21 de abril de 2016

Lone Rock Adventure

With a chem test looming on the horizon, I decided to take a study/birding break down at Lone Rock Point. It was a bright, sunny day when I arrived and Spring was in the air. The walk from the parking lot to the beach uncovered lots of arriving spring migrants. Phoebes were calling everywhere, and it was hard to miss the rambling song of the Ruby-crowned Kinglet. As I entered a section of white and red pine forest along the trail, I heard a trill that sounded quite like a Chipping Sparrow, but a little slower, a little investigation revealed a bright yellow ball of energy way up in a red pine and a sure sign of spring, my first warbler of the year! I spent several minutes watching the Pine Warbler flit back and forth between the trees, and not two minutes after I moved on I paused again to watch the aerial antics of two young Tree Swallows.
After arriving at the shoreline, I did a quick scan of the lake which revealed a drake Mallard, a couple of Caspian Terns, and a Common Loon. After finding a suitably comfortable rock, I began studying as chickadees flocked around me, picking off the hundreds of emerging midges and flies that coated the lakeshore. About half an hour in, I was startled by a sudden rush of air that sounded like a rock being thrown a few feet from my ear. I watched as a gray bird shot straight and fast as a bullet under the thrust fault and around the end of the point. My first thought was Merlin, as I've had them at this location before, but the size and speed of the bird convinced me that I had just had an extremely close encounter with a Peregrine Falcon. What started as an impromptu study trip turned into a birding adventure filled with close encounters and spring migrants.

Publicado el abril 21, 2016 03:32 MAÑANA por nsharp nsharp | 34 observaciones | 1 comentario | Deja un comentario

24 de marzo de 2016

March 24 Bird Walk

Today I guided a bird walk down to the Burlington Waterfront and the Urban Reserve. The Waterfront was fairly active, with a smattering of gulls in the lake and on the rocks as well as a small flock of 10 Double-crested Cormorants. As the ice has continued to melt, the ducks have gone farther and farther out in the lake and there were none to be seen from the waterfront today. There was however a pretty good-sized flock of Cedar Waxwings hanging out in the fruiting trees lining the board walk. I searched each one for any Bohemian field marks but all were Cedars. I watched for a few minutes as they gorged on berries and eventually decided to head to the Urban Reserve.
Before I could even get to the bike path, however, I heard the distinctive "uh-uh" call of a Fish Crow! I'm used to seeing and hearing them daily around my house in southeastern PA so it always surprises me to know that they're a rarity around here. I've been hearing them around the Burlington area for the last few days and have a good feeling they'll be nesting in the area again.
After walking into the reserve, I was greeted by a quiet scene that was in stark contrast to my trips to the reserve in the spring and the fall. Rather than seeing the warblers, vireos, and other migrants dripping from the trees, there were only a few species to be seen. Aside from a loud, boisterous Pileated Woodpecker taking off, there was not much of interest to be seen. After making it to the tip of North Beach, I scanned the cove only to find a pair of Common Mergansers floating in the lake.
There may not be much moving right now, but spring migration is slowly approaching and when it hits I look forward to slowly walking the bike path in awe of the migrants flowing through the trees.

Publicado el marzo 24, 2016 09:17 TARDE por nsharp nsharp | 18 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

14 de marzo de 2016

Barnegat Lighthouse State Park

Last Saturday, for the 6th consecutive year, I drove down to Barnegat Inlet with friends from the Upper Main Line YMCA earth service group for a day of incredible birding. The Barnegat jetty is famous for giving amazingly close views of beautiful shorebirds and sea ducks and on this unseasonably warm and sunny day in mid-March it did not come up short.
The action started in the parking lot, with a noisy flock of starlings and Boat-tailed Grackles flying from tree to tree and scaring up the occasional cardinal or Carolina Wren. A flyover flock of about a dozen Cedar Waxwings also made a brief appearance. Scanning a small patch of the inlet that could be seen from the parking lot, we found Long-tailed Ducks, Red-breasted Mergansers, Bufflehead, and Greater Scaup, a good indication that there were lots more ducks to be found.
We headed towards the jetty and got amazing looks of Long-tailed Ducks and Common Loons less than 20 feet from us! As we watched the flock of Long-tailed Ducks diving and squabbling in the surf, a female Northern Harrier took off across the inlet and flew directly toward us before heading back to patrol the dunes. We also saw a Sharp-shinned Hawk circling the lighthouse for the majority of the time we spent at the jetty.
Leaving the relative safety of the concrete portion of the jetty and venturing out to the rocks, we were rewarded with even closer looks at Long-tailed Ducks, as well as Surf and Black Scoters, and the star of the show, Harlequin Ducks. Every year we are blown away by how close we can approach these brilliantly patterned birds and this year was no exception; either sitting on the rocks and preening or feeding in the surf, the harlequins showed little fear and provided incredible views.
Farther out on the jetty, we were shocked by just how many birds were out on the water. We made rough estimates of 300 Long-tailed Ducks, 250 Black Scoters, and 40 Surf Scoters. As we approached the very end of the jetty, we began seeing more ocean-going species, including Northern Gannets soaring far out at sea, Great Cormorants perched on channel markers, and a Common Eider or two mixed in with the Long-tailed Ducks.
The highlight of the day however was a relatively plain looking brown duck all on its own in the waves at the mouth of the inlet. The waves made it difficult to get a good look, but the field marks started slowly coming together. Eider-shaped, light brown in color, rounded head, stubby bill; eventually we came to the conclusion that we were looking at a female King Eider! While not necessarily unexpected at this location, it is still a rarity in the state of New Jersey and a very exciting find!
Once we had satisfied ourselves with long looks at the eider, we turned our attention towards the shorebirds that were practically at our feet. Ruddy Turnstones, Dunlin, and Purple Sandpipers allowed us to approach them until we were just a few feet away, and we watched as they huddled in the rocks and shifted position slightly with every splashing wave.
With the tide coming in and the rocks getting more slippery, we decided it was time to head back, skirting the flocks of shorebirds and walking back on the jetty until we could safely hop down to the beach. We walked back to the parking lot and discussed the birding spectacle we had just witnessed on possibly the best Barnegat trip in the 6 years since the tradition started.

