Friday, November 26, 2010

Birding New Jersey

Friday November 19, 2010,  Nate Fronk, Cory Johnson, Alex Lamoreaux, Josh Lefever, and I set out with a quest to bird New Jersey for 5 days. In the end, we ended up seeing 113 species of birds throughout New Jersey and Delaware. I ended up with 22 lifers on the trip, which put my lifelist total at 222.

After departing at 9:00 am we arrived at the Edwin B. Forsythe NWR around 2:00 pm. to bird until sunset. We tallied 35 species of birds with 12 of those being ducks. The highlight of the day was an American Bittern, which was my 200th lifer. This was probably the best bird for number 200 that I could think of. The bittern presented awesome photo opportunities as well and gave me a long look at it as well. Other highlights included Black-crowned Night-Heron, American Avocet, Black-bellied Plover, and Brant.

American Bittern
Black-bellied Plover
American Avocet
We camped at Bass River State Park, and headed to Barnegat Inlet the following morning. We tallied 28 species for the time spent there. As we were walking out the jetty, we were presented with numerous Ruddy Turnstones and Purple Sandpipers. Cory spotted a Brown Pelican, just before it lifted off the water and flew away. We were presented with a Great Cormorant on a tower as well. A flock of Common Eiders and Harlequin Ducks were floating off to the right of jetty. Northern Gannets were plentiful further out on the water flying and diving for fish. The Brown Pelican, Great Cormorant, Common Eider, and Harlequin Duck were all lifers for me.
Brown Pelican

Purple Sandpiper


We headed to Avalon Sea Watch for the better part of the morning and afternoon and also two days later. As we were walking out the jetty, there was a raft of all three species of scoters and one Common Eider. As we looked out into the bearing sea, we could watch the massive flocks of scoters and Red-throated Loons pass by. Also, a lone Royal Tern flew past us as we walked out the jetty to get a better view of the flocks passing by. I could only pick out 3 White-winged Scoters out of all the flocks and most flocks were mixes of Surf and Black Scoters. Northern Gannets were plentiful out on the sea with a few decent sized flocks migrating, but most of them were just fishing for the time we spent there. Purple Sandpipers, Sanderlings, and Dunlin were all observed either on the jetty or flying by. Both days we were at Avalon presented the same species with nothing new. This was by far the best part of the trip for me. It was amazing to see all of the migrating scoters and loons in the huge flocks.
male Surf Scoter

Royal Tern

front: White-winged Scoter; back: Surf Scoter

We headed down the the Cape May Hawk Watch to round out the day. We also spent some more time there in the next few days. Highlights from the hawk watch include Golden Eagle, Cave Swallow, a close Sharp-shinned Hawk, Northern Harriers, a Red-shouldered Hawk, and a few Peregrine Falcons. The first day at the hawk watch, Alex spotted a Cave Swallow amongst the dozens of Tree Swallows. Cave Swallows have been seen regularly from the Hawk Watch so we were excited to finally come across one. As soon as we walked onto the platform on the second day we went to the hawk watch, a Golden Eagle was spotted. This was my first look at a Golden Eagle and it stuck around long enough to give me a great look. A Red-shouldered Hawk was in the air at the same time as the Golden Eagle and it was an amazing sight to view them both. We looked for a Eurasion Wigeon that has been seen at the Lighthouse Pond for two days and could not locate the individual. This would have been a lifer for most of the birders on the trip. From the platform, we could also see migrating scoters and loons, which were very numerous.
Golden Eagle

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Black Vulture
Nummy Island and Stone Harbor Point were both locations we birded on the trip. At Nummy Island highlights included Marbled Godwit, Willet, and American Oystercatcher. All of the birds were too far for any photos, but we had good looks through spotting scopes. At Stone Harbor Point, again gannets, scoters, and loons were migrating by in fascinating numbers. Drew Weber joined us for this day of the trip, so Josh, Drew, and I walked out to the point and caught a flock of 15 Snow Buntings foraging in the sand. This was a lifer for Josh and I, so we were glad we made the trek out to the point.
Snow Buntings
We also stopped at Reeds Beach and Higbee Beach for a few hours on the trip. Higbee Beach was completely void of birds. Reeds Beach was pretty much the same except for 5 Boat-tailed Grackles perched in a tree.
Boat-tailed Grackle
We rounded out our trip in New Jersey by taking the Cape May-Lewes Ferry to Delaware. On the ferry, we got great looks at Northern Gannets, Red-throated Loons, a Parasitic Jeager!, and gulls of all sorts. We did not see as many scoters as I thought we would. Gannets were awesome to see up close. At the back of the boat, gulls and gannets were diving for the fish the engine churned up. It was awesome. Alex picked out the Parasitic Jaeger as we were watching a flock of scoters fly by the boat. This was a lifer for everyone but Alex. It was awesome, we had the perfect winds to get a jaeger up into the bay. I was hoping to see one, but it was fairly late in the season so I did not get my hopes up. The winds proved me wrong and it was an amazing sight. Unfortunately, no one got a photo, but we all had decent looks at the bird.
Common Loon

Northern Gannet

Red-throated Loon
After the ferry ride, we stopped at Bombay Hook NWR on our ride home. The refuge was filled ducks, geese, and shorebirds. We ended up seeing 54 species at Bombay Hook. Highlights include 250 American Avocets, Long-billed Dowitchers, a lone Cackling Goose, 4 Marbled Godwit, and a Little Blue Heron. The new species observed here brought our total to 113 for the trip. There was a huge flock of Snow Geese with all morphs mixed in.
Little Blue Heron

Savannah Sparrow
Well, that rounds out the trip. It was an awesome 5 days of non-stop birding. Everyone had a good time and got a lifer or two. Josh and I got quite a few more than that though. Nate, Cory, and I have been doing this trip for 3 years now and decided to have Alex and Josh join us this year. In the end, the trip was a success, but how could it not be a success because we were birding!

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