Meeting at the Meadowlands II

On a Thursday early in June as I was leaving work, I was debating whether I should go birding (obviously) or go home and do research on my upcoming trip to Arizona where I would get a few days to bird.  So tough call.  As I was debating, I got a text from my birding partner in crime, suggesting we hit up the Meadowlands briefly.  Birding was meant to be.

Osprey carrying fish past the NJTP. NJ Meadowlands. Photo taken on June 5, 2014.

Osprey carrying fish past the NJTP. NJ Meadowlands. Photo taken on June 5, 2014.

That blip against the building is an osprey.  Normally, the Meadowland photos don’t do justice to the true nature of NJ wildlands.  The wilds of New Jersey are not often tucked in far away, remote corners (as there aren’t too many of those in the state!), but in close, obvious areas such as along major American arteries.  Here you have the NJTP (New Jersey Turnpike) which connects Philadelphia and New York. Beyond these cities, it’s I-95.  Despite the high volume of traffic, this region is a thriving haven for many marsh and grassland species.

Osprey carrying fish. NJ Meadowlands. Photo taken on June 5, 2014.

Osprey carrying fish. NJ Meadowlands. Photo taken on June 5, 2014.

Here’s the same Osprey captured against the sky.  If the Osprey doesn’t care about the traffic, why should we?

Although, there was quite a bit of traffic in the sky that day.  Soon after, three Mallards flew by.

Mallards in flight. NJ Meadowlands. Photo taken on June 5, 2014.

Mallards in flight. NJ Meadowlands. Photo taken on June 5, 2014.

There was also avian activity closer to ground.  As we checked out the marshlands along the turnpike we heard, then located, a Willow Flycatcher.  Unlike its predecessors, this one was sitting out on a conspicuous perch.  Clearly didn’t get the memo: hide, hide, hide.

Finally got a flycatcher: Willow Flycatcher perches in the open. NJ Meadowlands. Photo taken on June 5, 2014.

Finally got a flycatcher: Willow Flycatcher perches in the open. NJ Meadowlands. Photo taken on June 5, 2014.

Wandering back, we learned that one of the Sandy-damaged meadow trails was finally reopened.  We took it as far as we could and were rewarded for our curiosity.

Marsh Wren singing in the marsh.  NJ Meadowlands. Photo taken on June 5, 2014.

Marsh Wren singing in the marsh. NJ Meadowlands. Photo taken on June 5, 2014.

The Marsh Wrens we’ve been hearing for some weeks now were finally visible along this trail.

Complete List:

Canada Goose
Mute Swan
Gadwall
Mallard
Ring-necked Pheasant
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Red-tailed Hawk
Killdeer
Herring Gull
Forester’s Tern
Black Skimmer
Mourning Dove
Chimney Swift
Willow Flycatcher
Warbling Vireo
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow
Marsh Wren
American Robin
Gray Catbird
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Common Yellowthroat
Song Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Baltimore Oriole
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

It was a lovely few hours….. easy enough to say now that I’m inside and well away from the swarms of 10,000s of gnats that infested the walkways.  But the birds were worth it. They always are.

Birding Brigatine

On the final day of May, NJ Audubon offered an evening tour of Brigantine. It was a lovely chance to bird Brigagtine during a time of year that I typically don’t get south or shoreward.  An evening tour was even better!

Pete [Bacsinski]’s annual trip to Brig where we take a couple of tours around the dikes in search of shorebirds, terns, passerines and waders and at dusk listen for Whip-poor-wills and Chuck-wills-widows and if we are lucky we could hear or see an owl or rail.

I posted this annoucement on facebook at the end of April where a couple of fellow birders indicated their interest in going.   Thus it was settled.  It was nice that a group of us could go because we were the youngest people there.  Which is what happens when you don’t fit the typical bird demographic.

The group assembled numbered something near 30.  Unfortunately, this meant taking a dozen cars around the loop as we didn’t carpool effectively.  However, my birding partner-in-crime and I did our part and carpooled with two other female birders who were as excited to bird with us as we were with them.  We had lots of academic knowledge about the birds and they had a scope, it was a lovely arrangement.

Pretty much as soon as the cars rolled out and rolled to the first stop moments later, did we get good birds.  You know the ones that actually stay long enough to get photos. Those birds.

A Tundra Swan lingers at Brig long after it should have migrated. Brigatine / Forsythe NWR, NJ. Photo taken on May 31, 2014.

A Tundra Swan lingers at Brig long after it should have migrated. Brigatine / Forsythe NWR, NJ. Photo taken on May 31, 2014.

A Tundra Swan was mixed in with a few Mute Swans, an ugly duckling that was really a weirdly molted swan?  We also  heard Marsh Wren at this time. We drove a few more minutes and continued scanning.

A grumpy Snowy Egret contrasted next to a foraging Glossy Ibis. Brigatine / Forsythe NWR, NJ. Photo taken on May 31, 2014.

A grumpy Snowy Egret contrasted next to a foraging Glossy Ibis. Brigatine / Forsythe NWR, NJ. Photo taken on May 31, 2014.

Egrets and Ibis abounded the National Wildlife Refuge. Having now seen the Glossy Ibis in flight I can understand the RBA alert I read last year about IDing an ibis in flight!

Convenient contrast between a Gull Tern (lifer) and Forster Tern. Brigatine / Forsythe NWR, NJ. Photo taken on May 31, 2014.

Convenient contrast between a Gull Tern (lifer) and Forster Tern. Brigatine / Forsythe NWR, NJ. Photo taken on May 31, 2014.

While many of the birds were familiar friends or at least better views than I had ever had previously, there were lifers in store.  First up was the Gull Tern whose only nesting site in all of NJ is near Brig.

Ruddy Turnstone stalks the mudflats. Brigatine / Forsythe NWR, NJ. Photo taken on May 31, 2014.

Ruddy Turnstone stalks the mudflats. Brigatine / Forsythe NWR, NJ. Photo taken on May 31, 2014.

I believe this intent Ruddy Turnstone may also be a lifer.  I don’t believe I had ever seen one before.  I can no longer say that.  In fact, I saw at least 20.

Osprey parents feed at the nesting platform. Brigatine / Forsythe NWR, NJ. Photo taken on May 31, 2014.

Osprey parents feed at the nesting platform. Brigatine / Forsythe NWR, NJ. Photo taken on May 31, 2014.

The refuge is littered with nesting platforms which are about as frequent as bluebird boxes in a field.  Many of the platforms are in use, too!  I believe the Ospreys nest in higher densities here than they normally do.  (By the way, I absolutely adore this photo- it’s one in a series where the parents are alternatively ducking down to feed and scanning the horizon.)

All this was only on the first trip around!  We stopped back at the entrance, had food, mingled, and headed back out as the sun began sinking.  We did the second pass much faster as it was more to put ourselves into position for the nocturnal birds likely to be found at the end of the loop.

Ninja birds: Great Egret and Great Heron do battle over foraging grounds. Brigatine / Forsythe NWR, NJ. Photo taken on May 31, 2014.

Ninja birds: Great Egret and Great Heron do battle over foraging grounds. Brigatine / Forsythe NWR, NJ. Photo taken on May 31, 2014.

As we passed through the refuge we caught sight of a ruckus between herons and egrets.  While calamity reigned on, a Black-crowned Night-Heron intently waited to gobble down the fish.

Black-crowned Night-Heron prowls through the evening low tide. Brigatine / Forsythe NWR, NJ. Photo taken on May 31, 2014.

Black-crowned Night-Heron prowls through the evening low tide. Brigatine / Forsythe NWR, NJ. Photo taken on May 31, 2014.

Rolling through the refuge we could hear the cry of a rail signaling the approach of night.  Darkness descended quickly when we reached the forest as did the temperature.  While the day was never warm, the evening was in the 50s.  We stood in silence, or as silent as a group of 30-odd people who can’t actually stop shuffling can stand.

Far, far in the distance we could hear the faint cry of a Chuck-wills-widow (lifer).  Pete also called a Screech Owl, but to be fair I didn’t hear it, so it is not 192.  We drove a little further and in the coolness of the night we were the single call of an Eastern Whip-poor-will amidst the calls of tree frogs.  Thus concluded our spring trip to Brigantine.

The Brigantine List

Canada Goose
Mute Swan
Tundra Swan
American Black Duck
Mallard
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Glossy Ibis
Turkey Vulture
Osprey
Red-tailed Hawk
Clapper Rail
American Oystercatcher
Black-bellied Plover
Semipalmated Plover
Killdeer
Spotted Sandpiper
Willet
Lesser Yellowlegs
Ruddy Turnstone*
Dunlin
Least Sandpiper
White-rumped Sandpiper*
Semipalmated Sandpipe
Laughing Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Gull-billed Tern*
Caspian Tern
Forster’s Tern
Black Skimmer
Mourning Dove
Chuck-will’s-widow*
Eastern Whip-poor-will
Chimney Swif
Great Crested Flycatcher
Eastern Kingbird
Warbling Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Fish Crow
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow
Marsh Wren
Carolina Wren
American Robin
Gray Catbird
European Starling
Common Yellowthroat
Northern Parula
Yellow Warbler
Eastern Towhee
Chipping Sparrow
Seaside Sparrow*
Song Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Boat-tailed Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

*lifer

Shoring Up the List

Having agreed to bird at Brigatine on Saturday, May 31st, my birding partner-in-crime and I decided to visit LBI on the way down: not for the beach, not for the fudge, but for the birds.

Light House at LBI. Long Beach Island, NJ. Photo taken on May 31, 2014.

Light House at LBI. Long Beach Island, NJ. Photo taken on May 31, 2014.

Sadly we thought this out poorly as there were few birds because there were too many bathers and boaters. However, we resuscitated the morning by trying out Manahawkin Wildlife Management Area .  We were to learn later that day that our whim was a portion of Brig known as the Bridge to Nowhere….

Bridge to Nowhere, Brigantine / Forsythe NWR, NJ. Photo taken on May 31, 2014.

Bridge to Nowhere, Brigantine / Forsythe NWR, NJ. Photo taken on May 31, 2014.

We had less than an hour to travel through / bird the area, but saw enough that we would definitely return. Mute Swans, Egrets, and Ibis fed throught the Marsh. Warblers sang their alluring songs from the forest.

Glossy Ibises feed in the marshes. Bridge to Nowhere, Brigantine / Forsythe NWR, NJ. Photo taken on May 31, 2014.

Glossy Ibises feed in the marshes. Bridge to Nowhere, Brigantine / Forsythe NWR, NJ. Photo taken on May 31, 2014.

Bridge to Nowhere List:

Canada Goose
Mute Swan
Mallard
Great Egret
Glossy Ibis
Turkey Vulture
Red-tailed Hawk
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Forster’s Tern
Northern Flicker
Great Crested Flycatcher
Tree Swallow
Marsh Wren
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Ovenbird
Common Yellowthroat
Blackpoll Warbler
Red-winged Blackbird

Then we were off for our true destination: Brigantine.

Returning to my Roots

My first serious birding endeavor took place in Arizona a decade ago.  I was part of a research team based out of University of Arizona working with the Band-tailed Pigeon. Several years later, I returned briefly to the state to visit family and see more of its natural wonder, so as I sit with my bags packed ready to return, I figured I’d pull a few photos out of the archives.

Margs Draw, Sedona, AZ. Photo taken April 17, 2010.

Margs Draw, Sedona, AZ. Photo taken April 17, 2010.

I’m headed out to the Tucson region tomorrow for a family wedding.  Afterwards I’m staying for a few extra days to get some birding in.  Have done some research, but haven’t entirely made up my mind where I’m going yet other than in the Tucson region since that’s where I’ll be.

Margs Draw, Sedona, AZ. Photo taken April 17, 2010.

Anna’s Hummingbird mid-flight. Margs Draw, Sedona, AZ. Photo taken April 17, 2010.

Unfortunately in my previous visits to the state, I didn’t keep records for myself so all I have are the fragments of memories 10 years old.  That and a few really poor quality photos.

Margs Draw, Sedona, AZ. Photo taken April 17, 2010.

Ubiquitous vultures enjoying the late day thermals as I depart Sedona. Margs Draw, Sedona, AZ. Photo taken April 17, 2010.

However, that’s all about to change.  When I return I will at least have better lists, if not better quality photos.

Margs Draw, Sedona, AZ. Photo taken April 17, 2010.

I don’t recall the context of this particular photo, but I like it nonetheless. Margs Draw, Sedona, AZ. Photo taken April 17, 2010.

WOD2014: Penguins and Cormorants

World Ocean Day 2014 from Galapagos Conservation Trust

Galapagos Penguin swimming in the waters along Bartolome Island, one of the filming locations of Master and Commander. Bartolome Island, Galapagos, Ecuador.  Photo taken January 2014.

Galapagos Penguin swimming in the waters along Bartolome Island, one of the filming locations of Master and Commander. Bartolome Island, Galapagos, Ecuador. Photo taken January 2014.

