Sandy is the word of the year in the northeastern United States. We thought the worst storms of our Morris and Somerset County lifetimes were in 2011 until October 29, 2012 occurred. The fallen and split trees, power outages and altered lives resulting from one of the most powerful storms ever to strike New Jersey are memories for a lifetime. Entire swatches of forest were blown down and splintered. Fortunately, any significant rainfall amounts during the storm bypassed Morris and Somerset Counties or else the devastation would be worse. Homo sapiens may alter the physical landscape for better and probably worse, but in the end, Nature rules.
The winter of 2011-12 was the mildest most people could remember. There was little, if any, snowfall and most bodies of water remained open throughout the season. The Northern Shrike that spent the winter at Johannson Fields in Boonton Township earns the Morris Bird of the Year moniker. This cooperative Shrike highlighted the birding landscape of Morris County from January through March as many birders viewed it.
Another winter hardy was the Wilson’s Warbler of the Chatham Sewage Ponds. Found in December of 2011, this individual was seen into mid January making it the first over-wintering Wilson’s Warbler in New Jersey history. Elsewhere, Redheads were relatively widespread with a high count of 18 in a corporate pond in Mt. Olive during February. Red-necked Grebes put in an appearance on April 1 at Lakes Musconetcong and Parsippany. Rails and Bittern numbers were down.
April rains soothed the parched earth avoiding a potential drought, which would have been the height of irony considering the deluges of the previous year. Spring migration was unremarkable. There were reports of Golden-winged Warblers breeding in the northern part of the county. In 2011, there were two Bald Eagle nests in the county. In 2012, there are five.
Shorebird habitat is limited to what remains of the Melanie Lane Wetlands in Hanover. Practically all shorebird reports came from this gem of a location as well as reports of Black-crowned and Yellow-crowned Night-Herons, Glossy Ibis, a rare-for-the-county Cattle Egret, a county record number of Great Egrets and all regularly occurring swallow species in the state.
Cliff Swallows are nesting at the Boonton Reservoir. An Upland Sandpiper was in the Great Swamp on August 13. A Clay-colored Sparrow visited Florham Park in September. A Long-billed Dowitcher was at Loantaka Brook Reservation in November. The autumn winter finch invasion of 2012 barely made a mark in Morris County. Red-breasted Nuthatches, Purple Finches and Pine Siskins were plentiful, but Crossbills, Evening Grosbeaks and Common Redpolls produced few records. An influx of three Rough-legged Hawks on December 31 in the Great Swamp put a bold period on 2012.
A bar graph for Morris County Birds in 2012, generated from eBird data, is here. Clicking on the map button next to each species will display a distribution map for that species in 2012. eBird is a powerful reference source.
GSNWR = Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge.
Loantaka = Loantaka Brook Reservation.
Melanie Lane = Melanie Lane Wetlands (Pond) in Hanover Twp.
The following records are gleaned from mocosocobirds.com, personal correspondences and eBird. This page can be updated as needed since it is an online format. Please share any additional records or data using the Bird Reporter.
Dates are in the standard UK format of Date followed by the abbreviated month, e.g. 1 Jan for January 1st. Observers are listed at the end of the report, their initials used for the body of the report.
Anseriformes (Ducks, Geese and Waterfowl)
Greater White-fronted Goose – 23 Dec, Morristown on the Boonton CBC (KL, FK).
Snow Goose – 23 Dec, High count of 150, Troy Meadows, Boonton CBC (JE,DK, RJ) (Record total for count – 301).
Brant – 2 at Lake Parsippany, 31 Oct (JG).
Cackling Goose – the only records – Califon Pond, Washington Twp., 5 Feb (JE, JG, JK); also 11 Feb (JG); 1 at Boonton Reservoir (Boonton CBC), 23 Dec (TV, WW).
Mute Swan – high countof 149 at Mt. Hope Lake, 3 Jun (JK). It declined to 11 by 2 Dec.
Tundra Swan – 6 at Mt. Hope Lake, 23 Feb (JK); 1 at GSNWR, 19 Feb (SH) and 20 Feb (SL); 2 at GSNWR, 27 Oct (SL).
Wood Duck – 60 at GSNWR on 18 Mar (JE).
Gadwall – 102 at Lake Parsippany, 14 Feb (JK).
American Wigeon – 50 at Mt. Hope Lake, 24 Nov (JK).
Blue-winged Teal – 9 at Mt. Hope Lake, 22 Sep (JK).
Northern Shoveler – 16 at Chatham Sewage Ponds, 8 Feb (KB).
Northern Pintail – 50 at GSNWR on 3 Mar (JE).
Green-winged Teal – 25 at Melanie Lane, 25 Mar (JK).
Canvasback – 27 in Denville, 23 Dec, Boonton CBC; 1 in Washington Twp., 3 Feb (DH), 5 Feb (JE, JK), 11 Feb (JG); 1 at Lake Parsippany, 31 Mar (JG, JK, SL), 1 Apr (m.obs.).
Ring-necked Duck – 234 at Mt. Hope Lake, 8 Dec (JK).
Greater Scaup – 1 at Lake Parsippany, 25 Mar (JK, JG), 31 Mar (JK, SL).
Lesser Scaup – 65 at Indian Lake, Denville, 4 Mar (JK).
White-winged Scoter – only report – 6 on Lake Parsippany, 30 Oct (JG, TV).
Black Scoter – 21 at Lake Parsippany, 26 Oct (JG, JK); 3 at Budd Lake, 27 Oct (JK).
Long-tailed Duck – 1 in Morris Plains, 31 Mar (JG, JK, SL); 3 on Lake Parsippany, 1 Apr (m.obs.).
Bufflehead – 45 on Lake Musconetcong on 15 Mar (JK).
Common Goldeneye – 7 at Lake Musconetcong, 14 Feb (SF, JK); 1 at Lake Parsippany, 7 Nov (JG).
Hooded Merganser – 140 at Lake Musconetcong, 18 Dec (AB). Probable all-time county high count.
Common Merganser – 900 at Split Rock Reservoir, 22 Dec (JK).
Ruddy Duck – 650 at Mt. Hope Lake, 24 Nov (JK) – all-time county record.
Red-throated Loon – only 2012 record: 1 at Budd Lake, 23 Nov – 5 Dec (TH, m.obs.).
Common Loon – high count: 4 at Lake Parsippany, 30 Oct (JG).
Pied-billed Grebe – 35 at Lake Musconetcong, 27 Oct (AB).
Horned Grebe – 26 at Lake Musconetcong, 1 Apr (AB). All-time Morris high – eBird.
Red-necked Grebe – 2 at Lake Musconetcong, 1 Apr (AB); 1 at Lake Parsippany, 1 Apr (JG, m.obs.).
Double-crested Cormorant – 300 at Boonton Reservoir, 15 Jul (JK). All-time Morris high – eBird.
Great Cormorant – None reported in 2012.
Pelicaniformes (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)
American Bittern – first of year GSNWR, 14 Apr (TO); 3 at GSNWR 4-5 May (JE, JK, SL, PB) but not reported again.
Least Bittern – sparse reports from GSNWR, 1-9 Jun (MN, SL); 8 Aug (SL).
Great Blue Heron – 40 at heronry, Jefferson Twp., 27 Jun (JK).
Great Egret – 21 at Melanie Lane Wetlands, Hanover Twp., 19 Jul (JG). All-time Morris high – eBird.
Snowy Egret – None.
Tricolored Heron – 1 adult at GSNWR, 9 May (JK, SL).
Cattle Egret – 1 at Melanie Lane Wetlands, Hanover Twp., 22 May (JG, et al).
Black-crowned Night-Heron – various May reports from Melanie Lane and GSNWR.
Accipitriformes (Osprey, Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)
Osprey – late date of 18 Nov, Lake Musconetcong (AB).
Mississippi Kite – reported from GSNWR, 29 May-7 June by various observers. Further documentation is desired. This is the first record in the county since 1989.
Bald Eagle – 5 nests, 4 active, were found in Morris County in 2012.
Northern Goshawk – 1 at Picatinny Peak Hawkwatch, 21 Oct.
Broad-winged Hawk – The high count was 2,631 on 17 Sep at the Wildcat Ridge Hawk Watch.
Golden Eagle – 6 was the season’s total at Picatinny Peak Hawkwatch; 1 at GSNWR during “Big Sit” on 14 Oct (TC, KE, et al).
Peregrine Falcon – various single reports throughout the year. Total of 7 at Wildcat Ridge Hawkwatch; 12 at Picatinny Peak Hawkwatch.
Gruiformes (Rails, Gallinules, Coots and Cranes)
King Rail –GSNWR, 6 Jun (SL).
Common Gallinule – 3 on 5 May, GSNWR (PB, SL) ; 12 May, GSNWR, various teams on World Series of Birding; 23 Sep. Lake Musconetcong (JK, TH).
American Coot – 71 at Mt. Hope Lake, 2 Dec (JK).
Charadriiformes (Shorebirds, Gulls and Terns)
Semipalmated Plover – 1 at Melanie Lane, 8-15 May (JK); 1 at FlorhamPark, 10 May (JK).
Killdeer – 23 at Melanie Lane, 24 Jul (MW).
Spotted Sandpiper – 5 at Melanie Lane, 21 Jul (JG).
Solitary Sandpiper – 13 at Melanie Lane, 9 May (JK).
Greater Yellowlegs – 8 at Melanie Lane, 14 May (JG).
Lesser Yellowlegs – 20 at Melanie Lane, 12 May (JK).
Upland Sandpiper – 1st known county report in many years, GSNWR, 13 Aug (BB, BF, JM, JK). Very rare in the county. In 1887, E.C. Thurber describes it as “A rather common summer resident, breeding on wet meadows.”
Photo by Jim Mulvey.
Semipalmated Sandpiper – 35 in Denville, 3 Sep (JK, TV).
Least Sandpiper – 58 at Melanie Lane, 18 Jul (JK).
Long-billed Dowitcher – 10-12 Nov (TS, m.obs.). 1st record in many years. Kevin Karlson’s comments:”The bird is a first winter bird that has a few retained juvenile scapulars that are diagnostic of Long-billed due to their solid black centers and narrow rust edges…The less solid gray hooded look to this bird is due to its first winter status, but everything else, including classic narrow bill with flattened tip, points to LBDO. Don’t worry that the body shape does not conform to the “swallowed a grapefruit” look that is pointed out in our book, since may LBDOs don’t show this shape due to young age and a lack of sufficient sustenance to create the rounded undercarraige to go along with a hump-backed look. SBDO can also show a very rounded back, but LBDO usually shows a hump near the shoulders versus a uniformly rounded back on SBDO. We had a few juvenile LBDOs at S. Padre Island that showed a very slender body shape, including the underparts, while all the adults that I saw had the classic “tennis ball in the belly” look. I suspect this is typical of undernourished young bird in first winter…Another reliable field mark is the bold lower eye crescent in LBDO that contrasts strongly with a dark face compared to the narrower, less bold white eyering on SBDO that does not contrast strongly with a whiter cheek.”
Photo by Jonathan Klizas.
Wilson’s Snipe – 65 at Melanie Lane 31 Mar (JG).
Red-necked Phalarope – Melanie Lane, 22 May (KG).
Bonaparte’s Gull – 1 at Mt. Hope Lake, 24 Nov (JK).
Herring Gull – a remarkable 800 at Budd Lake, 19 Jan (JK).
Caspian Tern –1 at Split Rock, 29 Aug (RR).
Forster’s Tern – 1 at Boonton Reservoir, 26 Sep (JK).
Yellow-billed Cuckoo – 11 May at GSNWR (SL).
Black-billed Cuckoo – 5 May at GSNWR (SL).
Northern Saw-whet Owl - 15 Dec, Great Swamp CBC (AL, et al).
Common Nighthawk – 5 May, GSNWR (SL); 23 in Rockaway, 23 Aug (RR).
Eastern Whip-poor-will – A surprise pre-dawn whip at GSNWR, 11 Apr (JK); GSNWR, 4 May (TC); various records in June from Lake Denmark area.
Apodiformes (Swifts and Hummingbirds)
Chimney Swift – GSNWR, 15 Apr (MB).
Ruby-throated Hummingbird – Rockaway, 29 Apr (SF); Chatham, 29 Apr (SL).
Red-headed Woodpecker – sightings in the Tourne, May-July (m.obs.); various reports from GSNWR, Jan-May.
Olive-sided Flycatcher – Bee Meadow, 7 May (JG, et al); Roxbury, 13 Aug (AB); Tilcon Pond, 15 Aug (AB); Split Rock, 29 Aug (RR); GSNWR 14 Sep (KB).
Eastern Wood-pewee – 5 May, Roxbury (NB).
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher – GSNWR, 28 Aug (SL); Split Rock, 29 Aug (RR); Morris Twp., 1 Sep (JK).
Acadian Flycatcher – 3 at Mahlon Dickerson, 12 May (JK, SL).
Alder Flycatcher –5 May, GSNWR (HT); 11 May, Chatham Twp. (SL).
Willow Flycatcher – 9 May, GSNWR (JK).
Least Flycatcher – 5 May, Washington Twp. (AG); 12 May, Mahlon Dickerson (JK, SL); Rockaway, 23 Aug (RR); Morris Twp., 6 Sep (JK);
Eastern Phoebe – 11 Mar, Loantaka (JK).
Great Crested Flycatcher – 28 Apr, GSNWR (JC).
Eastern Kingbird – 27 Apr, GSNWR (MN).
