easier. For the survey we note what plumage young birds are in, adopting the terminology used in the Peterson Hawks field guide and elsewhere: Immature, White Belly I and II, Transitional, and adult. Within the immatures, there is quite a range of variation in the amount and location of white in the plumage, as well as in molt, so for example on Saturday when I saw a transitional bird I noted it was relatively darker on the head than these birds often are - it had the Osprey-like eye stripe but the crown was tawny to chocolate-y, not gleaming white at a distance as it sometimes can be.

But how do you tell one adult Bald Eagle from another adult Bald Eagle? Answer: I don't know. I surveyed the Cohansey River yesterday, had over 30 individual sightings of adult Bald Eagles, and concluded based on timing and location (we plot the eagles on topo maps as we encounter them) that the sightings represented 12 individuals, which was still "too many." There are four known Bald Eagle nests in the area I surveyed, and I knew where each one was and accounted for each member of each pair, but then I saw another clear pair of adults sitting close to each other but away from any known nest, plus two other singles that I couldn't be sure were attached to a nest. "Our" Bald Eagles are on territory and have begun sprucing up their nests - I saw both members of one pair sitting in their nest together - but wintering birds from points north may well still be around.

Then you have distant sightings, like two adults in the scope chasing a White-Belly II, way out there but probably over one of the known nests. Then you drive back by a nest that had no eagles near it a half hour ago, and this time there are two there. The ones that had chased the immature? New ones? I guess it's a nice problem to have. And it could be worse - Chuck Slugg told me he had over 70 eagle sightings yesterday and had to sort them out.

My full list from the Cohansey yesterday is below. I will say it is a beautiful and bird rich area, particularly the north side of the river, where I'd never been in winter - a marvelous mix of agricultural lands and wetlands.

Location: Cohansey eagle survey area
Observation date: 1/13/08
Number of species: 61
Snow Goose 100
Canada Goose 500
Mute Swan 5
American Black Duck X
Mallard X
Northern Pintail X
Bufflehead X
Hooded Merganser X
Common Merganser 5
Wild Turkey 18
Great Blue Heron 3
Turkey Vulture 35
Bald Eagle 15
Northern Harrier 13
Sharp-shinned Hawk 4
Cooper's Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 18
American Kestrel 1
Ring-billed Gull X
Herring Gull X
Great Black-backed Gull X
Rock Pigeon X
Mourning Dove X
Belted Kingfisher 2
Red-bellied Woodpecker 5
Downy Woodpecker 2
Hairy Woodpecker 1
Northern Flicker 5
Blue Jay X
American Crow X
Fish Crow X
Horned Lark 50
Carolina Chickadee X
Tufted Titmouse X
Red-breasted Nuthatch 1
White-breasted Nuthatch 5
Brown Creeper 2
Carolina Wren X
Golden-crowned Kinglet 5
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 2
Eastern Bluebird 10
Hermit Thrush 5
American Robin X
Northern Mockingbird X
Brown Thrasher X
European Starling X
Yellow-rumped Warbler X
Eastern Towhee 2
Field Sparrow 2
Savannah Sparrow 15
Song Sparrow X
Swamp Sparrow X
White-throated Sparrow X
Dark-eyed Junco X
Northern Cardinal X
Red-winged Blackbird X
Common Grackle X
Purple Finch 1
House Finch X
American Goldfinch X
House Sparrow X

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Mid-winter Bald Eagle Survey Under Way

NJAS's annual mid-winter Bald Eagle Survey is this weekend. Thankfully, the weather has cooperated thus far!

We'll post full results here when we have them, but I can say that things bode well for CMBO's coming field trips: Winter Raptors on the Delaware Bayshore (January 19), Where the Eagles Are (January 21), as well as for our Wintering Raptors of the Delaware Bayshore workshop in February. Check under workshops and special programs on this site, http://www.birdcapemay.org/workshops.php.

