Forsythe Fun with Friends

I recently took a trip to Edwin B. Forsythe NWR with my friends Deborah and Bella. It was their first time visiting the refuge. Both Deborah and Bella have worked at nature centers, with Bella currently working in horticulture. I had such a blast spending the day with them, and learned a lot of new information from them about plants and snakes.

We started our trip taking a short walk around the visitor center and Lily Lake. A few birds around this area included Wood Ducks, Glossy Ibis, Gray Catbirds, House Finches, and Purple Martins, as well as tons of beautiful flowers/plants.

Before entering the wildlife drive we spent some time at the Eco Leeds Boardwalk and Gull Pond. Highlights included fiddler crabs, Barn Swallows, Great Egrets, and Least Terns.

We even had a special surprise: snakes! I have never seen snakes at Forsythe before, so I’m glad I was able to see them with Deborah, “the snake lady” :-D.

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Snake among the lilies (Image by BirdNation)

The wildlife drive was really active. Birds included Red-winged Blackbirds, American Crowns, Snowy Egrets, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Gull-billed Terns, Black Skimmers, Laughing Gulls, Forster’s Terns, American Oystercatchers, Willets, Greater Yellowlegs, and Ospreys. Bella made what I think was the most exciting find of the trip: 3 Black-crowned Night-herons foraging. Black-crowned Night-herons usually forage at dawn or dusk. I usually see them roosting during the day, so it was amazing to see them foraging in the middle of the day. There were also lots of turtles out and about crossing the road. I helped a Northern Diamondback Terrapin get across who was trying to dig a hole for her eggs in the middle of the drive.

 

Overall we saw 50 species. I had a wonderful time at Forsythe with Deborah and Bella. I’m looking forward to another adventure soon!

 

An Evening at the Lake

We had lovely weather today; it was relatively cool for a June day. Dave and I decided to take advantage of the cool weather by going to one of our favorite parks, Haddon Lake Park.  We’ve walked around Haddon Lake easily over a hundred times over the years, but there was something very different about this time.

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The Fountain (Image by BirdNation)

They added a fountain. To be honest, I’m not really sure how to feel about it. Of course, my immediate response was, “How’s it going to affect the birds?”. It didn’t really seemed to have an impact on the amount of activity we witnessed.

Every year, Red-winged Blackbirds nest in the same shrubbery. This year there were a juvenile blackbirds hanging around the shrub and being fed by the adults.

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Young Red-winged Blackbird (Image by BirdNation)

As usual, there was multitudes of Mallards and Canada Geese. There were young birds with the adults in different stages of development. We heard this Mallard duckling peeping loudly. It seemed to have lost its mother.

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Mallard Duckling (Image by BirdNation)

A few minutes later, the female Mallard returned to her duckling and they spent the rest of the time swimming together.

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Female Mallard with her duckling (Image by BirdNation)

There were also Canada Geese goslings…can you find the ones in this picture?

Canada goose with goslings
Canada Goose with goslings (Image by BirdNation)

…as well as finding a sleepy Domestic Goose gosling with its family.

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Domestic Goose chick (Image by BirdNation)

Other birds at the lake included Downy Woodpeckers, a Red-tailed Hawk, American Robins, House Sparrows, a Common Grackle, Gray Catbirds, a Red-bellied Woodpecker, and this lovely Eastern Kingbird.

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Eastern Kingbird (Image by BirdNation)

It’s always a pleasure to go back to Haddon Lake. We have so many special memories, and each visit feels like going home.

Spring Odds and End

To me, birding is not a hobby, it’s a lifestyle. I pretty much try to go birding as much as possible. How often we go birding depends on the week and season. During spring migration, it’s not unusual for Dave and I to go birding 4-5 times per week (after work and at least once/sometimes twice on the weekend). Today I wanted to share some spring birding pics from some of our smaller excursions.

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Red-winged Blackbird, Taylor’s Wildlife Preserve (Image by BirdNation)
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Yellow Warbler, Taylor’s Wildlife Preserve (Image by BirdNation)
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Mourning Dove, Barnegat Lighthouse State Park (Image by BirdNation)
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Cedar Waxwing, Palmyra Cove Nature Park (Image by BirdNation)
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Magnolia Warbler, Amico Island Park (Image by BirdNation)
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Magnolia Warbler, Amico Island Park (Image by BirdNation)

Birds of Peace

One thing I know for certain: when life gets real tough, like it did for me today, I will always have the birds. Birds may not be the cure to all life’s problems, but they definitely help heal the heart in times of trouble, at least for me. They bring me a sense of tranquility and peace in stressful times. Birds remind me to step away from my anxieties and live in the present.

