Monday, December 29, 2008

Raritan Estuary CBC 2008

Yesterday my mother, sister, and I participated in the 2008 Raritan Estuary Christmas Bird Count. As we have for the past several years (see previous accounts from 2005, 2006, and 2007), we covered a section along the Raritan River in Highland Park and Piscataway. One additional birder joined us this year, so we were able to split into two equal parties to cover our territory more thoroughly.

Despite our best efforts, the numbers of many species seemed down this year. Whether it was the balmy temperatures, the general gloominess of the day, or some other combination of factors, birds were not active or vocalizing in the morning. We had record lows among Song Sparrows, White-throated Sparrows, and Dark-eyed Juncos. Songbirds generally seemed scarcer than usual in both numbers and species.

All was not gloom, however. We had two new species for our section: Green-winged Teal, found by my sister in a Johnson Park pond, and Brown-headed Cowbird. Raptors included a Peregrine Falcon and eight Red-tailed Hawks. One of the latter, a local nester, was almost all white, matching what Brian Wheeler describes as "incomplete albinism." We flushed another (normal) Red-tailed Hawk, which flew off clutching a squirrel. Aside from that, the many flocks of geese, gulls, and starlings kept us busy counting.

We ended the count day by watching an adult Bald Eagle harass gulls in Donaldson Park.

Canada Goose1795
American Black Duck3
Green-winged Teal2
Common Goldeneye10
Hooded Merganser2
Common Merganser19
Double-crested Cormorant5
Great Cormorant2
Great Blue Heron2
Black Vulture2
Turkey Vulture6
Bald Eagle1
Red-tailed Hawk8
Peregrine Falcon1
Ring-billed Gull163
Herring Gull315
Great Black-backed Gull396
Rock Pigeon37
Mourning Dove69
Belted Kingfisher4
Red-bellied Woodpecker2
Downy Woodpecker3
Hairy Woodpecker1
Northern Flicker7
American Crow7
Fish Crow12
Black-capped Chickadee2
Tufted Titmouse5
Brown Creeper2
Carolina Wren10
American Robin17
Northern Mockingbird1
European Starling474
Song Sparrow17
White-throated Sparrow60
Dark-eyed Junco20
Northern Cardinal10
Red-winged Blackbird12
Brown-headed Cowbird6
House Finch65
American Goldfinch18
House Sparrow35
Total Species44
Total Individuals3931