New Adventures

We took advantage of our 3 day weekend by going on 3 birding adventures. One of our trips was to Palmyra Cove Nature Park, but the other days we explored 2 new places: Taylor Wildlife Preserve and Michael Huber Prairie Warbler Preserve.

On Saturday night we wanted to go to Amico Island. Every time we go there, we pass a place called Taylor Farm & Wildlife Preserve. People go to Taylor Farm to pick their own fruits and vegetables, but part of the property was turned into a wildlife preserve with a few hiking trails. We’ve been curious about Taylor’s for awhile, so we decided to check it out. We never made it to Amico that night, but had a great time exploring Taylor Wildlife Preserve instead.

Taylor’s Wildlife Preserve is right on the Delaware River and Dredge Harbor. It’s a wooded habitat that features stretches of wetlands. We arrived to the sounds of Gray Catbirds and Red-winged Blackbirds. As we walked towards the foot trails we spotted some Northern Cardinals, Eastern Phoebes, and Baltimore Orioles. Yellow Warblers and Warbling Vireos sang from high in the trees while we explored the winding trails. We found the wetlands area not long after entering the trails. There was a beaver lodge, Eastern Kingbirds, swallows, Common Yellowthroats, and Blue-gray Gnatcatchers.

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Taylor Wildlife Preserve (Image by BirdNation)

“Breep! Breep!” A raucous call came from high in the tree over our heads. It was a Great Crested Flycatcher! These large flycatchers have lemon-colored bellies and long tails, although the crest mentioned in their names are not very prominent. For being about 7 inches in length, the Great Crested Flycatcher has a pretty ear-piercing call. These flycatchers are agile fliers, and we watch it for a bit before it disappeared into the treetops. We also ran into a muskrat on the trail. He didn’t notice us right away, and was pretty surprised when he realized he was being watched. It was a fun moment.

Another highlight of our Taylor trip was finding Wright Cove, where there is a platform with an Osprey nest. At the end of April, Dave and I bought a spotting scope and tested it out at the local yacht club where some Osprey nest nearby. We found a second tower with nesting Osprey that night, and wondered if there was a way to see them better from land. It turns out the Wright Cove in Taylor Preserve is exactly where we want to be to see these Osprey really well. We will definitely go back to observe them, as well as explore more the preserve.

We woke up early Sunday morning to spend some time at Palmyra Cove. It was a quiet morning so we were able to see 42 species. Some highlights included Cedar Waxwings eating berries, a Green Heron flying through the woods, a Ruby-throated Hummingbird at the honeysuckles, and an Orchard Oriole pair chasing each other around. We ended up seeing some more Great Crested Flycatchers on this trip too. Ever have the experience where once you learn something is around, you start seeing it everywhere? Well it seems like we’ve been missing Great Crested Flycatchers for awhile, because now that we know them, we’ve been seeing them all weekend! Amazing how learning about a species can open up a brand new world you never knew was there before.

Today we went to Michael Huber Prairie Warbler Preserve in Woodland Township for the first time. The preserve is 1,227 acres of pitch pine/scrub oak woodlands. An interesting feature of the preserve is a spung. A spung is a hydrologically isolated wetland that relies entirely on rainfall/snowfall to maintain its water level and is habitat to rare plants/amphibians.

Our hike started off with some of the usual suspects: Eastern Wood-pewees, Eastern Phoebes, Cedar Waxwings, Eastern Towhees Gray Catbirds, Common Yellowthroats and woodpeckers. But we kept hearing an ascending buzzy sound. It turned out this was the sound of the park’s namesake: the Prairie Warbler. Despite its name, these warblers don’t live on prairies, they prefer scrubby pine forests. This makes Huber Preserve the perfect breeding habitat. We were able to see and hear these beautiful yellow and black warblers throughout the entire walk.

