Archive for 2008 November

Rufous/Allen’s Hummingbird, Dickcissel, Nashville and Orange-crowned Warbler – Cape May

Rufous-Allen's Hummingbird
I finally made it down to Cape May like the rest of New Jersey’s birders to see the continuing Rufous/Allen’s Hummingbird. (If you aren’t already familiar, the two birds, not in hand, are very hard to tell apart with almost no difference in appearance) The bird sat in the hedge to the right of the feeder for about 10 minutes preening and making it self comfortable. It only went to the feeder once in the total 20-25 minutes I was there. The Migratory Bird Refuge/Cape May Meadows in the afternoon did not hold any of the recently reported sparrows (Vesper, Clay-colored) but did show off a Dickcissel and a few late Warblers. The Dickcissel was with a group of House Sparrows and a Savannah Sparrow in the hedgerow around the first corner after turning left from the parking lot (the one parallel to the road). It would puff it self up and then “flatten out” to its more “recognizable” format. Not much yellow on this bird and far less than I had seen on the two I had seen previously. You could almost confuse this bird with a female House Sparrow with the really lack of identifiable color.

On the path at the back end of the Meadows, close to the right side path right before it goes up and on to the beach were a handful of RC Kinglets and two warblers. The one was a Nashville for sure with its bold eyering but the other was (for me) a little harder to nail down. I had heard reports of a Tennessee also being seen so I had that in my head when looking at this bird. The bird had very little yellow on the chest, a more extensive white eyebrow, and a thicker eye-line that seemed like Tennessee but the undertail coverts were definitely light yellow which points to Orange-crowned. The bird didn’t give great looks for closer examination, but I was able to get a few dark shots of the bird which I have posted on Flickr. Got great feedback and got a unanimous OC verdict.

Also, saw others who reported the Ash-throated early to mid morning and a Blue-headed vireo at the Point State Park in the early afternoon. A nice day for birding in Cape May. :)

Dickcissel
Below is the warbler I mentioned. The yellow undertail coverts scream Orange-crowned but the white eyebrow is much more extensive then the OC I have seen before.

Orange-crowned Warbler November 29th Meadows Warbler

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Turkey Day Birding – Monk Parakeets and a King Eider

Monk Parakeets
So, what better thing to do on a day commonly referred to by its “birdie” moniker than go Birding!? The day’s events had me out solo (and out of the lady’s hair while the feast was prepared :)) so I decided I would finally get up to Edgewater to see the highly controversial (okay, maybe “highly” is the wrong word, but controversial seems to fit the bill (pun intended)) Monk Parakeets. The transplanted South American species has kicked up dust and discussion in some circles due to their loud squawks, and large nests. Many neighbors of the birds have complained about their loud calls at all hours of the day. Utility Companies have complained about destroyed electrical equipment and transformer damage due to their large nests (a lot of times the nests can get wet and fall on a transformer causing damage). But, there is also beauty in their flight and glamour in their color and general disposition. They can virtually transform a busy city into an island retreat.

There is all that, and a separate controversy (there’s that word again) over the “countable” status as a New Jersey bird (and many other states where the parakeets have built long standing populations). The invasive birds started taking hold in Florida in the 60s and 70s and soon were popping up across the country. Early efforts to remove them were unsuccessful and now some people say New Jersey’s population has been going strong for over 30 years. This has led some to ask for its inclusion like other invasive bird species the European Starling and the House Sparrow.

I myself had put off a trip to Edgewater, I am ashamed to say, because it wasn’t something I could “tick” off my list. This definitely weighed on my conscious especially because Jeanette and I had seen Black-hooded Parakeets in Florida and loved their demeanor and “style.” I hoped I could just enjoy their existence and wondered if seeing these guys in a busy Jersey metro area would hold the same appeal as our earlier encounter.

So, I had received amazingly accurate directions from Stephanie Seymour, of purplechickadee.com (check it out it’s a great site!), and quickly got out of the car to their raucous calls (one I personally love listening to as it reminds me of a tropical setting). I spun around this little park and was treated to view after view of beautiful Parakeets. In the trees, on their stick built nests, and flying over head I had to literally remind myself I was in the middle of New Jersey! I was quickly won over and state bird or not I like seeing Monk Parakeets in New Jersey.

After my parakeet love session ended, I decided to drive another 20 minutes up to Piermont Pier in New York. A first winter male King Eider had made his way to the end of said pier and had been around for just under a week. I hadn’t seen the King Eider before and was hoping to land my 420th life bird (not as sweet as landing it in NJ as it would have been my 299 NJ bird but sweet none the less :)).

A fellow birder pointed him out at about 20 yards from the end of the pier and I got great looks and some overcast pictures. This ended a wonderful birding outing and led to the begging of a delicious bird filled meal. Is it any wonder I am hopelessly obsessed with birds? Happy Thanksgiving!

King Eider

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Late Fall Birding in New Jersey – Harlequins, Bunting, and Purple Sandpipers oh my…

Harlequin Duck
It is a fun time to bird in New Jersey when late fall sets in and winter approaches. The leaves have settled off of the trees making birds viewable again and its a time when western vagrants and northern specialties can sneak down south in search of food and climate. Some of the birds that show up that alert you to this time of year are Harlequin Ducks and Snow Bunting. Horned Lark, Redpoll, Crossbill, Siskin, and Grosbeaks all let you know that a new type of birding opportunity has arrived.Saturday, I made a solo mission to Barnegat Inlet to find Harlequin Ducks, Purple Sandpipers and Scoters that take refuge along the jettie’s massive rocks. You don’t have to go far to find Black-bellied Plovers, Ruddy Turnstones and Purple Sandpipers picking through what the sea has deposited on these rocks. A little farther, and just passed that massive bolder, you see a flash of beautiful color. You press on and soon a small flock of Harlequin Ducks ride waves into view. They are like an early Christmas present here just for your enjoyment!

I also got to photograph (through heavy wind and blowing sea) a flock of Scoters and somehow (I didn’t realize it as I was taking the pictures) got all three species in the same blurry frame!

All Three Scoters

One of my favorites! Purple Sandpiper!

Purple Sandpiper
The weekend closed with a stop at Spruce Run to catch a pack of Snow Bunting on the day’s last bit a light. They pick through parking lots and pebbled roads like the sandpipers on jetty rocks and you know the fall is surely here and winter can’t be far behind.

Snow Bunting - Nov 2008

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Snowy Owl – Norwalk, CT – November 8th, 2008

Snowy Owl/center>
Jeanette and I have seen 9 different species of Owl (6 in NJ) and we were looking for number 10. Perhaps Jeanette’s “most wanted” is the beautiful Snowy Owl. In some of the more northern states there has been a push of Snowy Owls coming south, and we were hoping one would make it close enough for us to chase. On Friday, Edna & Ray Duffy posted information and pictures on the New Jersey Birding list of a Snowy Owl in Norwalk Connecticut. This would be our perfect opportunity.
The bird was about an hour and fifty minutes from our house.The “chase” is a part of birding that I really enjoy. I love the opportunity and possibilities a reported rarity provides. It is a lot of fun to chase a bird and then see it with a group of birders also excited to share in the discovery. There is nothing like sharing your personal first view of a Roseate Spoonbill as it flies over a group of 20 excited birders. Or the joy in seeing a Townsend’s Solitaire, an Ash-throated Flycatcher and a Western Kingbird all in the same afternoon. When these moments are over, everyone turns to each other to reflect and rejoice at their luck in being a part of something so exhilarating.

We hoped this early morning trip to Connecticut would also provide some excitement. Now, this particular Snowy Owl had been around for a while and was already a local celebrity having been on multiple local news channels. So we hoped we weren’t too late.

We arrived at Calf Pasture Beach Park as it was opening (6:45ish) and made our way around the park to the reported spot. As we got out of the car we saw him sitting on a small pier that is close to two other, smaller jetties a couple hundred yards away. We were in the first group of people out of our cars, but a fisherman managed to get out ahead of us. He scared the owl off after he was asked to wait before making his way out to the end of the pier. Apparently, the fish needed to be caught that second. Luckily, the Owl put down on the middle jetty (his favorite we hear) rather than flying across the water as he did yesterday. And just like that, we got to bask in the exhilaration once more.

The Owl sat and watched as we hemmed and hawed over him from a respectable distance. The overcast day made the lighting bad but nothing could dim the beauty of our lifer Snowy Owl!

P.S. The fish must not have been in such a rush to be caught as the fisherman left before we did, with no fish to speak of.

Snowy Owl

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Election Day Birding Candidates – Cackling vs. Canada

Cackling Goose:

Cackling Goose

So after voting on Election Day of 08 I got my first pictures of a beautiful Cackling Goose. Rahway River Park in (drum roll please) Rahway NJ is about 5-10 minutes away from my old stomping grounds in Linden NJ so I was comfortable getting to the location. The park is quite large and is actually a good spot for birds tucked into a highly populated area. I saw my first Wood Duck (who can’t remember their first Wood Duck??) there in March of 2007. Two other birders (even a historic election can’t keep us away from our birds!) helped find the bird. I quickly lost him but was lucky enough to get around at a different angle and get some close up looks and photos after re-finding him. It was interesting seeing him up close because it was highly evident that he was different from the surrounding Canada Geese. I am now sure that the many Canada Geese I have tried to make into a Cackling Goose over the last two years were indeed not. The difference in neck length and bill size were highly identifiable and I feel much more confident about identifying them in the future. On November 4th, 2008 I had to vote between two similar candidates. The choice was easy. Cackling beats Canada in a landslide. :)

Cackling Goose

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Orange-crowned Warbler Nov 1st, 2008 @ Glenhurst Meadows

Orange-crowned Warbler
I decided to try the Glenhurst meadows this morning. There had been reports of Vesper Sparrow there which have thus far eluded me. After a horrible few days of snow and cold (ok well rain and cold might be more accurate) it was nice to get out into a warm morning and see what was around. I bumped into a couple of Princeton area birders (Mary Margaret and Charles – hope I spelled those right) who were on an Orange-crowned Warbler. I hadn’t been able to photograph this guy in NJ so I was happy to be able to share the bird. A walk through the “wet” paths of the park turned up many Song, Swamp, Savannah and White-throated sparrows. I also saw a few Field and two juvenile White-crowned Sparrows. Others reported Vesper (of course I missed it) and even a first of fall Fox sparrow. There were also Rusty Blackbirds around as well as Yellow-rumped Warbler and Palm Warblers. A beautiful day for birding!

Orange-crowned Warbler

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