Early Sunday morning I made it back out to the Appalachian Trail in Vernon. I met Linda Scrima and Maria Loukeris out there so they could get the Grasshopper Sparrows. We did well with one GRSP and I feel like the light was a little bit better than when I was there on Friday.
GRASSHOPPER SPARROW – APPALACHIAN TRAIL, VERNON NJ, 6/29/14
I was off work today, but I am in the middle of painting my house so I only got out very briefly this morning. I headed over to the Appalachian Trail where it intersects Route 94 in Vernon NJ. I was shown this spot last year by Judy Cinquina and the “New Jersey Crew” and I can’t thank them enough. It is a really great spot to bird this time of year, with GRASSHOPPER SPARROWS being the highlight. There were at least 2 present and likely a third. It is also an amazing place for Prairie Warblers, last year I only got distant looks, but this year I got much closer looks and some photos too. Finally, it is also a great place for Field Sparrows, with nice close looks.
Here’s my list for the day:
Great Blue Heron 1
Yellow-billed Cuckoo 1
Red-bellied Woodpecker 1
Willow Flycatcher 1
American Crow 2
Barn Swallow 5
Black-capped Chickadee 3
Wood Thrush 2
American Robin 4
Gray Catbird 4
Northern Mockingbird 2
European Starling 3
Prairie Warbler 6
Field Sparrow 6
Grasshopper Sparrow 2
Northern Cardinal 2
Indigo Bunting 2
Common Grackle 3
Today a DEC worker located six BLACK-BELLIED WHISTLING-DUCKS at Morningside Park in Sullivan County and apparently put the word out. I received a call from Ken McDermott in the early afternoon and I knew that I was going to miss my Tuesday afternoon golf league. According to Ken, this is the first sighting on record of these birds in Sullivan County. The birds were originally located on shore by the pavilion, but picked up and relocated out into the lake by the time I had arrived. The view was not too distant, but did not allow for great photos. To see good, close-ups of the birds, go to John Haas’ blog, The Bashakill Birder. It was a really great afternoon where I got to see a lot of birders I know and we all got great looks at these beautiful rarities.
So, Tricia and I spent a three day weekend down at the shore, and although the trip did not revolve around birding, we got plenty in. Our first stop was in Rehoboth Beach Delaware, where we paid my Aunt Kathy and her wife Muriel a long overdue visit. We had a great time while we were there and we all did some birding early Saturday afternoon while walking the newly completed trail in Cape Henlopen State Park that connects Rehoboth Beach to Lewes.
CAPE HENLOPEN STATE PARK, 6/14/14
We were not on the trail very long when we had one of the highlights of the day – I reached a birding milestone by seeing my 300th life bird, which happened to be a Blue Grosbeak:
I would have liked to get a better shot of my 300th lifer, but the early afternoon sun was a bit harsh, so this is my best effort. We were excited to see good numbers of Snowy Egrets, several Osprey, and a single Black Skimmer. There were many terns present, and I believe most of them were Forster’s Terns, with at least one Common Tern also. These are not birds that I am very familiar with, so there is a lot of uncertainty there. Willets were numerous and often in close enough for photos:
Another highlight of the afternoon was second life bird for me which also presented the best photo op of the day: a Brown-headed Nuthatch.
CAPE MAY POINT STATE PARK, 6/16/14
On Sunday, the only birding we did was during the ferry from Lewes DE to Cape May NJ. The only noteworthy birds during the ferry ride were three likely Wilson’s Storm-petrels. I say likely because these are birds that I have no experience with. Looks were very distant and at the time I had no idea what they could be. I snapped some ID shots with the camera and later found out that the Wilson’s is the most likely storm-petrel to be seen on those waters, and also that their flight style, which is low and back and forth across the water stopping from time to time, helps to rule out Leach’s Storm-petrel (which flies more like a nighthawk with deep jerky wingbeats).
Monday morning we headed over to Cape May Point State Park and walked the trails for a bit, where the highlight was a tern I could actually identify. We had a single BLACK TERN that proved to be one of the most difficult birds I’ve ever tried to photograph. For some reason, when that bird was in flight, my camera could not distinguish it from the background. The result was MANY blurry photos. And, even if the bird was in focus, it was tough to get the catch light in the bird’s eye. Anyway, enough whining about it, here are my best shots:
While shooting the Black Tern, we also had a Great Egret come in close:
EDWIN B. FORSYTHE NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE, 6/16/14
The Edwin B. Forsythe NWR was by far our most productive birding of the weekend. Things started out well when just off the dock at the start of the loop, we got super looks at a Marsh Wren doing the splits:
Moments later we saw a pair of CLAPPER RAILS, yet another life bird for the weekend:
As we started our way around the loop, I was hearing a call that I’d never heard before. We stopped the car and I found the source: a SEASIDE SPARROW! Another life bird!
We continued around the loop and although we did not have any out of the ordinary birds, we got plenty of great looks at some fabulous birds. I finally got a decent shot of a tern, I believe this is Forster’s Tern:
I also got decent shots of a couple of my favorites; a Black-crowned Night Heron and a Glossy Ibis.
Most of the way around the loop, I was hoping for a close look at a BLACK SKIMMER. Finally, while shooting the above night heron, a skimmer flew in nearby…
…and I was able to get a shot of it doing its thing:
What a great weekend with some awesome birds! It was a shame for it to be over and have to drive home on a Sunday night…
UPDATE: I’ve been sick all day with a sore throat/cold thing, so I did not get through the weekend’s photos. Hopefully I can finish them up and post tomorrow…
Tricia and I spent a three day weekend down at the shore, mixing some birding in with a nice getaway. We hit Cape Henlopen State Park in Rehoboth Beach DE, Cape May Point State Park, and the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in Galloway, NJ. I took a TON of photos, so it will take some time to sift through them all. I hope to have a complete post together for tomorrow night, but we shall see. Until then, here is my lifer CLAPPER RAIL, one of the first birds we saw at the Edwin B. Forsythe NWR:
After work today I walked the Appalachian Trail Pochuck Section for the first time this year. I had forgotten how good the trail was for Swamp Sparrows, so in spite of the poor light and the rain I got some decent shots. I was hoping that the Marsh Wrens would have nested near the boardwalk like they did last year, but no such luck. In addition to the the SWSPs and MAWRs, all the birds I saw were expected species, with a highlight being a couple of Green Herons.
QUICK POST TODAY: I walked the trails out at Shawangunk Grasslands this morning with Karen Miller, Linda Scrima, Maria Loukeris, and Sharon Scavotto. We all did well with many photos of Bobolink and Savannah Sparrows. Grasshopper Sparrows were heard and seen, but with distant looks. Eastern Meadowlarks were mostly heard, though we did see a handful, but again nothing in close. No American Kestrels were seen by the group in the three hours we were there, and no Upland Sandpipers either. We did get an Upland Sandpiper on our way home – perched on a fence post. It was a distant but good look and I believe it was a life bird for everyone in the group except myself. It was a successful morning of birding and bird photography – I can’t wait to see everyone’s shots.
In the past week, I made it out to Sterling Forest State Park FIVE times in hopes of seeing one of the Yellow-breasted Chats that has been reported out there. Last Saturday, Maria Loukeris and I walked several of the trails at the park, after seeing several reports on eBird the week before. We came up empty-handed. Our best bird of the day was a Prairie Warbler located on the trail at the end of Ironwood Drive.
On Monday I received a text from Rob Stone; he had located a YBCH on the road that leads into Laurel Meadow Ponds in Sterling Forest SP. After work, as I raced over to the park, John Haas phoned to let me know he had located the bird as well. When I arrived, I immediately heard what I believed was the bird. Try as I might, I never located the bird. At one point, I identified the tree that the bird was in. I was catching glimpses of movement but never got a good look at the bird. Eventually, I wasn’t hearing the bird anymore and even later still, I started to doubt if I had heard it in the first place! On Tuesday, it was more of the same, I heard the bird early on and never located it, then the doubts crept in again. I tried again on Wednesday and Thursday evenings, but on both days I never even heard the bird. The highlight of Thursday’s outing was having two pairs of Blue-winged Warblers giving chase all around me on the trail at high speed. They were completely oblivious to my presence, whipping right by my head many times and perching (very briefly!) very close by. I managed to get a couple decent shots:
Of course, I took photos all week as I was going for the Yellow-breasted Chat, but really it was sort of an uneventful week of birding. Here are some shots from the week:
I finally made it out to one of my favorite places to bird this weekend – the Shawangunk Grasslands. On Saturday evening, Tricia and I met Karen Miller out there for a brief visit before going out to dinner. Then, I made it back out this morning and for over three hours, I walked the trails (which are now called the Tabor Trace – named for Ralph Tabor who does everything that needs to be done out there). It is a great time of year to be at the grasslands, the place is loaded with great birds: Bobolinks, Eastern Meadowlarks, and Savannah Sparrows are numerous and offer plenty of photo opportunities. There is also the possibility to see fantastic birds like Upland Sandpipers and Grasshopper Sparrows, and these two species were at the top of my list this morning. My best birds at the grasslands were by far the 4 GRASSHOPPER SPARROWS I had out there. The highlight of the day, however, did not occur at the grasslands. There is a spot, not far from the grasslands, that is good for getting Upland Sandpipers. I followed Ralph, Scotty Baldinger, and Gene McGarry over, and Ralph immediately located an UPLAND SANDPIPER! I jumped out of the car to see the bird and get some photos. Sadly, I am disappointed in my results, but still it was great to get such a good look at the bird. Shortly after that, Ralph and Scotty moved further up the road and located 2 more UPLAND SANDPIPERS! They were a bit distant for photos but still awesome to see.
I did better with photos while I was at the grasslands, so here they are, by species: