Here are highlights of the 2013 birding year in Morris and Somerset Counties, New Jersey. Observers are signified by the initials in parenthesis. A list of observers is at the end of this page. Click on the photographs for a larger image.
Fortunately, there are no major weather events to remember for 2013. One of the great natural marvels of our area did occur in 2013. The Brood X Cicadas, the Great Eastern Brood, emerged after 17-years underground. Breeding Bird Surveys in certain parts of the mocosocoBirds area were complicated by the din of the Cicadas – and what a wonderful sound it is. We look forward to 2030 when they return again.
The bird(s) of the year for Morris County are the three Pacific Loons present from March 9 through April 6. A juvenile was viewed by many at a small corporate pond on American Road in Morris Plains (March 9-20, JG, m.obs.), an adult was at Lake Parsippany (March 15-22, PW, JK, SL, m.obs.) and another adult was at Boonton Reservoir (March 17-April 6, JK, SL, et al). This is an unprecedented gathering of this species in New Jersey as well as any other inland eastern states.
Somerset County’s only Red-throated Loon report came on April 11 in the Raritan River seen from the D&R Towpath in Franklin Twp (ZB, HE, JE). Morris County had 1 at Lake Hopatcong on April 7 (JK); 2 at Boonton Reservoir, April 13 and 1 on April 20 (SL); 1 at Budd Lake on November 10-12 (DH, AB, et al).
In the Year of the Pink-footed Goose in New Jersey, the only report in the mocosocoBirds region came on February 24 from Florham Park where the goose was viewed and photographed (JGla). The goose was not seen again in Morris county. It was later identified as one that frequented Bergen County earlier in the season. Both Pacific Loon and Pink-footed Goose are new additions to the Morris County bird list.
Bernards Township hosted a Ross’s Goose (TC, m.obs.) and a Greater White-fronted Goose (January 13-early February, m.obs.), which frequented the VA Hospital grounds in Lyons as well as the equestrian field at Lord Stirling Park. Another Greater White-fronted Goose was seen at Duke Island Park into March (ZB, JE, m.obs.) and other sightings were at Opie Road, Hillsborough/Branchburg (JE) and Franklin Township in February (JE).
Somerset County solidified its position as the Cackling Goose Capital of New Jersey with numerous reports from January through March and October through December with high counts of 13 on a few occasions.
1,100 Ring-necked Ducks were counted at Lake Hopatcong on March 9 (JK).
The only Scoter records for 2013:
1 Surf Scoter at Boonton Reservoir on April 11 (MW, et al); 2 on April 17 (MW, SL).
3 White-winged Scoters at Boonton Reservoir, April 11 (MW, et al).
1 Long-tailed Duck was at Boonton Reservoir, February 16 (JK). 3 were at Boonton Res. on December 4 and 3 at Lake Hopatcong on Dec. 7 (JK). Somerset County had one record, seen on the Raritan River from the D&R Towpath in Franklin Township on April 17 (ZB, JE).
437 Double-crested Cormorants were counted at Boonton Reservoir on July 17 – a Morris County record (JK).
The only Great Cormorant reports in the mocosocoBirds region were a February 16 fly-by at Boonton Reservoir (SL) and the remarkably early juvenile that was at the same Jefferson Road Pond as the Yellow-crowned Night Herons (see below) from September 14-19 (JB, m.obs.).
Two juvenile Yellow-crowned Night Herons (and a juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron) spent October into the first week of November at a pond on Jefferson Rd., Parsippany, next to the Sheraton Parsipanny Hotel (Morris Co.) (JB, m.obs.). A juvenile Yellow-crowned Night Heron was at Colonial Park, Franklin Twp. April 22 (Somerset Co.) (ZB, JE, et al). These are excellent records for both counties.
The only known Common Gallinule reports came from the Great Swamp NWR on May 22 (JK, SL) and Deerhaven Lake, Jefferson Twp., June 22 (JK) and August 3 (RJ, JK).
