A Really Big Day!

May 4th was Global Big Day. Global Big Day is a citizen science event run by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Birders from all over the world count as many birds species as they can for a 24 hour period. This year, over 30,000 people participated and counted 6,899 bird species. Team BirdNation had an awesome Big Day with 61 total species for the day.

I started the morning at Rancocas Nature Center where I am a teacher naturalist. I led a spring migration birding walk. We had a nice variety of songbirds and warblers. During this walk I spotted my first of year/season Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Baltimore Oriole, Veery, Red-eyed Vireo, and Great Crested Flycatcher.

In the afternoon, Dave and I went birding at Palmyra Cove Nature Park. We saw 55 species! Here are the highlights:

  • 11 Warbler Species! Ovenbird, Louisiana Waterthrush, Blue-winged, Black-and-white, Common Yellowthroat, Northern Parula, Magnolia, Yellow, Black-throated Blue, Yellow-rumped, and Prairie
  • Red-breasted Nuthatches
  • A House Wren trying to set up their nest box
House Wren on its nest box (Image by BirdNation)
  • 2 Great Horned Owls on an old Bald Eagle nest
  • Many Baltimore Orioles, an Orchard Oriole, and an Eastern Towhee
  • Chickies!
Gosling (Image by David Horowitz)

Did you go birding on Global Big Day? Tell us about it in the comments.

From the Cliffs to the Cypress

At the end of April, Dave and I took a vacation to Calvert County, Maryland. We started our trip at Flag Ponds Nature Park looking for fossils as well as birds. The next day (4/27/19) we visited two very cool sites: Calvert Cliffs State Park and Battle Creek Cypress Swamp. Calvert Cliffs State Park, Lusby, MD The Calvert Cliffs were formed 10-20 million years ago during the Miocene Epoch along the Chesapeake Bay. The park is a popular fossil site as well as a lovely place to hike. We didn’t find too much in the way of fossils like we did at Flag Ponds (where we found a few really cool shark teeth). We did however find a great variety of birds. Red-headed Woodpeckers! Finally! A life list bird we’ve been seeking for a long time.
  • A lot of Wood Ducks. The wetlands here are the perfect habitat for them.
  • 6 Warbler species, including our new Yellow-throated Warbler
  • The 1.8 mile Red Trail that leads you to to the beach is absolutely breathtaking in the spring. The lush forests and wetlands were brimming with bird life and sounds. Our early morning hike was very serene.
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (Image by BirdNation)
Calvert Wetlands (Image by BirdNation)
Calvert Cliffs (Image by BirdNation)
Battle Creek Cypress Swamp, Prince Frederick, MD Protected by the Nature Conservancy, Battle Creek Cypress Swamp is unique because it is the only Bald cypress stand in Maryland west of the Chesapeake Bay. Bald cypress trees are native to the southeastern United States. This area of Maryland is the northernmost limit of their natural range. Bald cypress are known for their “knees” which protrude from the ground and surround the tree. The purpose of the knees are still unknown, but scientist hypothesize that they transfer air to the drowned roots or acts as anchors. The Bald cypress trees were so cool. Such an interesting habitat. A must-see if you visit Calvert County.
Bald cypress trees and knees (Image by BirdNation)
Prothonotary Warblers! Another awesome life list addition. These brilliant yellow warblers are known as the “swamp warbler” and nest in dead trees.
Prothonotary Warbler (Image by David Horowitz)
Our first Waterthrush species in awhile. Still trying to decide if its a Northern or Louisiana, but I’m leaning now towards Louisiana (opinions always welcome!) Fun fact: waterthrushes are actually part of the Wood Warbler family, not Thrushes.
Waterthrush (Image by David Horowitz)
I’m so happy we had the opportunity to visit Calvert County, Maryland. I always enjoy birding in Maryland, and Calvert County has such beautiful and unique landscapes to explore.

Old Friends

At the end of March, Dave and I visited Cape May Point State Park and South Cape May Meadows for some early spring birding. There were still a lot of winter visitors around, but many spring migrants were starting to arrive.

