12 Days of Birding

I suppose it began with renditions of “Merry Schismus” and “O! Schismus Tree” during lab meetings earlier this month, but trudging through an empty Liberty State Park today on our annual Lower Hudson Christmas Bird Count, I began to sing the following in  my head.

Sung to the tune of “The 12 Days of Christmas” (or not,  if you’re ill-favored like me) because there weren’t enough birds in it already. 


 

On the first day of CBC,  Audubon sent my way: a Saw-whet in a pine tree.

saw-whet

On the second day of CBC, Audubon sent my way:  two Coopers Hawks and a Saw-whet in a pine tree.

On the third day of CBC, Audubon sent my way: three Moorhens, two Coopers Hawks and a Saw-whet in a pine tree.

On the fourth day of CBC, Audubon sent my way: four Mockingbirds, three Moorhens, two Coopers Hawks and a Saw-whet in a pine tree.

On the fifth day of CBC, Audubon sent my way: five Goldeneyes, four Mockingbirds, three Moorhens, two Coopers Hawks and a Saw-whet in a pine tree.

On the sixth day of CBC, Audubon sent my way: six Hooded ‘Gansers, five Goldeneyes, four Mockingbirds, three Moorhens, two Coopers Hawks and a Saw-whet in a pine tree.

On the seventh day  of CBC, Audubon sent my way: seven Orange-crowned Warblers, six Hooded ‘Gansers, five Goldeneyes, four Mockingbirds, three Moorhens, two Coopers’ Hawks and a Saw-whet in a pine tree.

On the eighth day of CBC, Audubon sent my way: eight Northern Pintails, seven Orange-crowned Warblers, six Hooded ‘Gansers, five Goldeneyes, four Mockingbirds, three Moorhens, two Coopers Hawks and a Saw-whet in a pine tree.

On the ninth day of CBC, Audubon sent my way: nine Cedar Waxwings, eight Northern Pintails, seven Orange-crowned Warblers, six Hooded ‘Gansers, five Goldeneyes, four Mockingbirds, three Moorhens, two Coopers Hawks and a Saw-whet in a pine tree.

On the tenth day  of CBC, Audubon sent my way: ten Ring-necked Pheasants, nine Cedar Waxwings, eight Northern Pintails, seven Orange-crowned Warblers, six Hooded ‘Gansers, five Goldeneyes, four Mockingbirds, three Moorhens, two Coopers Hawks and a Saw-whet in a pine tree.

On the eleventh day of CBC, Audubon sent my way: eleven Piping Plovers, ten Ring-necked Pheasants, nine Cedar Waxwings, eight Northern Pintails, seven Orange-crowned Warblers, six Hooded ‘Gansers, five Goldeneyes, four Mockingbirds, three Moorhens, two Coopers’ Hawks and a Saw-whet in a pine tree.

On the twelfth day of CBC, Audubon sent my way: twelve Pileateds, eleven Piping Plovers, ten Ring-necked Pheasants, nine Cedar Waxwings, eight Northern Pintails, seven Orange-crowned Warblers, six Hooded ‘Gansers, five Goldeneyes, four Mockingbirds, three Moorhens, two Coopers Hawks and a Saw-whet in a pine tree.

On the 13th day of CBC, Audubon  sent to me frostbite, warbler neck,  blisters, and a runny nose so the song ends here.


 

Please do add your own verses and variations in the comments!


 

Image sources: Pileated Woodpeckers, Piping Plovers, Ring-necked Pheasants, Cedar Waxwings, Northern Pintails, Orange-crowned Warblers, Hooded Mergansers, Goldeneyes, Northern Mockingbird, Common Moorhens,  Coopers Hawks, and a Saw-whet in a pine tree.

Binge Birding: CBC Bingo Results #1

Final results aren’t in, but this is what I remember after a weekend of binge birding. My recommendation is to fill out the bingo card as you go along, not after!

CBC Bingo Results: Liberty State Park

CBC Bingo Results: Liberty State Park

The official results aren’t in yet. I think we were at 55 species when we tallied around 2:30. We then went off to look for a Robin. (Which we failed at.)

House Finches spend the day at the beach. Christmas Bird Count at Liberty State Park. Photo taken on December 14, 2014.

House Finches spend the day at the beach. Christmas Bird Count at Liberty State Park. Photo taken on December 14, 2014.

There were no surprising finds at Liberty State Park, which is… surprising.

We're eying you, or sleeping with one eye open. Greater Scaups sleep in the same spot annually. Christmas Bird Count at Liberty State Park. Photo taken on December 14, 2014.

We’re eying you, or sleeping with one eye open. Greater Scaups sleep in the same spot annually. Christmas Bird Count at Liberty State Park. Photo taken on December 14, 2014.

Toward the afternoon we located the Greater (and Lesser) Scaup.  They seem to always sleep in the same area.  I don’t know if it’s their annual Christmas nap or their annual charity; either way, it works.

Lost civilization in NJ. Christmas Bird Count at Liberty State Park. Photo taken on December 14, 2014.

Lost civilization in NJ. Christmas Bird Count at Liberty State Park. Photo taken on December 14, 2014.

We had a quick detour to go see a lost civilization.  This castle is actually carved into the rock on site.

Area X at Liberty State Park. Restricted Access. Christmas Bird Count at Liberty State Park. Photo taken on December 14, 2014.

Area X at Liberty State Park. Restricted Access. Christmas Bird Count at Liberty State Park. Photo taken on December 14, 2014.

The interior of Liberty State Park, “Area X”, is off-limits to most birders, but we have a permit and permission allowing us access.  There have been rumors of owls lurking here for years, but no evidence since I joined this CBC-team. Dipped both years now.

The satellite office of Rutgers Newark Holzapfel Lab. Christmas Bird Count at Liberty State Park. Photo taken on December 14, 2014.

The satellite office of Rutgers Newark Holzapfel Lab. Christmas Bird Count at Liberty State Park. Photo taken on December 14, 2014.

As a post-industrial forest, there are some unexplainable sights.  Such as this table. Why?

We're really serious in our quest for American Robins. Christmas Bird Count at Liberty State Park. Photo taken on December 14, 2014.

We’re really serious in our quest for American Robins. Christmas Bird Count at Liberty State Park. Photo taken on December 14, 2014.

We did a tally and realized we were missing some incredibly common birds: Common Grackle, Red-winged Blackbird, White-throated Sparrow, American Robin.  Seriously who goes birding and misses *all* of those species?  It’s like we weren’t even birding or something, but from the photo, we were quite determined to find a robin as evidenced by our use of this climbing contraption.

American Kestrel - one of the final birds of the count. Christmas Bird Count at Liberty State Park. Photo taken on December 14, 2014.

American Kestrel – one of the final birds of the count. Christmas Bird Count at Liberty State Park. Photo taken on December 14, 2014.

As we returned to the cars, lo and behold we had a Kestrel in a tree (but not a partridge, and no pears, either), and then a Merlin flew by in the background.

We cut out an hour early (shush) and went down the road 10 minutes to where there were reports of a Snowy Owl.  Turns out there may be as many as three.  We waiting about 45 minutes, and just after the sun set we saw one flying low over the Bayonne Public Golf Course.  So that’s why it’s in a blue circle, not a yellow.  Cause it doesn’t quite count.

Next week, I’ll be heading out to Boonton for round 2, so stay tuned!

Coming to CBCs Near You

Oh, winter birding! Fewer species to eliminate; fewer leaves to block the birds. Fewer degrees; more toes to lose. For those of you looking to the upcoming CBCs with trepidation, consider implementing a CBC Bingo competition.  Particularly helpful for novice birders and tag-a-long children.  Feel free to use the bingo card below, or make your own.  Other suggestions for what to look for?

Make your own CBC Bingo card to get you and your party through the cold.

Make your own CBC Bingo card to get you and your party through the cold.

Of Thee I Sing!

Rather it would be more like squawking if truth be told. But nevertheless, Liberty has been the theme of the month.  At the beginning of the month, I joined Montclair’s final ornithology trip to Culver’s Lake/Walkill River National Wildife Refuge where they surpassed my year’s record of 119 species with 124 for the semester.  At Culver’s Lake I picked up American Widgeon (I went 342 days without seeing one?!) and Common Goldeneye.  It was cold, occasionally bitterly so.  (Year species 192 and 193).

After lunch we found ourselves on Liberty Loop at Walkill.  Parts of it were in NJ, parts in NY.  We tramped about the loop in the declining winter sun.  The class picked up White-Throated Sparrows, heard but ne’er saw the Downy Woodpecker.  We were treated to beautiful views of gliding Northern Harriers and we all added a beautiful Rough-legged Hawk to our lists (194).  I opted not to bring my camera because I didn’t want to hold up the class progress, but hopefully I’ll be able to snag a photo or two to retroactively post. Further into the loop, along a wooded stretch we watched a Cooper’s Hawk sitting inches above the ground in a boggy area.

The sun sank further and the prize of the day remained elusive:the Short-eared Owl. John frequently scanned every hummock, but I held out for an appearance just before sunset.  Hand in hand temperature and hope dropped as we walked north along the western edge of the marsh and the light disappeared.  We turned towards the last stretch into the parking lot when the group lingering behind called loudly enough to capture our attention.  Out over the southern edge of the marsh (where we had been 30 minutes before!) a brilliant show of swooping, graceful wings danced on the horizons. (And yes, there are multiple horizons.  First there is the marshline, then the treeline; both are vital reference points).  From our vantage point we were witness to 5 Short-ears hunting at twilight (195).  Against the marsh and the trees, they looked like white; dancing against the sky, their silhouettes turned black.

Fast forward a week: Christmas Bird Count!  T’was very exciting to be invited to participate!  I had friends who were doing the count on Saturday (the day of the horrible snows), but I lucked out weather-wise with Sunday.  It started off bitterly cold (two hours in, I was more concerned about whether or not I had the first case of frostbite; couldn’t tell if my feet were just cold or cold and wet), but when the sun grudgingly appeared, my feet reached a tolerable temperature.  There were seven in our party tasked with surveying Liberty State Park in Jersey City.  The group was associated with Rutgers Newark of which I have previously posted.  We had a record 64 species, and a record low number of individuals due to really low counts of Canada Geese and Brant.  We were treated to nice views of Horned Larks and my best views yet of Snow Buntings.  We searched for owls in the conifer groves, but it was not meant to be!  I had a definitive Greater Scaup (196) and my first looks at a tricksy Long-tailed Duck (197)!  Away from the open water we picked up Rusty Blackbirds (198) and I had my first views of American Pipit (199)! Which is a lovely bird, if only for the name (pipit!), though I’m sketchy on the identification as I was instructed to know it by it’s slender bill and just the way it walks.  It has a way.  Which if it doesn’t walk while you’re viewing it, doesn’t help!  We had a surprise lunchtime visitor of two Orange-Crowned Warblers (200.)  All the details of our count can be found here.

We did quite well!  And in creating my list just now, I realized I had a miscount and have officially achieved 200 birds for the year! Woo! I guess I don’t have to go chasing a Snowy Owl after all.  But do stay tuned, in case I do, and for other amazing news.

P.S. Winter banner was taken at the CBC looking towards NYC!