Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Finderne Wetlands, NJ

My first time at Finderne Wetlands in Bridgewater NJ on a cool and sunny morning corresponded to a decent movement of sparrows, but the best birds of the day were two Merlins which were chasing each other and an American Kestrel over the fields.  This might have been one reason why I couldn't locate the Vesper Sparrows reported the previous day, but they're just as likely to have moved on.  The Merlins were a particularly pleasant surprise since I'd seen only one other this year (in AZ).  Belted Kingfisher, Great Egret, Great Blue Heron, Green-winged Teal and Gadwall were in the ponds and a lot more concerned about me than the Merlins.

Otherwise, the main occupants of the weedy fields were an abundance of Savannah Sparrows.  Song Sparrows came in a distant second, but I did find a handful of the more elusive species (Field and Swamp), while missing White-crowned Sparrow that I might have expected here.

With the wind rapidly rising, I didn't find much at the nearby Duke Farms except a Palm Warbler, as everything started to keep its head down.

Before Finderne I'd stopped at Griggstown Native Grassland Preserve and found my preferred area around the parking lot devoid of any sort of sparrows - it had been a hotspot for them in previous years and often in pretty good light in the early morning.  Recent mowing activity probably had much to do with that.  Suspicion was that there were sparrows and Palm Warblers to be had elsewhere at Griggstown, but it takes longer for the sun to reach those other areas and I went to Finderne instead.

Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Canada Goose
Green-winged Teal
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
Merlin (2)
Belted Kingfisher
Carolina Wren
Eastern Bluebird
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Palm Warbler
Field Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Red-winged Blackbird
American Goldfinch

Monday, October 14, 2013

Yet another trans-continental chase (Blue-footed Booby etc) - USA #700, USA 2013 #500

Ask me how I managed to miss all the ex-Oporornis warblers in Central Park this year ?  Apart from bad luck (missing a Connecticut by 30 seconds) - it was that I did 7 birding trips.  Originally the plan was for 6, but I ended up doing yet another California trip in October.

In the face of a legendary invasion of Blue-footed Booby into CA from mid September into early October - somewhat galling in that they started turning up just after I came back from my CA pelagic trip -  I cashed in the last of my United frequent flier miles and flew to LAX.  I found Blue-footed Booby immediately the next morning at Playa Del Rey less than 5 miles from LAX, Black-vented Shearwater the following morning in a massive feeding flock off the Pacific Palisades, and Island Scrub-Jay in the afternoon at the usual location at Prisoner's Harbor on Santa Cruz Island.  Island Scrub-Jay was USA #700, but sadly not immortalized in photos since they were not cooperative.  I managed one whole day without another life bird, although that was the day when I saw TWELVE Blue-footed Boobies down in the Salton Sea, and then saw the recently added exotic Nutmeg Mannikin (USA #701) which turned out by coincidence to be USA 2013 #500.  This significantly exceeds my previous best for 464 for year, but 2013 was a psychotic traveling year.  On the boat to Santa Cruz Island I met a gentleman who was doing a Big Year and was in the 680's, so 500 isn't that big a deal by comparison.