Monday, November 15, 2010


In late October, a White-tailed Kite – possibly the same one that spent the summer in Connecticut – showed up in a small part of Forsythe NWR in Barnegat, New Jersey. This was only the second state record for the species, and a lot of the state's birders eagerly rushed to see it. Yesterday was my first chance to look for the kite, so I headed down with my mother and sister. We arrived at the Barnegat Municipal Dock and scanned the far shoreline for about 40 minutes with no sign of the kite. Another birder told us that he had been there for about an hour before we arrived, also with no luck. Moving on, we stopped at two vantage points for the Forsythe impoundments, one at the public beach and the other at a small observation platform. Neither had any sign of a White-tailed Kite, though we did see some waterfowl and a Belted Kingfisher. After checking the first location once more, we moved on.

We stopped at Cape May Point State Park in the late afternoon. I had hoped to see the Ash-throated Flycatcher that has been hanging around there; unfortunately it must have turned in for the evening by the time we were walking the trails. Instead, there were lots of waterfowl to look at, including a Eurasian Wigeon among the hundreds of American Wigeon. Other ducks included Ring-necked Duck, Ruddy Duck, Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, Gadwall, and Green-winged Teal. I noticed two male Green-winged Teal swimming close by each other, one of which had a much more prominent vertical white bar than the other one. I am not sure if this is simply normal variation or marks a difference in populations. Sibley has an illustration of a Green-winged X Common Teal hybrid that has a similarly narrow vertical bar; however, that hybrid should have a more prominent white line where the wings rest against the body than this bird does.

As the sun set and dusk rolled in, we had two memorable sightings. First, as we were watching the waterfowl, a Merlin popped over the far treeline, flew out over the lake, grabbed a songbird in midair, and flew off with the bird in its talons. It is with good reason that raptor banders call the hour before sunset the "magical Merlin hour"! Second, as we were listening to some Brown Thrashers in the twilight, a Woodcock flew over our heads; it landed a short distance in front of us and started feeding. Shortly after that we saw a couple more Woodcock flush and fly past the trail.