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

 

Snow Break for the Birder

On Saturday I met up with my adviser, his wife and a friend from grad school and we headed back to Sandy Hook, home of the Snowy Owl spotted during our Big Day. I was excited to do my first real birding since my return from the Galapagos, but as departure time approached and I thought of all the snow out there, the thought of trudging through snow and cold caused me to drag my feet.  Granted I should have been thrilled that we caught a break between the storms and we were all free, but it wasn’t registering.

But it wasn’t so bad. There was no wind and the snow was manageable. You might notice there’s something off about the photo….

Trekking over the white sand beach. Sandy Hook, NJ. Taken on February 8, 2014.

Trekking over the white sand beach. Sandy Hook, NJ. Taken on February 8, 2014.

No footprints!  For the most part we were able to walk entirely on top of the snow without leaving footprints.  It felt very magical and many a remark was made about elves.   But also no owl.  I didn’t do any of the planning or scouting for this trip, so it went overlooked that the last time a snowy owl had been spotted was on January 20th.

Surprising flock of Field Sparrows.  Sandy Hook, NJ. Taken on February 8, 2014.

Surprising flock of Field Sparrows. Sandy Hook, NJ. Taken on February 8, 2014.

Like last time we also had nice views Long-tailed Ducks and Red-breasted Mergansers. New were Bald Eagle, Snow Buntings, Horned Larks, American Robin, Common Goldeneye, Black Scoters and Field Sparrows. I got a glimpse of a Merlin while everyone else was mesmerized by a flashy immature Bald Eagle. So slow start to NJ birds, but getting good birds.

Horned Grebe finds a calm patch of water.   Sandy Hook, NJ. Taken on February 8, 2014.

Horned Grebe finds a calm patch of water. Sandy Hook, NJ. Taken on February 8, 2014.

Working Sandy Hook is slowly improving my identification skills of a few birds I only see about once per year. so yay! Just need to actually order my scope, so I can be a real birder.

Hermit Thrush. Sandy Hook, NJ. Taken on February 8, 2014.

Hermit Thrush. False harbinger of spring. Sandy Hook, NJ. Taken on February 8, 2014.

Call me crazy, but winter is rapidly winding up. While it cannot end too soon for many people (another several inches of snow predicted for this week?! whee!), to me I see the closing window of opportunity for Snowy Owls and Long-eared Owls.

Birding by Bike

As summer winds down and migration starts up, the birding has been low-key.  Early excursions into work yield about 20 different species each trip with minor variation.  Still, we faithfully arrive around 7 once to twice a week, just to verify the birding is less than exciting.

One of the nicest things about living in this region is that it’s fairly flat and pretty good for cycling. On weekends we easily get dozens to hundreds of cyclists riding past.   Many nights after work, I’ll pull out the bike and do a nine mile course along a creek, through a marsh, out into a river, past backyards, and a few forested patches.  The 9 miles is beginning to feel easier on the thighs.  If I focus on birds, I feel the ache a little less.  I entertain myself and my mother who frequently rides with me by identifying the birds scolding us and flittering across the path. Yesterday this course yielded a Wild Turkey.  Today was even more exciting!

The omen of good birding was granted by a Great Egret within the first half mile.  I spotted a Bald Eagle flying away into the distance as I cycled through one of the inner regional marshes, and in the riverine marsh I spotted 8 Least Sandpipers scrounging around in the mud.  Thank goodness for yellow legs, but not yellowlegs!   New for the state list and the year list, woo!

There’s talk of the Biggest Birding Expedition of the Season down to Brigatine for Saturday.  We’ll see if it actually happens.  It was supposed to be last Saturday, but that fell through.

In other good news, I finally found my camera charger and recharged the camera batteries,so hopefully there’ll be more photos soon!