Here are a few of the many lovely birds I saw this afternoon at Barnegat Lighthouse State Park.

Piping Plover #1
Piping Plover #1 (Image by BirdNation)
Piping Plover #2
Piping Plover #2 (Image by BirdNation)

These Piping Plovers were first of season/year for me. Piping Plover #1 was sitting on eggs. As you can see from the pictures, both plovers were banded. I reported both Piping Plovers to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, so hopefully I will know more about these plovers soon. (A post about how to report banded birds coming soon!) Piping Plovers are considered threaten throughout their range, so reporting banded plovers is important to help conserve them.

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Ruddy Turnstone and Semipalmated Sandpiper (Image by BirdNation)
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Male Ruddy Turnstone (Image by BirdNation)
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Semipalmated Sandpiper (Image by BirdNation)
Semipalmated sandpipers on rock
Semipalmated Sandpipers (Image by BirdNation)
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Preening Herring Gull (Image by BirdNation)
great egret hunting
Great Egret (Image by BirdNation)
Old Barney
Old Barney (Image by BirdNation)

Mission: Red Knots

Hi friends! Sorry for the disappearance…hectic few weeks. Of course we squeezed in some birding amidst the chaos. And now back your regularly scheduled blog posts 🙂

In October 2016, I wrote a post about Deborah Cramer’s book, The Narrow Edge: A Tiny Bird, An Ancient Crab, and an Epic Journey. (You can read that post here). Throughout The Narrow Edge, Cramer explores conservation issues by documenting the journey of the Red Knot.

Red Knots are fascinating little shorebirds. They make one of the longest yearly migrations of any bird. The Calidris Canutus rufa, one of the Red Knot subspecies, travels up the Atlantic Flyway from Tierra del Fuego, Argentina to their Arctic breeding grounds. The round-trip of a Rufa migration comes out to around 19,000 miles in a single year. One of the stopover sites on their journey happens to be Delaware Bay, less than an hour from where we live. So our mission this Memorial Day weekend: to find Red Knots.

Red Knots touch down in Delaware Bay mid-May. They only stay in the region long to refuel by feasting on Horseshoe Crab eggs for about 2-3 weeks. Red Knots are considered endangered in New Jersey and are declining in many areas throughout their range. Last year, 17,000 Red Knots were counted along Delaware Bay, with around 10,000 on the New Jersey side (and the rest being in Delaware). This year numbers are up: around 34,500 birds with about 26,000 in New Jersey.

This doesn’t necessarily mean Red Knot numbers in general are up, but it is a good sign. The Red Knots are staying longer and with a better Horseshoe Crab spawning season, gaining more weight. These factors allow the Red Knots to leave the area in better condition to make it to the Arctic and breed.

Today we decided to look for Red Knots at Fortescue Beach in Cumberland County. It ended up raining while we were there, but we were in no way disappointed. The goal was Red Knots, and well…mission accomplished!

We didn’t find the Red Knots right away. First there were the Laughing Gulls. Hundreds of obnoxiously loud Laughing Gulls. The video below (which was shot on my Iphone 7 at a far distance, so please excuse the bad quality!), barely captures the volume of the bird sounds, but it gives you a little idea of how loud they were. You can also see the Greenhead flies, which are unfortunately out in full force already.

The amount of shorebirds was amazing, even considering peak numbers were about a week ago. There were over 1,000 Semipalmated Sandpipers, and hundreds each of Red Knots, Dunlins, and Ruddy Turnstones. We even saw the occasional Willet and Herring Gull. I’ve never seen so many shorebirds and Laughing Gulls in one place. Behind us were the sounds of Yellow Warblers, Marsh Wrens, and Red-winged Blackbirds. On the way to and from the beach we saw at least 8 Ospreys.

Our last top of the day was Stone Harbor Point in Cape May County. We only saw a handful of Red Knots, but more variety of species. Species included American Oystercatchers, a Little Blue Heron, Dunlins, Lesser Yellowlegs, Semipalmated Plovers, Sanderlings, Barn Swallows, Least Terns, Willets, and a Boat-tailed Grackle.

Stone Harbor Beach (Image by BirdNation)
Stone Harbor Point (Image by BirdNation)

I wanted to see Red Knots ever since I read The Narrow Edge. I feel so fortunate that Dave and I were able to experience these birds on their epic journey north. The Red Knot also marks my 198th life list entry. Only 2 more until 200!

