2014 – The Morris and Somerset County Birding Year
A highlight summary of the 2014 birding year in Morris and Somerset Counties, New Jersey is given below. There are far too many omissions and far too little time to compile all of them into one document.
The links to the eBird county bar graphs below will contain all of the species reported to eBird in both counties. Once in the bar graph, clicking on the map button for a particular species brings the viewer to a range map for that species and time frame. Clicking on the markers on that map will give you a list of observers and further links to checklists which may contain photos and other documentation.
Here are the 2014 county lists in bar graph format based on eBird data:
(Click on the photo for a larger image.)
The winter of 2014 was the coldest and snowiest anyone can remember. Most water was frozen; birds were scarce. Greater White-fronted Geese and Rough-legged Hawks brightened up the winter with numerous reports of both species.
The Somerset County Sandhill Cranes were viewed intermittently. Sandhill Cranes were also seen at the Great Swamp NWR with a smattering of reports from March 16-May 25.
A Red-necked Grebe was found at what little water was open at Clyde Potts Reservoir in Mendham Twp. on February 22 and stayed through March 27.
The only documented Snowy Owl in Morris County, in the year of the Snowy Owl, was at Lake Hopatcong, March 30.
Spring was noteworthy with Yellow-throated Warblers, Summer Tanagers and a Little Blue Heron. A Eurasian Wigeon, very rare in the mocosocoBirds region, was found at Finderne Wetlands on the vernal equinox, March 20, and was seen sporadically until March 30 – sometimes at Duke Farms.
Yellow-throated Warblers are rarely encountered in Morris and Somerset Counties. 2014 offered the contrary. One at Colonial Park, Franklin Twp. was observed by many birders from April 14 through May 13. Another migrant passed through Lord Stirling Park and yet another in Far Hills. Three were reported in Morris County.
Little Blue Herons are reported in Morris County once a year, if at all. An adult was at Loantaka Brook Reservation from April 13-24 and may be the most photographed Little Blue Heron in the digital age.
A Yellow-crowned Night-Heron was at Lord Stirling Park, April 29.
A Caspian Tern flew over Chimney Rock on May 4. 7 Common Terns were at Budd Lake, May 1. A Black Tern at Budd Lake on May 8 was only the 3rd report in the past 10 years in Morris.
A Snowy Egret, rare in Morris and Somerset, spent part of the day in left field at a flooded Denville park on May 1. More would be found during the Summer.
Glossy Ibis were practically widespread in Morris. 2 were at Melanie Lane Wetlands April 20-May 15; 2 were at GS May 17; 1 in Whippany April 4; 1 in Lincoln Park, April 6.
Spring migration started slowly but the month of May saw a steady stream of migrants. On May 26 a pair of Summer Tanagers was found in Lord Stirling Park that stayed into June. The two constructed a nest but breeding was never confirmed.
2 Blue Grosbeaks were at Florham Park Fields from May 28 to June 8. Mourning Warblers were scarce, as usual, but 3 at South Branch Preserve in Mt. Olive on May 24 was a remarkable find.
Cerulean Warblers were found at Chimney Rock, Beaver Brook Trail in Rockaway Twp., Mahlon Dickerson and Stephens State Park (Waterloo Valley Road).
Prothonotary Warblers nested again along the Passaic River north of White Bridge. Others were reported during the season from Great Swamp NWR, Glenhurst Meadows and Bedminster.
For the second consecutive year on the same date, June 22, in the same exact location, a Common Gallinule was found at Deerhaven Lake, Jefferson Twp., the only report in 2014 for this species in Morris and Somerset.
On June 23, an immature Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, possibly a returnee from 2013 when two juveniles spent the autumn, was found at Jefferson Road Pond, Parsippany. It would be seen until August 14. A Winter Wren was heard in Rockaway Twp., June 28. Yellow-breasted Chats were in Lord Stirling Park and the Great Swamp NWR.
Dickcissels bred again at Negri-Nepote Native Grasslands. Cliff Swallows nested in Franklin Twp. and Boonton Reservoir. 2 Cattle Egrets flew over Duke Farms on July 13.
Two separate Henslow’s Sparrows were documented at private areas of Duke Farms. Nesting was possible but not confirmed.
Little Blue Herons invaded Morris and Somerset Counties in 2014. 7 juvenile Little Blue Herons inhabited Melanie Lane Wetlands from late July into September. 4 more were at the Lincoln Park Gravel Pits in August. This was an unprecedented occurrence of this species in Morris.
2 Little Blue Herons were at Finderne Wetlands during July and August. Even more interesting at Finderne was a Glossy Ibis on August 18-21 and two Snowy Egrets August 19-21.
A Caspian Tern flew over Chimney Rock (again!) on August 28. Another Caspian Tern was viewed at Lake Musconetcong on September 12.
Shorebirds were uneventful this summer. A highlight in Somerset County was as Short-billed Dowitcher at Glenhurst Meadows on August 27.
Autumn to year’s end
Chimney Rock Hawkwatch data can be found here
You can poke around the following web site for Wildcat Ridge Hawkwatch data: Hawkcount.org’s Wildcat Ridge page.
A White-winged Scoter was at Boonton Reservoir October 3. 4 were at Lake Parsippany November 6. A juvenile Great Cormorant was at Mt. Hope Lake, October 11-12.
Orange-crowned Warblers were at Glenhurst Meadows, October 29-30 and Great Swamp NWR, October 19 and 28.
A Western Kingbird was photographed at Lord Stirling Park, October 25.
Two Selasphorus Hummingbirds were present this autumn. One, in the Great Swamp NWR, was accepted by the New Jersey Bird Record Committee as a Rufous (originally thought to be a Rufous/Allen or Selasphorus sp.). The second, in Warren Township at a private location, is identified as a female Rufous Hummingbird and is present to the end of the year.
Purple Finches were widespread throughout the season and vanished just as quickly as they arrived.
33 Horned Grebes were at Budd Lake November 25.
Sandhill Cranes returned for the 8th year in Franklin Township. This year there is a total of 8.
The shorebird of the year in Morris is a White-rumped Sandpiper at Tilcon Lake, Mt. Olive on November 15.
Snow Buntings made an unusual appearance in Morris with 3 at Budd Lake November 4-8 and 49 at Melanie Lane Wetlands on November 30.
A modest influx of Pine Siskins occurred in the autumn and early winter. Common Redpolls were noted in a few instances in the Great Swamp NWR and at a feeder in Denville.
A late Nashville Warbler visited a yard in Madison on December 11.
6 White-winged Crossbills were found on the Great Swamp Christmas Bird Count on December 20. A single White-winged Crossbill visited a feeder in Flanders from December 23-30. These are the only Crossbills reported in Morris and Somerset in 2014.
2014 finished with a bang, or maybe that should be a honk. Somerset County’s record first Barnacle Goose arrived at Duke Island Park on December 25 and was a viewed by many to the end of the year. Greater White-fronted Geese and Cackling Geese were also present, of course.
2014 Christmas Bird Counts (CBC):
The Great Swamp – Watchung Ridges CBC on December 20 – the summary is here.
The Boonton CBC on December 21 – the summary is here.
Alan Brady, pelagic pioneer, Tuesday, January 21 at 93 years of age.
Len Soucy, founder of the Raptor Trust, June 11.
Jim Zamos, well-known and beloved New Jersey birder, age 83, December 19.