Birds of the New Year – Jan. 7, 2018

Sandhill Crane, Somerset Co., NJ, Jan. 1, 2018 (photo by John Bloomfield)

(Click on the photo for a larger image.)

Arctic conditions have frozen most of the water in Morris County. Somerset County does not have many bodies of water to freeze although the Raritan River is open enough to host thousands of Canada Geese as well as a variety of waterfowl species.

The annual wintering Sandhill Cranes total 15 this year. They are viewed at various cornfields in the Franklin Township area as well as seen near the Raritan River.

The Pink-footed Goose first reported on December 29, 2017 was last reported January 3 at Duke Island Park. Cackling Geese are also at the park.

Beware of a mixed-up Canada Goose x Domestic x Greater White-fronted Goose that has been at Duke Island Park recently. This goose seems to consist of various lineage streams and is best listed as goose sp., if at all.

Jeff Ellerbusch has found many interesting species in Somerset County the past few days. A Lapland Longspur at Bernardsville Quarry put in a brief appearance before disappearing, January 6. Later that day, a Lincoln’s Sparrow was well photographed at Fairview Farm. This is a very rare wintering species in the mocosocoBirds area.

Today, Jeff found another local rarity along the Delaware and Raritan Towpath near the Queen’s Bridge in South Bound Brook. An immature Great Cormorant was on a gravel bar, east of the I-287 bridge (west of the Queen’s Bridge).

Frozen Morris County is much more modest in its avian treasures so far this year. The highlights are both light morph and dark morph Rough-legged Hawks that are seen daily at the overlook on Pleasant Plains Rd., Great Swamp NWR.

A pair of Horned Larks were foraging on the bare ground this afternoon at Florham Park Fields along with Dark-eyed Juncos, Song, White-throated, and American Tree Sparrows. While often found in certain farm fields in Somerset County, Horned Larks are relatively rare in Morris County.

Horned Larks, Florham Park, NJ, Jan. 7, 2018 (photo by Jonathan Klizas)


View local eBird checklists in the mocosocoBirds region via eBird’s Region Explorer. Use the following links:

The eBird Hotspot Primer is here and can also be accessed via the Hotspot menu item on the mocosocoBirds.com website.


The mocosocoBirds Facebook page is located here and also posts timely information not found on the mocosocoBirds web site.

@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.


Finis


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Pink-footed Goose, Rough-legged Hawks – Dec. 29, 2017

A brief report from the road: a Pink-footed Goose found yesterday by Jageshwar Benimadho at North Branch Park, Bridgewater, continues today.

A white morph Rough-legged Hawk found yesterday by Patrick DeMarco at the Overlook on Pleasant Plains Road, Great Swamp NWR is joined today by a dark morph Rough-legged Hawk.

Frigid weather conditions continue.

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The 82nd Boonton Christmas Bird Count Report – 2017

The 82nd annual Boonton Christmas Bird Count (CBC) occurred on Saturday, December 23, 2017.

How can one describe the conditions in the field on that day: miserable, gloomy, wretched, dreadful, soggy, yucky. One can go on and on. A few decades-long veterans of the Boonton CBC felt this was the worst weather for the count they could remember.

Surely, wet and fogged binoculars caused a few species to be missed. More birding than usual from a car was necessary. The temperature ranged from 34 F degrees at dawn to a high of 39 F degrees in the afternoon. Winds were calm. A steady, obnoxious rain of varying intensities finally ceased at approximately 2 PM. And then the fog rolled in. What a day!

Many lakes and ponds in the count circle were frozen to some degree. The major exception was Boonton Reservoir which was entirely ice-free. A few other bodies of water managed to escape the freeze of previous weeks. Rivers and brooks were apparently free-flowing.

In spite of the atrocious weather, twenty-nine dedicated volunteers traveling solo or in groups worked their routes and uncovered 84 species, the lowest total for the Boonton CBC since 83 species were tallied in 1989. Interestingly, the weather on that date twenty-eight years earlier was difficult in a different fashion: the temperature ranged from a low of 6 F degrees to a high of 17 F degrees.

