Evening Grosbeaks! Saw-whet Owls! White-winged Crossbills, Redpolls, Wild Turkeys . . .there were good birds in north Jersey, where I spent a refreshingly computer-less week obtaining the winter's venison, and enjoying the woods, hills and valleys, hardly 100 miles north and yet so different from Cape May.
We have hunted the same farm in northern Hunterdon County for close to 20 years, we being me and Pete Dunne, and now my son Tim, and part of the tradition has been comparing bird notes each day when we come in from hunting (our full list from last week is below). Remaining stationary and camouflaged in a tree for hours on end can yield some terrific bird sightings. We also almost always "get" our yearly suite of winter finches, simply because we put in 50 or more hours doing nothing more than listening hard for whatever makes a sound, be it a deer's footfall, or this year's awesome bonus of a flock of Evening Grosbeaks flying over.
The e-bird website notes that northern finch movements continue, jiving well with our observations this week. From the e-bird site:
"Although wintry weather is just barely upon us, birders in northern border states from Minnesota to Maine are already enjoying one of the occasional joys of winter birding--an influx of boreal irruptive species like Bohemian Waxwing, Pine Grosbeak, Evening Grosbeak, and Common Redpoll. In New York alone, both Pine Grosbeak and Common Redpoll, usually the two latest species to appear during an irruption year, were reported before the end of October, and Bohemian Waxwing was seen on a record early date. The early arrival of these species, and the numbers in which they are being seen, suggests that we could be in store for a major irruption year, with some boreal species approaching the southern limits of their irruptive ranges. In fact, the early fall months have already seen a sizable irruption of Red-breasted Nuthatches, Purple Finches, and Pine Siskins out of Canada's boreal forest to areas as far south as Georgia. Below we summarize the current status of several boreal irruptive species, and suggest the extent to which they could be found if this winter does prove to be a major irruption event. "
The week's list:
Observation date: 12/8/07
Notes: Firearm buck week, counts are composites. With Pete Dunne.
Number of species: 47
Canada Goose 100
Wild Turkey 10 Still roosting in the pines, at least some are - Pete reported three there. Others were scattered.
Black Vulture 10
Turkey Vulture 20
Sharp-shinned Hawk 2 1 adult, 1 juvenile. The adult was a little male, seemed to like hunting the upper hedgerow.
Cooper's Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 2 This was my first bird of opening day, when it screamed and took off down the valley just as pink was appearing in the east.
Ring-billed Gull 200
Mourning Dove 20
Eastern Screech-Owl 1
Northern Saw-whet Owl 2 Highlight! flushed a bird while tracking Tim's deer, in the dense autumn olive. Found where it had been roosting in there, for several days. It literally flushed about a foot from my face, and perched in view so Tim and I got to watch it at length. Pete and I also each heard "mewing" Saw-whet's in pre-dawn.
Red-bellied Woodpecker 10
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 3 Very vocal, perhaps more.
Downy Woodpecker 5
Hairy Woodpecker 5 Note that Hairy's seemed as common as Downy's this year.
Northern Flicker 10 Many more than usual. Two roosted one evening in a snag across from my stand, I watched one fly out of it's hole the next morning about a half hour before sunrise.
Pileated Woodpecker 2 One landed above Pete one evening, a neat picture through the bins of pileated and hunter in silouette, reminded me of the Ivory-billed searchers.
Blue Jay 20
American Crow 50
Black-capped Chickadee 20 Watched one pick it's roost hole out. It revisited several times between 4:00 p.m. and 4:30, then went in and stayed around 4:40 p.m.
Tufted Titmouse 15
White-breasted Nuthatch 10
Brown Creeper 5
Carolina Wren 5
Winter Wren 1 Apparently only one bird, but very mobile. First heard in the creek valley along the road where it usually is, then heard it in the spring thicket above the house, and on the last day it appeared over by the barn, hopping about under Tom's boat trailer.
Golden-crowned Kinglet 10
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 2
Eastern Bluebird 10
Hermit Thrush 10 Had them whisper singing Thursday evening at the top of the hill, maybe the hilltop reminded them of home?
American Robin 1000
Gray Catbird 1 In the thicket by the barn.
European Starling 200
Cedar Waxwing 50
Song Sparrow 10
White-throated Sparrow 75
Dark-eyed Junco 25
Northern Cardinal 15 Heard a new call. It sounded very much like a distant, foreshortened Turkey yelp. Apparently given by both sexes, a male was pursuing a female from bush to bush on the hillside below me.
Red-winged Blackbird 100
Common Grackle 25
Purple Finch 50 Constant.
House Finch 25
White-winged Crossbill 5 Score!
Common Redpoll 5 Score!
Pine Siskin 5
American Goldfinch 20
Evening Grosbeak 5 SCOOORE! Heard them the last day, right before Tim got his deer. Pete heard them at the same time from his stand.