Monday, February 07, 2011

Local Birding

Yesterday I did a little birding around Middlesex County in the hope of finding some new birds locally. I started out with my mother and sister at the South Amboy waterfront in the morning. We crossed the snowy waterfront park to walk along a narrow strip of beach. There are often good birds seen in this area. Yesterday our best bird was a Bonaparte's Gull that flew in to join a large group of gulls loafing on a spit of sand. Other birds included a Red-tailed Hawk, singing Red-winged Blackbirds, Bufflehead, Brant, and a Horned Grebe. There was also a mass of starlings and House Sparrows roosting inside the park's pavilions. The metal roof amplified the sound of their chattering. A few of the starlings are shown above.

Our second stop was at the Waterworks Park just across the railroad. The pond was too frozen for there to be much out there, but we did see a couple Great Blue Herons, a Belted Kingfisher, two Bufflehead, and a Green-winged Teal in the little bit that was open. A subsequent stop turned up Great Cormorants, another Red-tailed Hawk, and a Northern Harrier. I scanned the distant landfills for Rough-legged Hawks, but I could not spot any. Instead I saw a few deer grazing on the top and side of one landfill.

In the afternoon, we stopped first at the Edison Boat Basin. Once again I scanned the visible landfills for raptors, but only found Red-tailed Hawks and a Northern Harrier. Some gulls and waterfowl were in the river. I had hoped to walk the new trail to look for winter finches among the fruiting birch trees, but the gate to the trail was locked. Just before we left, an American Kestrel flashed over the parking lot – a new county bird for me.

The last stop was at Olympic Drive in Raritan Center. There were some waterbirds out on the river, mostly gulls and geese, but also a few diving ducks. Two Northern Harriers and a Red-tailed Hawk perched along with the geese on an island in the middle of the river. It looked like it had been used as a pier at one time. The crows above are Fish Crows; a small flock of them was perched along the rotting pier. There are some marshes around the road that look like they might be promising in warmer weather, but yesterday they were frozen and snow-covered. It will be worth a visit in warmer weather.