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Prairie Warbler (Image by David Horowitz)

At one point on the blue trail Dave heard a low bellowing call. We froze and listened. “Hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo, hoo-hoo-hoo-HOO!” I couldn’t believe it. I could recognize that voice anywhere; it was a Barred Owl! It was in the distance, but we heard it call a few times. I’m so excited that we added our 2nd owl to our lifelist :-).

There are actually 2 spungs at the preserve: one on the green trail and the other on the red trail. I really wanted to go to the red trail spung (which was mentioned on their website), but we would have had to walk at least 3 miles (one way that is). You can bike at the preserve, so we will probably go back and bike to that spung. We did try to find the green trail spung, but its seems like it dried up. So no spungs for us today :-(. We did however see a Pine Warbler, more Great Crested Flycatchers, Ovenbirds, an American Redstart juvenile male, Black-and-White Warblers, and the Prairie Warblers/Barred Owl listed above, so it was a great day despite there being no spung. It was a fun weekend of adventures, and overall May was a great birding month for us.

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2017 Birding Vacation! Part 1

Hi friends! Sorry I disappeared for a little bit, but I have a good reason… Dave and I went on a birding vacation! We spent the weekend in Maryland and Delaware hiking and looking for new birds.

We had two major stops planned for our day in Maryland. In the afternoon we drove into Baltimore to explore the National Aquarium. It happened to be 90 degrees that day, so it was the perfect escape from the heat. There were some birds in the aquarium: an alcid (auk) exhibit featuring Atlantic Puffins, Black Guillemots, and Razorbills,;and a rainforest exhibit with a variety of birds flying around. But the main highlight of our day was spending the morning at the Pickering Creek Audubon Center in Easton, Maryland.

Pickering Creek Audubon Center is a 400-acre park on an undeveloped tributary of the Wye River. In 1981, George Olds and Margaret Strahl, who were brother and sister, donated Heigh-Ho Farm to the Chesapeake Audubon Society. The property later became Pickering Creek Audubon Center. The farmhouse and adjacent builds are still there and the first thing you see when you enter the park. Pickering Creek is hidden in a quiet rural area, and features fresh water wetlands, a meadow, and a mature hardwood forest. In the forest you can visit the house of Gilbert Byron, the American author and poet who lived on the property for 45 years.

Our adventure began on the Pond Loop Trail behind the farm. The trail was densely lined with trees and had numerous Wood Duck and Bluebird nest boxes. We were hearing a lot of birds but they were hard to spot through all the leaves. Some of the birds around the pond included Mourning Doves, Common Yellowthroats, Northern Mockingbirds, Gray Catbirds, Eastern Bluebirds, and Indigo Buntings.

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Pond at Pickering Creek (Image by BirdNation)

We moved on to the Wetlands Trail. There are 2 observation decks that overlook a few small pools. The Wetlands Trail is where we saw most of our Wood Duck observations. Pickering Creek had numerous small ponds and plenty of trees/nest boxes, so it was no wonder that we saw at least 18 Wood Ducks (the most we’ve ever seen on a trip). There were even a few chicks swimming around with their mom. Other birds in the wetlands included Tree Swallows, an Osprey, Great Egrets, Great Blue Herons, Mallards, Blue Gray Gnatcatchers, Red-winged Blackbirds, and a Ruby-throated Hummingbird.  We even found a raccoon sleeping in a tree with his little ear sticking out :-).

From the beginning of the hike we were seeing a bright yellow bird fly around over head. It was very vocal, had dull upperparts, white eyerings, and black on its face. It flew deep into the thickets being loud. We kept trying to get a good look at it, but were continually missing it. It wasn’t until towards the end of the Wetlands Trail when this mystery bird landed at the top of a nearby tree and sang that we got a good look at it. It’s song was quite unusual. It croaked, rattled, gurgled, whistled, and made all sorts of jumbled sounds. We later learn that we were watching a Yellow-breasted Chat. Yellow-breasted Chats are part of the Wood Warbler family, but seems like more of a mix between a warbler and a tanager. It’s the largest warbler, with a longer tail, a heavy bill, and a more varied repertoire of songs. It was fascinating to watch him sing from the treetops.