If you want to learn more about the Red Knots in Delaware Bay this year, check out this article from the Press of Atlantic City: http://www.pressofatlanticcity.com/news/press/science_nature/red-knots-numbers-weight-up-this-year/article_24bef445-6669-5371-85e8-630ba79bee5a.html

BirdNation’s Global Big Day

For Global Big Day, we went birding at Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge. We observed a total of 60 species, including 1 life list bird.

Here’s our official checklist:

  • 173 Brant
  • 34 Canada Geese
  • 14 Mute Swans
  • 2 Wood Ducks
  • 10 Mallards
  • 7 American Black Ducks
  • 9 Green-winged Teals
  • 14 Double-crested Cormorants
  • 3 Great Blue Herons
  • 13 Great Egrets
  • 17 Snowy Egrets
  • 42 Glossy Ibis
Glossy Ibis
Glossy Ibis (Image by BirdNation)
  • 3 Turkey Vultures
  • 15 Osprey
  • 1 Bald Eagle
  • 1 American Coot
  • 5 American Oystercatchers
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American Oystercatcher (Image by BirdNation)
  • 57 Semipalmated Plovers
  • 33 Dunlin
  • 54 Semipalmated Sanpipers
  • 70 Short-billed Dowitchers
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Short-billed Dowitchers (Image by David Horowitz)
  • 1 Spotted Sandpiper
  • 36 Greater Yellowlegs
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Greater Yellowlegs (Image by David Horowitz)
  • 20 Willets
  • 2 Bonaparte’s Gulls
  • 12 Laughing Gulls
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Laughing Gull and Gull-billed Tern (Image by David Horowitz)
  • 32 Herring Gulls
  • 10 Great Black-backed Gulls
  • 5 Gull-billed Terns
  • 7 Caspian Terns (life list bird)
  • 60 Forster’s Terns
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Forster’s Terns (Image by BirdNation)
  • 2 Mourning Doves
  • 4 Ruby-throated Hummingbirds
  • 2 Downy Woodpeckers
  • 1 Eastern Wood-Pewee
  • 1 Eastern Kingbird
  • 7 American Crows
  • 14 Purple Martins
  • 8 Tree Swallows
  • 2 Barn Swallows
  • 3  Carolina Chickadees
  • 4 Tufted Titmice
  • 5 Marsh Wrens
  • 2 Carolina Wrens
  • 5 Blue-gray Gnatcatchers
  • 5 American Robins
  • 11 Gray Catbirds
  • 2 European Starlings
  • 1 Black-and-white Warbler
  • 18 Common Yellowthroats
  • 10 Yellow Warblers
  • 2 Prairie Warblers
  • 3 Chipping Sparrows
  • 7 Savannah Sparrows
  • 3 Song Sparrows
  • 2 Northern Cardinals
  • 41 Red-winged Blackbirds
  • 2 Brown-headed Cowbirds
  • 5 American Goldfinches
  • 1 House Sparrow

Did you go birding for Global Big Day? Where did you go and how many birds did you see? Tell us about it in the comments!

First of Season

Tonight we walked at Boundary Creek. During this walk we saw 4 “first of season” birds. “First of season”  (or “first of year”) is a term birders use to simply refer to the first time they observed a specific species in a specific season.

We were greeted by the crooning of a Northern Mockingbird from high upon a tree.

While searching for the singing Mockingbird, we discovered a male Orchard Oriole (first of season). Unlike the bright orange of the male Baltimore Oriole, male Orchard Orioles are chestnut and black.

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Orchard Oriole (Image by BirdNation)

The observation platform that overlooks the creek was filled with birdsong. We saw/heard a male Baltimore Oriole and Yellow Warbler (first of season for both). Other birds included a Carolina Wren eating a worm, Red-winged Blackbirds, Downy Woodpeckers, Song Sparrows, Northern Cardinals, Canada Geese, and American Robins.

This recording prominently features the Baltimore Oriole, Canada Geese, Yellow Warbler, and Red-winged Blackbirds.

At the beaver pond platform we saw a first of season Common Yellowthroat. We also observed Mallards, a small flock of Great Egrets flying overhead, a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher calling, and a Gray Catbird. On the way back to the car we found an Eastern Bluebird, which is the first time we’ve seen one at Boundary Creek.

It was great to get out on a warm spring evening to experience the new arrivals.