Page 1 of 1

1st Half of 2016 - The Birds

Posted: August 10th, 2016, 12:06 pm
by intermedius
Hey there,

Here's some of the birds that I photographed this year, largely from the states of New Jersey and New York.

I am beginning to enjoy watching birds as much as I enjoy herping. The avian community I have been associating with in my neck of the woods (New Jersey) is a very supportive group of individuals. Additionally, it can be less stressful and less back-breaking in the northeast than the active search for herps. Birdwatching also gives me something to do that is "outside-related" during the winter, when snakes and salamanders are be few and far between. It is great to enjoy an hour outside in the local park, listening to the calls of Chickadees and Titmice.

Furthermore, it is fun and rewarding to chase rarities. There is something strange and awe-inspiring to see a bird that went off-course hundreds of miles away and somehow landed a few miles away from my backyard.

So without further ado, here are some of the highlights of the first half of 2016.

ImageBald Eagle by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

During the winter I discovered one of my new favorite birding spots. A sewage plant that supports warblers, swallows and other songbirds throughout the winter due to the constant supply of insects that are able to breed in the stinky soup of the plant's ponds. This year we had seven species of warblers wintering, much to the enjoyment of the local birders.

Subsequently, I spent trips to the plant to find all seven of them. Sometimes I was the only one there, other times dozens of photographers and locals would sit along the road as Palm Warblers flew two meters above our heads plucking midges from branches. The only one I failed to photograph was the elusive Orange-crowned Warbler, which showed itself from the depths of some brushes for a shocking three and a half seconds. Typical.

ImageNashville Warbler by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

ImageYellow Warbler by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

ImageYellow-rumped Warbler by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

ImageYellow-throated Warbler by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

ImagePalm Warbler by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

ImagePine Warbler by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

The plant also provided crippling views of some resident Ruby-crowned Kinglets, providing once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunities.

ImageRuby-crowned Kinglet by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

Local residents were also observed.

ImageCarolina Chickadee by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

ImageNorthern Flicker (Yard Bird) by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

ImageCommon Grackle by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

ImageNorthern Cardinal by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

Some more birds from an annual trip to Long Beach Island, NJ.

ImageHerring Gull by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

ImageRed-breasted Merganser by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

ImageCommon Loon by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

ImageRed-throated Loon by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

ImageDunlin by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

ImagePurple Sandpiper by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

ImageLong-tailed Duck by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

ImageBlack Scoter by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

ImageSnow Buntings by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

Some celebrity birdwatchers were there as well.

ImageRichard Crossley by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

The main reason why we go there every year - Harlequin Ducks!

ImageHarlequin Duck by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

ImageHarlequin Duck by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

A few Sandhill Cranes winter in New Jersey, usually along corn fields and marshes around the coast. A few spent early March in Salem County, close to the Delaware Border. We found a pair, foraging in a field around the vast expanse of Sod Farms and Marsh. Lots of other early migrants and winterers were seen along the way.

ImageSandhill Crane by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

ImageSandhill Cranes by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

ImageEastern Phoebe by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

ImageRed-winged Blackbird by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

ImageWild Turkey by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

ImageEastern Bluebird by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

ImageAmerican Woodcock by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

ImageFox Sparrow by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

ImageNorthern Harrier by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

ImageOsprey by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

ImageMerlin by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

ImageCooper's Hawk by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

ImageNorthern Gannet by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

A Harris's Sparrow, resided over the winter in a small section of town just ten minutes from my house. These birds are denizens of Canada and the Great Plains. A few have been recorded over the winter around the east coast. This one was the second ever record for Mercer County (my home county). Naturally, I went to chase the bird. I ended up getting it after a three tries through my scope. So before the weather heated up and the bird flew off to wherever it came from, I wanted to photograph it.

I drove to the spot and greeted the neighbors, who were well used to the celebrity status of the bird, and waved. I was joined by twelve other twitchers, all camped out in their cars. After two hours, the skittish Zonotrichia popped out from some brambles, and gave crippling views.

ImageHarris's Sparrow by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

ImageHarris's Sparrow by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

The sparrow ended up staying until early May, and attracted several pilgrimages of birders. While taking a few friends of mine out to chase the sparrow, I ended up with some significant bycatch of local rarities: Cackling Goose, Rusty Blackbird, Wilson's Snipe, Bonaparte's Gull, and some extremely early Barn Swallows

ImageCackling Goose by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

ImageRusty Blackbird by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

ImageEastern Meadowlark by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

ImageBonaparte's Gull by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

Everything went berserk when April swung around. Migration was early by a week or two, and lots of birds were showing up. The first warblers around were the Palms, Pines, Black-and-Whites, Louisiana Waterthrush, and Yellow-rumps. Then the regular breeders: Common Yellowthroat, Yellow, Ovenbirds, Prairie, Hooded, Worm-eating, Blue-winged, Chestnut-sided and Redstarts. The migrants showed up around then too, with the gnatcatchers, vireos, thrushes and grosbeaks.

I took every opportunity I had to try and find warblers. Senioritis may or may not have been an influence. It was somewhat successful, as I racked up many targets as they passed through: Northern Waterthrush, Blackburnian Warbler, Bay-breasted Warbler, Kentucky Warbler, Cerulean Warbler, and Canada Warbler. There was also a significant "Thrush-fest" around my local woods.

