Awesome Birding in New Jersey, 01/27/18

~A Merlin posed nicely for us in good light at Round Valley Reservoir, 01/27/18.~

This morning Maria Loukeris, Linda Scrima, and I headed to Round Valley Reservoir in Hunterdon County, NJ. Our target bird was an EARED GREBE that has been reported there recently. Initially it did not look good – the bird was reportedly keeping company with several Horned Grebes; we located the group of birds, but they were miles out and terribly backlit. One certainly looked different and was presumable the Eared Grebe, but the birds were just too distant to be sure. We decided to bird the reservoir in hopes that we would get better looks, and eventually we did. The Eared Grebe was with 8 Horned Grebes; we enjoyed good scope looks and took distant, backlit, documentary photos. It was a life bird for all 3 of us, so that was exciting. Other highlights included 3 Red-necked Grebes, nearly a dozen Lesser Black-backed Gulls, and a good photo op with a Merlin as we were leaving.

~A pair of American Coots at Round Valley Reservoir, 01/27/18.~
~The EARED GREBE is the bird farthest to the left; with 8 Horned Grebes, Round Valley Reservoir, 01/27/18.~

As we were leaving, Maria checked her phone and saw that a GYRFALCON (!!!) had been reported at (location removed, see post update below)! We rushed over, stopping at 2 wrong spots before finally finding the right location. The place was loaded with birders and photographers, and thankfully, the Gyrfalcon was still present, sitting in the sun on a distant dead snag perch in the reservoir. The bird was a dark morph Gyrfalcon, and scope views of this big, beautiful bird were excellent but photos were again on the documentary side. Not long after our arrival, the bird took off and we did not see it again.

~Maria got the best shot of the GYRFALCON,  Warren County NJ, 01/27/18. Photo by Maria Loukeris.~

Meanwhile, in the water there was a vast array of waterfowl, including an estimated 5,000 Snow Geese. We started looking through the birds and I was able to locate 4 GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GEESE! I was stoked to find them and we got the other birders present on them. Shortly after that, another birder located a GLAUCOUS GULL! That would be a lifer for me, so I rushed over to his scope to view. I then got the bird in my scope and was able to take some digiscoped shots with Linda and Maria’s phones (my phone had a meltdown for some reason and was completely dead). I couldn’t believe and big, white, and beautiful that gull was, it really was some bird. It’s not very often these days that I can get a single life bird, not to mention two in one day. The GLGU was life bird #390 for me.

~Wow! Big, beautiful bird! GLAUCOUS GULL, Warren County NJ , 01/27/18. Digiscoped pic, using Maria’s iPhone.~

A ROSS’S GOOSE was located by other birders a couple different times in the mass of Snow Geese; unfortunately none of us were able to get on that bird and it seemed that the bird was being lost almost as soon as it was found. There were plenty of other waterfowl present, including: Canada Geese, Mallards, American Black Ducks, Northern Pintails, Canvasbacks, Redheads, Ring-necked Ducks, Buffleheads, Hooded Mergansers, and a single Common Goldeneye. The flock of Snow Geese put on a nice show, picking up and putting back down several time while were there. Huge thanks to Maria for suggesting we take the trip down, it was truly an incredible day of birding with good friends, beautiful weather, and amazing birds.

POST UPDATE: When I entered my lists to eBird, the Gyrfalcon came up as a sensitive species, so reports won’t be made public. With that in mind, I have removed the location from this post, I figure it’s best to err on the side of caution with these things.  Also, after looking at our photos, it looks like we had a TUNDRA SWAN at Round Valley Reservoir; thanks to Maria for digging in and figuring it out.  I’ve included a photo at the bottom of this post. 

~Four GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GEESE  in Warren County, NJ  01/27/18. Digiscoped image using Linda’s iPhone.~
~Snow Geese putting on a show, Warren County, NJ 01/27/18.~
~A female Bufflehead takes a dive at Round Valley Reservoir, 01/27/18.~
~Tundra Swan following a Mute Swan, Round Valley Reservoir, 01/27/18.~

8 thoughts on “Awesome Birding in New Jersey, 01/27/18”

  1. Matt,
    Now THAT was a great day!!! Congratulations on the EAGR and the GLGU, your two lifers but also the good fortune to also see the Gyr. That’s one of those rare days that will live on in your memory! A second cycle like your GLGU is always a stunningly brilliant bird and a wonderful find. You have a big advance for a top number of year birds. May those type rewards continue throughout the year.

    1. You put it perfectly, Ken. I wanted to write something similar in the blog post, but I couldn’t come up with the right words. Matt

  2. How wonderful! I so enjoyed reading about your discoveries throughout the day and sharing vicariously in your adventures with Linda and Maria! Congratulations, Matt, on getting your two life birds and on the other great finds on your New Jersey Trip.

  3. Had to go to a swim meet in the A.M so could not get out until the early afternoon.Went to the Jersey North Shore where I picked up the Eurasian Widgeon and red necked grebe. Struck out on the tufted duck and western grebe. You had a great day at Merril Creek. Some good birds have been seen there over the years. Saw my life Sabine’s gull there as well as my New Jersey brown booby

    1. I was talking about it yesterday, Bruce, it’s crazy how rare birds seem to find certain locations, it’s like they got the memo. Good to hear from you. Matt

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