Friday, January 20, 2017

Wintering Hawks, Eagles & Owls with Pete Dunne

Gray Ghost Hunting

January 14 & 15, 2017
Pete Dunne and Brett Ewald
Our first School of Birding workshop of the year was very rewarding, as a nice mix of raptors and other birds were studied and appreciated. A fun group of 15 participants made the workshop even more enjoyable, totaling 57 species (summary below).
The morning of the first day was spent surveying several bayshore locations, searching the extensive marshes for winter visitors and those that are already starting courtship for the upcoming breeding season. Stops included Thompson’s Beach, East Point Lighthouse, and Jake’s Landing. We were treated to the various ages and plumages of Northern Harrier, including an actively hunting adult male – Gray Ghost – a beautiful example of a species adapted for that habitat. Bald Eagles were very prominent, with numbers of adults and a few immatures seen. One presumably local pair was constantly escorted out of one area by a diligent pair of resident Red-tailed Hawks. At least five Short-eared Owls were patrolling the distant marshes, resulting in several inter-species interactions, as well as passes made at Northern Harriers and Bald Eagles. A lounging Peregrine Falcon on one of the platforms took it all in stride. Vultures, mostly Turkey, were always rocking back and forth over the surrounding landscape. The flashing past of a Sharp-shinned Hawk helped to conclude the morning’s sightings.

Mott's Creek
Some showers in the afternoon gave us a chance to get acquainted and go over the morning’s checklist at the Observatory’s Center for Research and Education. A presentation on the wintering raptors of New Jersey allowed for a comprehensive review of identification features and discussion on behavior, seasonality, and habitat.

The second day found us exploring coastal areas, this time on the Atlantic Ocean side. Our first stop was the famous Brigantine section of the Edwin Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, where dikes though the tidal marshes allow for an immersion within the habitat. Renowned as a waterfowl stopover location, we were surrounded by many geese, ducks, and swans, with an occasional Great Blue Heron thrown in. The vocal flocks of Snow Geese were especially notable. Of course, where there is a prey base, there will be raptors. Bald Eagles were constantly perusing the area, often putting up flocks of birds as they passed. Northern Harriers also seemed to be coursing everywhere on the refuge. At least two Peregrine Falcons were present – one adult loafing on a post. A Northern Harrier made quite a show of expressing its displeasure at having the Peregrine around.

Bald Eagle on Nest

The environs of Mott’s Creek proved a relaxing environment to observe raptors in the afternoon, with Northern Harriers once again providing almost constant motion. The highlight here was our only Rough-legged Hawk of the workshop – a northern breeder that is only present in very small numbers in New Jersey. A Common loon drifting by and a Belted Kingfisher also caught our attention while scanning for raptors. All in all, a perfect setting and ending to another fantastic workshop.

For more information about upcoming School of Birding Workshops, Special Field Trips, or Weekly Walks, click here – CMBO Programs

Snow Goose – 750+
Brant – 100+
Canada Goose – 100+
Mute Swan – 4
Tundra Swan – 2
Gadwall – 25+
Gray Ghost
American Black Duck – 100+

Mallard – 50+
Northern Pintail – 50+
Greater Scaup – 10+
Long-tailed Duck – 3
Bufflehead – 25+
Common Goldeneye – 6
Hooded Merganser – 10+
Red-breasted Merganser – 10+
Ruddy Duck – 6
Common Loon – 1
Pied-billed Grebe – 1
Great Blue Heron – 10+

Black Vulture – 6
Turkey Vulture – 50+
Northern Harrier – 25
Sharp-shinned Hawk – 1
Bald Eagle – 15
Red-tailed Hawk – 7
Owl Watching at Jake's Landing
Rough-legged Hawk – 1
Black-bellied Plover -3
Dunlin – 10+
Ring-billed Gull – 10+
Herring Gull – 100+
Great Black-backed Gull – 3
Rock Pigeon – 10+
Mourning Dove – 10+
Short-eared Owl – 5
Belted Kingfisher – 1
Red-bellied Woodpecker – 1
Northern Flicker – 2
Peregrine Falcon – 3
Blue Jay – 3
American Crow – 10+
Carolina Chickadee – 3
Tufted Titmouse – 1
Eastern Bluebird – 2
American Robin – 250+
Northern Mockingbird – 1
European Starling – 50+
Fox Sparrow – 1
White-throated Sparrow – 3
Savannah Sparrow – 2
Song Sparrow – 2
Eastern Towhee – 1
Northern Cardinal – 3
Red-winged Blackbird – 10+
Eastern Meadowlark – 1
Common Grackle – 25+
Boat-tailed Grackle – 25+
American Goldfinch - 3

No comments: