Monday, January 26, 2009

Round Valley, Alpha, Great Swamp

Showing a startling lack of innovation and general laziness, I birded much the same areas as the previous weekend over the 24th and 25th.

Saturday dawned cloudy but after it started to clear I made a late afternoon run to Round Valley and back to Pole Farm near sunset. Up at the northern end of Round Valley at the boat ramp the Eared Grebe was quite cooperative and near the ramp, but too far away for worthwhile photographs. This turns out to be the first Eared Grebe I'd seen in NJ. A white-ish immature Iceland Gull was also in the Ring-billed Gull flock at the boat ramp. Common Merganser and Bufflehead were also there. Because Round Valley closes at 4pm I didn't check the interior lots but instead came back south and went to Pole Farm as the sun set. There were several hopeful photographers swarming all over the place, and there seemed to be quite a lot of Harriers around - perhaps up to 4 females and one male but the light was bad enough that I left the camera in the car. After sunset, and just as I was headed out, a single Short-eared Owl put in an appearance.

On Sunday morning I was back at Round Valley. The south lot was very quiet but I did at least hear Pine Siskin sound off once - I never did see it. The Eared Grebe was still at the boat launch but still outside photo range. So I went east to Great Swamp NWR and parked at the heronry overlook. After a little effort I got distant but diagnostic looks at the adult Red-headed Woodpecker, then after returning to the lot some other birders found the Northern Shrike which was moderately cooperative at range for a while before it vanished. The Shrike appeared to be an adult but apparently there's also an immature around. The icing on the cake was being told of a Long-eared Owl roost nearby, which had attracted predictable attention. I still don't understand why people hold full-volume conversations about camera gear right in front of an owl roost, but I guess we can call these the "sacrificial owls" in terms of human disturbance. Two of the LEOs showed some stress in posture (narrow and vertical) but the other two seemed more relaxed. Thankfully all were obscured and not viable for photographs, so that probably relieved some of the pressure.

After Great Swamp I made a very quick stop at Scherman-Hoffman to check out the feeders - non-photographable (at least in the PM) but there were Pine Siskins on them. Then on to Alpha where I was primarily looking for photos of Horned Lark and Lapland Longspur. Only one Horned Lark, no flocks, and since the clouds had moved in just as I arrived I contented myself with a couple of sweeps of the area and watching the large Snow Goose flock accumulate in the fields nearby.

On the way home a stop at Round Valley once more produced a Lesser Black-backed Gull but nothing else of note.

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