White-eyed Vireo – 5 May, Morris Twp. (JG, JK); GSNWR, 11 May-4 Jul (SL, m.obs.). A mid-April report from MiddleValley requires further documentation.
Yellow-throated Vireo – 19 Apr, GSNWR (JK).
Blue-headed Vireo – 20 Apr, Loantaka (LW).
Warbling Vireo – 20 Apr, GSNWR (SL).
Philadelphia Vireo – Morris Twp., 11 Sep (JK), 16 Sep (JG).
Red-eyed Vireo – 29 Apr, GSNWR (TC).
Common Raven – 4 in the center of MorrisPlains, 13 Jul (JK); 5 in Rockaway, 22 Aug (RR); 4 in Rockaway, 23 Dec (RR); widespread throughout the county the entire year. Probable nests in Roxbury and Jefferson.
Horned Lark – 28 in Long Valley, 15 Jan (JK, BM, EP); 1 in Mt. Olive Twp., 6 Apr (KG).
Northern Rough-winged Swallow – 24 Mar, Florham Park (JG).
Purple Martin – 3 at Lake Musconetcong, 6 Apr (AB).
Tree Swallow – 2 on 10 Mar, GSNWR (SL).
Bank Swallow – 15 on 2 May at Melanie Lane (JG).
Barn Swallow – 12 at Lake Musconetcong, 1 Apr (AB).
Cliff Swallow – 1 at Melanie Lane, 27 Apr (JG), 6 on 25 Jul (JG); 10 at GSNWR, 11 May (JK); nests discovered at Boonton Reservoir 1 Jul (JG, JK), 20 individuals on 8 Jul (JG, JK); last seen 5 Aug (JK).
Red-breasted Nuthatch – Sparse until August when an influx invaded the northeast. High count of 10 at storm-ravaged Jonathan’s Woods, Denville Twp., 5 Nov (JK).
House Wren – 13 Apr, Morris Twp. (JK).
Winter Wren – numerous reports from October-December with a high count of 8 at GSNWR, 15 Dec (JE).
Marsh Wren – GSNWR, 21 Apr (JK).
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher – GSNWR, 8 Apr (SL).
Veery – Black River WMA, 26 Apr (AB).
Gray-cheeked Thrush – Only two reports: Wildcat Ridge, 24 Sep (DS); Mahlon Dickerson 6 Oct (JK).
Swainson’s Thrush – 3 May, Jockey Hollow (JK).
Wood Thrush – Black River WMA, 26 Apr (AB).
American Pipit – 50 in Boonton Twp., 7 Oct (JG); various reports through 18 Nov.
Snow Bunting – no reports.
Warbler Arrival Dates:
- Ovenbird – 20 Apr, MiddleValley (AG).
Worm-eating Warbler – 4 May, GSNWR (SL).
Louisiana Waterthrush – 28 Mar, GSNWR (SL).
Northern Waterthrush – 19 Apr, Bee Meadow Park (JG).
Blue-winged Warbler – 20 Apr, GSNWR (HT).
Golden-winged Warbler – 31 May, Rockaway Twp. (BS).
Lawrence’s Warbler – After 5 consecutive years, not reported from Kay Environmental Center, Chester Township.
Black-and-white Warbler – 15 Apr, GSNWR (MB).
Prothonotary Warbler – 28 Apr, GSNWR ( JE).
Tennessee Warbler – 6 May, GSNWR (JK).
Nashville Warbler – 2 May, GSNWR (JK).
Kentucky Warbler – 7 May, Middle Valley (AG).
Common Yellowthroat – 18 Apr, Bee Meadow Park (JG).
Hooded Warbler – 4 May, Jockey Hollow (JK).
American Redstart – 30 Apr, Bee Meadow Park (JG).
Cape May Warbler – 6 May, Chatham Twp. (SL).
Cerulean Warbler – none.
Northern Parula – 2 May, Bee Meadow Park (JG).
Magnolia Warbler – 3 May, Bee Meadow Park (JG).
Bay-breasted Warbler – 5 May, Chatham Twp. (SL).
Blackburnian Warbler – 4 May, GSNWR (SL).
Yellow Warbler – 17 Apr, GSNWR (SL).
Chestnut-sided Warbler – 3 May, Bee Meadow Park (JG).
Blackpoll Warbler – 5 May, Tourne (JK).
Black-throated Blue Warbler – 3 May, Bee Meadow Park (JG).
Palm Warbler – 23 Mar, GSNWR (JE).
Pine Warbler – 25 Mar, Troy Meadows (JK).
Prairie Warbler – 20 Apr, GSNWR (SL).