The previous two years have total species counts of 85 in 2015 and 90 in 2016. Considering the abysmal weather conditions, 84 for 2017 is a respectable total.

Three count-week species, Common Loon, Peregrine Falcon and Purple Finch, are also part of the record but not included in the total species count (count-week is defined as three days prior to and three days after the actual count date although count-week species are not in the official numeric tally submitted to the National Audubon Society).

The total number of individual birds tallied, 12,596, is the lowest since 6,344 were counted in 1972. Historical records show that although the temperature ranged from 35 F to 41 F degrees on that date forty-five years ago, 0.21 inches of precipitation fell, as well. Twenty-eight observers in eight parties worked that count.

Heartfelt thanks to all the participants who braved the nasty elements.

Highlights for this year’s CBC are modest; lowlights are understandably numerous.

The following table lists the species seen by only one party or individual. The species column is followed by the amount reported. The third column represents the percentage of occurrences in the 82-year history of the count:

Species Tot. % on CBC Comment
Wood Duck 1 84.1 lowest number since 0 in 2004.
Green-winged Teal 2 67.1 lowest total since 2 in 2000.
Greater Scaup 1 48.8 scattered over the years.
Red-breasted Merganser 1 13.4 Unusual but increasing in the last 10 years.
Ruddy Duck 6 82.9 Lowest total since 0 in 1989. The 21st-century average is 135.1 individuals.
Pied-billed Grebe 6 75.6 Missed in 2016 for the first time since 2002
Horned Grebe 3 29.3 Only the 3rd time plus one count-week entry in the 21st century.
Black Vulture 6 34.1 Has not been missed since 1999. The rain certainly kept Vultures hidden.
Turkey Vulture 3 53.7 Has not been missed since 1981.
Red-shouldered Hawk 1 87.8 Missed in 2007; the average for the 21st century is 2.1.
Merlin 1 19.5 Fairly steady this century with 2016’s remarkable 9 as the record high count.
American Coot 1 72.0 Fluctuates greatly. 465 were counted in 2011.
Great Black-backed Gull 2 64.6 A sharp decrease in recent years. The record high is 173 in 1985.
Barred Owl 1 59.8 The 82-year average is 1.1.
Common Raven 1 13.4 2002 was the 1st year on the CBC. Annual since 2011.
Brown Creeper 2 100.0 Found on all 82 counts…barely.
Marsh Wren 1 39.0 Always nice to find. Only the 2nd since 2007.
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 1 72.0 Not missed since 1997…barely.
American Pipit 30 32.9 Highest count since 35 in 1999.
Chipping Sparrow 1 26.8 One is found every few years. This one was at the back end of the Montville Community Gardens.
Savannah Sparrow 1 72.0 Missed only once since 1987.
Rusty Blackbird 16 95.1 Missed only 4 times in 82 years.
Common Grackle 82 80.5 Only one party reported Co. Grackles from one location. The Grackle factor played into 2017’s low individual total for all species. The 21st century average for Co. Grackle is 3,963.
Brown-headed Cowbird 30 82.9 Not missed since 1990, although only 1 was reported in 2016.

As one can see from the previous table, every route is important to the overall count circle; every bird counts. 24 species were seen by one party or individual only, showing how fragile the total species count is.

The following table shows species missed in 2017 that have more than 70% occurrences in the 82 years of the Boonton CBC. While this certainly can signal a decline in the species occurring in the count circle, keep in mind that the number of participants and parties fluctuates over the years affecting totals, as well as an increase in property development and habitat degradation. Also, do not forget how awful the weather was on count day.

Species % on CBC Comment
American Wigeon 82.9 2nd miss in 3 years after not being missed since 1989.
Common Goldeneye 73.2 Annual from 1989-2010; only once since 2013.
American Kestrel 89 Annual, at least during count-week, from 1936 through 1998, often in double digits. Increasingly sporadic since then, with totals only in 1’s and 2’s.
Red-breasted Nuthatch 72 Annual from 1968-2014; missed two of the last three years.

Other species missed in 2017 that were seen in 2016 include:

  • Snow Goose (seen 5 years in a row until 2017).
  • Canvasback and Redhead.
  • Lesser Scaup (was seen 12 out of the previous 13 counts).
  • Killdeer (seen 7 out 8 previous counts).
  • Red-headed Woodpecker – cyclical species seen 13 out of 14 previous counts.
  • Eastern Phoebe – recorded only three times in the 21st century.
  • Lincoln’s Sparrow – was found two years in a row at Troy Meadows.

With the dismal weather, almost all species were drastically down from recent averages. For example, Woodpeckers were approximately one-third of their average totals. Some species were 10% of their averages. 90 American Robins is 1,100 off of the 21st-century average.

  • 116 Red-winged Blackbirds is 433 lower than the 21st-century average.
  • 82 Common Grackles – 3,881 lower than the 21st-century average.

And on and on it goes. It was a bleak day to be counting birds.

Certain species were oblivious to the weather and either came close to or exceeded their 21st-century averages. These include Canada Goose, Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, Pied-billed Grebe, Great Blue Heron, American Pipit, Carolina Wren and Golden-crowned Kinglet. A few of the above species’ totals were at one location so their inclusion in this item is misleading as they are lightly represented most years.

Historical Tidbits

Remember that the wintering Canada Goose in north New Jersey is a recent phenomenon. The first Boonton CBC Canada Goose was found in 1941, one lone goose. 25 were tallied in 1943; 1 in 1946 and then none until 4 were counted in 1956 signaling a string of seven consecutive years. The consecutive string that continues until today started in 1965. At that time the high count between 1965 and 1970 was 32.

Count averages in the hundreds began unabated in 1971 with the high total at that time, 1,045, reached in 1976. Since then, totals always average into the thousands with two exceptions in 1979 and 1980. The record high count for the Boonton CBC is 7,143 in 2009. 2017 was close to average with 4,233.

Here is a graph illustrating the impressive expansion of the Canada Goose on the Boonton CBC. The X, or horizontal, axis is represented as the years of the count: 1 =1936, 81 = 2016, etc. The Y, or vertical, axis is the total amount of geese.


Mark your calendars. Next year’s count will be on Sunday, December 23, 2018.

This report is also at the following location on the mocosocoBirds.com website:
https://mocosocobirds.com/birds-of-morris-county-n-j/boontoncbc/2017-2/

A list of the species found on this CBC is at the following link:
https://mocosocobirds.com/birds-of-morris-county-n-j/boontoncbc/species-list/

You can also access these pages through the Birds of Morris County > Boonton Christmas Bird Count menu item on the mocosocoBirds.com website.

National Audubon Christmas Bird Count Website

A wonderful 2018 to all!
Nature is all we have. Protect, preserve, respect and nurture it. Always be awed by its beauty.

Jonathan Klizas, Compiler
Boonton Christmas Bird Count

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December Birds, Christmas Bird Count Info – Dec. 14, 2017

The past few days have reports of flyover Canada Geese and Snow Geese in the Morris and Somerset County areas. The following dark-morph (“Blue”) Snow Goose was photographed today by Chuck Hantis at Loantaka Brook Reservation.

Snow Goose, Loantaka Brook Reservation, Morris Co., NJ, Dec. 14, 2017 (photo by Chuck Hantis)

(Click on the photo for a larger image.)

Snow Goose, Loantaka Brook Reservation, Morris Co., NJ, Dec. 14, 2017 (photo by Chuck Hantis)

This handsome Northern Pintail is usually present at Loantaka this month. This photo is also by Chuck Hantis.

Northern Pintail, Loantaka Brook Reservation, Morris Co., NJ, Dec. 14, 2017 (photo by Chuck Hantis)


The Northern Shrike at the Great Swamp NWR is not reported since December 3 but certainly could still be in the area.

Mike Newlon took these images of the Northern Shrike on November 29.