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Yellow-breasted Chat (Image by David Horowitz)

The final trail we took was the Farm to Bay trail, which leads out to part of the creek. Along the way we found Eastern Wood-Pewees, woodpeckers, Blue Jays, Northern Cardinals, Carolina Chickadees, and our first White-eyed Vireo (although we wouldn’t find that out until the next day). Overall we saw 33 species during our walk.

We had a really lovely morning exploring Pickering Creek Audubon Center. If you ever happen to be in Eastern Maryland and want a quiet, rural environment, Pickering Creek is the way to go. You can check out their website at pickeringcreek.audubon.org.It was the perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Stay tuned for Part 2, where I talk about our birding day in Delaware!

Cloverdale Farm Big Day

We turned onto the gravel road into the woods. It was farther away than I remembered. As we made our way down the road, I was getting excited about what we would experience.

The last time I went to Cloverdale Farm in Barnegat was in 2012 with Maria. We went down a dirt road and parked somewhere in a clearing near an old building. There was no visitor center or restrooms because Cloverdale was a newer addition to the county park system. It was a place of undisturbed beauty, and I remember seeing many egrets and swallows there (even though I didn’t know much about birds at the time).

Sunday was my first time back at Cloverdale Farm since 2012. This time Dave and I were going to Cloverdale Farm Big Day of Birding. Over the years, Cloverdale has become a popular birding spot. I frequently see birds from this location on the rare bird list, and of course, I checked the list before we went. There were two rare birds listed, a Prothonotary Warble and a Red-headed Woodpecker (we didn’t see either by the end of the day). When we arrived I noticed that it was a little more developed (in a good way), but still retained that natural beauty.

Cloverdale Farm Big Day of Birding was an event featuring many South Jersey birding groups. There were presentations throughout the day as well as guided tours by naturalists. Dave and I attended two presentations. Our first presentation was by Allen Jackson of the Purple Martin Conservation Society about the management of Purple Martin housing. We also learned about the NJ Osprey Project with Ben Wurst of the Conserve Wildlife NJ Foundation. Both presentations were interesting an informative.

From there it was time to go birding on our own. Outside the visitor center we spotted a female and male Eastern Towhee, a Blue Grosbeak, Chipping Sparrows, American Goldfinches, Carolina Chickadees, House Finches, Eastern Bluebirds, and an Indigo Bunting. A Great Egret waded through a nearby pond while Tree Swallows, Barn Swallows, and Red-wing Blackbirds flew in all directions. A tiny, streaky shorebird flew by and landed near the pond’s edge. It rapidly pumped its tail while probing the mud. It had a yellow legs, a yellow bill with a black tip, and a pronounced white eyering. It was our first Spotted Sandpiper!

 

Cloverdale Farm has actually been a working cranberry farm since the early 1900s. The New Jersey Pine Barrens have been a top producer of cranberries since the 1800s, (cranberries for Ocean Spray are harvested in nearby Chatsworth). Now that it’s spring, the bogs at Cloverdale have been drained, but the trail leads around the bogs and a reservoir into the woods. We saw Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, more Chipping Sparrows, various Woodpeckers, Tufted Titmice, and Gray Catbirds along the trail.

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Reservoir at Cloverdale Farm (Image by BirdNation)

We arrived back at the visitor center to check the ponds again. We were watching a female Red-winged Blackbird when suddenly something dark popped out of the grass.

A Little Blue Heron! It flew overhead to the adjacent pond to forage near the Great Egret (which the egret was not too thrilled about). We watched it wade around a bit before it took off again over our heads into the distance. Little Blue Herons are about 22 inches tall (as compared to its larger cousin, the Great Blue, who is around 38 inches) and a dark, purplish blue. The heron we saw was an adult. How could we tell? Juvenile Little Blue Herons are actually white.

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Little Blue Heron in flight (Image by David Horowitz)

Being a “white” blue heron can have an advantage when it comes to feeding. Immature Little Blues look very similar to Snowy Egrets. Snowy Egrets are more tolerable when it comes to these immature birds than to the blue adults. This white “disguise” allows young Little Blues to forage closer to Snowy Egrets. With the help of the Snowy, the Little Blue is able to catch more fish. Immature Little Blues start gaining their adult plumage after a year. As they molt and the new plumage grows in they get a “patchy” white-and-blue look, which is usually described as “calico” or “pied”.

Cloverdale Farm Big Day of Birding was a fun and informative event. I’m glad Dave and I made the trip to this birding hotspot. We definitely plan on going back to Cloverdale Farm for more birding adventures.

Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve

On Sunday Dave and I took a day trip to Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve in New Hope, Pennsylvania. We visited Bowman’s Hill in fall of 2015 with Dave’s parents, but this is the first time we went to go birding.

Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve is a botanical garden and sanctuary for Pennsylvania’s native plants. In 1934, the Washington Crossing State Commission set aside 100 acres of land near Bowman’s Tower as a memorial to the famous crossing of the Delaware River during the American Revolution (you can read more about this and our trip to the NJ Washington Crossing trip here). This land later became the Wildflower Preserve (which is now 134 acres).

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A View from a Bridge (Image by BirdNation)

The Preserve has a variety of habitats including a meadow, a pond, woodlands, and Pidcock Creek. There’s a lot to see: lots of flowers (of course!), log cabins, and a three-arched stone bridge from the Great Depression. It’s also a birding hotspot; around 110 bird species can be found throughout the year, including up to 31 warblers during peak migration. One of the highlights is the Platt Collection located in the Visitor’s Center. In 1972, ornithologist Charles Platt donated a collection of over 200 nests, 600 eggs, and nearly 100 taxidermy birds. It’s quite an exhibit!

Dave and I ended up walking through most of the Preserve. We started at the feeders near the Visitor’s Center, where we saw Tufted Titmice, chickadees (not sure if they were Carolina or Black-capped), Downy Woodpeckers, and American Goldfinches. Once on the trails we saw Hairy and Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Eastern Phoebes, Turkey Vultures, Wood Ducks, a Belted Kingfisher, and a Brown Creeper (to name a few).

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Brown Creeper (Image by BirdNation) (Sorry it’s a little blurry!)

The highlight of our trip though was seeing our first warblers of the 2017 spring season: Palm Warblers! We were near the Medicinal Trail when we saw a flash of yellow fly into one of the trees. It was a lone Palm Warbler pumping it’s tail and swiftly moving from branch to branch. It was the first Palm Warbler we’ve seen since our first ones at Palmyra Cove in 2015! I was overjoyed to finally see one again! We saw a few more along the Evergreen Trail. It’s always an exciting moment to see your first warbler of the spring :-).

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Palm Warbler (Image by BirdNation)
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Palm Warbler (Image by BirdNation)

We had a wonderful afternoon visiting Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve. There weren’t a ton of flower out yet, but we did see some pretty ones along the trails. I’d be interested in returning to the Preserve closer to the summer to see more flowers and warblers.

If you are ever in Buck Country, Pennsylvania, I highly recommend spending some time at Bowman’s Hill. It’s a great place to hike any time of the year. If you’d like to learn more information about the Preserve, check out the link below.

Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve website

 

 

Titmouse Crossing

Over the weekend Dave and I went birding in a new location: Washington Crossing State Park, which has important historical significance. During the American Revolutionary War, on December 25, 1776, General George Washington and his troops left Pennsylvania and crossed the Delaware River into New Jersey. This was a pivotal event in the War for Independence, especially since Washington was rapidly losing troops. The Continental Army touched down at Johnson’s Landing, which is now the site of Washington Crossing State Park, and marched to Trenton, NJ to mount a surprise attack on the Hessians. The attack was successful and lead to two more battles in the area. There is also a Washington Crossing State Park on the Pennsylvania side as well. We stood in New Jersey on our visit.

Besides having museums and other historical places to visit, Washington Crossing State Park is also a nice place to hike. At 3,575 acres, there are 15 miles of trails that go through mixed forests and is home to a number of mammals/birds.

As far as birding goes, we didn’t see too many birds while hiking through the forest. We’ve found that we see the most variety whenever we are near a water source. The trails we took were strictly forest, but it was very peaceful and fun to explore. We did see some species though: a variety of woodpeckers, chickadees,  Brown Creepers, Eastern Phoebes, and White-breasted Nuthatches to name a few. We even saw discovered a raccoon that was high up in a tree sleeping in a ball. There were numerous Pileated Woodpecker holes, though we weren’t lucky enough to see one. But the most abundant bird species from our walk was the Tufted Titmouse.

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Singing Tufted Titmouse (Image by Basar via wikimedia commons)

Tufted Titmice call Eastern deciduous and evergreen forests their year-round homes, so it wasn’t too surprising that we were seeing them. What did surprise us that the variety of songs and calls we heard from them. The most common Titmouse song is peter-peter-peter!, which can be repeated up 11 times in a row. Of course we heard this song, but we kept hearing other calls and songs that we didn’t recognize. After searching the trees, it almost always turned out that these “new songs” were by Titmice.

According to Donald Kroodsma, author of The Singing Life of Birds, Tufted Titmice have about 9-10 songs, but will commonly use 5-6. They will repeat the same song over and over before switching to a new one. Males will participate in “matched-countersinging” , where they will answer each other with the same song. At one point we were in a stretch of forest where there were multiple Titmouse singing to each other, so it was cool to experience this firsthand. Sometimes females will sing to, which is uncommon compared to other songbirds.

A study in 1983 by Donna J. Schroeder and R. Haven Wiley about Titmouse repertoires found that Tufted Titmouse songs can be broken down into 3 themes. “Class 1 themes” are the most common and used for advertisement. They are used in their territories and often early in the day/breeding season.  “Class 2 Themes” are generally used by the female away from her mate or by males trying to escalate an encounter. “Class 3 Themes” are used less frequently and used to indicate aggressive or to terminate an encounter. The Class 3 themes are usually used by males in countersinging. (If you’d like to read the study, check out the links at the end of this post).

I think the reason we didn’t realize at first that we were hearing different Titmice sounds was the fact that we kept hearing different tones. Many people are used to the clear peter sound, but Titmice can also sound nasally, harsh, mechanical, and scratchy (like their close cousins, the chickadee).

Even though we didn’t see too many birds on our trip, it was exciting to discover so many Tufted Titmice Songs. Next time you hear an unfamiliar song while in the forest, it’s possible you might be hearing a Titmouse. I’m not sure yet if I would use Washington Crossing State Park as a birding spot again, but it might be interesting to try the Pennsylvania side. If you’re looking for a nice place to hike or for the historical events/locations I would recommend Washington Crossing State Park.

If you’d like to see some of the sources I used to learn about Tufted Titmouse songs you can check out the following links.

The Singing Life of Birds, Donald Kroodsma. 

Schroeder and Wiley 1983 Titmouse Study

Sibley Guides article

Listening in Nature blog

 

A New Adventure

Dave has been on his winter break from college for the past month, and tomorrow he starts a new semester. I was off from work today, so we wanted to go on a birding trip before all the chaos begins again.

Most days I past Willingboro Lakes Park while driving. It’s part of the Burlington County Park System, and I’ve been wanting to check it out for awhile. We decided today would be the perfect day to go on an adventure and see what it was like.

I’m convinced that it’s a hidden gem. On the side of a major highway, it doesn’t look like much from the outside. Once you step behind the gate though, there’s a lot to see. Willingboro Lakes was formerly called  Olympia Lake, a popular weekend/vacation hotspot in the 50s and 60s. I’m not too sure of all the history, but these days its run by the park system and is a popular fishing spot.

The entrance takes you down a small hill to the main lake. Today it was partially frozen. On the ice was a medium-sized flock of Ring-billed Gulls and in the distance swam a flock of Ring-necked Ducks. Ring-necked Ducks look similar to Scaups, but have a distinctly patterned bill that the scaups lack.

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Ring-necked Ducks, males and one female (brown) (Image by BirdNation)

The trail leads to a lake that’s closer to the highway. Here we saw a Mute Swan, Canada Geese, Mallards, Hooded Mergansers, and more Ring-necked Ducks. The Canada Geese were spread out throughout the water, and the ducks mixed in while swimming along with their own species. We watched the waterfowl for awhile before moving further along the trail. (Everything was pretty far away so this picture isn’t super clear, but you can see some Hooded Mergansers and Ring-necked Ducks mixed in the middle)

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Canada Geese, Hooded Mergansers, and Ring-tailed Ducks (Image by BirdNation)

A wooded area of pines and other trees run along the sides of the lake to another smaller lake. Here we started to spot smaller birds, including White-breasted Nuthatches, Carolina Chickadees, Robins, Dark-eyed Juncos, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, and Song Sparrows.

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White-breasted Nuthatch (Image by BirdNation)

A tiny bird flew to a tree that was in front of us. I though maybe it was a chickadee. The moment I looked through the binoculars I had a wonderful surprise: a Golden-crowned Kinglet! We’ve seen Ruby-crowned before, but not a Golden-crowned. Golden-crowns look similar to the Ruby, but males have an orange crest and females have a yellow crest. We were watching a female.

What a little acrobat she was! She zipped through the trees so quick it was hard to keep track of her (or get good pictures for that matter! It thought Dave did pretty well for how fast she was). She was pecking at the base of the pine needs to get food, every once in awhile hovering in one spot. We even captured some photos of her completely upside down hanging from a branch! Golden-crowned Kinglets are not much bigger than hummingbirds, but don’t let the size fool you; they are really hardy little birds. Goldens winter in areas where the temperatures can fall below -40 degrees at night! This little kinglet was fascinating to watch.

Once we made it to the end of the trail we turned around to explore the other side of the park. The left side of the trail takes you through a more heavily wooded area and wraps around the lake. On this side we spotted a pair of Carolina Wrens, American Robins, Blue Jays, Tufted Titmice, and a Yellow-rumped Warbler.

At one point we were behind some sort of business that had a lot of large trucks. Above the building were a flock of about 17 crows and a flock of Ring-billed Gulls. They seemed to be causing quite a ruckus; yelling out alarm calls. We thought maybe it had to do with all the noise from the business, but didn’t see anything unusual. Later we found the culprit:

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Cooper’s Hawk (Image by David Horowitz)

A Cooper’s Hawk. It was sitting high up on a tree that had bare branches. I’m not sure that a Cooper’s Hawk would have gone after a gull or crow, but they blew his cover anyway. The hawk didn’t seem to happy to be spotted, but observed the scene from its perch anyway.

We also found a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk on the way back to the entrance. As it flew off to our right it let out its high pitched keeeer scream. (Ever see a bald eagle in a show or movie let out a screech? That’s a Red-tailed Hawk sound you’re hearing. I have no clue why, but for some reason the media portrays Bald Eagles making the wrong sound. Makes no sense, right??). A few seconds later we heard another keeeer scream from our left. Another hawk? Nope, a Blue Jay. Blue Jays have been known to imitate Red-tailed Hawks. By the way, if you’re not sure what a Red-tailed Hawk scream sounds like, I highly suggest you look it up, it’s one of my favorite bird sounds :-).

It was exciting to take an adventure to a park we never went to before. Willingboro Lakes is a really cool place; you can still see some parts of the abandoned structures from it’s heyday throughout the park, but it’s mainly been taken back by nature. It was a peaceful place to walk and we saw a great variety of species. Dave and I definitely plan on returning for another trip.

