Archive for Bird Counts
This was our first Big Sit at the Morgan Mudflats, held to benefit the Montclair Bird Club and its programs.
As always, the great challenge was placing the circle in such a way that we could take advantage of all the habitats: beach, salt marsh, open bay, and woodland edge. And as always, it was impossible to find a site that let us observe all of those habitats equally well. My original choice, backed up against the trees and with a clear view to the mouth of Morgan Creek, turned out to be the site of a new informal residential development; I don’t know whether anyone was at home in the shacks, but I decided not to test their hospitality, and moved the circle some yards up the beach towards the marsh. The move likely cost as us a few passerines–no palm warbler, no common yellowthroat–but probably affected us not at all otherwise.
By far the most conspicuous birds were Atlantic Brant, a few hundred of which grumbled and growled on the shore most of the day. The only other common waterfowl species was Green-winged Teal; flocks dropped in and dropped out continually, appearing to attract smaller gangs of other waterfowl, among them Greater Scaup, Northern Pintail, Wood Duck, and Surf and a surprise Black Scoter.
Scanning farther offshore was frustrating: the cold air and still warm water made for phenomenal heat waves, and the only “seabirds” we could pick out were Forster’s Terns. Overhead a few hawks were moving south. Cooper’s and Sharp-shinned Hawks had to work hard to outnumber Bald Eagles, and Ospreys were rarely out of sight.
Scoping distant raptors turned up two flocks of Tree Swallows, not especially late but not always easy to find in northern New Jersey in October. Small waves of Myrtle Warblers paused every few minutes in the ailanthus trees that made up our only nearby “forest.” An early flock of about 30 Pine Siskins quickly made itself scarce, but a few stopped in later in the day to feed with American Goldfinches from the phragmites and beach goldenrod.
Perhaps the most exciting passerine of the day was American Pipit. A flock of eleven arrived early in the day to feed on the beach; this is not an uncommon or an unexpected species at this season in that habitat, but it’s always a special pleasure to watch the sturdy little birds from the Arctic picking their way through the rubble.
Our day’s total of 44 species was a bit less than hoped, a bit more than expected, and inspiration enough to repeat the exercise in 2013.
Dave’s handy West Essex Birders site has its own taxonomy for the quality of a birding day, ranging from “outrageous” (positively so) to “dud.”
Our morning wasn’t exactly a dud, but I can’t say that we were subjected to all that many interruptions of a feathered kind, either, as Alison and I birded Verona and Hilltop Parks.
We did come up with 21 species, none of them rare or otherwise notable to anyone who can’t appreciate a Great Blue Heron standing motionless in the shade, a Red-tailed Hawk being blown overhead like a huge rusty leaf, or a curious White-throated Sparrow emerging, silent for once, from the brush to check us out.
We’ve had lots of good CBCs together now over the years. Wonder where next December will find us birding!
The fall season at the Montclair Hawk Watch takes off this morning. I’m hoping to drop in once or twice during the monitoring period, which ends in November.
See you there?
It was cold. It was snowy. It was anything but birdy. But it was great to be out for a day with Alison in the beautiful Kootenays.
What a great day out with Mike and Alison! We birded in Burnaby, the city immediately east of Vancouver, and spent most of the day along the Fraser River, with some forest birding in the afternoon.
It was chilly and sprinkly (and dark!) when we started shortly before 8:00, but the weather just got better and better as the day wore on, as you can see in those funny blue spaces–oh yeah, the sky!–in the photo of one of our two Pileated Woodpeckers.
We spent the morning right along the river, birding a narrow strip of parkland between the Fraser and the encroaching “industrial parks” (a real contradictio in adjecto, as Mike pointed out).
The landscape wasn’t all that appealing for most of the stretch, but the birding was good. Golden-crowned Kinglets and Pacific Wrens were with us always, and a lingering Hermit Thrush was a nice sight. Hairy Woodpecker is a species I rarely see in Vancouver for some reason, and the wonderful looks at a black-winged female feeding, uncharacteristically, on the ground, probably made that species “bird of the day” for me.
Bird of the day from the perspective of the count was a male American Kestrel on a wire at the “swinging bridge,” a great massive structure that pivots to let tugboats and barges pass up and down the river. Sadly, kestrels are rare to the point of vanishing in the Vancouver area, and the sight of that little falcon pumping his tail on the line, still so familiar in the midwest and southwest, was a novelty for us today.
It wasn’t all urban wasteland. After lunch with Brian, Janice, and Mary, we set off uphill to bird “the ravines,” a series of beautifully forested canyons cutting down through Burnaby’s south slope to the floodplain.
It was here that we found our two big woodpeckers and Alison picked up the day’s only Varied Thrushes; the Pacific coast forest in the afternoon isn’t exactly the birdiest place in the world, but the scenery was well worth the walk, especially considering how hyper-developed the surroundings.
We ended the day in Burnaby’s Central Park, a wonderful revelation in the late afternoon sunshine.
While Alison walked Gellert (he’d been very patient in the car all day), Mike and I watched the Sunday afternoon park-goers feeding Black-capped and Chestnut-backed Chickadees from the hand, and sorted through the 166 (I counted ‘em) Glaucous-winged-type Gulls to find a slightly darkish Western x Glaucous-winged Gull hybrid (or introgressant).
We also found a single Thayer’s Gull, a pretty adult.
And that was the last new species for us on a wonderful day afield. Tomorrow to the Kootenays!