Early Morning Blues

I decided to walk myself over to Cushetunk Lake for a bit of birding by ear. (aka my binoculars were locked in someone else’s car!)

It was a very pleasant sunrise walk.  Solo birding is a different experience.  Because it’s based on your own inclination and there’s no distraction of company, you experience the world in a different way.  I had a very enjoyable hour, attempting to listen to calls and identity each individual.  Quite a number of blue birds!  No Belted Kingfisher or Eastern Bluebird to round out the blues mix, alas, but I did see a number of Blue Jays and a Great Blue Heron. I had luck identifying the American Crow, Blue Jay, Northern Cardinal, Carolina Wren, Tufted Titmouse, and White-breasted Nuthatch.

Lake Cushetunk:
Canada Goose
Mute Swan
Great Blue Heron
American Crow
Turkey Vulture
Mourning Dove
Blue Jay
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Carolina Wren
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal

After visiting the dam, I headed through a patch of woods before wandering back.  Among the branches I could hear a symphony of unidentifiable wonders.I could identify the 16 mallards swimming and great blue heron fishing in the stream.

I also saw four deer and a swimming muskrat!   So cool!  Following my hour ramble, I was in a much better frame of mind.  As I walked back into the house, I surprised a Carolina Wren who nearly flew into me in its haste to book it out of there.  Now I’m mentally all ready to hit the road for a day of birding in….. Central Jersey!

De-lek-table Turkeys

Today was apparently the day for Turkey.

  • When I arrived at work, there were 8 or 9 turkeys wandering down toward the aviary.
  • At Rockland Lake, there were 14 turkeys (at least!) prowling at the edge of one of the seasonally closed parking lots.

Wild Turkey

Turkey displaying at the Tenafly Nature Center in Tenafly, NJ.

In both cases, they were a collection of males and females.  From what reading I’ve done during the winter males and females don’t flock together…. so seeing them together makes me wonder if turkey breeding season is approaching.  There were definitely males displaying this morning.   Unfortunately I can’t find any information on the Internet regarding when turkeys form leks.  Leks are the breeding system choice for turkeys.  In a lek, males gather together and compete for females.  Imagine a boxing ring of turkeys where they rush at each other and bump chests – that is at least what grouse do and I imagine that turkeys do something similar.  The females select the most fit males from the center.  The favored male entertains all the females.

Lots of birding today!  4 lists for the e-bird today!

Bird Feeder:
1 Mourning Dove
1 Black-capped Chickadee
5 Tufted Titmouse
1 White-breasted Nuthatch
1 Song Sparrow
2 American Goldfinch
9 House Sparrow

1 Black-capped Chickadee
1 Red-tailed Hawk
8 Wild Turkey
2 White-breasted Nuthatches

Rockland Lake:
Canada Goose
Mute Swan
Gadwall (5)
Hooded Merganser
Common Merganser
Wild Turkey
Pied-billed Grebe
Great Blue Heron
Red-tailed Hawk
Turkey Vulture
American Coot
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Great Blackback Gull
Downy Woodpecker
American Crow
Tufted Titmouse
Winter Wren
Carolina Wren
Marsh Wren – new!
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Song Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow

Congers Lake Memorial Park:
1 Ring-billed Gull
7 Mallard
6 Common Mergansers
1 Red-tailed Hawk
1 Song Sparrow

Mistaken Identities

I wanted to take a second opportunity to photograph/identify the white-backed duck I saw at the Pier yesterday, so following work I raced the setting sun back to Piermont to see if I could locate them.  As I was headed up Ferry Rd, a birder with binoculars wrapped around her neck peered at me as we passed.  After the third glance she apologized, saying I looked like someone she knew.  I paused to ask her what she saw on the water.  She mentioned canvasbacks and mergansers.   As I didn’t have either on yesterday’s list, I was excited to get going.    I stopped at the area where I had seen the scaups yesterday, camera in hand, to take a closer look. Lo and behold, they were not scaups, but canvasbacks.  Today, the coppery color of the head was much more evident as was the slope from head to bill.

I’m fairly excited by the canvasbacks because (1) they are a new species for me.  (2) they are the first NJ species I “identified” by myself.  Yes, the woman mentioned there were canvasbacks, but she didn’t point to them as proclaim them canvasbacks.  I’ve semi-successfully birded in Costa Rica (twice) and SE Europe, but those were more exercises in walking around in perplexity.

100 Canada Geese
30 Mallards
30 Ruddy Ducks
2 Buffleheads
200 Ring-billed gulls (Yes, I counted.  I got 197 and rounded/gave up).
74 Canvasbacks

Walking the Pier

Last night after work, I drove down to Piermont, NY and walked along “the Pier” as it’s called for a bit of birding. I’ve been focused on my ducks lately and thought it would be a good place to test my skills.  I had a very good hour of birding in the last light!  The tide was coming in and near high tide; most of the birds were south of the pier.

120 Canada Geese – (est) they were along the marsh in Tallman.
1 American Black Duck
20 Mallards (north side of the pier, nestled in the shore)
4 Bufflehead
20 Ruddy Ducks
50 Ringbilled Gills
3 Mourning Doves
1 Downy Woodpecker
60 Lesser Scaup Canvasbacks

At least that’s my best guess.  I had seen Lesser Scaup last week at Round Valley. These were either Lesser or Greater Scaup.  They had the dark head with the lighter body and were diving.  Without the use of the Internet, ebird or my bird book I was able to get it to Scaup.  At the time I didn’t know to look at shape of the head for distinguishing between Lesser or Greater.    I forgot I had my camera with me until it was too dark to photograph them.    When I returned home, I hoped ebird could shed some light, but no one had reported scaup recently, and definitely not in the area of 60!   But that was a count not an estimate.


View south from the Pier towards NYC.

The Ruddy Duck ID almost fooled me.  I had the white check patch – which in comparison to the scaups I had just seen, it’s more like a white jaw patch (ignoring the fact that the jaw is really the bill).  But they were floating in a raft of 20, and towards the edge of the raft I caught sight of the longer tail.