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Friday, September 30, 2011

Makeup Birding

So yesterday was the first day the kids rode the bus to school from our new house in Hunterdon County, New Jersey. As we waited for the bus, we were treated to Palm Warbler and seven other species flitting around the yard. Then I had to book it down to my classes at Rowan University. Over an hour and a half later, as I walked inside, my day list was only up to 16--4 shy of my needed Bird RDA. At 6pm I started the long drive home in the gathering twilight. Bad traffic had me birding with the windows down as I crept along I-295. A pair of ducks flying over quickly got me Mallard (17). No sign of House Sparrows on any of the gas stations I passed. Getting late to try for Red-tailed Hawks on power poles. Finally a small flock of Common Grackles flew over the highway (18). Two more to go. As I approached the Delaware River it was almost dark. Fortunately a pair of Canada Goose (19) flew over.

And that was it. A group of ducks flying over after sunset looked small and might have been Wood Ducks, but hard to tell in the near dark at 65 mph. I didn't hear any nocturnal migrants last night. I missed getting my RDA by 1 species!

But I came up with a new plan.

I decided that if I missed my Bird RDA on any given day, I could make it up the next day. Only it would have to be a two-for-one deal. I would have to find 2 additional species to make up for each species missed the day before. And make up birding has to take place the very next day. No rollover birds or escrow accounts. No extensions.

So this morning I did a little better at the bus stop and had 11 species by the time the kids got on the bus--including another Palm Warbler and a pair of Red-eyed Vireos. A quick drive around Spruce Run Reservoir netted me an Osprey and several other species including a couple distant Sterna terns, taking me up to 24 species before I had to head in to work.

So I got my Bird RDA and was able to make up my count from yesterday. I'm feeling healthier already!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Morning Walk in Hoffman Park

Nice morning getting close to some common birds.

Hoffman Park, Hunterdon, US-NJ
Sep 19, 2011 9:00 AM - 10:00 AM
Protocol: Traveling
0.5 mile(s)
18 species

Red-bellied Woodpecker 1
Downy Woodpecker 1
Northern Flicker 1
Pileated Woodpecker 1
Blue Jay 8
American Crow 5
Tufted Titmouse 4
House Wren 3
Eastern Bluebird 1
Wood Thrush 1
American Robin 2
Gray Catbird 6
Brown Thrasher 1
Common Yellowthroat 3
Eastern Towhee 1
Field Sparrow 1
Northern Cardinal 2
American Goldfinch 2

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Puddles USFWS Blue Goose Sighting.

Anyone who has seen a National Wildlife Refuge sign has seen the "Blue Goose" logo.

But did you know that the Blue Goose is actually the mascot of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service?

And not just any Blue Goose, but the mascot has a name. Puddles.

This weekend at the Cradle of Birding Wildlife and Conservation Festival at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge I had a brief and distant Puddles sighting. Definitely a Better View Desired (BVD) type of sighting.

Fortunately I later got a much better view.

Rosemont College Fall 2011 Diversity of LIfe Course

This semester I'm teaching a Diversity of Life course for nontraditional students at Rosemont College in Philadelphia. Highlights so far include learning to identify trees with a key (see the Arbor Day Foundation online key--great tool) as well as SPASMATIC bird identification.

On Saturday we attended the Cradle of Birding wildlife festival at John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge in Philadelphia--including a bird and plant walk. We had Sharp-shinned and Cooper's Hawks soar directly overhead, and had a flyby young Bald Eagle. Later an adult Bald Eagle flew in and landed on a distant power pole. We also got great looks at Caspian Terns diving for fish in front of us. I was hoping for more warblers, but only got a quick look at an Ovenbird running through the woods.

For part of an exam this weekend they had to use the Kaufman Guide to identify bird slides.

Great group of students, I'm enjoying exploring the diverse world of plants, animals, and other organisms together.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Glassboro Woods

Stopped by Glassboro Woods on my way to campus this morning. Very, very quiet. Only 7 species in 20 minutes there before the boredom and mosquitoes chased me away. Highlight was a nice male Hooded Warbler.

