Friday Bird Notes; a Birder’s Passing, Dec. 19, 2014

Boonton Reservoir, NJ, Dec. 17, 2014 (photo by Jonathan Klizas)

Boonton Reservoir, NJ, Dec. 17, 2014 (photo by Jonathan Klizas)

(Click on the photo for a larger image).

Good luck to all of the participants in the Great Swamp/Watchung Ridges Christmas Bird Count (CBC), Saturday, Dec. 20 and the Boonton CBC on Sunday, Dec. 21. No precipitation is forecast for either day. Temperatures will range from a high of 35 degrees F on Saturday to 42 degrees F on Sunday.

From Roger Johnson today at the Lincoln Park Gravel Pits:
1 female Northern Shoveler, 15 Gadwall, 5 Am. Black Ducks, 24 Hooded Mergansers, 85 Common Mergansers, 2 adult Bald Eagles, 1 Great Black-backed Gull, 1 Winter Wren. Water levels are high.

8 Sandhill Cranes at Randolph Road, Franklin Township continue as reported by many observers today.

On Thursday, Dec. 18, Jeff Ellerbusch found 3 Snow Geese, 9 Cackling Geese and over 5,000 Canada Geese between North Branch Park, Duke Island Park, Studdiford Lane, the South Branch of the Raritan River and Opie Road.

Jim Zamos

The New Jersey birding community was saddened to hear of the passing of Jim Zamos this morning. Jim brought a vitality and passion for birding and butterflies well into his 80’s that many people one-third his age marveled at. Jim was a good soul, a wonderful birding colleague and a great friend to all the many people whose lives he touched. He will be greatly missed.

The next time you are in the field, raise your binoculars as a toast in celebration of Jim’s life.

Good birding, Jim.


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Southwest Morris Winter Bird Count to be held on Jan. 18, 2015

The 31st Southwest Morris Winter Bird Count will be held on Sunday, January 18, 2015.

Founded and organized by David Harrison, the count is a true winter count with Chester Township as its center and the count circle radiating from there. It includes Morris County along with sections of neighboring counties as well.

Contact David at david.harrison57 at earthlink dot net if you are interested in participating.

Last winter’s results are here.

The cumulative species list is here.

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Greater White-fronted Goose, Lesser Black-backed Gull at Budd Lake, Dec. 16, 2014

Budd Lake

Lesser Black-backed Gull, Budd Lake, NJ, Dec. 16, 2014 (photo by Jonathan Klizas)

Lesser Black-backed Gull, Budd Lake, NJ, Dec. 16, 2014 (photo by Jonathan Klizas)

Rain pummeled Budd Lake at 3:30 this afternoon. Visbility was limited. 850 gulls sat on the water; a greater than 3:1 ratio of Ring-billed to Herring Gull. At the south end of the lake, viewable from the municipal beach, was an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull sitting on the water. Well over 1,000 Canada Geese were also on the lake but with diminishing visibility this observer failed to relocate the Greater White-fronted Goose found yesterday. 2 Horned Grebes and 10 Common Mergansers were also present (J. Klizas).

The Greater White-fronted Goose was sighted earlier in the afternoon at Budd Lake, after much searching through the goose flock (Glenn Mahler).

Other Bird Notes

A Cackling Goose was found today at Rattlesnake Bridge Road, Bedminster Twp. (Jeff Ellerbusch).

8 Sandhill Cranes continue as of today at Randolph Road, Franklin Township (Marc Chelemer via eBird).

Use the following links to view recent eBird checklists.

@mocosocoBirds at Twitter is another communications stream. Instant field reports and links of interest are tweeted throughout the day. The latest tweets appear on the sidebar of this page. One can follow mocosocoBirds at Twitter or link to @mocosocoBirds.


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Greater White-fronted Goose at Budd Lake, Dec. 15, 2014

Greater White-fronted Goose at Budd Lake

December 2014 is a becoming a banner month for rare geese in New Jersey. Barnacle Geese are reported from Middlesex, Mercer and Bergen Counties while a  Pink-footed Goose is reported from Monmouth and Middlesex.

