Category for Winter Birding

Pink-footed Goose and Barnacle Goose – East Windsor, New Jersey

Pink-footed Goose

I decided for lunch, to see if I could get to the Pink-footed Goose and Barnacle Geese in East Windsor, New Jersey.  These guys aren’t too far from my house and with the opportunity for these rarities after the Northern Lapwings yesterday I had to give it a shot. With many birders in the area for the Lapwings there were a lot of eyes reporting their findings this morning so I knew I had a good shot if I got there in decent time.

Sure enough, 2 Barnacle Geese were together in a corn field on a corner with Birders watching and I was directed right around a tree row to the waiting Pink-footed Goose! Not a bad week of Birding in New Jersey.

Barnacle Geese

Barnacle Goose

Barnacle Goose

Pink-footed Goose

Pink-footed Goose

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Northern Lapwing – New Egypt, New Jersey

Northern Lapwing

I was browsing the NJ List today and lit up after seeing a post from Shari Zirlin (Thanks Shari!) report not 1 but 3 Northern Lapwings in New Egypt, New Jersey! I had struck out on the one in MA last month so I had to try for these guys.

When I got there a line of birders were enjoying the three birds in the back (WAY back, as evidenced in the badly cropped photos) of a muddy field along with two Sandhill Cranes in the field next to it! Thankfully scope views were much better and I watched the birds for some time. Awesome bird!

Sandhill Cranes

Sandhill Cranes

Northern Lapwings

Northern Lapwing

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Broad-tailed Hummingbird – Cape May, New Jersey

Broad-tailed Hummingbird


J
eanette and I took a drive down to Cape May yesterday to try to see the first New Jersey State Record of Broad-tailed Hummingbird. We had seen them in Arizona but to have one all the way out here is NJ is a true rarity so it was a must see. We got up early and hit Sunset Beach for the reported Western Grebe (another uncommon visitor to NJ) and got him right off the left side of the Concrete ship! We went back later and didn’t see it (later had Red-throated Loon, rafts of Scoters and a few Northern Gannets only) so we were glad we decided to to the beach first while the sun finished its mediocre rise (sorry Sun but your light was pretty crappy this morning. :)) After a little more sunlight and coffee we parked on Shunpike road and walked down to join two other birders there already. They hadn’t seen it yet but we were hopeful it was just a matter of timing. Sure enough, I saw a quick movement into the heavily obscured feeder and saw the bird rest oh-so-briefly on the right hand side pod. Luckily he came back and sat a few times on various bushes and small trees around the yard and the nice gathering of birders that had joined by then all left happy. :) As always, thanks goes out to the hard working and diligent NJ Birders who kept working at this ID! Thanks for sharing this guy with us all!

We also hit the Brig before arriving in Cape May and had a nice number of Ducks and Geese. Below is a shot of a Snow Goose close by the road as we drove the Brig.

Snow Goose

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Razorbill – Manasquan Inlet

Razorbill


I
took a drive down to the Manasquan Inlet today to see if the recently reported Razorbill decided to stick around. At around 2:30 myself and a few other Jersey Birders saw the bird (i believe it was the same bird) fly in but continued to the other side of the jetty (not visible from the Manasquan side). 10 minutes later the/a Razorbill rounded the jetty and headed into the inlet on the far side. It quickly made its way over to “our” side of the inlet and continued to work up and down the rocks for the next hour or so (at least I left at 3:30 and it wasstill there) for close up looks! Beauty. Also had great looks at Gannets and Loons and a single Scaup (sp) flyby too. Nice day for birding!

Razorbill

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Common Chaffinch in New Jersey!

Common Chaffinch


T
his morning I saw a post on the Jersey bird List from Sam Galick (Thanks Sam!) about a Common Chaffinch in western New Jersey. (Sam’s post @ http://birdingonthe.net/mailinglists/NJBD.html#1325609373) The Common Chaffinch is a resident across Europe and summers in parts of Asia and there are very few North American records so it being in NJ is obviously a super rare sighting to say the least. Of course whenever a super rare vagrant like this shows up provenience is a question and we will see how the NJ Committee handles this bird but I personal feel it is a wild bird (or at least has been for some time leading up to my sighting today). The bird has no feather wear or bandings of any sort and its actions during the 3 trips into the feeder that I saw it (over about a half hour out in the cold!) were of a wild bird. I have seen “escapee” Budgerigars in Florida (looking for a population of wild ones that apparently still exists although I never saw any I was comfortable saying were wild) and seen how they come into a feeder and act around other birds. And this bird was very aware, active and actually staged 2 of the 3 times in a tree prior to coming into the feeder, once all by itself scanning its eventual feeding spot prior to flying in. Of course, it could have quickly cleaned this from other birds and you can never be sure of a bird like this but my general inclination was that this indeed is a wild bird or has been one for a while. (I have also seen a Black-throated Magpie-Jay in Texas that had also acclimated to the “wild” actions of a bird when it was most probably a caged bird at some point so all possibilities must be considered)

Saying all that, the bird was a beautiful bird to see and a wonderful one to share with other NJ Birders! Its always fun to see an unexpected species in your area and a big thanks to the Rehman family for allowing us to view this wonderful bird.

We shall see what other birder’s takes are on this bird over the next days and weeks (hopefully it sticks around!) but I for one couldn’t have been happier to experience the exhilaration of the experience.

Common Chaffinch

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Barnegat Light – Birding by the Bay

Harlequin Duck
J
eanette and I finally got out from the binds of this NJ weather and did some birding! Was a fun day and nice to see some of our favorite birds at one of New Jersey’s finest birding locations. I put some more picture of Eiders, Scoters, Long-Tailed Ducks etc at our Flickr site. (Link to the right)

Barnegat Light Jetty

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Birding around New Jersey in February

Hooded Merganser:

Hooded Merganser
So in February, the cold days wind on with no end in site and the extended “birding lull” starts to take it’s toll on a budding birder. It feels like birding requires more effort. I think I like that in a way. I know I learn something new on every birding trip in winter. In winter, sounds seem to migrate too as the calls are less, and wing whir is minimal. Each aerial activity gets your full attention. This provides a birding landscape ripe with details. I think I “notice” more in winter. So you plan and plot to get to the few birding hotspots that hold that moniker even in sub-freezing temperatures. One of these spots is the North Shore (a collection of ponds, inlets and rivers strew along the New Jersey coast). You can always find a variety of ducks and gulls waiting for your attention. Last year I saw my first Canvasback and Redheads on a North Shore trip. Silver Lake held a group of Hooded Mergansers shown in the picture above. Although it is a common winter bird around New Jersey the Hooded Merganser never “feels common.” It just seems that a bird so delightfully ornate should come with some extra pomp and circumstance. I tried to oblige. :)

Another wonderful winter spot is the Pole Farm near Princeton New Jersey. The Pole Farm is home to numerous Short-eared Owls who hunt and float above its fields. They arrive as the sun sets and it feels amazing as you realize you are lucky enough to be in the presence of hunting “Owls.” I have snapped some pretty good shots of these guys in the past but the setting sun below seemed to remind me of something. You can’t get to tomorrow without today. The Spring will come soon enough as the sun will set on winter but the winter has some pretty cool birds too. Birding in New Jersey is year round.

Short-eared Owls:

Short-eared Owls

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Birding the Lower Rio Grande Valley! Texas Style

Altamira Oriole:

Altamira Oriole
Wow what a trip! Where to start? I guess at the beginning. Jeanette and I were eagerly anticipating our winter trip to the Lower Rio Grande Valley. September in South East Arizona was amazing so we were curious to see if this too would exceed expectations. We got to see some amazing birds and meet some wonderful people along the way.So, we landed in McAllen, Texas on Friday January 9th and met up with LRGV expert birder Roy Rodriquez on Saturday the 10th. Roy was going to show us the sites and boy did he deliver! We stopped at many of the Valley’s top birding spots like Estero Llano Grande State Park, and the Frontera Audubon site. That first day we had wonderful life birds like Plain Chachalaca, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Great Kiskadee, Green Jay, Black-crested Titmouse, Long-billed Thrasher, Bronzed Cowbird, Green Kingfisher, Altamira Oriole, and Couch’s Kingbird. We also scored some of the Valley’s harder to come by species like Red-crowned Parrot, Clay-colored Robin, male and female Blue Bunting and a beautiful Black-throated Magpie-Jay. The Magpie-Jay was most certainly a cage bird at one point but it was now living “wild” and was a stunning site. We also picked out a single Masked Duck at the Willacy County Brushline Road location to end the busy day.

Plain Chachalaca:

Plain Chachalaca
On Sunday, we started the morning early looking for one of the most famous LRGV species Muscovy Duck. The Muscovy can most often be found along the Rio Grande river and it wasn’t long before one of these large birds flew right by us and then returned later for a second fly-by. We also tallied Ringed Kingfisher and a late arriving Hook-billed Kite that morning. We got to visit some more amazing places like Chapeno, Falcon State Park, Roma Bluffs and Zapata. We saw beautiful birds in bunches with all three orioles (Hooded, Audubon’s and Altamira) Olive Sparrow, Green Jays and Orange-crowned warblers only feet away at feeders in Salineno. For lunch we headed to Zapata to attempt to find the White-collared Seedeaters that are frequently spotted there. Sure enough, a turkey sandwich later and we got great looks at a male Seedeater fluttering about in the reeds. We got to visit some historically relevant sites in Roma and got to see some wonderful Mexican architecture. The last stop of the day was at the Peñitas pipit patch for Sprague’s Pipit. It took some work but a bird popped straight up and then back down and finally allowed some brief posses for photos. Another amazing day of Texas birding!

Green Jay:

Green Jay
On our final day of birding with Roy we started off with Eared Grebe, Long-billed Curlew, and Western Meadowlark packs while looking for an Aplomado Falcon. We dipped on the falcon (one of the few birds we missed all week) but were treated to huge numbers of Black-necked Stilts, Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Roseate Spoonbill and American Avocets and got to see some cool Shrimping boats as they headed out from port. Some places we visited were Laguna Atascosa, Brownsville, Port Isabel and ended the day back at Frontera Audubon in Weslaco. Frontera finally granted us wonderful views of the Crimson-collared Grosbeak after Jeanette stealthy picked her out of the potato plants stuffing her mouth with bulbs. This brought an end to our time with Roy but his kindness, sense of humor and amazing birding skills were shared and appreciated by Jeanette and I and we will surely meet again.

Crimson-collared Grosbeak:

Crimson-collared Grosbeak
The rest of the week was a little more laid back birding wise but we still found time to see an amazing Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl at San Miguelito Ranch and got to Choke Canyon State Park for the reported Pine Flycatcher. We got to Choke Canyon early Thursday morning and joined a group of eager birders and shared wonderful views of the bird. We got to hear and record his sharp calls (I will try to post the sound recording shortly) and got the low down on why the bird was now a full blown “birding controversy.” There have been multiple flycatchers wintering in the area which has led some to question the original identification of the bird. We saw a second bird later in the morning that was much more similar to the Least flycatchers we are accustomed to so the concerns are legitimate. There is talk of netting the bird with camps on both sides so we will see how this turns out.

Possible Pine Flycatcher:

Possible Pine Flycatcher
The last two days we spent in San Antonio and this gave me much time to reflect on an amazing trip. We met amazing people we now consider friends and got to see equally amazing birds in a unique natural environment. We have been asked “What do you get out of birding? You don’t get to eat your capture, stuff your trophy or even “own” any physical representation of the things you are chasing! How can that be fulfilling?” This vacation provided the simple answer. Birding for us is about the trip more than the destination. It’s the things you see along the way that make just having shared it worth more than any final possession. The Texas LRGV is a place that needs to be seen and its out there waiting to be shared with us all.

Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl:

Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl
Below are some more of our favorites of the birds we saw. More are posted at our Flickr site.

Muscovy Duck:

Muscovy Duck
Black-throated Magpie-Jay:

Black-throated Magpie-Jay
Golden-fronted Woodpecker:

Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Blue Bunting:

Blue Bunting - Weslaco, Texas
Great Kiskadee:

Great Kiskadee - Texas
Dan & Jeanette at Frog Size!:

Dan and Jeanette at Frog Size

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Northen Hawk-Owl – Peru, New York

Northern Hawk-Owl:

Northern Hawk-Owl

Yesterday, Jeanette and I decided that rather than stand in line to return gifts and hunt for sales we would track down a gift of our own. The 5 hour trip is a little more than we would usually take on, but with a full day off and the possibility of a bird that hunts and hangs out in a relatively small area we decided we would take a shot. The trip up wasn’t bad at all. I much prefer a trip into NY that avoids any notion of the city itself. We flew all the way up 287 and then the NY Thruway and eventually 87. The views at times were beautiful and the surrounding area has a lot of natural activities to offer.

We left at 4 30 AM hoping to get there at a time many had reported success with in the morning hours. We got into Peru around 10 AM and stopped for a quick on-the-go breakfast break. As we closed in, the directions were spot on and the roads were easily traveled with our car. We drove down Clark Rd and sure enough there he was perched on a telephone pole on the right side of the road. We easily watched him from the car as he moved periodically from one pole to another. At one point he flew to a tree branch that seemed incredibly too small to support the birds weight. But alas, perch there he did. We watched for about 45 minutes without the need to even leave the car. The bird seems content to share the space with onlookers, which hopefully doesn’t result in over-eager birders getting “too” close.

As we watched he (I keeping saying he out of ease of use rather than actual knowledge of the bird’s sex) preened and scratched and stretched as needed. Occasionally doing that poltergeist spinning head move that seems impossible. The drive home was a little more difficult with the star of the day already seen but a quick stop off at the Great Swamp for a dark-morphed Rough-legged helped, and a stop at the Raptor Trust allowed us to donate and take in some final holiday cheer. There are also some more pictures of the Hawk-Owl on our Flickr site.

Northern Hawk-Owl

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Red-Necked Grebe – March 18th, 2008 @ Spruce Run

Red-necked Grebe - March 2008
Went to Spruce Run hoping to find the reported Franklin’s Gull. While I didn’t see the Gull I did get to see three different species of Grebe. Pied-Billed Grebe, Horned Grebe and the Red-necked Grebe (shown above).

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