ImageLouisiana Waterthrush by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

ImageWood Thrush by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

ImageBlack-throated Blue Warbler by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

ImageHooded Warbler by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

ImageVeery by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

ImageOvenbird by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

ImageCanada Warbler by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

ImageGray-cheeked Thrush by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

ImageSwainson's Thrush by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

In Late April, I had several raptors fly above me heading north as well. One quick lunchbreak which turned into a hawkwatch resulted in two bald eagles, three red-tails and an early pair of Broad-winged Hawks soaring high. eBird reports had two flying north using the Delaware as their flyway the day before. I had my suspicions.

ImageBroad-winged Hawk by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

The icing on the cake was a Common Raven, which briefly soared past my head on its way northwest. This was my first experience with this bird, I am never north enough to see them. We are just at the edge of their range.

ImageCommon Raven by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

The best rarity I've chased so far in New Jersey was this Fork-tailed Flycatcher (an ABA Code 3 bird). Fork-tails are legendary in New Jersey, and have attained mythical status for twitchers and chasers. They come from a foreign land: Central and South America, flying here accidentally thousands of miles away. And they usually only stick for a few hours, then fly off, never to be seen again. Luckily for us, a Fork-tailed showed up and stayed for two weeks just 40 minutes from my house, enthralling local birders. Even a few "Big Year" birders came to see the rarity.

One of the highlights of this bird was the bright yellow crest on top of its nape. This feature is uncommon in vagrant Fork-tails, making this rarity even more special.

ImageFork-tailed Flycatcher by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

Mid-May was just as equally overwhelming as my "migration madness". The Shorebirds had invaded, and warblers were pouring in as perfect winds navigated them through Cape May. We were there along the peninsula for the World Series of Birding, a friendly competition and fundraiser where teams compete to find the most species of birds in the state in a 24-hour period. Our team stuck to Cape May County, and racked up a total of 160 species, smashing our previous record! We were blown away by the spectacle. Sadly, we were trying to keep a pace, so we could not stop and take too many photographs. Highlights included Mourning Warbler, Kentucky Warbler, White-rumped Sandpiper, Stilt Sandpiper, Cattle Egret, and a Black Tern flying over us as a thunderstorm rattled through.

ImageIndigo Bunting by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

ImageYellow-billed Cuckoo by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

ImageCattle Egret by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

ImageYellow-breasted Chat by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

ImageShort-billed Dowitcher by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

ImageStilt Sandpiper by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

Around June, two more rare birds showed up for the first time in my county. The first was a Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, a saltwater waterbird, which is abundant around the Jersey Shore. Inland records are more sparse. A local office building had reported the heron to eBird, so I went to see if the bird was there. Instead of a convoluted chase, I ended up seeing it point blank.

ImageYellow-crowned Night-heron by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

The second rare bird during June was a Dickcissel, a great plains bird that breeds in grasslands and meadows. This difficulty of this chase was much harder than the heron. The bird had a huge field of brambles and grass to hide in, and did not appear interested in singing. The stakeout lasted forty-five minutes. By that time, several other birders had joined in the search. We ended up seeing the bird, which gave us views for around 5-10 seconds before swooping down out of our sights. A few hours after I left, another party of birders got better views and were able to photo-document the bird. Instead of a Dickcissel photo, the consolation prize was one of a Blue Grosbeak.

ImageBlue Grosbeak by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

The conclusion to this post was a trip to the Adirondack Mountains of New York. This was largely an opportunity for the extended family to see eachother, and spend some time together and celebrate some birthdays and graduations. But I did do my best to try and observe some birds as we did some sightseeing.

ImageRed-breasted Nuthatch by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

ImageHooded Merganser and Chicks by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

A particular species of bird that was high on my target list is found on a particular high-elevated mountain in the Adirondacks, where there is alpine spruce and fir. When we visited the mountain as tourists, I trained my ears to see if I could listen for the bird's call. This proved difficult.

ImageLake Placid viewed from Whiteface Mountain by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

ImageYellow-rumped Warbler by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

Then at last as we descended, I heard this particular bird's call "whee-wheeoo-ti-ti-whee!". Then again, until a robust brown bird popped out from one of the small strands of spruce trees.

Target acquired: Bicknell's Thrush!

ImageBicknell's Thrush by Justin (NoNameKey), on Flickr

And that concludes my first half of birds from this year. I hope you enjoyed my photographs and reports.

Thank you for viewing.

- Justin

Re: 1st Half of 2016 - The Birds

Posted: August 10th, 2016, 12:38 pm
by Brian Hubbs
Wow Justin, looks like I need to make a trip to the northeast one of these days...

Re: 1st Half of 2016 - The Birds

Posted: August 10th, 2016, 5:25 pm
by intermedius
Thanks Brian! Lots of birds/herps I would love to see around your area too.

- Justin

Re: 1st Half of 2016 - The Birds

Posted: August 10th, 2016, 8:23 pm
by Brian Hubbs
Well, we have lots of Blue Grosbeaks, but I haven't gotten as nice a shot of one as you did. They like to fly away if you get within a half mile of them... :lol: so what has happened to Chrish? I put up a pic for him and he's nowhere to be found. Must be globe trotting again...