A Taste of Spring


That’s the word I would use to describe the weather this weekend here in Southern New Jersey. After snow and really frigid temperatures the last few weeks we finally got a little taste of spring with weather hovering near the 60’s. I’m at the point where I am definitely craving spring weather. It was a perfect weekend to bird watch both days: once in a new place and once in a familiar place.

On Saturday Dave and I ventured to Tuckahoe Wildlife Management Area in Atlantic County with some friends. Tuckahoe WMA has a variety of habitats including salt marshes, impoundments, woodlands, and rivers. It’s definitely off the beaten path and very quiet and serene. And my favorite part…waterfowl galore!!

We saw 8 species of waterfowl:

  • Northern Pintails
  • Mallards
  • Buffleheads
  • Common Mergansers
  • Hooded Mergansers
  • American Black Ducks
  • Canada Geese
  • Swans (too far away to tell if they were Mute or Tundra)

There were hundreds of them! They were mainly Northern Pintails and were making a high pitched sound. Unfortunately we didn’t get any good pictures because everything was really far away. Even with our binoculars it was a difficult to see them well. We also saw 3 Great Blue Herons, a small flock of Song Sparrows, and 3 shorebirds (all the same species) that we haven’t been able to identify yet. It was exciting to visit someplace new and I was thrilled by all the waterfowl we were seeing. I would like to visit again in the spring to see what migrants arrive.

Today I went with my mom and sister to Historic Smithville Park. We went there a week ago for Day 4 of the Great Backyard Bird Count. It was in the mid-20’s and snowing when we were there last, so today was a big difference. The lake was thawed and filled with Common Mergansers! There were about 30 of them, both males and females, floating around the lake. It was the first time I saw a female Mergansers (we saw a male last week at Forsythe) and the first time we’ve seem them at Smithville. There were also 2 Canada geese (who didn’t seem to happy when the mergansers would get close), 3 Scaups (most likely Greaters) and a Ring-billed Gull. The resident Belted Kingfisher was also hanging around. As we walked through the woods next to the lake we spotted a Tufted Titmouse and a Cooper’s Hawk.

Belted Kingfisher (Image by Kevin Cole via Wikipedia)

As we walked along the floating bridge through the lake I had a realization: we only have a few more weeks to enjoy our visiting winter waterfowl. Pretty soon Smithville Lake will say goodbye to the Mergansers and Scaups, and welcome swallows, red-winged blackbirds, and green herons again. It seems like winter just began, but in reality it’s almost over. The weather will get colder again for a bit but spring will be here before we know it. I can already sense change in the air. This weekend was definitely a nice little preview of things to come.



Author: BirdNation

I am an avid birder, teacher, and nature lover. I primarily go birding in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, but love to travel. I am currently a biology student with interests in conservation biology, ornithology, and environmental sciences. My dream is to go birding in all 50 states.

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