Shorebird Central

On Sunday we took a trip down to Edwin B. Forsythe NWR. Despite the flies, Forsythe is a wonderful summer birding location. I heard that there were White Ibis around, so we decided to see if we could find this rarity.

We left pretty early in the morning and it was quiet when we arrived. We spent a little time walk around the visitor center and towards Lily Pond. At the pond we found at least 5 Wood Ducks as well as some Gray Catbirds and Red-winged Blackbirds. At the visitor center we found a Chipping Sparrow being followed by a large (compared to the sparrow) juvenile Brown-headed Cowbird. Unfortunately that Chipping Sparrow was cursed with a brood parasite. Brown-headed Cowbirds always lay their eggs in other bird’s nests, although the parasitic egg isn’t always successful (check out my post on brood parasites here).


Next we went to the first observation platform. It was swarming with a large flock of Barn Swallows. In the distance we were able to see a few Osprey on their nest, while also spotting Laughing Gulls, Seaside Sparrows, and Marsh Wrens. There even was a little snail crossing the platform, so he was fun to see.  At Gull Pond Tower, we saw even more Wood Ducks, a Cooper’s Hawk, a Great Blue Heron, Eastern Kingbirds, and many more Barn Swallows. The surprise bird over at the Gull Pond for me was a juvenile Black-crowned Night-heron. It was our first juvenile BC-NH since our 8/23/16 Forsythe trip.

It was Shorebird and Wading Bird Central once we hit the wildlife drive. Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Great Blue Herons, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Greater Yellowlegs, Dunlins, and Semipalmated Plovers were everywhere you looked. There were a few surprises scattered around too. There was a lone American Avocet among the smaller plovers and sandpipers. It was the first time we’ve seen one at Forsythe (our firsts were at Bombay Hook NWR). We also ended up finding the White Ibis! There were 2: both juveniles. They had brown backs, white rumps, and orange bill/legs. They were foraging in a group of Snowy and Great Egrets. (Sorry the White Ibis picture isn’t that great, they were really far so it was basically so we can prove the rarity on ebird)

There were plenty of Seabirds around too. These included Forster’s/Common Terns (many of them juveniles), Laughing/Herring/Great Black-backed Gulls, Black Skimmers, and Gull-billed Terns.

juvenile tern.jpg
Juvenile Tern (Image by BirdNation)


As far as Raptors, there were at least 20 Ospreys throughout the drive. At one point we watched at least 3 of them chase one that was holding a fish. The poor guy being chased eventually lost his fish back to the water. There were also some Ospreys chasing after an adult Bald Eagle.

feeding ospreys.jpg

We actually found a second rarity: a lone Snow Goose. This poor little guy looked like his wing was messed up, which would explain why he was still here. He waddled along the trail and disappeared into the grass.

The second half to the wildlife drive brought some more interesting surprises. There were even more wading/shorebirds/seabirds already mentioned, but on this half added Short-billed Dowitchers, Double-crested Cormorants, a single Whimbrel, Glossy Ibis, and one Ruddy Turnstone. When we were watching the Whimbrel, a small bird swam across the water in the distance. It was hard to make out, but we could see it’s downturned bill and rump sticking out. It quickly disappeared into the reeds, but we were able to figure out that it was a Clapper rail, another life bird for us.

August at Forsythe NWR is beautiful. There marshes and pools were dotted with flowers, while butterflies and bees flew to the different plants. The variety of birds at this time of the year is fantastic. We ended our day with a total of 55 species (2 rarities: White Ibis/Snow Goose and 2 life bird: Clapper Rail/White Ibis).

Stay tuned: Dave and I have been birding yesterday and today in some surprise birding locations we didn’t expect to go to. I’ll have some posts about that in the upcoming days. 🙂




Hey, I Know That Bird!

Every June, Dave and I take a trip out to Long Beach Island to explore Barnegat Light State Park. June 9th was our 3rd annual “late spring” LBI birding trip. It’s nice to have a trip “tradition” so you can compare what species you see around a specific time/season and see how your location list changes from year to year.

This year we didn’t see too many species (16, probably because we went in the late afternoon this time, but that’s ok!). Every year I hope to see Piping Plovers and American Oystercatchers. We had a special treat when we it came to the Oystercatchers: an Oystercatcher family! We had the opportunity to watch 2 adults with the 2 chicks walk/forage around the dunes. I’ve seen pictures of Oystercatcher chicks before, but they were even cuter in person.

American Oystercatcher family (Image by David Horowitz)

I have to admit: I’ve been a little lazy with my birding stuff the past week or two. My job (teacher) just ended for the summer and I’ve been taking a summer class (Biology 1) so it’s been a little bit of an adjustment. I mention this because I didn’t look at any of our June 9th LBI pictures until tonight (June 16). And while zooming in on the Oystercatcher family photo I found a surprise.

I zoomed in on an adult and chick. The adult had 2 yellow bands that said T2. Then it hit me: “Hey, I know that bird!”

