The 84th Boonton Christmas Bird Count Report – 2019

The White Red-tailed Hawk of Watnong Mountain (photo by Chuck Hantis)

This is an updated version of the report. The compiler missed a checklist. The total species count is adjusted to 96, not 94 as originally stated.

The 84th annual Boonton Christmas Bird Count (CBC) occurred on Sunday, December 22, 2019, the first full day of winter. Temperatures at dawn were in the 18°F range but warmed up to 46° in the afternoon. 45 dedicated participants enjoyed a beautiful day outside.

The week leading up to the count was frigid. Most shallow lakes and ponds were frozen. Enough water remained open to get some waterfowl numbers at least. 

Recent rains caused local flooding but generally, conditions were as good as can be this time of year.

96 species were tallied along with two count week additions. This is better than the recent average and a testament to the wide coverage of the count circle.

2 count-week species, Common Loon, and Northern Goshawk are part of the record although not included in the actual totals for the count day (count-week is defined as three days prior to and three days after the actual count date).

The White Red-tailed Hawk of Watnong Mountain was tallied as he returns for a sixth year, at least, at his usual location along Old Dover Road near Greystone Psychiatric Hospital.

15,581 individual birds were tallied. This is an improvement over the past two years but still below the 21st century average of 25,566 and the eighty-four year average of 16,487.

Highlights for this year’s CBC are below.

  • For the first time since 2003, Eastern Screech-Owl, Great Horned Owl, Barred Owl, Long-eared Owl, and Northern Saw-whet Owl were tallied in the same year.
  • Red-bellied Woodpeckers rebounded from a recent dropoff and tallied 243 individuals, the second-highest total in the history of the Boonton CBC. This species was first reported as a count-week record in 1955. It did not get counted again until 1966 when it became an official number in the database and wasn’t reported again until 1972 when one was tallied. Numbers grew unabated since then, reaching a peak of 281 in 2001 before dropping off until this year.
  • Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers reached double-digits, 11, for the first time in count history. It was first reported in 1970. This shows the expanded range of this species. 2019 is the first year of confirmed nesting in Morris County, two actually, with possible 2018 nestings as well.
  • Woodpecker numbers, in general, are up from recent years.
  • Another new double-digit achiever and a relatively recent addition to the local avifauna, Common Raven reached their all-time high count of 12. Common Raven first appeared on the count in 2002.
  • 19 Winter Wrens is the second-highest count in Boonton CBC history with 23 in 1998 as the highest.
  • 1 House Wren represents the tenth occurrence of this species in the history of the Boonton CBC and the first since 2014.
  • 108 Carolina Wrens is the second time this number is reached and the second highest in count history with 120 in 2006 as the highest total.
  • All three mimic thrushes are represented with 3 Gray Catbirds, 2 Brown Thrashers, and 50 Northern Mockingbirds. 
  • A Palm Warbler was photographed at Hatfield Swamp and is only the third report of this species in the 21st century for the Boonton CBC.
  • Likewise, the third Common Yellowthroat record in the 21st century was had at Troy Meadows.
  • Sparrow numbers were impressive including, of all things, a record total of White-throated Sparrows, 1,591. The highest count prior to this was in 2001 with 1,554. Numbers fluctuate greatly in the interim period.
  • Swamp Sparrows are well-represented. A total of 183 is only the third time in eighty-four years that triple digits of this species were counted. The last two are 102 in 1975 and 207 in 1976.
  • 573 Song Sparrows is the highest total since 1,293 in 2001.
  • Field Sparrows had 55 which is the most since 63 in 2006 and a pleasant rise from the low numbers experienced in recent years.
  • Eastern Towhees had their second-highest total with 35. The 21st-century average is 7.0. The highest was 37 in, you may have guessed it, 2001. 2001 continues to popup with high counts because it is the all-time Boonton CBC maximum total individuals year with 62,336. It is not just because of ~20,000 Common Grackles and 17,000 European Starlings counted that year either. Eleven other species also broke the 1,000 count mark.

40 species were above their 21st Century average. Only 13 were above average in 2018. While this is a pleasant change from the downward trend in recent years, there remain troubling signs with many species and the overall total number of individuals.

Below is a graph of the total number of individuals on the Boonton CBC from 1936 through 2019. Keep in mind that total numbers did not consistently exceed 10,000 until the 1970s as the number of observers increased. A steady rise in totals is seen from the 1970s to 2001. After that, there is a decline in totals, except for the anomaly of 2013 which featured huge totals of Common Grackles and American Robins. 