 

A Rare Experience

January 6, 2017 will now always be a memorable day for me. Today was the day that I saw my first “rare” bird.

Since the beginning of the new year, there have been reports on the E-bird NJ Rare Bird Alert that an American White Pelican was at Stanley H. “Tips” Seaman Park in Tuckerton, NJ. In the winter, eastern American White Pelicans are usually found off the coast of Florida or the Gulf of Mexico, so this bird was pretty far from home. People on various bird groups on Facebook have been sharing pictures of the pelican floating around on Pohatcong Lake at “Tips” Seaman, so naturally I wanted to see it in person.

Tuckerton is in Ocean County, New Jersey, which is the county that I grew up in. My family doesn’t live in near Tuckerton anymore, but my mom, sister, and I had plans around that area today, so we though we should seek out the pelican. This isn’t the first time I’ve looked for on the rare birds from e-bird. In June Dave and I tried to find some Dickcissels nearby but didn’t see them (we did find some other great birds that day, though.) However, I had a good feeling about this pelican.

We arrived at Tip Seaman mid-morning. As we walked across the snowy field towards Pohatcong Lake we saw a large white bird in the distance preening. Could it be?? We made our way up closer. It was….a Mute Swan.

The Mute Swan preened close to the shoreline, surrounded by some Canada Geese and a small flock of Ring-billed Gulls. I scanned out in the distance. A lot of pictures posted online showed the pelican out across the lake by the tree. The Pelican was usually seen with 2 Mute Swans.

And then he appeared! He came from our right, calmly floating along. He wasn’t too far out. He was swimming with a flock of Canada Geese. My excitement grew. There he was! Another birder was standing near us, and we started talking about how amazing he was. She lived nearby and heard about the pelican on Facebook too.

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American White Pelican with Canada Geese (Image by BirdNation)

It seems like Mr. Pelican had started to get used to having an audience, because he noticed the four of us standing on the shore and started swimming in our direction. Before we knew it, he was floating not far from the shoreline, in perfect view.

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Beautiful Mr. Pelican (Image by BirdNation)

He was absolutely magnificent. His beautiful white plumage ruffled in the wind and he calmly floated around the lake. His large yellowish-orange bill was striking against his pure white body. We watched him preen for a bit and he showed of every once in a while by flapping his huge wings. When he flapped we were able to see the large black patches on his underwing.

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Preening (Image by BirdNation)

There were other birds on the pond, but he seemed to be in the center of it all. Mallards dabbled near the shoreline, Ring-billed Gulls squeaked to each other, and Canada Geese flew in from the air. But in the center of all the activity sat Mr. Pelican, surround by this two friends, the Mute Swans.

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Mr. Pelican in the midst of the action (Image by BirdNation)

One fantastic thing about birding is meeting other bird lovers in the field. We ended up talking to our new birding friend who watched Mr. Pelican with us. We wondered about the pelican’s journey and how he ended up in Tuckerton instead of Florida. Did he have a mate? Did he get lost? He must have an interesting story. We shared birding locations and some of the interesting birds we’ve seen so far. It’s always fun to meet other passionate birders. We also couldn’t believe our luck that he came so close to the shore, almost like he was posing for his admirers.

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Mr. Pelican poses for the camera (Image by BirdNation)

We watched him for about 25 minutes. Even though he was technically “out of place”, the pelican seemed pretty comfortable with his new waterfowl friends. So comfortable in fact, that after awhile he contently stuffed in bill into his feathers to take a nap. We decided to let him rest, so we all said goodbye to Mr. Pelican and headed back to our cars.

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Sleepy Pelican (Image by BirdNation)

What a thrill the whole experience was. I’m not sure how long Mr. Pelican will stay in New Jersey, but I hope he enjoys his visit. I’m thankful that we were able to spend time with this amazing bird.

Have you experience a “rare” bird? Tell me your rare bird stories in the comments.