Black-throated Green Warbler – 18 Apr, Black River WMA (SF).
Canada Warbler – 5 May, Bee Meadow Park (JK).
Wilson’s Warbler – 4 May, GSNWR (HT).
Yellow-breasted Chat – none.
The remarkable Wilson’s Warbler of Chatham was last observed on 19 Jan (JM). It was originally found on the Great Swamp CBC on 17 Dec 2011.
- Northern Parula – 2 Nov, Troy Meadows (RJ).
- Orange-crowned Warbler – None.
- Connecticut Warbler – 13 Sep, Bee Meadow Park (JG); 17 Sep, Morris Twp. (JK).
Vesper Sparrow – Spring: none reported; Autumn: numerous reports. Whippany, 10 Oct (MW); 1-4 in Veteran’s Park, Whippany, 15-27 Oct (JG, et al); 3 at Troy Meadows, 27 Oct (JE, JK); 1 at Troy Meadows, 6 Nov (JK).
Photo by Jonathan Klizas.
Grasshopper Sparrow – none.
Lincoln’s Sparrow – Spring: none; Autumn: Bee Meadow Park, 13 Sep (JK); many reports from various locations through 2 Nov.
Scarlet Tanager – 26 Apr, Black River WMA (AB).
Rose-breasted Grosbeak – 21 Apr, Middle Valley (AG).
Indigo Bunting – 6 May, GSNWR (JK).
Bobolink –2 on 1 May, Melanie Lane (JK), 1 at GSNWR (SL); 30 on 4 May, Melanie Lane (MW); reported throughout May at Melanie Lane, Frelinghuysen Fields in Harding Twp..
Eastern Meadowlark – 11 May, GSNWR (HD, JMa); 5 in Whippany, 15 Oct (JG); 2 on 17 Jun, Rockaway Twp. (SL); 27 Oct, Troy Meadows (JE, JK).
Orchard Oriole – 17 April, GSNWR (SL).
Baltimore Oriole – 24 April, Loantaka Brook Reservation (JK).
Rusty Blackbird – 200 at Troy Meadows, 25 Mar (JK) represents the high count for the state in 2012.
Purple Finch – 94 at GSNWR, 14 Oct (JE).
Red Crossbill – 2 on 3 Nov, Chatham (SL); GSNWR, 18 Nov (JE, JK, SL).
White-winged Crossbill – 8 Nov, Picatinny Arsenal (JR); 18 Nov, GSNWR (JE, JK, SL); 14 Dec, Denville (SG); 6 at GSNWR, 15 Dec (JE, SL).
Common Redpoll – all reports from GSNWR: 18 Nov (JE, JK, SL); 6 on 2 Dec (JE); 1 on 15 Dec (JE); 3 on 24 Dec (SL); 1 at Jockey Hollow, 26 Dec (JK).
Evening Grosbeak – A cryptic report from the eBird Tracker at GSNWR, 11 Nov. Otherwise, no reports.
Pine Siskin – 23 Jun at a feeder in Mountain Lakes (CM); widespread in October dwindling in November-December. High count of 273 at Troy Meadows, 27 Oct (JK, JE, RJ) although others may claim even more at their feeders.
Matt Bango (MB)
Ben Barkley (BB)
Nathaniel Birrer (NB)
Alan Boyd (AB)
Kevin Browne (KB)
Peter Burke (PB)
Terry Carruthers (TC)
John Collins (JC)
Holly Dunbar (HD)
Jeff Ellerbusch (JE)
Karen English (KE)
Steve Fasciana (SF)
Brendan Fogarty (BF)
Sam Galick (SG)
Jim Gilbert (JGi)
Jamie Glydon (JG)
Alison Goessling (AG)
Kevin Graff (KG)
Tom Halliwell (TH)
Susan Hunt (SH)
Roger Johnson (RJ)
Dave Kaplan (DK)
Sue Kaufmann (SK)
Jonathan Klizas (JK)
Florence Klecha (FK)
Ivan Kossack (IK)
Andy Lamy (AL)
Kevin Lapsey (KL)
Bob Machover (BM)
Joyce Mauer (JMa)
Cliff Miles (CM)
Jim Mulvey (JM)
Tom Ostrand (TO)
Ed Patten (EP)
Rick Radis (RR)
John Reed (JR)
Ben Sandstrom (BS)
Tom Smith (TS)
Dave Spangenburg (DS)
Andy Stepniewski (AS)
Harvey Tomlinson (HT)
Tim Vogel (TV)
Leslie Webster (LW)
William Weiss (WW)
Mike Wolfe (MW)