As I've mentioned on here a few times before, I spent some time birding as a kid at the Great Swamp NWR with my family. When I picked up birding again 7 or so years ago, it became a regular stop for me. I took a drive down the main access road, Pleasant Plains Road, today to look for some previously reported Rough-legged Hawks.
Friday, December 28, 2007
At the heron rookery parking lot, I observed a dark bird fly and perch on top of a lone snag. Upon closer inspection, it was indeed a dark morph Rough-legged Hawk. I don't think I've ever seen a dark morph perched and I was surprised at how dark it looked - almost black. Unfortunately, a young Red-tailed Hawk came by and chased it away to claim the perch. I got to see the shape and field marks in flight.
I ran into a friend who pointed out an immature Red-headed Woodpecker working a group of distant dead trees. The Great Swamp is one of the best spots to see these in NJ. I spent a short time looking around for other birds and found some Black Vultures, more Red-tails, three more species of woodpecker (Red-bellied, Hairy, and Downy) and a group of Eastern Bluebirds. The local parking lot Mockingbird made his presence known too.
I needed to head home from my short trip but not without first finding a group of about 25 Rusty Blackbirds sitting in some trees close to the road. I think this was a year bird for me and I know the Rough-legged Hawk was. The weather couldn't have been better for a day in late December. It was almost balmy. Happy New Year and Happy Birding!