Greater White-fronted Geese are spread throughout the state in Hunterdon County, 3 in Salem County, 3 in Cape May, and 2 in Middlesex County. Somerset County’s Greater White-fronted Goose at Duke Island Park has been present for a few weeks. Not wanting to be left out, one was added to Morris County today as Alan Boyd located one at Budd Lake (Hotspot).

A Note about Florham Park Fields

Morris County birders, please note. Florham Park Fields (Hotspot) on Columbia Turnpike has changed. The parking areas along the fields are blockaded with boulders for at least the past month. New signs are attached to the posts along the driveway stating: “No Trespassing”.

It is supposed that too many trucks using the gravel driveway for a truck stop, an increasing number of fishermen using the two ponds, dog trainers, ATVs and dirt bikers using the fields urged the owner to place these barricades and warnings. That is unfortunate as many interesting bird species have been found here over the years including Morris County’s only Pink-footed Goose in 2013.

The symbol (Hotspot) signifies an eBird Hotspot. Click on the flame icon to visit the Hotspot page for that location. See the Hotspot Primer for additional information. If your browser restricts images, you may see the word Hotspot instead of the flame icon.

Use the following links to view recent eBird checklists.


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Red-necked Grebe, Sunday Bird Notes, Dec. 14, 2014

Red-necked Grebe at Boonton Reservoir

Red-necked Grebe, Boonton Reservoir, Dec. 14, 2014 (photo by Jonathan Klizas)

Red-necked Grebe, Boonton Reservoir, Dec. 14, 2014 (photo by Jonathan Klizas)

The Red-necked Grebe in the above photo is modeling the typical, distant, “Boonton” look. The view is from the north bridge looking east.

The past two rain storms have filled Boonton Reservoir to capacity for the first time since the spring. The exposed shoreline that rimmed the reservoir from summer through autumn is submerged. Other than the grebe, the only other inhabitants were Canada Geese, Common Mergansers, Ring-billed Gulls, a Pied-billed Grebe and an adult Bald Eagle perched on the island.

Split Rock Reservoir

Bald Eagle at Split Rock Reservoir, NJ, Dec. 14, 2014 (photo by Jonathan Klizas)

Bald Eagle at Split Rock Reservoir, NJ, Dec. 14, 2014 (photo by Jonathan Klizas)

The above photo shows one of two young Bald Eagles cruising over a group of the 1,530 Common Mergansers at Split Rock Reservoir this morning. The 100+ Ring-billed/Herring Gull mix which was loafing on the water, took flight as soon as the eagles arrived. The eagles seemed to be practicing dive-bombing the Mergansers. This caused the Mergansers to shift their location by a few hundred meters at one point – an impressive sight with 1,500 Common Mergansers involved. 113 Ruddy Ducks and a few Buffleheads were also on the water.

Use the following links to view recent eBird checklists.

The eBird Hotspot Primer is found here.


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Long-tailed Duck, Common Redpolls, Tundra Swans, etc., Dec. 13, 2014

Long-tailed Duck, Red-breasted Merganser at Kenvil Lake

S.S. Nipper at Kenvil Lake, NJ, Dec. 13, 2014 (photo by Jonathan Klizas)

S.S. Nipper at Kenvil Lake, NJ, Dec. 13, 2014 (photo by Jonathan Klizas)

(Click on the photo for a larger image.)

The above photo is of the S.S. Nipper, grounded on the shore of Kenvil Lake in the Iron Hills country of Morris County.  A drill bit is attached to the structure at the tip of the bow.

Kenvil Lake is in Roxbury Township. It lies within an industrial zone. It is uncertain whether this lake was property of the Hercules Powder Co., which was active from 1871 and during both world warsalthough it is next to the location of the factory according to maps. Incidentally, the word Powder refers to high-explosive gunpowder. The Kenvil Hercules Powder Factory is infamous for the explosion that killed 51 workers in 1940 (see an article about that incident here).

