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.
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!
March 13th: American Woodcockdisplays at Rancocas Nature Center.
March 17: Red-necked Grebe in a pond near the mall in Toms River.
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!
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”.
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.
Have you seen a Timberdoodle? Tell me about your experience in the comments!
Today was the final day of the Great Backyard Bird Count. I went back to Haddon Lake Park; this time with my mom and sister. Haddon Lake Park is a GBBC tradition, so I’m glad I was able to go there twice this weekend.
Haddon Lake Park, Mt. Ephraim/Audubon, NJ (9 species, 245 individual birds)
90 Canada Geese
32 Ring-billed Gulls
1 Downy Woodpecker
1 American Crow
4 Golden-crowned Kinglet
40 European Starling
2 Song Sparrow
25 Red-winged Blackbird
We had the opportunity to watch a Mallard pair demonstrating a courtship display.
We observed an interesting looking Mallard. It seems like it can be a possible hybrid. Mallard mixed with Green-winged Teal or American Wigeon? The world may never know…it was interesting nonetheless. (Let me know who you think it is…)
We had an amazing Great Backyard Bird Count weekend! We saw 19 more species than 2018 as well as about 700 more individual birds. Here are the official Team BirdNation numbers for 2019:
Dave and I made our way out to the Jersey Shore today for the Great Backyard Bird Count. We went birding at two locations: Barnegat Lighthouse State Park on LBI and Cloverdale Farm Park in Barnegat. We added a new bird to our life list: the Red-breasted Nuthatch. I went to Cloverdale last week with my mom and sister to look for the Red-breasted Nuthatch, but we didn’t find it (however, we did see Pine Siskins, a lifer for us!)
Barnegat Lighthouse State Park, Barnegat Light, NJ (20 species, 461 individual birds)
3 Greater Scaup (1 male, 2 females)
3 Common Eiders
15 Harlequin Ducks (mostly male)
30 Black Scoters
45 Long-tailed Ducks
13 Red-breasted Mergansers
3 Ruddy Turnstones
25 Ring-billed Gulls
136 Herring Gulls
26 Great Black-backed Gulls
1 Red-throated Loon
14 Common Loons
6 Double-crested Cormorants
1 Northern Mockingbird
1 Savannah Sparrow
Bonus find: 6 Seals!
Cloverdale Farm County Park, Barnegat, NJ (16 species,45 individual birds)
2 Mallards (male/female)
1 Belted Kingfisher
3 Carolina Chickadee
3 Tufted Titmouse
2 Red-breasted Nuthatch
4 White-breasted Nuthatch
1 Brown Creeper
5 Eastern Bluebird
1 Northern Mockingbird
1 House Finch
1 American Goldfinch
16 Dark-eyed Junco
2 White-throated Sparrows
1 Pine Warbler
1 Northern Cardinal
It’s always a pleasure visiting the Jersey Shore. Tomorrow is the last day of the 2019 GBBC. Stay tuned!
Day 2 of the Great Backyard Bird Count was twice as nice because we went birding at 2 locations!
It was 45 degrees with a cold breeze; much more seasonal than yesterday’s warm weather. Our first stop was Haddon Lake Park in Audubon, NJ, followed by Palmyra Cove in Palmyra, NJ. We saw 32 species today, adding 8 new species to the total GBBC so far.
At Haddon Lake, Dave spotted some banded Mallards. I was able to get some pictures of the bands and reported them at reportband.gov. This website is run by USGS (United States Geological Survey) and the link leads to Patuxent Wildlife Research Center Bird Banding Laboratory. We were able to learn around where the Mallard was banded, by who, and its age.
Haddon Lake Park, Audubon, NJ (10 species, 188 individual birds)
Today is the first day of the Great Backyard Bird Count!
We had a lovely day today in New Jersey. The temperature was around 60 degrees with a slight breeze. It was the perfect weather to kick off this year’s count. Dave and I spent our first day of the Great Backyard Bird Count at Amico Island in Delanco, NJ. We’ve been to Amico Island countless times over the years, but today we took a new trail that brought us along the water’s edge. It’s always fun discovering “new” trails at familiar parks.
Amico Island (23 species, 264 individual birds)
20 Canada Geese
3 Green-winged Teals
2 Hooded Mergansers (male/female pair)
19 Common Mergansers
2 Mourning Doves
120 Ring-billed Gulls
8 Herring Gulls
9 Great Black-backed Gulls
10 Great Blue Herons
5 Downy Woodpeckers
1 Hairy Woodpecker
3 Carolina Chickadees
1 Tufted Titmouse
4 White-breasted Nuthatch
3 Carolina Wrens
8 American Robins
1 Northern Mockingbird
2 European Starlings
4 Dark-eyed Juncos
15 White-throated Sparrows
1 Red-winged Blackbird
4 Northern Carindals
This year’s bird count is already off to a get start! Tomorrow we are heading over to Palmyra Cove.
Did you participate in the first day of the Great Backyard Bird Count? Tell me about it in the comments.
On Sunday January 27, Dave and I went to 4 birding locations in Monmouth and Ocean Counties. I was inspired to find some Canvasbacks, so we drove out to the Jersey Shore to see what we could find. Overall, we saw 15 different waterfowl species between the 4 locations. Here are the highlights.
Manasquan Reservoir IBA, Howell, NJ
This was around the time of the polar vortex, so it was pretty cold and most of the reservoir was frozen over. Despite the cold, we observed 20 species.
Waterfowl: Canvasbacks (life list #2 for 2019, read about life list #1, the Razorbill, here), huge flocks of Common Mergansers and Canada Geese, Hooded Mergansers, Bufflehead, Ring-billed Ducks, female Common Goldeneye, Ruddy Ducks, Mallards, Mute Swans
Others: 3 Bald Eagles (breeding pair and juvenile), watched an adult and juvenile eating prey on the ice. American Coots, gulls.
Other: Turkey Vultures, tons of Ring-billed and Herring Gulls, Common Loons
Manasquan Inlet, Manasquan, NJ
Manasquan Inlet is where the Manasquan River meets the Atlantic Ocean. There were a lot of Common Loons that day, and we learned after we got home that there was a Pacific Loon among them, a NJ rarity. I didn’t think to pay close attention to each individual loon since I just assumed they were our normal Common Loons. Lesson learned!
Waterfowl: Long-tailed Ducks
Other: Common Loons, Rock Pigeons, Ring-billed Gulls, Dunlin
Lake of the Lilies, Pt. Pleasant, NJ
Our first visit to Lake of the Lilies was last year for the Great Backyard Bird Count. We saw 13 species of waterfowl that day in February, including a large raft of Redheads and a rare Tufted Duck. This visit was quieter, but we got an amazing views of some Wood Ducks.