Last night was great, driving over to give a Mayan bird talk to Monmouth County Audubon I had one (and possibly three--two birds didn't show well) White-winged Dove flying over the Garden State Parkway. Flyby vagrants are not good for establishing your reputation in a new area, but what's a guy to do when they just show up like that?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Bare Naked Birding Hoffman Park

I birded without binoculars for about 20 minutes in Hoffman Park after dropping my kids off at school. Nice close looks at several Common Yellowthroats, a Wood Thrush, and Northern Parula. But best birds were locally uncommon Blue Grosbeak seen closely but briefly, and a male Orchard Oriole seen in a distant oak tree. While I would have preferred to have my binoculars with me, I was surprised how much I was able to see without them--and only had a few birds slip away without my being able to identify them. Bare naked birding makes you pay more attention to the birds close by, which was good, and helped me to slow down and not try to cover too much ground (I only walked a quarter mile at the most). What with the Baltimore Oriole seen from my hotel this morning, and several other birds seen driving around, I'm well over my minimum 20 species Bird RDA.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Birding RDA Fail

A few years ago I hit upon the idea of a Recommended Daily Allowance of birds--something to make sure that even busy people get enough birds into their day to stay sane and healthy. The number I hit upon was a minimum of 20 bird species a day. Lately with everything I've got going on I've been a bit enemic in the bird department, so I'm making a bigger effort to make sure to get my Birding RDA.

Today I failed. Badly. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I drive from my new home in North Jersey down to Rowan University in South Jersey. I was only able to get 12 species on the two hour drive. As I got out of my car in Glassboro, I heard a couple of Fish Crows on campus for number 13. When I got done teaching class and headed out on the road it was already 6:30 in the evening and getting dark. I was able to see some Mallards flying along the Delaware River, for number 14. At dusk, where I-295 and I-95 meet, I got my last and best bird for the day--a Common Nighthawk winging over the freeway.

I'll do better tomorrow!

(photo: wikipedia)

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

New County List

Now that I'm (almost) officially in New Jersey, it's time to start my new Hunterdon County list. This morning I birded Spruce Run Reservoir--NJ's third largest reservoir, about 3 miles up the road from our new home. Not a lot of bird activity in the rain, but did manage to get the list started. It all gets better from here, right?

Spruce Run Reservoir, Hunterdon, US-NJ
Sep 7, 2011 9:50 AM - 11:20 AM
Protocol: Traveling
2.0 mile(s)
Comments: Slow drive around Spruce Run, stopping wherever small bird activity noted.
24 species

Canada Goose 10
Common Merganser 2
Double-crested Cormorant 1
Osprey 1
Mourning Dove 1
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 1
Belted Kingfisher 1
Downy Woodpecker 1
Eastern Wood-Pewee 1
Willow Flycatcher 1
Least Flycatcher 1
Red-eyed Vireo 3
American Crow 3
Carolina Chickadee 1
Tufted Titmouse 3
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 2
Eastern Bluebird 3
American Robin 2
Gray Catbird 9
American Redstart 7
Black-throated Green Warbler 2
Chipping Sparrow 15
Northern Cardinal 9
American Goldfinch 11

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2 (

Thursday, September 01, 2011

After the Storm

Hurricane Irene was supposed to lash us with borderline hurricane-force winds. We did get over 6 inches of rain, but I watched the wind gauge for most of the night and never saw a gust of more than 30 mph. And sometimes the winds were below 10 mph. So that was the good news.

Bad news was that the storm didn't bring me any good birds. I went to Lake Nockamixon in the morning and apparently missed a pair of Sooty Terns by minutes. I spent over five hours waiting for seabirds to show up and all I got were 2 Caspian Terns, 9 Common Terns, 1 Forster's Tern, and 6 Black Terns--none of which are impossible to find in the county normally. Other birders found extraordinary sea birds--such as White-tailed Tropicbirds in NY, MA, and NJ as well as Sooty Tern, Bridled Tern, Band-rumped Storm Petrel, Leach's Storm Petrel, and Wilson's Storm Petrel (see a summary from my eBird buddies here).

But nothing for me. Well, at least my house didn't flood or blow away!
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