Oystercatcher and chick (Image by David Horowitz)

I don’t think that’s what Dave expected me to say. But it’s true. We know Oystercatcher T2. I quickly opened up my Barnegat Light picture folder and pulled up this picture from last year’s trip:

American oystercatcher 3
American Oystercatcher T2 in 2016 (Image by BirdNation)

Well, well, well, look who it is. T2 from 2016. I wonder how many years this particular Oystercatcher has come back to Barnegat Light. And this time I got to see his/her family!

Once Dave and I made this discovery I went to the American Oystercatcher Working Group website. This organization works with conservation groups throughout the East Coast to band, study, and conserve American Oystercatchers. I reported T2 and all the information that I know about this bird (as well as someone from today, but I’ll tell you about that in the next post). Now I wait to hear back about this particular Oystercatcher’s backstory, which of course I will update you on.

If you happen to see a banded American Oystercatcher, try to take some pictures and send your info to the American Oystercatcher Working Group (click that link to see their site).

Here are a few more pictures from out Barnegat Light trip.

This was the only Piping Plover we saw, and it was the first time we’ve seen one on a nest. It was sitting inside a wire fence to protect it. The Great Egret was looking stunningly beautiful in its breeding plumage.

It’s exciting to go to the same location each year to compare, especially when you rediscover a familiar friend (as in the case with T2)!

Day of the Ibis

This summer turned out to be very different than I expected. I was hoping to go on more birding trips than I actually did, but we had a lot of heat waves (96 with a heat index of 111?! No thanks!). Now that the weather is starting to calm down Dave and I have been able to go birding again. So expect more bird trip posts in the near future!

On Wednesday we took Dave’s mother to Edwin B. Forsythe NWR. It was her first time and I was glad that she enjoyed it. It was our 3rd Forsythe trip since May, but as usual, it was a completely new experience and just as exciting.

We took the wildlife drive. There were a lot of “peeps”. People use the term “peeps” to describe species of small sandpipers. Sandpipers can be difficult to identify, especially now during molting and the start of migration. I believe we saw a lot of Semipalmated Sandpipers with some Semipalmated Plovers (who are not “peeps”) mixed in. In the distance were Mute Swans, Canada Geese, American Black Ducks, and a mix of gull species. We were surrounded by different flocks on both sides of the marsh and everyone was either resting, foraging, or preening.

Then The Frenzy happened. I’m not sure what changed, probably the wind, but all the flocks took off at the same time. Everyone was flying in different directions, either with their flocks or as individuals. It’s hard to describe what I refer to as “The Frenzy” in words, but if you’ve ever experienced thousands of birds flying around you at one time you know what I mean. It’s always a spectacular moment.

the frenzy
The Frenzy (Image by David Horowitz)

(I know that’s not the best quality picture, but I wanted to give you an idea of what The Frenzy looked like. Everyone was really high up and scattered, making it hard to get a good shot)

Another great thing about this trip: herons and egrets galore! Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, and Snowy Egrets dotted the landscape, usually in mixed flocks. We even saw our first Tricolor Herons! There were 3 of them hanging with a Great Egret and some Snowies. It’s fascinating to watch the different hunting styles. Tricolor Herons hunch down close to the water/mudflats, Great Blue Herons/Great Egrets are slow and meticulous, and Snowy Egrets look like they are in a rush and run all crazy (haha I love Snowies! I think if I was a Great Blue Heron I’d be frustrated hunting next to a Snowy. He would scare all my fish away!). The Tricolor Heron’s neck was a reddish color, so it’s a juvenile. Adults have darker necks both in breeding and non-breeding plumage.

Tricolor Heron (Image by David Horowitz)

We also saw 3 Black-crowned Night-herons hiding out in a tree with a variety of egrets. One was an adult and 2 were juveniles. It was our first time seeing Bc-Nh juveniles. They look very similar to juvenile Yellow-crowned Night-herons. Black-crowns have large white teardrop-shaped spots on their wings while Yellow-crowns have small dots. We went with Black-crowned because these guys seemed to have large spots.  True to their names, Night-herons are active mainly at night. People usually tend to find them roosting in a tree during the day. They blend into the branches pretty well, so they can be tricky to spot.

Juvenile Black-crowned Night-heron (Image by David Horowitz)

But the highlight of the day for me were the Glossy Ibis. We’ve seen them multiple times, but this time was special because we counted 100 of them! Usually we see no more than 10 per trip. I don’t know where they were flying in from, but they just kept coming! All 100 were not in the same place at the same time, but they were spread out in flocks of about 30.

Glossy Ibis (dark birds) with Great and Snowy Egrets (Image by David Horowitz)

Other species on this trip included 11 Ospreys, Double-crested Cormorants, European Starlings, Red-winged Blackbirds, a variety of Terns (including I think at 1 Least Tern, he was teeny!), Willets, Crows, and Tree Swallows.

Dave and I went to Cape May on Monday, so look out for that post soon!

Side note: After finishing this post, I found a pdf from the American Birding Association about identifying “peeps”. It’s called Identification of North American Peeps: A Different Approach to an Old Problem. If you would like to learn more about “peeps” you can click the link below. You can also download it to your computer (you know I did!) to reference it later.