Publicado el marzo 14, 2016 03:49 TARDE por nsharp nsharp | 35 observaciones | 1 comentario | Deja un comentario

19 de febrero de 2016

Waxwing Heaven

In this week's journal I will be recounting an incredible experience I had last week with some of winter's most beautiful birds. Last Tuesday, I threw on a few layers and my biggest pair of boots and prepared to lead my second bird walk. Perhaps it was the snow on the ground or the chill in the air, but no one showed, and I didn't blame them! Rather than go back to my room, I decided to swing by Centennial and see if any birds were out braving the cold. Before I could even make it to the entrance, I saw the distinctive shape and heard the high-pitched 'seeee' of a Waxwing diving headlong into the crabapples that lined the sidewalk.

I had been hearing a few reports and seeing eBird checklists and knew that Bohemians were a possibility at the time, so I went closer to investigate. Originally, I only spotted the one Cedar Waxwing, perched in a crabapple utterly ignoring my presence. When I put my binoculars up its lemon yellow sides and elegant black mask filled the entire frame. I knew waxwings didn't tend to travel alone, so I wasn't surprised when a few yards further down the path I found a small flock of Cedar Waxwings huddled together in the gray birches near the windmill. Upon closer examination however, I realized that a separate group of waxwings was hidden deep in the birches, and these were much larger and grayer!

It has always been a dream of mine to get a colorful, up-close shot of one of these winter beauties, so I weighed my options and decided that if I were to run home and grab my camera the waxwings would still be there waiting for me. I made a beeline through the snow to get back to UHeights, ran up the stairs, grabbed my camera and 300mm lens and was back outside under the birches in minutes. After getting a few unsatisfactory shots of Waxwing butts about 30ft up in the tree, both the Bohemians and the Cedars took off and flew (almost) out of sight. Chasing the group across the street and onto what I hoped wasn't private property, I found a mixed flock of European Starlings, American Robins, Dark-eyed Juncos, Cedar and Bohemian Waxwings all surrounding a grove of shrubby fruit trees. I knew that this was my chance, and got comfortable in a snow bank and locked my lens onto the Bohemians. For the next 45 minutes, I snapped away at Bohemians, Cedars, and very photogenic robins as I slowly lost feeling in my legs. Once the fruit had been picked clean, the flock departed and I decided it was time to go home, warm up, and see if I did indeed get the shot that I had been hoping for.

Publicado el febrero 19, 2016 01:38 MAÑANA por nsharp nsharp | 6 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

03 de febrero de 2016

First Guided Afternoon Bird Walk

The first afternoon bird walk I led this Wednesday was a success! 8 people came out and we birded Centennial Woods from 2 to 4pm. Before we had even reached Centennial, we came across a flock of about a dozen robins in the crabapple trees lining the sidewalk near the windmill. We stopped to watch these for a while as they carefully flew around the trees and tried to tear off pieces of the small red fruits. I kept an eye out for another winter fruit eater, the Cedar Waxwing, but none were found mixed in with the flock.

Once we had made it down to the entrance, we stopped to admire a small flock of about half a dozen Dark-eyed Juncos moving around the edge of the woods. They were foraging in the tall grasses and making high-pitched contact calls until we spooked them walking down the trail into the woods. Not much was seen walking through the first part of Centennial, but a flurry of activity near the large open marshy area let us know that we were close to one of the bird feeders! Several Black-capped Chickadees and a White-breasted Nuthatch were hanging around the feeder, we watched as the chickadees would fly in, grab a single sunflower seed, and fly away to a perch where they could methodically hammer away at the seed until they reached the tasty center. While we were distracted by the activity at the feeder, two circling Red-tailed Hawks snuck up on us, only to start riding thermals directly above our heads for our viewing pleasure. We watched as they circled for a few minutes until both tucked in their wings and left the thermal to search for another one.

The rest of the trip was fairly uneventful, until we came across the second feeder on our way out of the woods. There was also a lot of chickadee activity here, as well as some more White-breasted Nuthatches and a few Tufted Titmice as well. The star of the show at the second feeder however was a pair of Hairy Woodpeckers that put on quite a show for everyone in the group. They seemed almost fearless, flying around within a few feet of the group, allowing us to get a good look at the bright red patch on the back of the males head, as well as some of the field marks that can be used to differentiate between Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers. This second bird-rich area was a great ending to this Centennial trip and a great chance for the group to practice bird ID. I'm looking forward to next weeks trip!

Publicado el febrero 3, 2016 04:38 TARDE por nsharp nsharp | 13 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario