Truth Be Told

There are people who would scarcely believe it, but there are times it takes a bit of effort to get me in the field birding. May 1st was one of those days.  I might have gotten up that morning to bird except the forecast said rain until mid-afternoon.  Forecast was wrong: rain had passed, skies were clearing in the morning, but it wasn’t until late afternoon I got around to birding.  I was hoping with the rains of the last several days that there would be fallout (not nuclear).

Ultimately, it was the memory of the stellar birding from May 1st, that got me out the door and headed down the road to the NJ Meadowlands.   I arrived late afternoon and headed along the small ridge to see who had recently arrived.

Spring has finally arrived! Meadowlands, NJ. Photo taken on May 1, 2014.

Spring has finally arrived! Meadowlands, NJ. Photo taken on May 1, 2014.

There were Yellow-rumped Warblers in the trees; slightly difficult to locate due to the angle of the setting sun. Walking the trail in reverse might have helped. Had there been more birds in evidence would also have helped.

Yellow-rumped Warblers are taking over the planet; or at least they're leading the spring migration. Meadowlands, NJ. Photo taken on May 1, 2014.

Yellow-rumped Warblers are taking over the planet; or at least they’re leading the spring migration. Meadowlands, NJ. Photo taken on May 1, 2014.

Not that there’s clear evidence it’s a Yellow-rumped Warbler from the photo, but it was. Not much on the hillside, so I decided to walk the loops around the ponds.

The ponds seemed really empty until I got halfway out. On a mudflat I located a few shorebirds picking morosely at the offerings.  Or delightedly, it’s hard to read the expression on the face of a Charadriiformes.

Shorebirds take advantage of the low tide. Greater Yellowlegs mingles with Least Sandpipers. Meadowlands, NJ. Photo taken on May 1, 2014.

Shorebirds take advantage of the low tide. Greater Yellowlegs mingles with Least Sandpipers. Meadowlands, NJ. Photo taken on May 1, 2014.

Tree Swallows and Barn Swallows buzzed by, two Forester Terns coasted the gusty breeze. That breeze was the only thing saving all of us from death by insect consumption. Insects were a menace! I couldn’t help but kill them as I readjusted equipment they were so plentiful!

Forester's Tern returns to NJ.  Meadowlands, NJ. Photo taken May on 1, 2014.

Forester’s Tern returns to NJ. Meadowlands, NJ. Photo taken May on 1, 2014.

I walked all the way to the highway. And by highway, I mean the New Jersey Turnpike. Whenever I bird here, I feel obligated to walk all the way out and walk the stretch along the turnpike. I feel as though if there’s going to be a hidden gem, chances are it’ll be here.

And I was in luck.  As I made my way to the trail end, I spooked a Black-crowned Night-Heron.

While the sighting lifted my spirits a bit, I was feeling lethargic, and was considering calling it a day.  I decided to take a quick peak along the other pathway, just to verify I wasn’t missing out on much.  I picked up Killdeer and American Goldfinch.

But then I saw this fellow:

A surprising Savannah Sparrow. Meadowlands, NJ. Photo taken on May 1, 2014.

A surprising Savannah Sparrow. Meadowlands, NJ. Photo taken on May 1, 2014.

While, not a lifer, definitely my best looks yet!  I caught sight of the yellow and initially second guessed myself from “something really cool” to “yet another White-throated Sparrow who just won’t leave”.  But the way it moved was wrong.  This bird had graceful darts from cover to cover, not the hop up and down to flip leaves.  Fortunately, I stayed on it and got a photo before a runner ran past spooking the bird into the ether.

Recharged, I decided to do the longer path to discover whatever else there might be, but in the last light, my luck failed me.  It was bird empty.  Hurrying back before losing the light entirely, I checked the last loop and found all the birds.  There many more Greater Yellowlegs and Least Sandpipers, Egrets Great and Snowy, but in the fading light, all the photos were grainy, so we’ll close with a landscape.

Sunset at the Meadowlands. Meadowlands, NJ. Photo taken on May 1, 2014.

Sunset at the Meadowlands. Meadowlands, NJ. Photo taken on May 1, 2014.

Not such a bad start to May!

Finishing Up February

As I walked back to my car on Tuesday night following class I was very excited to hear vocalizations coming from the construction area/playing fields.  Considering the time and the season, I was hopeful it was the American Woodcock.  When I had a chance, I verified on ebird that the American Woodcock had returned to the area. I haven’t heard woodcocks since I was an undergraduate crossing Skelley Field.   And that’s been years!   I listened to the vocalizations on Cornell’s All About Birds site.  Vocalizations aren’t my thing – I have permanent audio amnesia, so songs and calls are challenging.  Cornell’s vocalization file seemed promising and so I was filled with hope.

Alas, it was not to be.  Arriving on campus Wednesday morning, I learned the true identity of the noisy, new arrival.  Approaching the soccer fields I found a standoff between the disinterested soccer team beginning practice and the indignant Killdeer protecting the goal.

So February wrapped up with a last minute addition to the month list of Killdeer for a total of 5o species, and 34 checklists and a new lifebird, the Monk Parakeet.  Bird sighting I was most excited about:  American Robin.  Seems silly, but they portend spring for me, so it was super exciting to see.  Most vindicated sighting of the month: Brown Creeper.  I knew they had to be around the house, it was only a matter of finding it and I did.

Now, back to studying for Tuesday’s exam!

Spring break is approaching!  So hopefully I will get a chance to get out and bird more as the migrants begin arriving.

Last Hurrah?

What a whirlwind the last ~24 hours have been!

I have picked up one additional new species for the 2013 list (hello, Killdeer!) and three new species for the life list!

I didn’t get a chance to write about it previously, but on the evening of the 18th, at dusk, I headed out to the fields where as the sunset I saw plenty of American Robins roosting in a tree, a few Red-tailed Hawks, and the long-awaited Short-eared Owl.  From a distance in the dimming list they look almost like Northern Harriers. It’s not helped that their habitats are identical!  However, the Northern Harrier’s flight tends to be more purposeful whereas the Short-eared Owl looks like a Harrier on lots of sugar flying here, then there, and everywhere all at once.

Then the following morning, I went on a sunrise stroll as noted previously and then spent the afternoon birding in Central Jersey.  I didn’t see lots of diversity, but diversified my list.   We drove down to New Egypt where we saw the Northern Lapwings.  I have National Geographic’s Birds of North America, and their sketch doesn’t do it justice.  In the cowpats, and mulepats, the birds were positively gleaming.  With the aid of borrowed scopes we had very nice views of the three lapwings amongst the Killdeer.  We also ran into other birders we knew!  Such a small world! Chris and Ray were arriving just as we were.

We stayed there for a bit before heading out to Colliers WMA in hopes of finding the feasting Red Crossbills, but despite driving around searching the premises for quite a good while, we had no luck.

From there we decided to head northward with the waning light and try our luck for the our old friend the Pink-footed Goose, as well as the Tundra Swans, Northern Shrike, and Barnacle Geese reported in the Assunpink  WMA.  We struck out on all four, alas, got a bit lost, but we did pick up a Red-throated Loon.  So all was not lost.  On Tuesday, it’s back to school again!  While school is local and I’ll still be in the area, my time will become much more constrained and I will be down to one day per week free.

So this was my last big hurrah bird-bird-bird day for time-being, but I’ll be checking my calendar to see when I can get out again.   And as the days get longer, I’ll have more opportunities for birding post work and class.