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.
|American Black Duck||3|
|Great Blue Heron||2|
|Great Black-backed Gull||396|