Northern Shrike, Great Swamp NWR, NJ, Nov. 29, 2017 (photo by Mike Newlon)

Northern Shrike, Great Swamp NWR, NJ, Nov. 29, 2017 (photo by Mike Newlon)


Speaking of geese, a Greater White-fronted Goose has been visiting different locations in Somerset County recently. One was seen by Julie Stroffolino on November 29 at an eBird hotspot known as Bedminster Twp. Hike and Bike Pond.

Allegedly the same goose visited nearby Ravine Lake, Far Hills on December 11-12 (Frank Durso).


Morris and Somerset County Christmas Bird Counts

The Great Swamp and Watchung Ridges Christmas Bird Count is this Saturday, December 16.
Contact information: Simon Lane, greatswampCBC at gmail dot com

The Boonton CBC is on Saturday, December 23, 2017. All are welcome to participate.
Contact Jonathan Klizas: boontoncbc at gmail dot com

The Somerset County CBC is being held on Saturday, December 30.
Contact John Kee: jjkee at optimum dot net


View local eBird checklists in the mocosocoBirds region via eBird’s Region Explorer. Use the following links:

The eBird Hotspot Primer is here and can also be accessed via the Hotspot menu item on the mocosocoBirds.com website.


The mocosocoBirds Facebook page is located here and also posts timely information not found on the mocosocoBirds web site.

@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.


Finis


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2017 New Jersey Bald Eagle Report – Dec. 2017

Bald Eagle, Morris County, NJ (photo by Jonathan Klizas)

Further down on this page is a link to the 2017 New Jersey Bald Eagle Project Report, released on December 4.

Larissa Smith, Biologist and Volunteer Manager of the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ and Kathleen E. Clark prepared the report. Larissa offered the following comments in a message to the project volunteers:

“In 2017 the number of active nests stayed about the same as in 2016, but fledging was down from the past three seasons with 190 fledged. The productivity rate of 1.25 young per active nest is still above the required range of 0.0 to 1.1 for population maintenance. There could be several factors affecting the productivity including weather conditions and food supply. Last season there were also reports of “intruder” eagles at several nests which did disrupt the nesting attempts of several pairs. Every nesting season is different and we learn something new about nesting eagles every year.”

Here is the link to the report:
2017 Annual NJ Bald Eagle Report


View local eBird checklists in the mocosocoBirds region via eBird’s Region Explorer. Use the following links:

The eBird Hotspot Primer is here and can also be accessed via the Hotspot menu item on the mocosocoBirds.com website.


The mocosocoBirds Facebook page is located here and also posts timely information not found on the mocosocoBirds web site.

@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.


Finis


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November Birds; Christmas Bird Counts – Nov. 26, 2017

Northern Shrike, Great Swamp NWR, NJ, Nov. 23, 2017 (photo by Chuck Hantis)

(Click on the photo for a larger image.)

A Northern Shrike continues at the Great Swamp NWR where it is present since October 24. The Shrike is seen most often at the overlook on Pleasant Plains Road but is also occasionally seen at the Bluebird Lot.

Thanks to Chuck Hantis for these beautiful photos of the Shrike taken on Nov. 23.

Northern Shrike, Great Swamp NWR, NJ, Nov. 23, 2017 (photo by Chuck Hantis)


Christmas Bird Counts

Only two Christmas Bird Counts (CBC) in Morris and Somerset Counties have firm dates at this time. The dates and the count followed by the compiler’s contact information follow. Help is always needed for this invaluable data collection exercise. Besides, it’s fun.

  • Saturday, December 16, 2017: Great Swamp and Watchung Ridges CBC – Simon Lane: greatswampCBC at gmail dot com
  • Saturday, December 23, 2017: Boonton CBC – Jonathan Klizas: boontoncbc at gmail dot com

No information is currently available for the Somerset County CBC usually run on the third weekend of the CBC cycle.

An up-to-date list of CBCs in New Jersey is at the following link: CBCs in New Jersey.


