Saturday, May 30, 2009

Monk Parakeets

As I reported a few months ago, Monk Parakeets have officially been added to the NJ state checklist of birds. The "lister" in me finally had a chance to see them and count them for my state list. There are two populations I know of. There's a fairly large population in Edgewater, about an hour and 15 minutes from me. There's a much smaller population in Carteret - about 20 minutes from me and within my county. My friend's grandson has been monitoring two nests in Carteret and I went to see one today. As is typical of this species in urban habitats, the nest is on a telephone pole. I saw one adult perched with nesting material next to the nest, but he quickly entered the nest. I waited about 10 minutes and two adults emerged and took off to points unknown. I waited a bit, but did not see any more activity. I had to get home, so that was that! Here's a look at the massive nest.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Trap, Neuter, and Release: Bad for Cats, Disaster for Birds

If you don't get the American Bird Conservancy's email newsletter, you may not have gotten a chance to see this video about the Trap, Neuter, Release programs implemented in many cities around the country.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Becoming a more local birder

When it comes to birding locally or having a "local patch", I am ashamed to say that it's not something I've embraced. Is it because I don't have any good habitat nearby? Not at all - there are some decent parks around and even a darn good one on a major river on my way to work. I've never once stopped there to bird before work. :( No I don't have any excuse. There are terrific grasslands 20 minutes away, marshes nearby, and a bayfront not too far away.

For some reason, I'm always willing to default to a 45 minute drive to bird at Sandy Hook. It's partially because I like the social element of birding there where I'm bound to run into other birders - and usually ones I know. It's also a place I feel comfortable and I know it well.

With Baby Julian (did I mention he has a name?) coming in September, I know that birding closer to home will become a necessity. I'm going to embrace it fully. I've already began researching local spots, checking out Google maps, and talking to friends. I'd like to concentrate on my home county of Middlesex County even though I'm on the border of a county that has a lot better habitat (and a fall hawkwatch). Middlesex County, in my opinion, is very underbirded except for a small handful of locations. It's mostly developed, but has some interesting waterfront areas, a major river, some nice swamps, and even an odd remnant piece of Pine Barrens habitat (more on that in a future post). It's a pretty large county by NJ standards too. So, stay tuned for future posts highlighting some of these locations and the birds I find along the way. My one big question is... Can someone tell me where there is decent grassland habitat in this county!?

Monday, May 25, 2009

GREAT Swamp Birding

Last week, an adult White Ibis was found at the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. There are only a handful of inland records of this species and I had never seen one in NJ (despite there being a few sightings of one last year). Sunday was a beautiful morning, so I headed out early to the spot where it had been seen most regularly. A few other birders were around and we all waited patiently for the bird to show with no luck. Other birds were there for our enjoyment though. Lots of Yellow Warblers were around and I was able to get a good shot of one.

I also saw Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Yellow-billed Cuckoo (a pic not worth publishing - it's so bad!), Swamp Sparrow, and several Green Herons. The highlight while waiting for the Ibis was a gorgeous singing Mourning Warbler. I've never had such good views of this bird even on breeding grounds in the Adirondaks. He was a bit too skittish for my camera, but I was able to get a shot.

At this time, a gentleman with a camera approached us. He mentioned that he had seen the White Ibis from a blind a few miles away and showed us a photo on his camera. So, another birder and I zoomed over to the boardwalk trails where the blind is located. On a mission, we booked down the trail to the blind where a couple pointed us to the White Ibis. Albeit distant and hunkered down in the marsh, we were all able to enjoy great looks. See my horrid photo below. If you want great looks at this bird, the best place to see them is Disney World. They are EVERYWHERE there. All in all, a nice morning out.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Potential new birding TV show

Richard Crossley, birder and author, has been working on a proposal for a new TV show about birding in the city. Animal Planet is interested, but they are surveying people to see if there really is a market for the show. Watch the five minute preview and then fill out the survey to let them know what you think.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Bay - the color, not the place

Beth and I had a discussion on the term "bay" as in "Bay-breasted Warbler" today. I had crippling views (as the Brits would say) of one yesterday at Sandy Hook. I was without camera of course due to an insane amount of fog and mist. Of course, the mist lifted momentarily and gave pretty decent light on the warbler. Ugh. Anyway, Beth had never heard the term "bay" used to describe a color, so I did some research. It's a term typically reserved for the brown color in horses and typically those with a black mane contrasting with the brown body. Here are some photos for comparison.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

World Series of Birding Recap

Ok, so I'm a few days late for the 100th I & The Bird, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't go read it. Good job Nate!

So the World Series of Birding has come and gone. In a year of excitement and non-birding life craziness, the WSB didn't have the same sense of anticipation for me as it has in the past. Regardless, it was a phenomenal day at Sandy Hook filled with splendid birds and terrific company. I think I look forward to seeing the people more than the birds, honestly. Not to bore you with a long play-by-play, I'll list some of the highlights and lowlights of the day. You'll have to wait until the end to see our results. Also, I was a slacker as a photographer on Sat. so I have nothing to share.

  • It was more or less a weather miracle. Forecasts were for rain in the morning and we never got a drop.
  • The biggest highlight for me is an easy one: Two Mississippi Kites flew over our group at different times (maybe the same bird). This was a state bird for me.
  • Both Glaucous and Iceland Gulls - For me, this has been the best year for white-winged gulls that I can recall in the last 10 years. I had never seen Glaucous at Sandy Hook and it made a long "death march" well worth it.
  • A stunning Blackburnian Warbler (photo below) visited us during dinner right in front of the Sandy Hook Bird Observatory building. The funny thing is that a Blackburnian visited us during lunch several years back.

  • The world's most abiding Clapper Rail gave everyone great looks during lunch.
  • Two Bald Eagles were seen by the group, plus I had another one later in the day with a smaller group.
  • Singing Chuck-will's-widows were a first for me at the Hook
  • A Yellow-breasted Chat was seen by some of the group, but I missed it. I haven't seen one in a few years. I sat there for 15 minutes at the location where many people saw it and never saw it.
  • A big wall of fog hung over the northern part of Sandy Hook early in the morning which may have hindered the bird activity.
  • Not everyone heard about this, but a mystery flycatcher was seen by a reliable observer who was not part of our team. The best guess was a Streaked/Sulphur-bellied type. It was not seen again.
  • SUNBURN! I was stupid and didn't put sunblock on. I was quite colorful when I got home.
Our total for the day was 134 species - a total I'd stack up against any other 7 mile by .5 mile stretch of land in the US.
(Thanks to Bob for the photo - I was a photo slacker on Sat.)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A pause in our regular programming

Baby boy Belardo pics below! We have decided to name him Julian Patrick. Bobolink was a close second in name choices. :) I owe you all (and myself) a post about the World Series. Yikes, I might miss the deadline for IATB 100...

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Baby Belardo and the WSB

It has thus been determined that Baby Belardo is a boy! Let the blue clothing pour in.

The World Series of Birding is this Saturday. It came on quick this year. After the great fun and success of the Super Bowl of Birding in January, I wanted to have a team of bloggers and do a whole state run. Well, schedules of the members of the Super Bowl teams didn't work out (except for Christopher) and my schedule wasn't cooperating, so I decided to delay an all-blogger WSB run for next year. I just didn't have time to do any real scouting and planning. Some may say it will be even harder next year with Baby Boy Belardo, but I will make the time. So, this year, I will be once again be assisting with the "Sandy Hook Century Run." We'll try to see how many species we can see only at Sandy Hook. Check out last year's results. Wish us luck and wish us GOOD WEATHER!!!

Monday, May 04, 2009

Favorite Warbler Song?

Ok, time for a poll. What's your favorite warbler song? Let's stick with North American wood warblers. It's a tough call, but I think I'm going to go with Blackburnian.

Citizen Science

CNN has an article on citizen science today.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

A miserable rainy day grebe

It seems yesterday was the day to be out birding after seeing the amazing reports from Garret Mountain (a popular migrant trap in northern NJ). Unfortunately, TODAY was the day I chose to go birding. We had a potluck gathering for all Sandy Hook Bird Observatory volunteers. There was a great turnout despite a steady rain that was quite heavy at times. The highlight of the day, for me, was a breeding-plumaged Red-necked Grebe in Spermaceti Cove. That plumage is a fairly rare sight in NJ and it's the first time I've ever seen it. Sorry, no pics due to the rain. The second highlight was the food. I should have taken photos of that! It was quite the spread.

Friday, May 01, 2009

May Day

Today is May Day and I will be celebrating by working, then maybe birding if it stops raining, and then taking a whole week off of work to just chill and do some work around the house. I'll definitely be birding too next week. In honor of May Day and being the big hockey fan I am, check out one of my favorite hockey calls ever.