2018 Review: Year of the Bird

Happy New Year’s Eve! 2018 was official the Year of the Bird, and it was quite a year! Here are some of the highlights from our birding year.

January

February

  • Great Backyard Bird Count: 33 species, 793 individual birds. Plus 2 Life Birds: Tufted Duck and Redheads
IMG_4930 (2)
Tufted Duck (Image by BirdNation)
  • 2 Snowy Owls at Edwin B. Forsythe NWR.

March

  • Added 2 Life List Birds at Chincoteague: Brown-headed Nuthatch and Lesser Black-backed Gull
  • Snowy Owl at Forsythe (totaling to 3 Snowies this year)
Snowy Owl 3/18/18 (Image by David Horowitz)
  • Saw 81 species from January 1 to the first day of spring for Year List

April

  • My first dolphins!
  • Added Wilson’s Snipe to our life list at Taylor’s Wildlife Preserve

May

  • Global Big Day at Forsythe NWR: 60 species
  • Our first Red Knots at Delaware Bay
  • Participated in the 2018 Great American Arctic Birding Challenge with 62 species recorded between March 1 and June 1
  • Added 4 Life List Birds: Caspian Tern, Northern Parula, Canada Warbler, and Red Knots
  • Added 71 species to Year List, bring total to 152 by the first day of summer

June

Started working at Rancocas Nature Center

July

Roseate Spoonbill juvenile (Image by David Horowitz)
  • Also added to life list: Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Saltmarsh Sparrow, Chimney Swift
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron pair with eggs (Image by BirdNation)

August

Cape Cod vacation! Added 3 new Life List birds: Roseate Tern, Black Tern, Great Shearwater. Also saw my first Grey Seals. Went birding on the way home in Connecticut.

September

  • Had my last birding trip of my 20s at Forsythe on 9/16 😂
  • Added 14 species to Year List for summer, making total 166

October

  • First October Global Big Day at Cape May: huge Tree Swallow flocks and Western Palm Warblers. 31 total species
  • Gave my first birding presentation at Rancocas Nature Center, “The Miracle of Avian Migration’, on October 13 (World Migratory Bird Day)

November

  • Added 9 more species to Year List for fall, making final total 175

December

  • Participated in my first Audubon Christmas Bird Count on 12/23 in Moorestown, NJ, with 35 total species for our count. Unsure of total count for other teams in the “Moorestown” circle. (Fun fact: Moorestown, NJ was one of the 25 towns to participate in very first Christmas Bird on December 25, 1900)
  • Close-up seaducks at Barnegat Light: Surf Scoters, Common Eiders, Black Scoters, Harlequin Ducks, and Long-tailed Ducks
  • Final hike 2018: Taylor’s Wildlife Preserve

Final 2018 Stats

  • Year List: 175 species
  • Life List: 16 new additions, current total 207.
  • Birding in 7 States: New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Massachusetts

Looking forward to birding in 2019!

Cape Cod Vacation: Monomoy Island Excursions

This is Part 3 of our Cape Cod Vacation. You can check out Part 1 (Race Point Beach) here and Part 2 (Skaket Beach) here.

On August 14th, the second day of our Cape Cod vacation, Dave I and went seal watching with Monomoy Island Excursions. We took the 10 am seal cruise on their boat, The Perseverance from Harwich Port into Nantucket Sound. The cruise includes stops at Wychmere Harbor, Stage Harbor in Chatham, and Monomoy NWR; as well as pass many of the popular beaches along the cape.

The seal cruise was definitely the highlight of my trip. It was a beautiful morning and I enjoyed every moment. Not only did we have an amazing experience seeing Grey Seals, we also saw many birds.

Highlights of our Seal Cruise

  • The seals, of course! We saw a herd of at least 70 Grey Seals on our trip. Low tide hit its peak 2 hours before our cruise, so many of the seals we saw were relaxing on a sand bar. It was fascinating watching the seals interact with each other, vocalize, and curiously watch us back.

 

  • Our “Winter Birds” on summer vacation. We saw immature Common Eiders, Black Scoters, and White-winged Scoters, which we usually see in New Jersey during the winter.

flock of eiders
Common Eiders (Image by David Horowitz)

  • Lots of seabirds, including Herring Gulls, Laughing Gulls, Great Black-backed Gulls, Forster’s Terns, Roseate Terns, Least Terns, Common Terns, and a Great Shearwater.
  • A few hundred Double-crested Cormorants
  • Many Osprey and a Northern Harrier

captain osprey
Captain Osprey (Image by David Horowitz)

  • A huge school of fish under the boat (in the thousands)
  • Stage Harbor Lighthouse 

Stage Harbor Lighthouse

  • Shorebirds and Wading Birds, including Willets, Snowy Egrets, Short-billed Dowitchers, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Sanderlings, Spotted Sandpipers, Greater Yellowlegs, and a Great Egret
  • The Staff. Our Captain and the naturalist on our cruise were really friendly and informative. A few minutes into the trip, noticing our Cape May/NJ Audubon binocular straps, the naturalist (I don’t remember his name) asked if we were birders. It turns out that he’s been birding on Cape Cod for over 30 years. He spent many years leading tours at Monomoy, as well as participating in the local birding community. He is also a bird bander. Throughout the trip he would come over and talk to us about birds. It was really fun to talk to as well as learn from him.

My seal cruise with Monomoy Island Excursions was fantastic and will certainly be an experience that I won’t soon forget.

img_4307
Journey On (Image by BirdNation)

 

Cape Cod Vacation: Skaket Beach

This is Part 2 of our Cape Cod vacation posts. Check out Part 1: Race Point Beach here

Skaket Beach is located on the bayside of Orleans, Massachusetts. We went to Skaket Beach twice on our trip: Monday early evening during low tide and Tuesday mid-afternoon during high tide.

Low tide is a really amazing time at Skaket Beach. You can walk far out towards the ocean and explore small tide pools. During high tide you can see some marsh grasses, but when everything is exposed during low, you can find really cool creatures and plants. It’s also fun to see all the families out enjoying the low tide. All the pictures and videos featured below were taken on my Iphone 7.

Highlights from Monday evening, 8/13/18 at low tide:

  • Ring-billed Gulls: Apparently these gulls, which we consider one of our “winter” gulls in New Jersey, also vacation at Cape Cod.
  • Eastern Mud Snails: hundreds of them! Here’s a short video of them, well, being snails 😁 I like how you can hear the shorebirds in the background.
  • Hermit Crabs: found in the shallow water
  • “Peeps”: many Semipalmated Plovers and Sanderlings running along the beach
  • Horseshoe Crab: 
  • Feeding Frenzy of Laughing Gulls and Snowy Egrets

Here are some other pictures from our Monday Skaket visit:<<
allery ids=”14828,14829″ type=”rectangular”]

It was high tide on Tuesday at the beach. Skaket feels like a totally different place during high tide. There were hundreds of people tanning, swimming, playing, and relaxing on the beach. We swam for a little bit before heading to dinner.

20170102_212237A
Skaket Beach at high tide (Image by David Horowitz)

Before I end, here’s a fun little tidbit:

Many things in life change, but some things remain the same…

Here we are at Skaket Beach during low tide in 2012 and at low tide in 2018 :-).

Stay tuned for Part 3: Monomoy Seal Excursions coming soon!

Cape Cod Vacation: Race Point Beach

Hi friends! This past week, Dave and I went on an amazing vacation to Cape Cod, Massachusetts. We’ve vacationed at Cape Cod twice in the past with Dave’s family (Dave going many more times throughout his life), but these trips occurred before we were birders. Therefore, we were really excited to go back to see what we may have missed in the previous years.

During our recent visit to The Wetlands Institute, we purchased the Peterson Reference Guide to Seawatching: Eastern Waterbirds in Flight by Ken Behrens & Cameron Cox. According to the guide, Cape Cod is considered one of the top seawatching sites in North America. Many locations throughout the Cape are discussed in the seawatching book, including our first vacation spot, Provincetown.

Provincetown is located at the tip of Cape Cod, where Cape Cod Bay and the Atlantic Ocean meet. We spent our first morning exploring Race Point Beach, on the Atlantic side. Race Point Beach is part of the National Park Service’s Cape Cod National Seashore. (Side note: interestingly, on Thursday there was a shark dangerously close to the shore attacking a seal, causing Race Point Beach to be closed. Other areas along the cape have reported sharks really close to shore over the past day) 

Highlights from our trip (26 species):

  • 1000s of terns (including 2 lifers)!  Large mixed-species flocks that included Common, Least, Forster’s, Roseate, and Black Terns. The terns were varying ages/plumage and would frequently take flight and land again on the beach.

  • Common and Red-throated Loons. In New Jersey, we usually don’t see loons until the winter. One cool thing about traveling 7 hours North of where we live was seeing some of our winter visitors in their summer spots. The Red-throated Loons were juveniles, and one of the Common Loons was sitting on the beach for a bit. Loons are designed to be expert divers, so their feet look like little wedges sticking out behind their tail. Therefore, they are pretty awkward moving on land. To get back in the water, this loon would slowly shuffle until the water helped it back in.

  • Our first Great Shearwater. We saw a few throughout our walk.
  • Hundreds of Double-crested Cormorants (and lots of gulls of course lol)

the crew
The Crew (Image by BirdNation)

  • Small groups of seals close to shore. The first time I’ve ever seen seals in the wild!

grey seal
Grey Seal (Image by David Horowitz)

 

  • Lots of shorebirds/”peeps”. Including Semipalmated Plovers, Sanderlings, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Willets, Greater Yellowlegs, Black-bellied Plovers, and Piping Plovers. The Piping Plovers were juveniles. We watched a few Semipalmated Plovers do what looked like some sort of dance or pair bond display.

 

Race Point Beach was an amazing birding spot and a great way to start our vacation. Our trip was really action-packed, so instead of telling you about it based on each day, I’m going to split up the posts into specific places we went. There’s just too much for one post :-)! So this post was just about our Monday morning. Stay tuned to hear about our cool evening at Skaket Beach!