Other birds

12 (!) Sandhill Cranes were seen at the Zaraphath Corn Fields today (Susan Treesh).

The drake Eurasian Wigeon, present since Nov. 4, continues as of today at Clark Drive, Mt. Olive Twp. (Alan Boyd).

Tundra Swans returned to the Lake Forest region of Lake Hopatcong this week (Alan Boyd). The trend in recent years is that varying numbers of Tundra Swans spend the winter at Lake Hopatcong as long as open water exists.

A Cackling Goose found at Lake Parsippany on November 17 by Alex Bernzweig continues as of Nov. 24.

Cackling Goose with Canada Geese, Lake Parsippany, NJ, Nov. 24, 2017 (photo by Jonathan Klizas)

A Red-breasted Merganser, female Greater Scaup and two Common Loons and not much else were at Boonton Reservoir this morning.


View local eBird checklists in the mocosocoBirds region via eBird’s Region Explorer. Use the following links:

The eBird Hotspot Primer is here and can also be accessed via the Hotspot menu item on the mocosocoBirds.com website.


The mocosocoBirds Facebook page is located here and also posts timely information not found on the mocosocoBirds web site.

@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.


Finis


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Scott Weidensaul at The Raptor Trust, Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017

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Northern Shrike continues at Great Swamp NWR – Nov. 12, 2017

Northern Shrike, Great Swamp NWR, NJ, Nov. 12, 2017 (photo by Chuck Hantis)

Here is an update to the earlier post from today.

Chuck Hantis reports the Northern Shrike continues this afternoon at the overlook on Pleasant Plains Rd., Great Swamp NWR. The refuge was closed for hunting the previous four days. This is the first report of the Northern Shrike since Nov. 6.

Thanks to Chuck for the update and the photograph.


View local eBird checklists in the mocosocoBirds region via eBird’s Region Explorer. Use the following links:

The eBird Hotspot Primer is here and can also be accessed via the Hotspot menu item on the mocosocoBirds.com website.


The mocosocoBirds Facebook page is located here and also posts timely information not found on the mocosocoBirds web site.

@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.


Finis


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Sandhill Cranes, Waterfowl, etc. – Nov. 12, 2017

Sandhill Cranes

For what is at least the eleventh year in a row, Sandhill Cranes have returned to Somerset County. Terry Carruthers saw between 8 and 10 cranes on November 9 while traveling on I-287. The cranes were in a Superfund site they apparently have a fondness for as they spent time there in previous years as well.

The cranes were seen Saturday at the same Superfund site by Jeff Ellerbusch while he was traveling on I-287. Barbara McKee saw from 8-10 cranes as well as a smaller group flying overhead while bike riding on the Delaware and Raritan Canal towpath later that day. The cranes were seen in flight today in Bridgewater in the general location of the Superfund site.

Randolph Road, Franklin Township is where most people see the Sandhill Cranes. However, soybeans were planted there this year, not the corn the cranes prefer. This was also the scenario two years ago making the cranes more challenging to find.

The Mettlers/Weston Rd. area north of Colonial Park is a favored spot but it is not known what was planted there this year. Also, check the cornfields behind the college at Zarephath.

Note: it is not advisable to enter the Superfund site mentioned earlier for (hopefully) obvious reasons.


Waterfowl and other birds

Bonaparte’s Gull, Lake Musconetcong, NJ, Nov. 12, 2017 (photo by Jonathan Klizas)

Three Bonaparte’s Gulls were at Lake Musconetcong today. Up to six were seen here Oct. 31-Nov. 2.


Waterfowl and gulls are gradually moving into the Morris and Somerset areas for the winter, possibly propelled by the previous days’ frigid weather.

4 Redheads were seen at Lake Parsippany, Nov. 11 but not today.

3 Long-tailed Ducks were at Boonton Reservoir, Nov. 11.

Hooded Merganser numbers are growing at Lake Musconetcong with 70+ seen today.

