Bye Winter, Hello Spring!

Winter is my favorite birding season. A common misconception is that nothing is really around in winter, but that couldn’t be more wrong! You can find a large variety of species around if you know where to look. Dave and I had a great winter bird-wise.

A New Challenge

I was inspired to try the eBird 365 checklist challenge for 2019. The grand prize for three lucky eBirders is a pair of Zeiss binocular, so I figured I would go for it. Even if I don’t get the binoculars, I’m still contributing valuable data to scientists, so it’s a win-win. So far I’ve submitted 86 checklists (as of writing this there’s been 84 days in 2019), so I’m two lists ahead. Off to a good start!

Year List 2019

This is my second year keeping a year list. We recorded 81 species from January 1- March 20 2018. This year we beat that record with 85 species. We did have some interesting life list rarities this season, so I’m thinking those rarities put us ahead of last year.

Life List Additions

  • January 6: Razorbills! Seen at Sandy Hook, NJ. New Jersey had a large influx of Razorbills off the coast this year, with numbers in the thousands over a few weeks.
  • January 27: Canvasbacks at Mansquan Reservior IBA.
  • February 3: Pacific Loon at Manasquan Inlet. This is an NJ rarity.
Pacific Loon at Manasquan Inlet (Image by BirdNation)

  • February 10: Pine Siskins at Cloverdale Farm County Park.
  • February 17: Red-breasted Nuthatch at Cloverdale Farm County Park during the Great Backyard Bird Count.
Red-breasted Nuthatch (Image by David Horowitz)

  • March 1: Northern Saw-whet Owl and Winter Wren at Palmyra Cove. I think the Saw-whet was my favorite 2019 life list bird so far. It was so cute!
Northern Saw-whet Owl (Image by David Horowitz)
  • March 13th: American Woodcock displays at Rancocas Nature Center.
  • March 17: Red-necked Grebe in a pond near the mall in Toms River.
Red-necked Grebe (Image by BirdNation)

Great Backyard Bird Count

For this year’s Great Backyard Bird Count, we counted 52 different species (over 1,500 individuals) at 6 birding locations. We beat our 2018 count by 19 species.

2019 Great American Arctic Birding Challenge

Team BirdNation is participating again in the Great American Arctic Birding Challenge run by Alaska Audubon. In 2018 our team found 62 species on the checklist between March 1- June 1. This year, the Challenge occurs between March 15-June 1. The Challenge is open to anyone, so get a team together and start birding!

Moving forward…

Spring has already been off to a good start. Spring migrants, such as Ospreys, Tree Swallows, and American Oystercatchers have returned to New Jersey. Dave and I have very exciting news coming in the next month or so. I can’t tell you yet, but you’ll know soon enough! (And no…everyone automatically assumes kids, but that’s not the case at the moment lol). In the meantime, happy spring birding!

What was your favorite winter birding moment? Tell us about it in the comments!


Spring is almost here, and we are certainly getting signs of the coming season in New Jersey. The weather is finally starting to warm up a bit, and I’ve been hearing American Robins start their bouncy spring songs each morning. The spring migrants are returning, and that includes a very fascinating and unique species…the Timberdoole!

Well, the Timberdoodle is its nickname (and an awfully cute one at that). I’m referring to the American Woodcock, a small bulbous shorebird that migrates through New Jersey in March.

I heard about these birds pretty early into my life as a birder, but never have had the chance to see them because…I would forget. I would be so busy in the spring that I would remember about the timberdoodle after it already passed through the area. I knew this year would be different.

Dave and I went to Rancocas Nature Center (where I’m a teacher naturalist on some weekends) to watch the display. The meadow at RNC is a great place to check out the Timberdoodle. The Timberdoodle is not just a bird you simply go to just get a sight of, the allure of this little bird is the famous “Sky Dance”.

American Woodcock (Image via Pinterest)

Timberdoodles like to spend their time in brushy fields near deciduous forests. In the cover of darkness, the male Timberdoole will give a distinct buzzy “peent!” to get the female’s attention. After a few calls, the male rockets up into the air with a flutter, soaring up and circling about 200-300 feet in the air. As the male ascends into his dazzling display you can hear his wings twitter. After reaching his peak, the male circles back down to the ground and land in the same spot next to the female. These aerial display can last into the night and take place around dawn as well. Once a pair does mate, the male provides no parental care. Males usually mate with multiple females. The female will feed the chicks for a week, and about a month later the chicks will become independent.

It was really amazing to see the American Woodcock’s sky dance. We observed at least 4 birds participating in the display. We even had a pair fly right over us! I’m so glad we had a chance to observe these magnificent birds in action.

I was able to get a short recording of the “peents” at the beginning of the display (I was too mesmerized watching to record anything after it start lol). You can hear a few peents through the wall of sound that is a bunch Spring Peeper frogs calling.

American Woodcock “peents!” with Spring Peeper background

Have you seen a Timberdoodle? Tell me about your experience in the comments!