Sunday, March 22, 2009

Hamilton-Trenton Marsh, 3/22

First time I've birded Hamilton-Trenton Marsh seriously, taking a slow walk around the woods, and finding quite a nice variety of things. Four Wilson's Snipe and two male Blue-winged Teal were in the first marsh, Tree Swallows were around the outskirts to the trail through the woods. Rusty Blackbirds (singing) and Swamp Sparrows were on the first section of trail in the woods. In the lake on the far side there was a large number of waterfowl including many Green-winged Teal and Wood Ducks but also American Wigeon and Northern Pintail. The last of the six new-for-year birds of the morning was a female Hairy Woodpecker.

What there wasn't were many sparrows in the understory, in fact it was quiet apart from a Winter Wren and a few Carolina Wrens establishing territory. This echos my experience in Princeton which also isn't a good place for understory sparrows (ironically Central Park is far better, but it would not surprise me if this was related to deer browsing).

Update: in the afternoon of 3/28 diversity was less with no Rusty Blackbirds but the addition of Brown Creeper in a mixed passerine flock with several Yellow-rumped Warblers in the woods. Very few sparrows, so I assume this is just not a good site for them.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

March 14th and 15th

Spring migration was in evidence courtesy of probably my least favorite bird - the Brown-headed Cowbird. On Saturday I had three fly over me at Barnegat Inlet, two males singing at Wells Mills County Park; on Sunday there were both males and females in the blackbird flock at Plainsboro Preserve.

At Barnegat on Saturday the best birds were two Red-necked Grebes and two Great Cormorants, with a mixed Surf and Black Scoter flock in the inlet and the usual suspects including large numbers of Long-tailed Ducks and my first Ruddy Turnstones of the year. I also did my best to trash my left knee while rock-hopping along the jetty with the camera gear. In the bay, viewed from local streets in Surf City, there were additionally American Oystercatcher (newly arrived in numbers throughout the region), three White-winged Scoter, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye and Horned Grebe.

At Wells Mills County Park the feeder birds were present including a still healthy number of Pine Siskins.

And then because a little sun was peeking through the clouds I went to Wreck Pond in Spring Lake (nothing of interest), Lake Como (Redhead, Canvasback, Ring-necked Duck, Lesser Scaup), and Silver Lake in Belmar (Eurasian Wigeon, American Wigeon, Am. Black Duck, Ruddy Duck and a lot of Brant).

On Sunday, nursing the damaged knee, I limited myself to three local spots: Plainsboro Preserve (American Tree Sparrow, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Brown-headed Cowbird, but no Tree Swallows), Griggstown Native Grassland Preserve (quiet, Eastern Bluebird), Negri-Nepote Grasslands (Northern Pintail, Song Sparrow).

Update 3/21: making much the same trip the following weekend I finally saw a few Purple Sandpipers at Barnegat, the "paired" Red-necked Grebes were still there, but there were no other surprises. Nine White-winged Crossbills were at Brigantine NWR along with the first Osprey of the season for me and a Northern Bobwhite in the grassland area - apparently a rare bird at Brigantine with only a few calling males left. The bird I saw was probably a female.

Friday, March 13, 2009

And with patience, a Woodcock or two

Returning to Kingston the following night (March 12th) after confirming the location with a local birder, I exhibited more patience and was rewarded by a few American Woodcock peenting and one or two singing. In fact I managed to lock on one twittering as it circled upwards and was able to watch the entire display in the gathering gloom. It was relatively cold, which might suggest that there could be even more on a balmier evening. Peenting started shortly after 7pm.

Update: on March 17th I returned to this place, saw one Woodcock and heard another one. The Woodcock I saw displayed right over my head and did a close fly-by on descent before landing in an open patch and started to peent. On another display flight I saw it land in a different open patch and watched it while it "broadcast" the peent by pointing in a different direction after each call - there's obviously quite a different volume depending on which way the bird faced. There was also a little soft "hic" call once or twice before each peent and a low soft growl call when I saw it flying around at low altitude - this might have been the result of the one bird reacting to another one peenting.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Great Horned Owl

While unsuccessfully searching for American Woodcock in Kingston, I heard two Great Horned Owls hooting at each other over the corner of the area I was searching. As this was persistent, I was able to slowly and quietly approach the area and finally was rewarded by the sight of one of the Great Horned hooting away. Interesting how it lowered its posture to a more horizontal position while hooting. The second owl was much further away.

In the extensive scrubby area I picked up a Field Sparrow (first of year for me), but I didn't so much as hear a Woodcock.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

American Woodcock

Tuesday night (March 10th) I heard two American Woodcocks at the old apt complex of Quakerbridge Rd but they were not very vocal, I didn't see either of them, and the road noise was significant. They were in the adjacent field and not in the wet area near the parking lot that they had also been in for the two previous years - I used to be able to hear them from my apartment.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

March 7th: Brigantine to Belmar

Starting off at Brigantine NWR shortly after sunrise, I spent the first few hours taking pictures of the accommodating White-winged Crossbills that were feeding in a low (Black? Japanese) Pine in the parking lot area. Conditions were balmy and emphasized by early spring birds like Killdeer, Greater Yellowlegs, Wood Duck and Hermit Thrush at flew over or hopped around the general area. Mixed blackbird flocks flew over, with at least some birds sounding like Brown-headed Cowbirds.

Then down to the impoundments were there were thousands of waterfowl: Brant and Snow Geese, dabbling ducks dominated by Northern Pintail and American Black Duck, thousands of Greater and Lesser Scaup with Redhead and Canvasback in the impoundments. All three merganser sp. were to be found. The most interesting find were two Short-eared Owls that were hunting near the south-west corner of the impoundments in broad daylight.

After Brigantine I went north to Barnegat Inlet which was swarming with humanity in this warm day. That and a sore left knee reduced my desire to walk out on the jetty too far. Common Loons were numerous, some in near breeding plumage, as were Long-tailed Duck. Other ducks included Harlequins, Black Scoter and Red-breasted Merganser. There were Red-throated Loon and Red-necked Grebe mixed in with the Common Loons, and Northern Gannet were working the coast offshore.

A brief visit to Wells Mills County Park showed that the feeders were quiet with no Siskins.

Then on the way north I visited Wreck Pond in Spring Lake, Lake Como and Silver Lake in Belmar. At Wreck Pond the most unusual bird was an American Bittern hunting at the edge of the phragmites. At Lake Como a small toy watercraft had limited the number of birds but one Redhead was in the small Canvasback/Lesser Scaup flock. At Silver Lake there was no Eurasian Wigeon but a few Americans and a large number of Brant.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

White-winged Crossbill in the garden !

This morning (March 3rd) I was taking the car out of the garage before filling the feeders and stopped to listen to the singing Pine Siskins that have been visiting the thistle over the last few weeks. I heard something that sounded atypical, and yet reminiscent of.... White-winged Crossbills visiting the three Spruce at the top of my driveway !

I almost fell over from shock. The four crossbills relocated to a deciduous tree nearby and waiting cooperatively for me to look at two males and two females (one greener than the other) before moving on.

That's quite the yard bird. Red-winged Blackbird made the yard list the previous day, part of a large blackbird flock that touched down for a little while in the Red Oak.

Monday, March 2, 2009

North shore again, March 1st

Despite still recovering from an epic bout of food poisoning, I spent a little time at the North Shore on Sunday ahead of the cold snap. At Wreck Pond I found a couple of Lesser Black-backed Gulls in with the gull flock. At Silver Lake in Belmar I finally found the Eurasian Wigeon mixed in with the American Wigeon and Brant flock there. Lake Como had some diving ducks but was mostly closed for a parade, so I had no luck searching for Redhead.