Today, January 13, 2013, was the 29th running of the Southwest Morris Winter Bird Count founded and administered by Dave Harrison. Today’s species count stands at 79 with one party’s totals remaining to be included. Washington Township and part of Mt. Olive Township in Morris County, is the area that our party covered. The region was blanketed in dense fog that never lifted and seemed to become thicker in some places as the day progressed. Birds were scarce throughout the morning – absent in many areas. That changed in the mid afternoon. Washington Township, consisting of Long Valley, Middle Valley and Schooley’s Mountain, has lots of agricultural fields. These are mostly on private lands but one can occasionally find an accessible field to explore. The fields behind the Long Valley Middle School were the location of the following species:
200 Horned Larks
60 American Pipits
2 Lapland Longspurs
1 Snow Bunting
The Lapland Lonspurs were often in the same field of view. The Snow Bunting was close by. When the Lark flock took flight en masse, the Snow Bunting stuck out with its white wing patches. An adult White-crowned Sparrow was with White-throated Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos in the hedgerow separating the farm field from a tree nursery.
These are not drive-up species. They were located at the very top of the hill from CR 513. Measurements on a Google map call it over 2,000 feet (about .4 mile uphill) in a straight line from a parked car but does not account for walking uphill through corn stubble or making a detour to avoid the corn stubble. The actual route taken was measured at 2,800 feet – one way.
If visited, one should use caution as this is a small but busy middle school as well as the township’s school bus depot. Carrying a scope and wearing binoculars may seem odd in this context. In fact, weekday visits may not be a smart idea.