I am blessed to have taken over a count that pretty much runs itself. Our 9 parties are led by some of the absolute best birders in New Jersey.
Our area started out well with some big #'s of land birds. My group was 3 folks - my buddy Mike and a woman from nearby Freehold who apparantly has had a Rufous Hummingbird in her yard since September! The highlight of the morning was an adult Red-shouldered Hawk that flew eye-level about 15 feet in front of us. It would be the only one for the count. Unfortunately, the water in our area was mostly frozen except for two small patches. Fortunately, those patches did hold birds: Northern Shovelers, Coots, Ruddy Ducks, Hooded Mergs, Gadwall, Black Ducks, Mallards, and of course, Canada Geese. We tried our darndest to find a Cackling Goose, but no luck. The afternoon saw a whole lot of walking with not a whole lot of birds. We only found a few new species and small #'s of everything else. The highlight of the afternoon was a single Brown Creeper that was the only one seen on the count.
Our pizza party round-up was terrific. After downing some delicious pizza, we did our checklist. Our total came to 124 species - two species higher than last year. Highlights were:
- Over 56,000 birds - highest totals being Canada Geese, Brant, Starlings, and Herring Gulls
- 3 Boat-tailed Grackles - a first for this count
- A Greater White-fronted Goose AND two Cackling Geese
- A high count of Northern Gannets - over 1650! The previous high was 800.
- Other rare waterfowl: Common Eider, Eurasian Wigeon, and Red-necked Grebe
- Glaucous, Iceland, and Lesser Black-backed Gull
- Long-eared Owl
- 9 Bald Eagles - a record high for the count
- An Orange-crowned Warbler - only the 11th sighting in 74 years of the count
- 12 species of sparrow including Vesper, Savannah, White-crowned, Fox, American Tree, and Chipping
In my opinion, the one big miss was Common Goldeneye - a bird that's been seen on 66 of the previous 73 counts.
Special thanks to the Wreck Pond Watershed Association for their donation of the facility.
Full species list:
Grtr White-frnt Goose
Am Black Duck
Great Blue Heron
Less. Blck-bckd Gull
Grt. Blck-bckd Gull
E. Screech Owl
Great Horned Owl
Am. Tree Sparrow