Hooded Merganser, Lake Musconetcong, NJ, Nov. 12, 2017 (photo by Jonathan Klizas)

Over 70 Buffleheads were at Lake Hopatcong this morning. One can easily see 100+ later in the season. 132 Mute Swans were tallied this morning but the annual wintering Tundra Swans have yet to appear at the lake.

Buffleheads, Lake Hopatcong, NJ, Nov. 12, 2017 (photo by Jonathan Klizas)

Bald Eagles are getting ready for next year’s brood. The Mt. Hope eagles were observed copulating on the nest this morning. The Lake Hopatcong pair was evident near the nest today.

Bald Eagles, Lake Hopatcong, NJ, Nov. 12, 2017 (photo by Jonathan Klizas)


A very late “Brewster’s” Warbler (Blue-winged x Golden-winged Warbler hybrid) was found along Troy Meadows Rd. on a frigid Nov. 10 morning by Rob Fanning.

The Eurasian Wigeon of Mt. Olive Twp and Lake Musconetcong was last seen on Nov. 6.

The Great Swamp NWR was closed for hunting the previous four days. There is no update on the Northern Shrike which was last reported on Nov. 6.


View local eBird checklists in the mocosocoBirds region via eBird’s Region Explorer. Use the following links:

The eBird Hotspot Primer is here and can also be accessed via the Hotspot menu item on the mocosocoBirds.com website.


The mocosocoBirds Facebook page is located here and also posts timely information not found on the mocosocoBirds web site.

@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.


Finis


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Surf Scoter, Eurasian Wigeon, Red-throated Loon, Northern Shrike – Nov. 5, 2017

An adult male Surf Scoter at Lake Parsippany capped a productive five-day period of local rarities in Morris County. The Scoter was viewed throughout the day, resting with its head tucked in. Occasionally, it would lift its head showing off its orange bill.

Surf Scoter with Ruddy Ducks and Buffleheads, Lake Parsippany, NJ, Nov. 5, 2017


The Red-throated Loon of Boonton Reservoir continues for a  fifth day. The Great Cormorant found on November 1 has not been seen since.

Red-throated Loon, Boonton Reservoir, NJ, Nov. 5, 2017 (photo by Jonathan Klizas)


A drake Eurasian Wigeon was found yesterday, November 4, at the Clark Drive swamp in Mount Olive Township. A Eurasian Wigeon spent last fall and winter in the western lakes of Morris County.

Some may remember Clark Drive from 2012 when up to 18 Redheads were in the corporate pond. The swamp fed by Wills Brook on the northeast side of the railroad tracks is a productive waterfowl spot. The species present Nov. 4 included the Eurasian Wigeon, 3 Northern Shovelers, 35 Gadwall, 12 American Wigeon, 4 Green-winged Teal, 6 Am. Black Ducks, a Pied-billed Grebe, 2 Great Blue Herons and 2 American Coot as well as Mallards, Canada Geese and a Belted Kingfisher.

Eurasian Wigeon, Mt. Olive Twp., NJ, Nov. 4, 2017 (photo by Jonathan Klizas)


A Magnolia Warbler at the Tilcon Lake area of Mount Olive Twp. on Nov. 4 was both a surprise and a probable locally late date for this species.

The Northern Shrike continues at the overlook on Pleasant Plains Road in the Great Swamp NWR. Some people saw it today and some didn’t.

Morristown’s White Ibis at Speedwell Lake was seen through yesterday, Nov. 4 but not today. It could simply be in an inaccessible location or flown to warmer climes.

Vesper Sparrows were seen today at the Great Swamp (many observers), and the old, defunct Hanover airport in Troy Meadows (Jeff Ellerbusch) where two late western Palm Warblers were also present.


View local eBird checklists in the mocosocoBirds region via eBird’s Region Explorer. Use the following links:

The eBird Hotspot Primer is here and can also be accessed via the Hotspot menu item on the mocosocoBirds.com website.


The mocosocoBirds Facebook page is located here and also posts timely information not found on the mocosocoBirds web site.

@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.


Finis


Posted in Morris County, Somerset County | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment