Sunday, April 6, 2014


 [Eurasian Tree Sparrow, Cape May Point, NJ, April 6, 2014.  Originally found by Rob and Lisa Fanning a couple weeks ago, this was a rare NJ lifer for me.]

"Well, I finally got the damn sparrow," I told Mike Crewe and Glen Davis, meaning no disrespect to the Eurasian Tree Sparrow that seems to have found its way to Cape May Point under its own power and was discovered there a couple weeks ago by Rob and Lisa Fanning.  Everyone's been seeing it, everyone but me it seems like, but only because I hadn't taken the time to look.  Today I did look, and got lucky.  Very lucky, because I have no patience when it comes to staked out feeder birds, and lo and behold I walked up and the bird was at the feeder for me to see and photograph. Tick. It seems to me this bird will likely be accepted as a "natural" vagrant from the St. Louis population by the NJRBC; see Mike Crewe's excellent discussion of the bird here.

The Pine Warbler photo below was also a bit of luck, in that I set up to photograph it as it fed on a Cape May Point lawn, and lo and behold once again, the bird fed its way toward me, eventually giving me full-frame photo ops.  I'll take it.
[Pine Warbler, Cape May Point, NJ this morning.]

Monday, March 31, 2014

Comfort in the Familiar

[American Robin at the National Conservation Training Center, West Virginia. I've always loved the intricate patterning on American Robins - which most people never notice.  But look at the fine markings on the face and throat.  This is one special bird.]

As alluded to in my previous post, there hasn't been much time for birds, birding or blogging of late, but this afternoon I emerged from the classroom at the National Conservation Training Center in West Virginia determined to see some nature, and was not disappointed. Four species of woodpeckers - Downy, Red-bellied, Pileated and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker - foraged right outside my room, and an Eastern Phoebe sang cheerfully from the eves.  A Red-shouldered Hawk called angrily when a Red-tailed Hawk flew overhead. "Only" the American Robins posed for photos, but that was okay.  I love robins.  A passing classmate in the training I'm taking shared the sentiment, and we paused together to watch the robins forage on the roadside lawns for a while. 

I remember talking with a geologist friend once about how we go about orienting ourselves to new or strange places.  For him, it was the rocks, the folds in the earth, and the commonality of processes that made them.  For me, it's always been the birdlife, whether watching egrets and herons in an unfamiliar African wetland or robins and woodpeckers doing what they do at a North American location.  What would we do without robins, woodpeckers, phoebes, hawks. . .

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Here It Is

[Ring-billed Gull, Norbury's Landing, NJ, March 23, 2014. Click to enlarge.]

Here it is, the one bird photo I took this weekend.  I suppose I could challenge you to think of all the reasons this isn't a third year Herring Gull or a Mew Gull, for practice, but I won't.  I think breeding plumage gulls are stunningly beautiful, common or not, which is why this Ring-billed Gull that cooperated so nicely at Norbury's Landing, NJ merited a photo.

Only one photo for a whole weekend seems to indicate a poor weekend, and birding wise it was.  Worse, I'm coming into a serious period of what will be bird-deficit-disorder (BDD) circumstances, involving three weeks worth of training, and a week of regular work, and not  lot of time or place to dally with the birds. I'll try to keep things up here at the Freiday Bird Blog, but it's going to be tough, so I ask your forbearance and encourage you to ride along until things are right again. We might be looking at this gull together for a little while, and not much else, longing for free times with arriving spring migrants to share with each other.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: Oystercatchers

[Stone Harbor Point, Sunday March 16, 2014.  Click to enlarge.]

Sunday, March 16, 2014


[Pair of Wood Ducks at "Lake Champlain," a little pond/detention basin in the Villas on Saturday March 15, 2014.]

I thought about going to Belleplain State Forest this weekend, but sensibly talked myself out of it.  Relatively speaking, Belleplain is still like a tomb in March, with only the hope of a phoebe among the few residents to break the silence of migrants yet to come.  Not the Belleplain of April or May, with its butterflies and breeding birds galore.

If it's migrants you want, March is a good time to look for ducks. So I did, and found a few.  Wood Ducks on "Lake Champlain" in the Villas, a glorified detention pond that deserves a little glory, since it was good not only for the woodies but for 3 Red-necked Grebes, shovelers, ruddies, Hooded Merg, etc.  Delaware Bay has plenty of scoters, Bufflehead, and a few more Red-necked Grebes, one can say cavalierly this winter with the big influx of the latter species, big enough that I don't even report RNGR to normal rare bird channels anymore.  This year.  Don't take the grebes for granted, it'll likely be a different story come next winter.  Rounding out the duck report, both Eurasian Green-winged Teal and Eurasian Wigeon are spicing Lighthouse pond at Cape May Point State Park, or were on Saturday.

[Pair of Bufflehead shows their wing pattern as they land in the Cape May canal on Saturday.]

What else.  Two pairs of Mourning Doves are on eggs in feeble stick nests in my tiny yard already, and cardinals are singing from high places everywhere, rushing spring along. The doves can nest so early because they, like all doves, will feed their young crop milk, a slurry derived from cells sloughed off the walls of their crops, to which will be added partially digested seeds as the young mature and can handle that. Hence, no need to wait for insect to feed their offspring.

I've been doing a good job of striking out on the rare gulls that are found along Delaware Bay near where I live every late winter, i.e. Black-headed and Little.  It's a tide thing, and it seems like you want to be at the hotspots like Miami Beach (Villas, NJ, has its own Miami Beach as well as Lake Champlain. . .) about two hours before high tide, when the tide pushes the gull flock close to shore but there still is enough shallow water and sandbars for the birds to feed and rest.  I haven't hit the tide just right yet, even though I live here, and have only seen one Black-headed, once, this spring.  There are apparently at least four, plus a Little Gull.  This morning I was up at daybreak and head to Miami to find, about an hour before high tide, not a single gull of any description.  Aaargh.

 [Northern Cardinals are singing all over, a delight that always reminds me of the first cardinal song I ever heard.  I didn't know what it was, and just had to track it down.  That was, my goodness, all of 35 years ago.]