First of season (year) species during this trip included Ospreys, Field Sparrows, Common Grackles, Greater Yellowlegs, Great Egrets, Eastern Phoebes, Tree Swallows, and my favorite: the American Oystercatchers.

The beach of South Cape May Meadows is where we ran into one of our old friends: Oystercatcher 38. We met 38 last year at the same location, but according to his account from the American Oystercatcher Working Group, 38 is about 8 years old.

American Oystercatcher 38 (Image by BirdNation)

This year 38 was with an unbanded Oystercatcher that could potentially be its mate. They were running around the beach together.

38 with its potential mate (Image by BirdNation)

At one point, 38, his mate, and another pair engaged in a courtship display. During a courtship display, pairs will stretch their necks forward and down with their back parallel to the ground. They will run side-by-side with their mate will making pip! notes and bobbing their heads. Occasionally the pair will fly up in the air while piping. Many times pairs from other territories will join in on the display. When multiple pairs display together it is referred to as a “Piping Tournament” or “Piping Ceremony”. It was fun to see our friend 38 again. Below is a video of their piping tournament.

American Oystercatcher Piping Tournament (Video by BirdNation)

If you ever see a banded oystercatcher I would recommend submitting your sightings to the American Oystercatcher Working Group. They are a great organization, and their website contains a wealth of information about the American Oystercatcher’s life history, behavior, and banding. Check out their website at http://amoywg.org/

Northward!

At the beginning of April, Dave and I traveled to New Hampshire and Massachusetts. We are moving to New Hampshire in June due to Dave’s new job, so our primary purpose of the trip was to find an apartment. But you know us! Can’t travel anywhere without birding :-).

Mine Falls Park, Nashua, NH

Mine Falls Park is a 325-acre urban park located along the Nashua River. Mine Falls Park offers over 9 miles of trails and is part of the New Hampshire Heritage Trail System. Habitats include forest, fields, and wetlands. We explored the only side of the park by walking down the Nashua Power Canal towards Oxbow Lake. We observed 24 birds species and a muskrat. I definitely plan on making Mine Falls Park one of my regular birding spots once we move.

Highlights:
  • Pileated Woopeckers: We observed 2 Pileated Woodpeckers within the first 10 minutes of being in New Hampshire. (Pileateds are one of my favorite birds, so I knew 2 right away were a good sign lol)
  • Other woodpeckers: Hairy, Downy, Red-bellied
  • Large flock of Common Grackles and Red-winged Blackbirds

Greeley Park, Nashua, NH

Greeley Park is more of a recreational park than it is a birding park. There are trails as well as large stands of pine trees. We observed 11 species during our walk.

Highlights
  • Quiet! It’s not often I stand in a park that’s next to a neighborhood in the middle of a city and hear…silence. Come to think of it, I don’t think I can go anywhere in New Jersey and just hear silence (as in just nature sounds without man-made ones). NH is definitely not NJ. I can get used to less noise!
  • White-breasted Nuthatches and Black-capped Chickadees

Hampton Beach State Park, Hampton, NH

Hampton Beach SP is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and Hampton Harbor Inlet. We spent some time sea watching by the inlet.

Highlights:
  • Horned Larks. There was a flock of about 10. We’ve only seen one Horned Lark so far; a juvenile at Laurel Run Park in Delran, NJ. It was a great surprise to see adults.
  • Common Loons and Common Eiders
  • Eastern Mud Snails

Red Wing Farm Reservation, Chelmsford, MA

Red Wing Farm is a small park comprised of meadow and forest habitat. This park connects with the 25-mile Bruce Freeman Rail Trail.

Highlights:
  • Bald Eagle and Red-tailed Hawk
  • Spring Peepers along the rail trail

Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, Sudbury Unit and Concord Unit, MA

Great Meadows is 3,800 acres and runs along the Concord and Sudbury Rivers. We briefly visited both the Sudbury and Concord units and observed a variety of spring migrants.

Highlights
  • Lots of spring sounds: Spring Peepers and other frogs, Eastern Phoebes, Red-winged Blackbirds, Black-capped Chickadees, and others
  • A muskrat and turtles