Kenvil Lake’s aquatic aesthetic includes discarded machinery, as in the S.S. Nipper above, numerous oil drums, tanks and other debris scattered about. The Raritan Headwaters Association lists Kenvil Lake as part of the “Lamington River (above Rt 10) Subwatershed.”

East shore of Kenvil Lake, NJ, Dec. 13, 2014 (photo by Jonathan Klizas)

East shore of Kenvil Lake, NJ, Dec. 13, 2014 (photo by Jonathan Klizas)

Dell Avenue Park is on Kenvil Lake’s west side and offers the best view of waterfowl. Whatever the attraction may be, over 50 each of Lesser Scaup and Ruddy Ducks have been residing in the lake all season. A Ring-necked Duck or two, Mute Swan, American Coot, Ring-billed Gulls, Bald Eagle and Common Ravens can all be found at the lake. This morning, a surprise and brief visitor was a female Long-tailed Duck who did not stay around long enough for a photograph (J. Klizas).

The Long-tailed Duck was gone by afternoon, but what was a sleeping female Mergus sp. in the morning became an active Red-breasted Merganser later in the day (Alan Boyd).

Common Redpolls at Great Swamp NWR

This morning in the Great Swamp NWR, two Common Redpolls were in a Sweetgum tree near the Bluebird Lot along Pleasant Plains Rd. (Simon Lane).

3 Tundra Swans at Lake Hopatcong

Tundra Swans are creating the pattern of being an annual winter visitor at Lake Hopatcong. They were hidden this season, if they were there at all, until this morning when three adults were grouped together among the throng of Mute Swans in the area between Brady Rd. Bridge and Nolans Point. 2 Common Loons were north of Bertrands Island. 100+ Buffelheads are scattered around the lake.

Gulls are the dominant creature at Lake Hopatcong in the winter. Many of the overnight roosting gulls are gone within an hour of dawn, either driven to flight by hunger or by the inevitable appearance of one of the resident Bald Eagles.

The evening gathering of gulls is a spectacle. This past Thursday, well over 1,000 gulls, a mix of Herring and Ring-billed, created seven or more circling, drifting, dissolving and intertwining groups over Nolans Point in the twilight. It was surreal. A tiny segment of one group is represented in the photo below.

Gulls at Twilight, Lk. Hopatcong, NJ, Dec. 11, 2014 (photo by J. Klizas)

Gulls at Twilight, Lk. Hopatcong, NJ, Dec. 11, 2014 (photo by J. Klizas)

Somerset County Bird Notes

The Greater White-fronted Goose of Duke Island Park continues (Andrew Lucas via eBird). If it is not on the front lawn of the park, it may be in the Raritan River where it was found the past two days. This is a similar pattern to the Duke Island geese the past few years.

The eight Sandhill Cranes of Randolph Road, Franklin Township continue as of today (Chris Thomas via eBird).


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The eBird Hotspot Primer, Dec. 2014

eBird Hotspots is a powerful tool for discovering new birding areas and studying data and sightings from familiar locations. mocosocoBirds likes them so much that they will become a regular feature in posts and reports in the future.

This primer also appears under the new Hotspots menu item on the mocosocoBirds web site. A link for the primer is here. Eventually, a menu item for Morris and Somerset County Hotspots will also be included.

This document is a brief tutorial and overview of how to use Hotspots, Hotspot Explorer and Region Explorer.

Table of Contents:

What are Hotspots?

Hotspots are public birding locations suggested by eBird users and created by eBird administrators. Using Hotspots, multiple birders can enter data into the same shared location, creating aggregated results available through the eBird interface.

A Personal Location is the other option for entering checklists into eBird. They are created by an individual user and may have data entered only by that user.

The following links from the eBird web site are an informative introduction to Hotspots.

Navigating to Hotspot Explorer

Follow this path to get to the eBird Hotspot Explorer:

The Hotspot Explorer Interface

Once in the Hotspot Explorer interface, enter the desired Hotspot in the edit control (a drop-down list of suggestions will appear) or zoom in on the map to find the Hotspot and click on the Hotspot marker.  Once the Hotspot is selected, a dialog box appears:

From this screen, the user can perform the following quick links (click on the hyperlinks below to test drive). All data emanates from eBird data. Most of the following reports are available from the Explore Data tab of eBird, but are much easier and quicker to access from the Hotspot Explorer:

  • Bar Charts – all recorded species’ frequency of occurrence for this location. The default date parameter is all-time. The user can refine the dates to specific ones of his or her choice (this example link only goes to the main Bar Charts page. Selecting Bar Charts from the Hotspot Explorer goes directly to the Bar Chart for the Hotspot location).
  • High Counts – Max numbers for species at this location. Once in this window, the user can refine the date selection or switch to Arrival dates, Departure dates and change the location. It is a very flexible data window.
  • Directions - opens a Google  Maps window with the marker defining the Hotspot location.
  • Submit Data – the user can launch the Submit Observations window with the current location already loaded, assuming the user has a valid free eBird account.
  • View Details opens a window represented by the following screen shot:

Here is a description of the View Details window:

  • Overview is the default tab view and is the most informative.
  • Last Seen is the default view for species seen. This can be switched to First Seen which displays the first temporal record of that species in the eBird database.
  • High Counts and Bar Charts function as described earlier. Get Directions is the same as Directions.
  • Selecting the date of the species record displays the entire checklist for that observation.
  • Show All Details displays any comments, links and photographs included by the observer. This can be toggled on and off.
  • Recent Visits lists the ten most recent checklists submitted for that location.
  • Not visible on the screenshot above, but just below Recent Visits on the sidebar of the page is Top eBirders which, by default, displays a Top 10 list of observers according to the highest life species counts for the Hotspot. This view can be toggled between species and checklists as in other Top eBirder locations throughout the eBird web site.

Using Hotspots in Your Observations

Whether entering a checklist in a browser or via the BirdLog app, the user is eventually faced with the decision of choosing a location.

From a browser: 
Select the Submit Observations tab. This displays the Where did you Bird? window.  The drop-down list contains the user’s previously used locations. This can be a mix of Personal Locations and Hotspots, depending on the observer’s prior usage.

To specifically find a Hotspot, use Find it on a map. Shared Hotspots are the red marker with the flameHotspot Marker eBird (when the map is zoomed out, the red marker may appear with a plus sign, signifying other hotspots are available when the map is zoomed in). Personal locations are represented by plain blue markers without a flame.

[Note: when viewing eBird Species Maps, Red markers with flames signify: “Hotspot – checklist from within the last 30 days”; Blue markers with flame signify: “Hotspot – checklist date is prior to the past 30 days”. Personal locations lack the flame but their color coding has the same temporal significance.]

Using the BirdLog app (iPhone or Android – the iPhone version is displayed below):

Select Start New Checklist – the following screen is displayed. Selecting Choose a Nearby Hotspot displays a list view of local Hotspots as does Search Hotpots by City.


Merging Your Records from Personal Locations into Hotspots

Merging your personal locations with existing Hotspots is strongly suggested. The major benefit is that your records can now be included with all the others from the Hotspot and are easily retrievable from the database.

  1. From your eBird account, go to My eBird.
  2. Select Manage My Locations from the My Observations sidebar.
  3. Search for Whatever-you-labeled-the location-you-want-to-merge-from and select it. This will load the Edit Location page.
  4. Select Merge. You will see a red Hotspot marker for The-location-you-want-to-merge-to. Select that Hotspot. Select the Merge button and your checklists from that spot will now be associated with the Hotspot. Your personal location is removed.

