If at first you don’t succeed…

A. Quit.
B. Get reinforcements
C. Blame external conditions
D. Blame the gods
E. All of the above

These are the choices of a birder having a bad day.  How many times have you just decided to call it a day, asked another birder if they’ve had better luck finding the target, or blamed conditions?

Afterwards, you…. (select all that apply.)
A. Check ebird for more specifics on location
B. Verify field markings in a field guide/allaboutbirds
C. Call reinforcements
D. Go back again

The number of answer choices selected in question 2 indicates your level Birder Style.  (By the way, if you selected all of the above, you are an Obsessed Birder).

All of this leads me to my pursuit of George this past September.  (Can you tell what type of birder I am yet?)

So George is not a person, not even a birder.  The truth is George was a RBA celebrity.  George appeared in late July at the Meadowlands.  He was an overnight wonder.  The glossiest white feathers, a much bulkier frame; he put the egrets to shame.   And to every birder’s delight he stayed. and stayed. and stayed.

He wasn’t seen every day, but it was it was close.  Birders grew to know him on a very personal level.  They knew his favorite dinning locations at low tide; where he’d go when he needed a change of pace.  He was the celebrity that lived in your neighborhood, much like Mr. Rogers.

He was there throughout the summer, but I couldn’t get away to see him for myself.  15 minutes from my own apartment and I was house-sitting in another state!

Finally September rolled around and I was free to pursue George.  First we forgot to do our research before going.  That was that was Thursday.  So I returned at the next possible opportunity: Saturday.  Here’s what I saw:

Yellowlegs huddled on a distant shore. NJ Meadowlands. Photo taken on September 6, 2014.

Yellowlegs huddled on a distant shore. NJ Meadowlands. Photo taken on September 6, 2014.

Nope, no George slumbering here.

Snowy Egret and Yellowlegs size comparison. NJ Meadowlands. Photo taken on September 6, 2014.

Snowy Egret and Solitary Sandpipers size comparison. NJ Meadowlands. Photo taken on September 6, 2014.

No George here either.

Black and white. Cormorants and a white bird at a great distance. NJ Meadowlands. Photo taken on September 6, 2014.

Black and white. Double-crested Cormorants and a white bird at a great distance. NJ Meadowlands. Photo taken on September 6, 2014.

So a white bird at a far distance. Had its back toward me the entire time.  Visible from the New Jersey Turnpike, I’m sure, but not from my spot.

Conditions were not favorable. So home again I went. The new week began and reports of George’s habits continued. So the next Thursday rolled around. By this time, I was pretty sure I had the precise location of George’s favorite fishing hole.  Now for confirmation.

Solitary sandpipers aren't so solitary.  These solitary sandpipers look like they're skating on ice. NJ Meadowlands. Photo taken on September 11, 2014.

Solitary sandpipers aren’t so solitary. These solitary sandpipers look like they’re skating on ice. NJ Meadowlands. Photo taken on September 11, 2014.

Negative on George.

The Solitary Sandpipers now look like speed skaters in the mud. NJ Meadowlands. Photo taken on September 11, 2014.

The Solitary Sandpipers now look like speed skaters in the mud. NJ Meadowlands. Photo taken on September 11, 2014.

Still nothing.

Red-tailed Hawk. NJ Meadowlands. Photo taken on September 11, 2014.

Red-tailed Hawk. NJ Meadowlands. Photo taken on September 11, 2014.

Not George.

Hidden in the yellowlegs: Greater Yellowlegs and Lesser as well as Short-billed Dowitchers. NJ Meadowlands. Photo taken on September 11, 2014.

Hidden in the yellowlegs: Greater Yellowlegs and Lesser as well as Short-billed Dowitchers. NJ Meadowlands. Photo taken on September 11, 2014.

Finding George is like finding Waldo, or not.

A migrating Yellow Warbler passes through. NJ Meadowlands. Photo taken on September 11, 2014.

A migrating Yellow Warbler passes through. NJ Meadowlands. Photo taken on September 11, 2014.

Wrong color for George.

Conclusive proof as we're going to get: George the American White Pelican at the Meadowlands.  NJ Meadowlands. Photo taken on September 11, 2014.

Conclusive proof as we’re going to get: George the American White Pelican at the Meadowlands. NJ Meadowlands. Photo taken on September 11, 2014.

George!

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

 

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.