ABA Identifying Peeps pdf


Heislerville WMA

Hello friends! Sorry I seemed to fall of the face of the Earth for a bit. It’s been a crazy, busy week, especially with the past holiday weekend. We’ve been having a heat wave here in New Jersey, so I haven’t been out birding in about a week. I usually encounter a lot going on outside my balcony, but even the backyard birds have seemed awfully quiet and absent due to the heat. The temperatures should be going back down into the 80s next week, so I’m hoping to get some birding in next week.

My last birding trip was actually on Sunday, July 3. Dave and I wanted to try somewhere different. We took a trip to Heislerville Wildlife Management Area. Heislerville WMA is a marsh habitat that borders Delaware Bay and the Maurice River in Cumberland County NJ. We’ve never visited before, so we didn’t really know what to expect.

The experience was a little confusing. We found the signs letting us know we were in Heislerville WMA, but we weren’t really sure where to park or where the wildlife auto loop entrance was. We did find something pretty cool though: a rookery. A rookery is a breeding colony. In the past I’ve talked about the Great Blue Heron rookery at Amico Island, but this one was a little different.

This rookery was for Double-crested Cormorants, Great Egrets, and Black-crowned Night-Herons. They were on a little island of trees, not far from the side of the road where people were crabbing. There were about 250 Cormorants, 40 Great Egrets, and 35 Black-crowned Night-Herons. I actually didn’t notice the Night-Herons at first until Dave pointed out a few; they blended in really well. Some birds were sitting on nests, some were standing around and/or preening, and some were coming and going. It was very loud and fascinating to watch. I’ve only ever seen 2 Black-crowned Night-Herons in my life, so seeing 35 of them in one spot was a treat! (The Night-Herons are hard to spot in these pics, they blend in perfectly)

After watching the rookery for awhile we moved on to another impoundment across the street. There were large flocks of Laughing Gulls and Herring Gulls (easily 150-200 + per species), some Snowy Egrets, and more Great Egrets. We did eventually find the wildlife auto loop. It’s 8 miles, but we didn’t stay on it very long. Some of the other birds we saw included Red-winged Blackbirds, Gray Catbirds, American Robins, Song Sparrows, House Sparrows, Blue Jays, a Great Blue Heron, Mourning Doves, Downy Woodpeckers, an Eastern Kingbird, Crows, Carolina Chickadees, and Northern Cardinals.

We only stood for about an hour and mostly watched from the car, but saw a decent amount in a short time. We could barely walk around though because it was really buggy even with spray on.

Overall, I had mixed feeling about this trip. The rookery was amazing, but it was a little confusing to get around and pretty crowded. It may be nice to visit in the fall when it’s less crowded. I am glad we tried something different though.


Mother’s Day Birds

This past Sunday was Mother’s Day. I had a lovely day with my mother and sister. The weather was lovely as well, so we decided to start our celebration with a walk at Amico Island. I heard from one of the internet birding groups that I’m in that there was a heavy migration Saturday night, so I was hopeful for some new migrants. We had a successful day with 28 species in a little over an hour.

Our first stop was the blue trail. Towards the beginning of the trail there were two people with cameras. They seemed very excited and they had a reason to be: Baltimore Orioles! There were both males and females present and they were whistling from high in the tree tops. We didn’t know where to look; they seemed to be everywhere!

It was really busy in the forest area on the way to the Great Blue Heron rookery. Birds we observed included: Yellow Warblers, Common Yellowthroats, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Carolina Chickadees, Brown-headed Cowbirds, a Carolina Wren, Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers, Grackles, Gray Catbirds, and American Robins to name a few. Below is my favorite picture I took of a Yellow Warbler so far. He looks perfect to me :-).

Male Yellow Warbler signing (Image by BirdNation)
Carolina Wren (Image by BirdNation)

One of my favorite parts of our trip was watching from the rookery observation area. There were some Great Blue Herons in the rookery, as well as some flying around. We also watched a Red-Tailed Hawk soaring and many Tree Swallows. Before leaving I peeked through some branches and spotted a Great Egret (my first of season) and a Great Blue Heron standing side by side.

Great Egret and Great Blue Heron (Image by BirdNation)

Another Great Blue Heron decided he wanted to join the party too while the egret preened.

Then there were three…(Image by BirdNation)

The Egret wasn’t too thrilled about being stuck between two Great Blue Herons, so he decided he was going to be the leader of the line.

They were amusing to watch as they relaxed and preened. We continued towards the beach area on the yellow trail.

Red-tailed Hawk in flight (Image by BirdNation)

In the wintertime the beach area on the Delaware River section of the island is usually packed with waterfowl and gulls. This wasn’t the case on Sunday, but we did see some Mallards and Canada Geese. An Osprey flew overhead and was even mobbed by a little bird at one point.

We really enjoyed walking at Amico on Sunday. I hope everyone that celebrates Mother’s Day had a great weekend with their families!