I covered the Maurice River (Cumberland County) yesterday, and saw 15 Bald Eagles: 11 within "my" territory and 4 others when I went poaching a bit. Interestingly, I only saw 2 non-adults, and I think I know why. Multiple eagle pairs nest along the Maurice (pronounced "More-iss," by the way), and these territorial birds do not tolerate interlopers. Indeed, one of my earlier sightings of the day included some serious territorial behavior. A huge group of Snow Geese at Heislerville got in the air, signalling that an eagle was nearby. I soon spotted a bird in transitional plumage (i.e. approaching adult), and then realized not one but two adults were in hot pursuit of the young bird, gaining fast. The adults came from upstream along the Maurice, and once the immature reached Matt's Landing they broke off pursuit, presumably because they had reached the edge of their territory.

Several Cooper's Hawks, redtails, Peregrines, and that very rare bird these days, a single American Kestrel, also spiced the day. Non-raptors were abundant, too - with the mild weather, several Great Egrets have persisted, and waterfowl numbers along the Maurice were high. A full list is below; the bulk of the non-eagles on the list came from the Heislerville and Port Norris areas, on the south and north sides of the Maurice River mouth respectively. I'd also note that HUGE numbers of gulls were attracted to the clam operation at Port Norris/Bivalve, arriving after roosting all night on the bay around sunup and departing by 4 p.m. I didn't have much time to sift them, but that's where I'd send any "Larophiles." If you can stand the smell. . .speaking of being philosophical (see Jason's post below), it does take a certain Zen like state to study large gull flocks, and well-named Bivalve and its, um, scents, provides an even better chance to test one's inner tranquility, especially after you drive your car through the fresh-shelled clams, coating the undercarriage. . .


Location: Maurice River Eagle Survey
Observation date: 1/12/08
Notes: Mid-winter Bald Eagle Survey, Maurice River.
Number of species: 76
Snow Goose 5000
Canada Goose X
Mute Swan 13
Gadwall 2
American Black Duck 500
Mallard 200
Northern Shoveler 2
Northern Pintail 250 Includes 160 at Maurice River bluffs feeding on wild rice
Green-winged Teal 50 at Maurice River bluffs feeding on wild rice
Lesser Scaup 5
Bufflehead 150
Common Goldeneye 1
Hooded Merganser 5
Red-breasted Merganser 20
Ruddy Duck 40
Wild Turkey 10
Great Blue Heron 25
Great Egret 4
Black-crowned Night-Heron 1
Black Vulture 10
Turkey Vulture 30
Bald Eagle 11
Northern Harrier 30 Watched 2 adults at Heislerville drive a transition plumage bird away.
Cooper's Hawk 6
Red-tailed Hawk 10
American Kestrel 1 along river road s of mauricetown causeway
Peregrine Falcon 3
Clapper Rail 2
Killdeer 7 port norris
Greater Yellowlegs 75 heislerville impoundment
Sanderling 15
Dunlin 40
Ring-billed Gull X
Herring Gull X these and other gulls apparently roosted on bay, huge numbers flew into bivalve in the morning, were gone by 4 p.m.
Great Black-backed Gull X
Rock Pigeon X
Mourning Dove 100
Great Horned Owl 2
Belted Kingfisher 4
Red-bellied Woodpecker 5
Downy Woodpecker 5
Northern Flicker 5
Blue Jay X
American Crow X
Carolina Chickadee 30
Tufted Titmouse 10
Red-breasted Nuthatch 5
White-breasted Nuthatch 5
Brown Creeper 2
Carolina Wren 10
Marsh Wren 2
Golden-crowned Kinglet 5
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 2
Eastern Bluebird 10
Hermit Thrush 2
American Robin X
Northern Mockingbird 5
Brown Thrasher 2
European Starling X
Cedar Waxwing 75
Yellow-rumped Warbler 50
Eastern Towhee 2
Field Sparrow 2
Song Sparrow 5
Swamp Sparrow 15
White-throated Sparrow 50
Dark-eyed Junco 5
Northern Cardinal 15
Red-winged Blackbird X
Common Grackle X
Boat-tailed Grackle 75
Brown-headed Cowbird 50
Purple Finch 10
House Finch 20
American Goldfinch 15
House Sparrow X