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

’19 GBBC Day 3: To the Shore

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)

  • 42 Brant
  • 3 Greater Scaup (1 male, 2 females)
  • 3 Common Eiders
  • 15 Harlequin Ducks (mostly male)
  • 30 Black Scoters
  • 45 Long-tailed Ducks
  • 10 Bufflehead
  • 13 Red-breasted Mergansers
  • 3 Ruddy Turnstones
  • 1 Sanderling
  • 85 Dunlin
  • 25 Ring-billed Gulls
  • 136 Herring Gulls
  • 26 Great Black-backed Gulls
  • 1 Red-throated Loon
  • 14 Common Loons
  • 6 Double-crested Cormorants
  • 1 Merlin
  • 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 Bufflehead
  • 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
Red-breasted Nuthatch (Image by David Horowitz)

It’s always a pleasure visiting the Jersey Shore. Tomorrow is the last day of the 2019 GBBC. Stay tuned!

4 the Waterfowl

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.
Ice Skating Canada Geese (Video by BirdNation)

Common Goldeneye female in flight (Image by BirdNation)

Fisherman’s Cove Conservation Area, Manasquan, NJ

  • Waterfowl: Brants, Red-breasted Mergansers, Hooded Merganser, Bufflehead, Long-tailed Duck
  • 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
Common Loon (Image by BirdNation)

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.

  • Waterfowl: Wood Ducks, 1 Redhead, Mallards/domestic/hybrid Mallards, Canada Geese, Bufflehead, Hooded Mergansers
  • Others: American Coots, gulls, Great Blue Heron
Wood Duck male (Image by BirdNation)
Wood Duck female and male (Image by BirdNation)

Surf Scoter: Waterfowl Wednesday

We are almost a month into winter, so I thought it would a great time for a Waterfowl Wednesday post. If you’ve been following me for awhile, you know that I love waterfowl, and winter is the best time to look for different species. For new readers, waterfowl is any bird that is a duck, goose, or swan. So without further ado, today’s featured species is Surf Scoter.

Surf Scoter (Melanitta perspicillata)

Description:

  • Black-and white, medium-sized sea duck
  • Has no white on wings
  • Wedge shaped heads
  • Males: distinct swollen bill of orange, white, red, yellow, and a dark black spot. Yellowish-white or blue-gray eyes. Red-orange feet with dusky webs. White patches on nape of neck and forehead.
  • Females: Dark crown on head and neck. White patches below and behind eyes. Plain, sloping greenish-black bill. Pale gray, yellow, or brown eyes. Brown to yellow-colored feet with black webs.
  • Juvenile: Similar to female, but has brown eyes, white belly and whiter face patches
Male Surf Scoter (Image by BirdNation)
Female Surf Scoter (Image by BirdNation)

Range

  • Breeding: exclusively breeds in North America, specifically Alaska and Northern Canada
  • Winter: Pacific and Atlantic Coasts, sometimes Gulf Coast
  • Migration: Migrates in flocks over coastal waters, sometimes using lakes for stop-over sites. Migrates through parts of Canada, the Great Lakes, and some New England and Mid-Atlantic States.

Habitat

In winter, oceans and salt bays. In summer, tundra, lakes, and semi-open terrains.

Diet

Mainly mollusks, aquatic invertebrates, crustaceans, aquatic insects, some plant material. Surf Scoters are diving ducks. 

Breeding/Nesting

  • Courtship: Many males will try to impress a female using display flights, swimming back and forth with neck up, or exaggerated bows. Pair bonds form on wintering grounds.
  • Nesting: Shallow depression on the ground away from water, usually well hidden.
  • Young: Female incubates 5-9 eggs and tends to the chicks after hatching. Chicks are precocial, meaning they leave the nest shortly after hatching and can feed themselves.
Female and male Surf Scoters at Barnegat Light, NJ (Image by BirdNation)

Vocalizations

Usually silent, but sometimes guttural croaking. Wings in flight make a whistling sound.

Conservation

Population trends are not well known, but are mostly stable.

Fun Facts

  • Egg hatching is synchronous among eggs, meaning they will all hatched around the same time.
  • Similar species to the Surf Scoter are Black Scoters and White-winged Scoters. However, Surf Scoters can be distinguish from other scoter species by their unique bills, white patches on the head, and completely black wings.
  • Flocks can vary in size from 2 to 500 individuals, but can be larger during migration. Surf Scoters frequently flock with Black Scoters, but most other species of ducks can be found among Surf Scoters. They tend to fly in disorganized lines that are constantly fluctuating.

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 πŸ˜‚
  • 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!