Region Explorer

Take Hotspot Explorer to another level and try Region Explorer. This has a similar interface as Hotspot Explorer including views at the county, state, province and national levels.

A Note on Sub-locations

Sub-locations are defined in the eBird literature as follows: “Sub-locations are smaller scale birding locations found within a larger primary location. These sub-locations are meant to allow more specific data entry for locations found within a larger area of interest” – (from What is an eBird Hotspot).

Sub-locations are an important research tool for designating different habitats and locations within a larger entity. With the first released version of Hotspot Explorer, these sub-locations cannot be aggregated to form a single Hotspot of the entire parent location.

For example: Great Swamp NWR has seven Hotpspots within its borders. Once can view data for each individual Hotspot, but not include all of the data into a Great Swamp overall list. This feature is proposed for an upcoming version of the Hotspot Explorer. For now, use Bar Charts to get the complete picture. Multiple locations can be selected to form a report in Bar Charts (unlike other reports in eBird). For instance, the complete eBird species list of the Great Swamp can be viewed in the link, here.


Thanks to the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology and the eBird team for creating and maintaining eBird as well as providing information for this article.

Thanks to all the thousands of eBird contributors for creating one of the most impressive collections of data on planet Earth.


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Nashville Warbler, Christmas Bird Counts, Dec. 11, 2014

Nashville Warbler in Madison

Nashville Warbler, Madison, NJ, Dec. 11, 2014 (photo by Corey Dwyer)

Nashville Warbler, Madison, NJ, Dec. 11, 2014 (photo by Corey Dwyer)

A Nashville Warbler visited a home in Madison today. This is an extraordinary record for December, 2014 so far. As of today, and for the entire month, eBird shows two reports of Nashville Warbler in Ontario, two in Virginia, a handful in California and a bunch in south Texas (as expected). That is all for the United States and Canada.

Nashville Warbler, Madison, NJ, Dec. 11, 2014 (photo by Corey Dwyer)

Nashville Warbler, Madison, NJ, Dec. 11, 2014 (photo by Corey Dwyer)

More Nashville Warblers may be found on Christmas Bird Counts (CBC). In 114 years of CBCs in New Jersey, Nashville Warbler has been recorded 22 years with 42 individuals (although it is uncertain if all counts are entered in the Audubon database). 4 separate individuals were recorded in 2013 and 2008 and represent the high number for this species. Remember, these numbers represent all of the CBCs in the entire state of New Jersey.

Christmas Bird Counts

The 115th season of Christmas Bird Counts (CBC) begins this Sunday, December 14. The Audubon web site for the counts is here.

The CBCs within the mocosocoBirds region are:

The Great Swamp and Boonton email address domains are gmail dot com.

Great Swamp/ Watchung Ridges CBC (67th year)
Saturday, December 20, 2014
Compiler: Simon Lane
greatswampcbc at gmail

Boonton CBC (79th year)
Sunday, December 21, 2014
Compiler: Jonathan Klizas
boontoncbc at gmail
Boonton CBC web site

Somerset County CBC (57th year)
Thursday, January 1, 2015
Compiler: John Kee
jjkee at optimum dot net

A complete list of New Jersey CBCs is here


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Greater White-fronted and Cackling Goose, eBird note, Dec. 9, 2014

A Greater White-fronted Goose continues on the lawn at Duke Island Park, Bridgewater Twp. as of this afternoon. Also in attendance is a Cackling Goose,  1,310 Canada Geese and the Spackling Goose of local fame and lore (Jeff Ellerbusch). The Spackling Goose (SPGO) was first discovered in January of 2012 (see that post here). This will mark the 4th winter of this odd goose. Stories are told how hunters crave it, but so far it has escaped their buckshot.