The wonderful thing about traveling is that it creates for you a connection with a new place. After having visiting the Galapagos in January 2014, I definitely pay more attention to the news about the islands. Galapagos Conservation Trust has been highlighting oceanic animals as they lead up to today, World Ocean Day.  I’m sharing a portion of their most recent post below.

The Galapagos penguin and flightless cormorant are both somewhat uncharacteristic when compared to their close relatives…  Penguin and cormorant populations now number just 2,000 individuals each and the species are currently classified as endangered and vulnerable respectively. With a range of threats, including predation by introduced species, avian disease, habitat loss and climate change, the management and conservation of the remaining individuals is now at a critical point.

via WOD2014: Penguins and Cormorants.  Please continue and read for yourselves.

Meeting in the Meadowlands I

On Thursday as I was finishing up work, I  got a text from my birding partner in crime suggesting we head to the Meadowlands for a break between work and evening plans.

We got down there around 4 and had a pleasant walk around the pools.  It wasn’t too buggy because there was a bit of a breeze blowing.

We had views of a Bald Eagle soon after our arrival.  Too far to get photos, but still nice views.  We found a Marsh Wren!  Well, we had someone point out the song to us.  That was pretty exciting.

Snowy Egret. NJ Meadowlands. Photo taken on May 29, 2014.

Snowy Egret. NJ Meadowlands. Photo taken on May 29, 2014.

We frequently have Snowy and Great Egrets at the Meadowlands.  In general, I find the lack of neck and the Mohawk of feathers to be important identification tools.

Lesser Yellowlegs. NJ Meadowlands. Photo taken on May 29, 2014.

Lesser Yellowlegs. NJ Meadowlands. Photo taken on May 29, 2014.

Visiting the Meadowlands is a good opportunity for working on identifying differences between Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs.  As the beak is ramrod straight, I’ll go with a Lesser Yellowlegs.  Greater Yellowlegs have a slight upturn to their bill.

Black Skimmer swoops down to scoop along the water. NJ Meadowlands. Photo taken on May 29, 2014.

Black Skimmer swoops down to scoop along the water. NJ Meadowlands. Photo taken on May 29, 2014.

As we were heading out we had one more surprise: a Black Skimmer. We had wonderful views of the skimmer flying back and forth.  It even swooped down to skim while we watched.

Day’s List:

Canada Goose
Mute Swan
Gadwall
Mallard
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Osprey
Bald Eagle
Killdeer
Spotted Sandpiper
Lesser Yellowlegs
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Forster’s Tern
Black Skimmer
Mourning Dove
Warbling Vireo
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow
Tufted Titmouse
Marsh Wren
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Common Yellowthroat
Song Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Baltimore Oriole
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

 

Return to Doodletown

On a Tuesday towards the end of May I found a few free hours to run back up to Doodletown.  The day’s forecast threatened rain, so I hemmed and hawed most of the morning as to whether or not to go.

Eventually I decided a-birding I would go and arrived on site around 11.

It was a very different scene as this was a week-day morning.  Some operational work was taking place on the highway next to the lot which had a handful of cars – very different from the cars crammed along both sides of the road.

It was a quiet day.  I wandered slowly up the trail.  There is actually someone sitting in the graveyard – one of the new people I encountered (graveyard pictured bottom left).  There was also a large black snake that was at the graveyard as well.

The small, abandoned town of Doodletown actually boasts 3 cemeteries. Slightly bizarre, but when you consider the town survived for 200 years, maybe it’s not so strange.  The two photos pictured on the right show the road conditions.  Despite the fact this is a town, the buildings are gone.  I believe the state removed as many structures as possible when the town was closed to make way for the park.  Now only wildlife lives here.  Two of the other people I met here were researching ancestors who were buried here.  I was able to use my recently acquired knowledge to send them to one graveyard, then I found the other two.

The scenery at Doodletown. Doodletown, NY. Photos taken May 27, 2014.

The scenery at Doodletown. Doodletown, NY. Photos taken May 27, 2014.

One graveyard was closed to the public (but the other two aren’t).  The road to that one is pictured bottom right.  When I was exploring cementary #3 (pictured bottom left), I began hearing the call of a Yellow-billed Cuckoo.  I tracked the bird up the road out of town eventually until I could also hear a Black-billed Cuckoo.  It seemed as though they were taking turns.  One on each side of the road, lost in the thickets.

When I was exploring the remains of the ground for one house, I saw a speck on the tip of a tree.  Certain, it was only going to be a piece of shredded bark, I made myself view it anyway through the binoculars and found a new species for the year: Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird waits and watches.  Doodletown, NY. Photo taken May 27, 2014.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird waits and watches. Doodletown, NY. Photo taken May 27, 2014.

Not that you can tell it has a Ruby-throat from the photo.   Continuing down the road, I was hoping to find Pease Pond.  Since there were no cool herons in the large pond, I hoped perhaps they were taking refuge in a more secluded pond.  Pease Pond is fully overgrown now, but there was more active birdlife in the area.

I heard a call I was fairly certain was a Pileated, and then had my suspicions confirmed when it flew overhead.

Proof of the Pileated Woodpecker. Doodletown, NY. Photo taken May 27, 2014.

Proof of the Pileated Woodpecker. Doodletown, NY. Photo taken May 27, 2014.

The clouds were beginning to roll in.  So perhaps that’s the reason I was finding more birds.  I next stumbled across a flock of song birds in and out of the trees as well as another view of the Ruby-throated Hummingbird. I had Cardinals, Blue-winged Warblers, and Hooded Warblers in and over the trees along the road.

Black-and-White Warbler sings. Doodletown, NY. Photo taken May 27, 2014.

Black-and-White Warbler sings something not so blue. Doodletown, NY. Photo taken May 27, 2014.

Heading back to the car towards mid-afternoon, I stopped to follow one more beguiling pathway, because that’s what one does.  Along it I heard a series of jumbled notes, and looking around this caught my notice:

Indigo Bunting. Some day I'll get it's song down. Doodletown, NY. Photo taken May 27, 2014.

Indigo Bunting. Some day I’ll get its song down. Doodletown, NY. Photo taken May 27, 2014.

As I watched him sing, I was certain I’d remember the song, but for the life of me, I cannot recall it.  Maybe I will when I hear it again.

However, trip #2 to Doodletown was lovely!  I heard or saw 40 species all together which I am pleased with considering I was birding from 11am-3pm.

Canada Goose
American Black Duck
Turkey Vulture
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Black-billed Cuckoo
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Pileated Woodpecker
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Eastern Phoebe
Great Crested Flycatcher
Warbling Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Wood Thrush
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
Cedar Waxwing
Northern Waterthrush
Blue-winged Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
Tennessee Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Hooded Warbler
American Redstart
Cerulean Warbler
Northern Parula
Yellow Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Chipping Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Indigo Bunting
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Baltimore Oriole

America’s Comeback Story

America’s comeback story: the New Jersey Meadowlands.  Rumor says that the Meadowlands of the 1970s was the dumping ground of the Mafia.  Regardless, these wetlands were treated as a dumping ground for garbage and probably chemicals. Today more people think of the football stadium when they hear Meadowlands than of the water and wildlife.

So, on Saturday I killed a few hours there.   It was a pleasant morning.  I found a female Ruddy Duck.  I hadn’t seen any Ruddy Ducks all month, so that was a nice surprise.

Female Ruddy Duck takes off in flight. NJ Meadowlands. Photo taken on May 25, 2014.

Female Ruddy Duck takes off in flight. NJ Meadowlands. Photo taken on May 25, 2014.

Many people were there, in search of the Cinnamon Teal which had reappeared after a five day absence. I was just happy to be out and about so I did a pass along the pools, then went in search of warblers.  It was remarkably quiet on the ridge, so I returned to the pools.

Dunlin dozes along the Saw Mill Pathway. NJ Meadowlands. Photo taken on May 25, 2014.

Dunlin dozes along the Saw Mill Pathway. NJ Meadowlands. Photo taken on May 25, 2014.

Along the paths, I found a Dunlin sleeping.  It was there the first time I walked by, and when I returned it was still dozing. It’s a long flight to the Arctic Circle.

NJ Meadowlands. Photo taken on May 25, 2014.

Size comparison between Canada Goose gosling and Lesser Yellowlegs. NJ Meadowlands. Photo taken on May 25, 2014.

As I was working my way back to my car and I finally found the goslings.  As much as people disdain the Canada Goose, they have cute goslings.  Near the feeding goslings were Lesser Yellowlegs.

The Meadowlands is a vital stopover ground and breeding place for scores of birds.   Whether the birds have used this region all along, and we’re just paying more attention or they’re returning as we clean up, either way it’s good news.