[One of two adult Red-headed Woodpeckers found at the Weymouth Township Municipal Park in Dorothy, Atlantic County, during the Mizpah Christmas Bird Count. This is a known location for the species. Photo by Stephen Mason; click to enlarge.]The first ever Mizpah Christmas Bird Count was held on Saturday. Planning for this count began a little over two years ago, and was followed by a "test count" in January of 2007. The circle was officially established in 2009.
Now, you're likely wondering just where in the world Mizpah is. It's actually a small town in western Atlantic County, located between Vineland and Mays Landing. When I went about creating the map for the circle, Mizpah just happened to be smack dab in the middle... hence the name. The circle includes several state wildlife management areas, including Makepeace Lake and portions of Peaslee. It also includes a few county and municipal parks and other protected areas.
Nineteen observers were in the field Saturday, and found about 70 species. Sustained northwest winds at 15-25mph made birding tough, and it seemed as though the bitter and stormy weather of December likely put a big dent in numbers of some species, particularly waterfowl and half-hardy songbirds. Also keep in mind that while the Cape May area generally received 3-8" of snow from the storm a few weeks back, areas up here received in the ballpark of 20-24".
That being said, there were some neat birds notched on count day. A total of three Red-headed Woodpeckers were found: two adults at the municipal park in the town of Dorothy, and a young bird found at Lake Lenape Park in Mays Landing. There were likely even more Red-headeds in the Dorothy area than we actually found. Don Freiday heard a Wood Duck squealing in the Estell Manor Park, the only one for our count, and oddly enough, a bird that was apparently missed on the Cape May CBC. The party on the west side of the count circle, which includes agricultural areas in the Vineland area, found 109 Horned Larks, a Merlin and a light-morph Rough-legged Hawk! 66 Chipping Sparrows were found in the circle, including one flock of 25 just outside of Mays Landing. These are impressive numbers this far north in January.
Next year's Mizpah CBC will be held on Saturday, January 1st, 2011. I hope many of you will consider lending a hand on New Jersey's newest CBC circle; one that holds a lot of potential in the years ahead.