Back to NJ

Hi everyone! I took a little break from blogging since the move to New Hampshire. The transition has been a little rough, but it’ll get easier over time. Since I last wrote we went back to Chincoteague, VA, added Maine to our birding map, and added a few lifers to our list. I’ll catch you up on all of that soon, but this past weekend we visited family back in New Jersey and of course made some time for birding. I was able to visit some of my old stomping grounds: Palmyra Cove Nature Park and Haddon Lake Park.

Palmyra Cove Nature Park, Palmyra, NJ

I really missed Palmyra. Even in the heat of the day, we still observed 34 species. Highlights included a Yellow-billed Cuckoo, American Redstarts, Chimney Swifts, 2 Ospreys, and Wild Turkeys. We also saw a nice variety of butterflies and dragonflies, some turtles, and a groundhog.

Haddon lake park, audubon, nj

The ducks at Haddon Lake are now in eclipse plumage. Waterfowl undergo a simultaneous wing molt, meaning they are rendered flightless for about 20-40 days. Therefore, males, who are usually much more colorful than the females, molt their head plumage in order to blend in. I also learned (thanks to a helpful person on Instagram) that there was an American Black Duck amid the Mallards. We also saw a Red-winged Blackbird fledgling being fed by its parent.

Green Heron (Image by BirdNation)
Red-winged Blackbird juvenile

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

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!

Timberdoodle!

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!