Saturday, January 23, 2010

Alpha, Warren, Trenton - Jan 23rd

I started at Oberly Road in Alpha, at the central-western edge of NJ, around 9am and found very little. No snow to push the birds to the roadside, and in any event two people walking down the road would have undone all of that. I saw a few Eastern Bluebirds and one or two Horned Larks and that was it. An inauspicious start to the day.

Heading east, I stopped off at Hoffman (Farm) Park - this is a site I've regularly seen Bobolink and Grasshopper Sparrow in during summer, but it was also very quiet in winter. I stayed there less than 30 minutes and there was a dearth of sparrow activity.

In danger of getting skunked I went 25 miles further east to Glenhurt Meadows (aka Warren Green Acres). Around the parking lot there were two singing House Finches, a few Song Sparrows and a couple of Swamp Sparrows. Northern Flickers milled around. I hiked down to the river - much of the standing water here was frozen although there were dramatic sound effects as it was slowly melting and crashing. En route to the Raritan River I came accross a Common Grackle flock with a Red-winged Blackbird and two Rusty Blackbirds within it, just passing down the edge of the powerline cut. And then after a little searching I did come up with two Red-headed Woodpeckers - one adult and one unseen. Red-bellied Woodpecker was also present. Although not epic in activity it was a good find after the dearth of birds at the other two sites. One especially vocal Blue Jay was doing a very good Red-tailed Hawk impersonation.

Finally I tracked back down to Princeton and went to Hamilton-Trenton Marsh, ostensibly for more Rusty Blackbirds - which I didn't find. However the water was only partly frozen so there was a decent number of waterfowl, including Mallard, Gadwall, Am. Black Duck, Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler, Green-winged Teal, Common Merganser and numerous Ring-billed Ducks. Most of the waterfowl were on the most westerly lake viewed from the wet woods. They were also not entirely happy to see me with quite a lot of vocal nervousness even without me reaching the edge of the tree line. Of the several crows present most of them were American although two let out Fish Crow-like calls - however American can do a pretty good impersonation of this as well. A few White-throated Sparrows rounded out the day.

In more forgiving conditions (less ice) I think it's possible to hike along the southern bank of the Raritan here back as far as the arboretum.

Directions to Warren Green Acres / Glenhurst Meadows (since I often have time finding them): I-78 at exit 36, south on King George Rd perhaps half a mile and then left (east) on Mountain Ave just before the road heads uphill. Mountain Ave curls over the interstate, passes Wagner Farm Arboretum, past 3 houses and then there is an unmarked driveway on the left (north side of the road) opposite a small pond. This is the parking area. Street address is 178 Mountain Ave but on the north side of the road (Google marks is to the south).

Link to google maps.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Pole Farm - 1/17

Just before the rain hit on Sunday I made a quick run to Pole Farm (Mercer County Park Northwest) to survey the activity and to look for sparrows. The success for the morning was American Tree Sparrow, fairly reliable here. Also present was Song Sparrow, Red-bellied Woodpecker and a single American Kestrel.

What was absent, however, was any trace of Northern Harrier and this is probably an indicator of a slow year at Pole Farm. The mowing patterns were a little different, which might displace them a little, and this might be either gratuitous or intelligent management of the grasslands. In any event in the year with many Harriers and multiple Short-eared Owls you could hear the rodents scurrying around in the grass. This year it appears to be deathly quiet.

Barnegat Inlet, 1/16

A nice sunny day persuaded me to kill my morning headache with a few aspirins and head out to Barnegat Inlet where I encountered the expected swarm of humanity. En route I stopped briefly at Florence on the Delware River to check for gulls and found very few of them, but a consolation prize of 2 Common Mergansers, my first for the year.

At Barnegat the tide was low, the action at the bay side of the jetty was very slow, so I ended up hiking all of the way out. There was a gaggle of photographers clustered around some tame Harlequin Ducks and a few Long-tailed Ducks. Dunlin, Ruddy Turnstone, Purple Sandpipers and one Black-bellied Plover were the shorebirds rock-hopping along the jetty. Further out at the inlet, and mostly on the far side were Great Cormorant, Black and Surf Scoter, Common Eider, more Long-tailed Duck, Common and Red-throated Loons - good scoter numbers but nothing else was at spectacular levels. A pretty good day under fairly mild conditions.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Wild gull chase - Mew/Common Gull in Brooklyn - 1/10

A little tired after the Texas trip I nevertheless made a run to Brooklyn to find the Mew/Common Gull that has been reported there. People are leaning toward the European subspecies for ID. I think this was only my second Larus canus for the US, the other one was on Long Island many years ago. This bird took a little time to turn up, so I amused myself by finding my first Purple Sandpipers for NYC, a few other year birds, and scrutinizing the metric tonne of Ring-billed Gulls that were hanging out there. Finally the Mew/Common Gull turned up and was about as tame as a gull could be, with the exception of the first winter Ring-billed that almost jumped up on my foot.

The gull appears to have a slight deformation of the bill, but is otherwise healthy.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Very out of area - Texas

To leverage some of the vacation time that PU gives me over New Year's I made a trip to Texas fron 12/29-1/6 to cover the usual Rio Grande spots plus rarities. Car rental at San Antonio was much cheaper than Houston (have they jacked the prices there?) and I found a cheap flight via American. Best birds were the long-standing Northern Jacana at Choke Canyon State Park and the Bare-throated Tiger-Heron at Bentsen Rio Grande State Park. The former was one basis for making the trip, the latter was a pure bonus and the first US record for this species.

Trip report under edit, to be linked here in due course.