Monday, September 16, 2013

Central Park, Sept 14th and 15th (total 19 warbler sp + chat, BB Cuckoo)

I think the whole radar migration prediction thing is over-hyped as a useful tool for local birding, so I tend to use the standard method of wind direction and temperature.  So after arriving back in NJ from CA to 94 degree afternoon heat, the alarm bells went off when the highs over the weekend were in the low 70's, backed by a north-west wind.  More-or-less ideal conditions.

Bit of a shock, therefore, when I entered Strawberry Fields and there was barely any chipping.  30 minutes later and it was alive with migrants and in a hour I accumulated what is a very good day's warbler list (16 sp.) including Tennessee, Bay-breasted and Blackburnian.  Black-billed Cuckoo, two Olive-sided Flycatchers and a Chat in the Maintenance Field made for a pretty good day.  However I missed the Connecticut Warbler by scant seconds, and someone didn't look up enough and missed the expected large Broad-winged Hawk flight.

Sunday was quieter, but still many good birds in Strawberry Fields including Bay-breasted Warbler foraging in the grass right in front of me (along with Black-throated Greens).  A change in the mix of warbler species indicated that the second flight was new birds arriving.

Overall I netted 19 warbler species in two mornings, some decent birds (Yellow-bellied Flycatcher was a year bird), and finally saw some Broad-winged Hawk migration on the Sunday.  Conspicuously missing were any Kinglets or any sparrows (excl House), it's still ramping up.

Broad-winged Hawk (Sun)
Osprey (Sun)
Black-billed Cuckoo (Sat, Maint)
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird (several both days)
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Olive-sided Flycatcher (two in Maint on Sat)
Least Flycatcher (Sat, poss Sun)
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher (Sun in SF)
Great Crested Flycatcher
Blue-headed Vireo
Warbling Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
House Wren
Carolina Wren
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Swainson's Thrush
Veery (Sat)
Wood Thrush (Sat)
Gray Catbird
Brown Thrasher (Sun)
Cedar Waxwing (large flocks both days)
Ovenbird (only 1, both days)
Black-and-white Warbler
Tennessee Warbler (3+, both days)
Nashville Warbler (1, Sun, SF)
Common Yellowthroat
American Redstart
Cape May Warbler (1, Maint, both days)
Northern Parula
Magnolia Warbler
Bay-breasted Warbler (both days, very cooperative in SF on Sunday)
Blackburnian Warbler (SF, Sat)
Yellow Warbler (SF, Sat)
Chestnut-sided Warbler (Sat)
Blackpoll Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Pine Warbler (3+ in SF on Sat)
Black-throated Green Warbler
Canada Warbler (SF)
Wilson's Warbler (SF on Sat)
Yellow-breasted Chat (elusive, Maint on Sat)

Friday, September 13, 2013

California Pelagics

The California trip - arranged at the last minute - was the last "scheduled" one of six trips in 2013 designed to push my USA list toward 700.  The other five were: TX, AZ, FL, NC, AZ and netted one to four life birds on each trip.  However pelagics have always been a weakness of mine - not unrelated to a propensity for seasickness - so the largest gaps on my list have been shearwaters, storm-petrels and alcids.

I reserved a pair of California pelagics - 9/8 out of Half Moon Bay and 9/10 out of Monterey - and ended up with five pelagic life birds.  The weather was good, with light winds, so the boat trips weren't as challenging as, say, the NC pelagic trip.  In addition I saw the newly minted Bell's Sparrow of the canescens race (the "intermediate" race) at the end of its range where it abuts the belli race of Bell's Sparrow.  A hunch is that canescens is a cline between A.belli and A.nevadensis (Sagebrush Sparrow), but seeing them close to A.b.belli's coastal ranges makes me a little more comfortable counting it.  The first life bird for the trip was Scripps's Murrelet (#692) and the last was Bell's Sparrow (#697).

The Half Moon Bay pelagic was longer and deeper water, with the Monterey Bay pelagic only having a subset of the first species but pelagics are notoriously variable.  However the Monterey pelagic also had Blue Whale and a remarkable number of Humpback Whales (50++) feeding in the bay, including breaching Humpbacks, which made for a memorable end to the wildlife for the trip.  Although land birding was limited I did complete the trasher grand slam for the year with California Thrasher, and saw other species I hadn't seen in over a decade.