Glaucous and Iceland Gulls made appearances in both Morris and Somerset for the first time in memory.
Glaucous Gull – Budd Lake, March 2-8 (JE, m.obs.); Hillsborough Twp., Dec 17-18 (FS, et al)
Iceland Gull – Rockaway Twp., March 2-3 (DB, JK, CM, RM); Boonton Reservoir, February 16 (SL); Lake Parsippany, March 21 (TJ); Hillsborough Twp., Dec 18-20 (JE, VS).
The only report of a tern species in the mocosocoBirds region occurred on August 26 with a juvenile Forster’s Tern at the Lincoln Park Gravel Pits (JK).
Rough-legged Hawks were evident in various locations in January and February with as many as three reported from the Great Swamp NWR. Another report was added from December with at least one Rough-legged Hawk in Bedminster Twp.
A record number of Golden Eagles, 22, were counted for the season at the Chimney Rock Hawk Watch. And the final raptor counted for the season on November 15 was…? A Golden Eagle, of course. 8,615 Broad-winged Hawks passed the hawk watch on September 16. 140 Red-shouldered Hawks on November 3 set a new record for The Rock.
Red-headed Woodpeckers invaded the mocosocoBirds region this autumn. 46 were counted on the Boonton Christmas Bird Count, December 22, with the majority of them at Troy Meadows. 21 were counted on a snowy Great Swamp – Watchung Ridges CBC on December 14.
Cerulean Warblers were found in Mt. Olive Township during May and June (JK, et al).
Prothonotary Warblers bred again along the Passaic River usually viewed from the Lord Stirling Park (Somerset Co.) side of the river (m.obs.).
6 Sandhill Cranes returned like clockwork near the end of November (the 23rd this year to be exact) (KH, m.obs.). This is the 7th consecutive year of their wintering in the corn stubble in the Randolph Road/Weston Canal Road vicinity of Franklin Township.
Somerset County’s first record of a Black-throated Gray Warbler (pending acceptance by the New Jersey Bird Record Commitee) was photographed at Glenhurst Meadows, September 27 (KB). It was not relocated again.
Orange-crowned Warblers were absent in 2013.
Not a common species in Morris County and a rare breeder as well, Yellow-breasted Chats were noted in Morris Township, Great Swamp NWR and Mt. Olive Township in the spring and summer of 2013.
Dickcissels spent May through July again at Negri-Nepote Native Grasslands. The high count was 4.
The year’s only Clay-colored Sparrow was at Glenhurst Meadows Nov. 9-10 (JE, SL). There are no other reports of rare sparrows this year.
A Painted Bunting visited a private property in Franklin Township sporadically in April (KR).
Although holding their own in the grasslands of Somerset County, Eastern Meadowlarks are scarce in Morris County with 2 reported from Long Valley in June (JG, JK), and singletons from the Great Swamp NWR in May (HD) and November (JE).
Christmas Bird Count totals:
- Great Swamp, December 14 (snow) – 84 species (SL -compiler)
- Boonton, December 22 (65 degrees F) – 97 species (JK – compiler)
- Somerset County, December 28 (50 degrees F) – 86 species (3 parties outstanding) (JKe – compiler).
Zach Batren (ZB)
Kevin Bolton (KB)
Alan Boyd (AB)
Dan Brill (DB)
Julie Buechner (JB)
Terry Carruthers (TC)
Holly Dunbar (HD)
Holly Ellerbusch (HE)
Jeff Ellerbusch (JE)
Jeff Glassberg (JGla)
Jamie Glydon (JG)
Dave Harrison (DH)
Kurtis Himmler (KH)
Roger Johnson (RJ)
Tom Johnson (TJ)
John Kee (JKe)
Jonathan Klizas (JK)
Simon Lane (SL)
Cliff Miles (CM)
Rick Miles (RM)
Kristi Reed (KR)
Vicki Schwartz (VS)
Frank Sencher, Jr. (FS)
Mike Wolfe (MW)
Paul Wolter (PW)