(Click on any of the photos for a larger image.)
Deerhaven Lake is simply a gem of northern Morris County and one of this writer’s favorite locations. Besides one of the most picturesque heronries anywhere in New Jersey, it also has breeding Common Gallinules, Pied-billed Grebes, numerous Wood Ducks and apparently, as three intrepid observers saw today, Least Bitterns along with the many other species typical of this wetlands habitat.
Deerhaven Lake is part of the Newark Watershed. A hiking permit is required to enter the area and can be acquired at the watershed office on Echo Lake Road north of Route 23. Be aware that shotgun-blasting hunters have been observed here during hunting season. Also, be aware there are no trails, per se. It is the classic mocosocoBirds “you are on your own” location.
A family of six Common Gallinules was observed as long as one wanted to this morning (see the photo above). While watching the family activities, a different Common Gallinule was heard calling from another direction for a total of at least seven.
The family hauled out on a partially submerged log and were unwary of three Homo sapiens relatively close by.
This species has impressively sized toes in relation to the rest of its body.
An interesting feature was noticed on the adults that the observers in attendance cannot recall having seen before, probably because most birders do not get the chance to see Common Gallinules walking in shallow water very often, if at all.
Look at the photo below and note the red bands at the top of the bird’s tibias (upper legs) just below the thigh feathers. Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology’s Birds of North America refers to this band as a”garter of scarlet” (how fashionable). These are present only in the adults. As with all of the photos in this post, click on one to get a larger image in a separate tab or window.
Incidentally, that is not a headless juvenile to the right of the adult. The youth has its head turned to the side.
Sharp-eyed Louis Bizzarro picked out two Least Bitterns in flight just over Phragmites in the distance. Rob Fanning was able to see one soon thereafter and this observer, as well as Louis, saw a Least Bittern straddling some Phragmites stalks before disappearing. This is the first known sighting of this species at this location, although not surprising considering the habitat.
A Pied-billed Grebe was seen and later heard calling. This is a nesting species at Deerhaven Lake. See an August 2016 post for a photo of a family of Pied-billed Grebes out on the lake.
Many of the Great Blue Herons from this magnificent heronry have dispersed, although twenty-plus Great Blue Herons continue to feed at the lake.
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