Pelagic species:

Sooty Shearwater              
Great Shearwater              (California rarity)
Pink-footed Shearwater        
Flesh-footed Shearwater   (#696)     
Buller's Shearwater   (#693) 
Black-footed Albatross        
Ashy Storm-Petrel   (#694)
Black Storm-Petrel  (#695)            
Red Phalarope                  (last seen 2001)
Red-necked Phalarope          
Pomarine Jaeger              
Parasitic Jaeger              
Long-tailed Jaeger            
Rhinoceros Auklet              
Cassin's Auklet              
Scripps's Murrelet   (#692)             
Common Murre                  
Pigeon Guillemot

Notable terrestrial species:
Black Turnstone                
Surfbird                               (new for Lower 48, second+ one ever)
Prairie Falcon                
Yellow-billed Magpie          
Wrentit                                (last seen 2001)
California Thrasher             (last seen 2001)
California Towhee              (last seen 2001)
Bell's Sparrow (canescens)      (#697)

Friday, September 6, 2013

Brigantine/Forsythe NWR, September 1st and Allentown NJ shorebirds Sept 2nd

With Jamaica Bay being uninspiring I've been spending some time at Forsythe/Brigantine NWR although even here the shorebird diversity is starting to drop.  Semipalmated Sandpipers dominated the scene, but Eastern Willets and Whimbrels have left.  I was lucky to find two Stilt Sandpipers, which have become scarce.  What was nice to watch was a mixed flock of Long-billed and Short-billed Dowitchers - mostly Long-billed - giving good options to compare the structure of the two.  While individual birds remain tricky the side-by-side comparisons offer up the expected overall trend of the bulkier body of the Long-billed.  Brig and the rest of southern NJ is a pretty good place for this, and Long-billed remain rather scarcer in NY.

Although in all sorts of messy molt, terns put on a decent showing.  I haven't seen a Common Tern here all year but Least and Gull-billed Terns have been regular in small numbers, the Caspian Terns were in the double digits and I also had a Royal Tern for a pretty good selection.  Forster's Terns and Double-crested Cormorants were feasting on localized schools of fish in the tidal brackish impoundment.

Although Brig is winding down for shorebirds, the area north of Allentown NJ along Sharon Station Road, Herbert and Gordon Roads has been pulling in a nice variety of shorebirds in lower numbers.  On Sept 2nd I finally got lucky with my quest for American Golden-Plover with one seen in a flooded field along Sharon Station Road.  Later on that same pond held Pectoral, Solitary and Semipalmated Sandpipers. Killdeer are everywhere, with a few Semipalmated Plovers joining them, plus a small flock of Least Sandpipers commuting between the Herbert Road field and the ephemeral pond along Gordon Road.  Although I've missed the relative rarities (Buff-breasted Sandpiper and Baird's Sandpiper) here it's fairly close to home and an interesting area to rummage around.

Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Glossy Ibis
Clapper Rail
Black-bellied Plover
Semipalmated Plover
Greater Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs
Ruddy Turnstone
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
Stilt Sandpiper
Short-billed Dowitcher
Long-billed Dowitcher
Gull-billed Tern
Caspian Tern
Royal Tern
Forster's Tern
Least Tern
Black Skimmer
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow
Saltmarsh Sparrow

Herbert/Sharon Station Rds
American Golden-Plover
Semipalmated Plover
Pectoral Sandpiper
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
Horned Lark

Jamaica Bay, August 19th

On what has turned out to be my only trip to Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge this year, I did a circumnavigation of the East Pond (northbound up the shoreline, southbound down the trail) which turned out to be ill-advised on a quite warm day, while wearing waders.  In common with the general trend this year the shorebird numbers were unimpressive, with relatively low diversity.

Hurricane Sandy did a little remodeling on the East Pond - there's a trench along the south side of the East Pond where the (now apparently trashed) home had cut back the phragmites, although it's traversable, and there's a filled cut on the east side parallel to the train tracks.  So the salinity has probably gone up somewhat in the pond in the short term.

Nevertheless Semipalmated Sandpipers, Semipalmated Plovers and Least Sandpipers were numerous here.  Both Semipalmateds were mostly adults, but I saw a lot of juvenile Least Sandpipers on the trek, as well as quite a few juvenile Short-billed Dowitchers.  Both Western Sandpiper and Long-billed Dowitcher are uncommon to rare at Jamaica Bay, and commoner further south at Brigantine, and I didn't see either of those.  I did manage to snag a first-of-year White-rumped Sandpiper at the south end of the East Pond, wading in the cut with Dowitchers.  I saw a few more of them for a total of ~6.  Shorebirds were fairly nervous, with a juvenile Peregrine hunting the ponds periodically.  Up at the north end I saw American Avocet, Wilson's Phalarope, a Stilt Sandpiper, Ruddy Turnstone and a large flock of Black-bellied Plovers to flesh out the list.  The only two noteworthy ducks were Gadwall and a single Northern Pintail but otherwise it's a large number of Mute Swans, Mallards and American Black Ducks.

Northern Pintail
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Glossy Ibis
Black-bellied Plover
Semipalmated Plover
American Avocet
Greater Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs
Spotted Sandpiper
Ruddy Turnstone
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
White-rumped Sandpiper
Stilt Sandpiper
Short-billed Dowitcher
Wilson's Phalarope
Forster's Tern
Black Skimmer
Barn Swallow
Yellow Warbler
Northern Waterthrush
Boat-tailed Grackle