Thousands of Geese are in the area of the confluence of the North and South Branches of the Raritan River. Another 1,230 Canada Geese were at North Branch Park this afternoon as well as 200+ Ring-billed Gulls (J. Ellerbusch). The Duke Island and North Branch Park sighting were in the 1:30- 2:00 pm time frame. Interestingly, this writer drove past those same locations at 1:00 and saw zero geese at Duke Island and only a small amount at North Branch. But, thousands of geese were in the corn stubble south of Studdiford Drive along the South Branch of the Raritan River. At 1:15 p.m. groups of these geese were seen taking off and flying in the direction of both parks.

The farm fields in the Branchburg-Hillsborough area are also of interest. In the farmland along River Road south of South Branch Road, is the continuing large congregation of Ring-billed Gulls numbering into the many hundreds. Previous years have seen Iceland and Lesser Black-backed Gulls in this area.

eBird Note

Please note: Birdventure, creator of the BirdTrax applet used on the Birds of New Jersey web site has ceased support of the checklist viewing feature.

Fear Not! eBird has struck gold again with Region Explorer

On the web site sidebar are links to the Morris and Somerset county checklist views of Region Explorer. Here are the links:

A post is forthcoming describing eBird Hotspots, the how and why to use them, and will also mention Region Explorer.


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Sunday Bird Notes, Dec. 7, 2014

Bald Eagle, Lake Hopatcong, NJ, Dec. 7, 2014 (photo by Jonathan Klizas)

Bald Eagle, Lake Hopatcong, NJ, Dec. 7, 2014 (photo by Jonathan Klizas)

(Click on the photo for a larger image.)

The photo above shows one of six Bald Eagles seen at Lake Hopatcong this morning. Bald Eagles are frequently seen in the area with one confirmed nest on Lake Hopatcong and a possible second nest, as well as the residents from nearby Lake Musconetcong.

When the north wind howls, Culver’s Lake in Sussex County may be the coldest spot in New Jersey. Lake Hopatcong fits that description for Morris County. Whatever the wintertime temperature reads, it feels many bone-chilling degrees less.

Windy with lots of caps on the water equals few birds seen on the lakes surveyed this morning. At Lake Hopatcong, an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull (LBBG) sat in the water, west of Nolans Point this morning. This is the first LBBG of the season reported in Morris and Somerset Counties. Somerset will get its share of LBBG from now through the spring. Surprisingly, even with huge gull concentrations on some of the western lakes of Morris, LBBG is hard to find.

Viewing conditions were difficult; waterfowl numbers were low, but it is hard to miss 114 Mute Swans congregated in several parts of the lake. So far, no Tundra Swans are at the lake this season.

Lake Musconetcong is hosting 150 Hooded Mergansers (believed to be the highest count, so far, in New Jersey for 2014), 20 Common Mergansers, 80+ Ring-billed Gulls and not much else.

Budd Lake has 6 Horned Grebes, 24 Common Mergansers, 3 Ruddy Ducks and Ring-billed and Herring Gulls.

4 Horned Grebes, probably the same group present for weeks, are the only highlight from nearly deserted Boonton Reservoir.

Keeping up with the run of Horned Grebes on Morris lakes, yesterday in the rain, Lake Parsippany added 2 to the Horned Grebe Morris tally. 1 Bufflehead, 76 Common Mergansers and 28 Hooded Mergansers and 3 American Coot round out the numbers there.

The 8 Sandhill Cranes of Randolph Road, Franklin Township continue to be viewed through yesterday. Jim Mulvey captured half of the group in the rain below.

Sandhill Cranes, Franklin Twp., NJ, Dec. 6, 2014 (photo by Jim Mulvey)

Sandhill Cranes, Franklin Twp., NJ, Dec. 6, 2014 (photo by Jim Mulvey)

Jill Homcy peeked out her back door in Lincoln Park three days ago and found the following Red-shouldered Hawk 10 feet from her door.

Red-shouldered Hawk, Lincoln Park, NJ, Dec. 4, 2014 (photo by Jill Homcy)

Red-shouldered Hawk, Lincoln Park, NJ, Dec. 4, 2014 (photo by Jill Homcy)

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