Saturday, 10 June 2017

Birding in New Jersey 9th - 25th May 2017

Whilst in New Jersey helping out with the Delaware Bay Knot project, the house we were staying on was located immediately on Reeds Beach, giving us daily great views of the Knot, Sanderling, Turnstone and Semipalmated Plover, with the odd Willet, plus the 5am hoards of Laughing Gulls that were often the cause of the morning wake up call.

Red Knot, Ruddy Turnstone and Laughing Gulls

plus some Semipalmated Sandpipers

and Sanderling.

They would be joined by a number of American Herring and Greater Black-backed Gull that took to feeding on many of the upturned Horseshoe Crabs.

Greater Black-backed Gull

One day a a dead Drum Fish turned up on the beach after the high winds and was food, not just for the Gulls, but also a Turkey Vulture.

Turkey Vulture on Reed's Beach

During our first few days we were taken out to a few local sites by Gerry who along with Gwen had been coming to help out on the project for a number of years. Gerry is quite an active birder from Ontario, so knew a number of local sites and all the bird calls.

The first day (10th) was spent at the New Jersey Audubon's Cape May Bird Observatory - Centre for Research and Education where a series of presentations were being given. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds came into the feeders, and that evening we went to the nearby Jake's Landing where throughout our visit Black Rail(s) could be heard calling, often distantly, but sometimes closer. American bird listing also heavily includes heard birds, but for someone that mainly does it on a visual basis there is little chance of any potential sightings. There were a few Marsh Wren and Saltmarsh Sparrows in the area, and whilst listening to the Black Rail, a Great Horned Owl flew out of the adjacent woods.

The next day (11th) Gerry took us to Belleplaine State Forest, one of the better areas for breeding Warblers and migrants away from the coastal migration spots. This is when you get a perspective on why the US birders rely on calls and song. The woods were quite busy with bird life, Poison Ivy and ticks, so birding from the road is the preferred option to specifically going into the forest to track down the birds for views. We did though get to see Scarlet and Summer Tanagers, Prothonotary, Pine, Prairie, Hooded, Black & White, Blackpoll Warblers and Ovenbird, White-eyed Vireo and Blue Grosbeak, plus Carolina Chickadee and Yellow-throated Warblers which were both new birds for us.

Afterwards we had a run up to Heislerville WMA which at high tide holds a very large roost of waders of mainly Short-billed Dowitchers, Dunlin and Semipalmated Plovers, with a few Grey Plovers, Willet plus the odd Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs and Spotted Sandpipers, along with Black Skimmers.

High tide roost

The main reason for the visit was to try and locate the vagrant Little Egret, which we did in due course, Gerry's second on this side of the pond.

The 12th found us all at Avalon where there is a breakwater into the Atlantic which had two late remaining Purple Sandpipers avoiding a very choppy sea, which brought 38 Northern Gannets in close enough to be visible.

Purple Sandpiper

A local sports field held some Pale-bellied Brent Geese, and nearby there was a colony of Yellow-crowned Night Herons, of which four birds were visible.

Pale-bellied Brent Geese.

The 14th had us make a brief return visit to Heislerville WMA partly to see the Slavonian (Horned) Grebe we'd missed, plus a Greater Scaup that caused a bit of debate between it being Greater or Lesser.

Great Egret

The 15th took us down to Higbee WMA which yielded Purple Martin and Cliff Swallow, Northern Parula and Yellow-rumped Warbler, Orchard Oriole and Field Sparrow. A Black Vulture, the less common of the two Vultures seen in NJ drifted over the car whilst on Cape May Island.

On the 16th, a quick visit to Beavers Swamp WMA produced a couple of Sandhill Cranes, Green Heron, a single Gull-billed Tern, Carolina Wren and Wilson's Warbler. Clapper Rail, one of a few seen during the later high tides was seen at Reeds Beach and a visit to Jake's Landing provided Magnolia Warbler in the woods.

On one of the count visits to Moore's Beach on the 17th we had the only Saltmarsh Sparrow of the trip up and showing in song, another new bird for us, along with at least 10 Seaside Sparrows on one of the few more or less windless days of the visit.

Seaside Sparrow

During another count visit on 18th at Norbury Landing we had three Royal Terns.

Royal Terns 

Immature Bald Eagle on the beach

Turnstone digging for eggs on the beach

Foster's Terns

Another visit on 19th to Heislerville WMA to join up with the Semipalmated Sandpiper ringing team and we had the usual gathering of birds.

Short-billed Dowitcher

Bald Eagle

Black Skimmer

A Black Scoter appeared on Reeds Beach on the 20th

Black Scoter

A visit back to do counts at Moore's Beach on 21st produced Swamp Sparrow

Willet (Eastern) Moore's Beach road

Belleplaine SF on 21st produced Acadian Flycatcher and Worm Eating Warbler, plus an un-seen but heard Kentucky Warbler.

Another visit on 23rd added Alder Flycatcher and Wood Thrush with a Northern Flicker out in the middle of the marsh at Moore's Beach feeding on the track.

The 24th saw us pay a visit to Stone Harbour Point where a few Piping Plover still breed, with three seen on the beach as the tide receded.

American Oystercatcher

Lesser Black-backed Gull

On the way back at Mummy Island there were two Little Blue and two Tricoloured Herons, and a Wilson's Snipe.

Tricoloured Heron

Black-crowned Night Heron

The last visit was on the 25th to South Cape May Meadow Preserve to see a late American Wigeon, seen briefly before disappearing out of sight.

Song Sparrow, on Reed's Beach in the house garden.

Northern Mockingbird, another common bird on and 
around the beaches.

Wild Turkey that were often seen on roadsides.