Sunday, December 30, 2012

Fox Sparrow

Before the snow's arrival yesterday, I walked through Rutgers Gardens. I started out by walking through the ornamental conifers to see if anything unusual was hanging around them. There was very little activity, so I moved on. My impression is that there are not a lot of seed cones on them, so winter finches there are probably unlikely.

From there I walked through Helyar Woods. There were quite a lot of trees down in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. A lot of trails were blocked by fallen trees, especially the trails close to the lake, which are blocked in multiple places.

There was some bird activity in the woods, but the best birding was in the meadow that is across Route 1 from Sears. One of the first birds I heard there was a Winter Wren; I would see another one further out in the meadow. There were a lot of White-throated Sparrows around, and then a Fox Sparrow popped up and perched on top of a multiflora rose tangle. That made it my 221st bird species in Middlesex County and my 195th in the county for the year. I saw three Fox Sparrows in all, one of which was singing, including the one in the photograph above. Other birds in the meadow included Golden-crowned Kinglets, Yellow-rumped Warblers, and a Hermit Thrush (also a county year bird).

On a sad note, there was a dead Cooper's Hawk near the bamboo forest. From the plumage and size, I would say that it was an adult female. The cause of death was not visibly obvious, but the location suggests an auto collision.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Best Photos from 2012

Every year for the past few years I have compiled my best photos into a set. Here is a collage of my best from 2012, which you can also see as a set on Flickr. I think my favorite is this photo of an American Redstart that I took in September.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Loose Feathers #373

Blue-winged teal in flight at Sand Lake NWR / Photo by Tom Koerner/USFWS
Birds and birding
Nature and science blogging
Environment and biodiversity

Friday, December 21, 2012

Loose Feathers #372

Blue-winged Teal / Photo by Barbara Wheeler Photography, USFWS Volunteer
Birds and birding
Nature and science blogging
Environment and biodiversity

Friday, December 14, 2012

Loose Feathers #371

Fledgling Horned Lark / Credit: WCS
Birds and birding
Nature and science blogging
Environment and biodiversity

Friday, December 07, 2012

Loose Feathers #370

Rough-legged Hawk / US Forest Service
Birds and birding
Nature blogging
Environment and biodiversity

Monday, December 03, 2012

Morgan Mudflats after Sandy

On October 29, Hurricane Sandy pushed a storm surge that reached at least 13 feet at Sandy Hook into Raritan Bay. When it reached South Amboy, it was still high enough to lift boats onto the North Jersey Coast Line tracks and wedge other boats into the Cheesequake Creek drawbridge. I was curious to see how Sandy had affected Morgan Mudflats, a local birding hotspot, when I arrived there yesterday. The damage was not as bad as I expected. There were trees down, a lot of vegetation washed away, and extra trash washed up on the beach. It will be interesting to see how the habitat recovers and how it affects birding at the site.

Yesterday there were not a lot of birds around. Brant are back, in large numbers. The highlight was a Bald Eagle that flew past and perched near the railroad tracks. A few other waterfowl were around: American Black Ducks, Bufflehead, Red-breasted Mergansers, and Hooded Mergansers.

The beach at Morgan Mudflats has always been a little grungy, but there was a lot of extra trash left after Sandy. Most of the wrack line was covered in plastic bottles, and there was larger trash like boards and plastic crates. A beach cleanup here probably is not a priority for South Amboy or Sayreville, but it may be worth doing since the beach is frequently used by birders, fishermen, and other people.

The other sort of damage was to vegetation. A prominent holly grove was substantially reduced when several trees fell. These trees were a favorite perching spot for egrets, night herons, and other birds. For example, these egrets were sitting in the grove.

I am not sure if this eastern red cedar had stood somewhere along the beach or if it originated somewhere else and floated in with the storm surge or a subsequent tide.

This wetland was not previously visible from the beach but is now thanks to vegetation being knocked down. I think the vegetation that blocked the view had been mostly Phragmites, so I imagine it will grow back fairly quickly.

This is the hill between the beach and the cul-de-sac. It had been a mixture of trees, shrubs, and other vegetation with a trail going through it, most of which has been swept aside. There also seems to be a fair amount of erosion along the railroad right-of-way.

The linens on this tree may or may not have been put there by Sandy.

The trail through the woods from the cul-de-sac is mostly intact, aside from a few fallen trees.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Gulls at the Edison Boat Basin

Yesterday morning I made a couple stops at Middlesex County locations. The first was Morgan Mudflats, which I will have more about in a subsequent post. The second was Edison Boat Basin. A lot of times I stop there when there are very few gulls around, but yesterday morning there were thousands. I suspect the activity on top of the Edgeboro Landfill had something to do with that. A work crew was moving trash around, which attracted thousands of gulls that swirled in the air above the landfill. Another thousand or so were sitting on the river or loafing on the boat ramp.

The best bird was a Glaucous Gull that flew past the boat basin and then joined some Herring Gulls circling over Kin-Buc (a closed landfill on the Edison side of the river). I would have preferred to see it on the ground at close range, but it was fun to watch a white-winged gull in flight. It looked impressively white — closer to an egret than a first-year Herring Gull on the waterbird scale of whiteness. (In fact, when I spotted a large white bird flying past, I raised my binoculars expecting to see an egret.) At first it looked all white, from wingtip to wingtip, but when it turned, I could see some grayish streaking on its back and wing coverts. There was no sign of any dark marking on its wingtips. It looked larger and bulkier than the Herring Gulls it joined.

Speaking of Herring Gulls, here is a second or third-year bird that perched on one of the boat ramp docks. Herring Gulls were the most numerous of the gulls that I could identify yesterday.

Ring-billed Gulls were also present at the boat ramp.