Horned Larks, June 5, 2014

Horned Lark nesting activity in New Jersey peaked in the 20th century during the 1950’s when they were recorded as breeding in every county except Union and Hudson. Their decline as breeders was as rapid as their ascent so that by the 1960s they were described as uncommon and local [Birds of New JerseyWalsh, Elia, Kane, Halliwell (NJ Audubon, 1999); The Birds of New Jersey: Status and DistributionBoyle (Princeton Univ. Press, 2011)].

Horned Larks can still be found on farm habitat in Somerset County albeit in tiny numbers. A single bird on May 10 in Hillsborough (Jeff Ellerbusch, Roger Johnson, J. Klizas, Simon Lane) and single birds in June in Branchburg (J. Ellerbusch) do not represent a burgeoning population but at least they continue to be probable breeders in the area.

The Florham Park Fields were a Morris County hot spot over the weekend with Blue Grosbeak and an Eastern Meadowlark on the premises. Neither species was found today, nor were the Savannah Sparrows seen last Sunday, June 1. At least one Bobolink was near the grown over dirt mounds singing and flying about this afternoon (J. Klizas). In recent years this field is mowed in May and again in late summer (in the past, the owner has professed a dis-interest in maintaining habitat for birds). For whatever reason in 2014, the field is yet to be cut and hard-to-find Morris County species are taking advantage of the situation.

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