Today turned out to be our “Day of the Owl” for the year of 2007. All told we racked up 4 different species (only heard a Screech owl returning our calls this morning but didn’t get a look at him) and a possible pellet from a 5th. The Morning started with a cooperative Eastern Screech Owl who returned banter with us for a good minute or two. Then we came across a beautiful adult Northern Saw-whet Owl who sat and let us watch him for some time before we left him to his nap. A Great-horned Owl was being chased right near us by a group of angry American Crows and Blue Jays. We ended the amazing day with 5 different (conservatively could have been closer to 8 ) Short-eared Owls hunting right above our heads and posing for pictures. At one point two SEs and a Northern Harrier came together over a piece of something! The Harrier made off with the kill but this day definitely belonged to the Owls.
Please excuse the out of focus picture above but we had an interesting run-in on the way home from Christmas dinner tonight. As we turned off of Canal Road heading toward South Middlebush we saw a quick moving bird running along the side of the road. We stopped and I got a few quick (I emphasize quick resulting in the out of focus pictures shown above :)) shots before the Chukar took flight and shot off at high speed. The strength in his take off and flight were actually a bit surprising. Although most definitely a stocked game bird from a game farm somewhere, it was still an interesting encounter. Looks like he escaped being someone’s Christmas dinner. (Do people eat these things??)
Another wet and dreary day made hopes of seeing the previously reported Rough-legged Hawks at the Great Swamp a long shot at best. As we drove up Route 287 visibility in some areas was 50-100 yards as the slightly warmer temperatures and rain melted snow. When we got to the spot (near the “Friends of the Great Swamp Book Store”) we quickly got on a light colored Hawk that neither Jeanette or I had seen before. Though not our best work, we did get some pictures of the Light morph Rough-legged Hawk and added another Jersey bird to the list.
A cold, wet and dreary day I was feeling some cabin fever. I decided I would check the Jersey Rare Bird info sites to see if there was anything about. David La Puma, who runs the Woodcreeper site, posted about some Common Redpolls visiting a feeder in the back of a house in Somerset. I headed over and 10 minutes of waiting paid off with my 260th New Jersey bird of 2007. Like the weather, the pictures were not great but I lasted long enough in the “winter mix” to capture a few seen above.
Jeanette woke early to start our first day in Cape May after a healthy sleep at Congress Hall. I rolled out of bed around 9:30AM. Mine was perfect timing in fact, to see the first “Jersey Birding” report of the previous day’s Painted Bunting at Island Beach State Park on the computer. I gathered Jeanette and we headed out it hopes of landing another life bird and a personal favorite. A male it wasn’t but a female would be just as exciting should we get a chance to see her. We arrived a little before Noon and as soon as we got out of the car I spotted a small green bird sitting on one of the numerous feeders. We got a bunch of pictures and were generally enjoying the bird until a sudden bird exodus led us to believe a hawk was near. Sure enough, minutes later a Sharp-shinned Hawk came gliding through the tree tops stopping briefly to rest and examine lunch possibilities. Another highly entertaining afternoon birding.
We drove up to Lily Lake looking for Canada Geese. Not for the Geese themselves (not that there is anything wrong with Canada Geese) but for the visitor who may be dining with them. A stop in the morning produced a Tundra Swan, lots of American Wigeon and Hooded Merganser male and females but no Geese. This time, at around 1:30 PM the Geese were present. Now with a little luck we would see our first Barnacle Goose. This one had been reported around Cape May for over a week but I had struck out in my previous attempt. So we were happy to quickly find him/her and got some pretty good pictures despite optimal sun conditions.
I started the afternoon out in Cape May with hopes of seeing the Barnacle Goose or Bullock’s Oriole. Neither showed with 30-40 mph winds so I decided to stop off at the Brig on the way home. Some waterfowl and loads of Dunlin and Snow Geese throughout and the nice immature Bald Eagle above made appearances.
What an amazing day! The first day of December brought a clear sky, a bright sun, and delivered all of the reported rarities in just under three “birded hours.” Along with fellow birders Andy and Ramsey from PA, we tracked the Townsend’s Solitaire, Ash-throated Flycatcher, and Western Kingbird all at their previously reported locations. The looks afforded were stunning and all three birds were super cooperative! Andy and Ramsey also saw the Great Crested Flycatcher and a large group of Snow Bunting which I later stopped and enjoyed as well. Who knew December birding would be so great!