In the following chart, the X-axis is the year and Y-axis the total amount.

Below is a list of species experiencing the sharpest declines based on 21st-century averages. Because of the icing of many bodies of water in 2019, waterfowl and waterbirds are kept out of this survey. Most of the species also appeared on the 2018 list of declining numbers:

    • Red-tailed Hawk – 25% off the average. The 21st-century pattern of overall decline continues.
    • Ring-billed and Herring Gulls were 62% and 77% off of their 21st-century averages, respectively.
    • Rock Pigeon – 192 in 2019 is the lowest total since counting for this species began in 1973, a continuing trend in recent years.
    • Mourning Dove – 33% off ave. 334 is the third-lowest total since 1988 with 254 in 2009 the lowest.
    • Am. Crows are down by 81%, a continuing trend,  while Fish Crows rose by 28%.
    • Black-capped Chickadee and Tufted Titmouse totals are not what they used to be. Both species continue their downward trend being 60% and 50% below average respectively. 155 Tufted Titmouse is the third-lowest total since 1969. For perspective, the average total of Tufted Titmouse from 1991-2001 was 518.
    • Am. Robins were down 91%, but totals of this species vary greatly from year to year.
    • No. Mockingbird rebounded this year slightly but are still down 41%.
    • Where have all the Starlings gone? 985 is 70% off average and the lowest total since 944 in 1970.
    • Dark-eyed Juncos are down by 43%. The third year in a row of totals under 1,000.
    • House Sparrow – down 54% continuing a recent decline. 2017 through 2019 represents the three lowest totals since 1971.
    • Many sparrow species had a positive rise in numbers this year, but American Tree Sparrows continue a downward trend. 2019’s 168 is much better than 2018’s 32 but a far cry from the glory days of the 1970s when 1,000 plus was common. 

The following species were seen by one party only. The species column is followed by the amount reported. The third column represents the percentage of occurrences in the 84-year history of the count:

Seen by only one party
Species Tot. % on CBC Comment
Redhead 11 47.6 Most still water was frozen.
Double-crested Cormorant 1 8.3 Only recorded three times in the 21st-century.
American Coot 1 76.2
Killdeer 1 64.3 Missed the previous two years.
Great Black-backed Gull 12 65.5 Was more common in the 1980s-90s.
Long-eared Owl 4 61.9 Becoming harder to find.
Northern Saw-whet Owl 1 26.2 Increasingly harder to find.
House Wren 1 11.9 Only the 10th occurrence on the CBC.
American Pipit 3 33.3 Some years you get them, some years you don’t.
Palm Warbler 1 11.9 Documented with a photo. Nice!
Common Yellowthroat 1 25.0 First since 2004.
Purple Finch 1 91.7 Not a winter finch season this year.

The following table shows notable species missed in 2019. 

Notable Species Missed
Species % on CBC Comment
Lesser Scaup 52.4 A scaup sp. was reported.
Ruffed Grouse 60.7 Not seen since 2006.
American Kestrel 88.1 Missed in 3 of the past 5 years.
Peregrine Falcon 20.2 A subtle increase in the area but missed this year.
Wilson’s Snipe 61.9 Formerly annual, now rare on the count.
American Woodcock 39.3 See Snipe comment.
Horned Lark 47.6 Not since 2014; only thrice in the 21st century. 
Red-breasted Nuthatch 71.4 Not a year for Red-breasted Nuthatches.
White-crowned Sparrow 35.7 Annual from 1994-2013; only once since.
Pine Siskin 57.1 Not a year for winter finches.

 Historical Tidbits

Below is the list of species occurring on all 84 years of the Boonton CBC. This has not changed since 2018:

  • American Black Duck
  • Mallard
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Hairy Woodpecker
  • Blue Jay
  • American Crow
  • Black-capped Chickadee
  • Tufted Titmouse
  • White-breasted Nuthatch
  • Brown Creeper
  • European Starling
  • American Tree Sparrow
  • Song Sparrow
  • Swamp Sparrow
  • White-throated Sparrow
  • Dark-eyed (Slate-colored) Junco
  • Northern Cardinal
  • American Goldfinch
  • House Sparrow

Here is the top ten of the number of individuals for all 84 years of the count:

Species Total Individuals (84 years)
1 European Starling 208,432
2 Canada Goose 165,887
3 Common Grackle 127,918
4 American Crow 125,291
5 Mallard 64,290
6 Dark-eyed (Slate-colored) Junco 56,041
7 American Tree Sparrow 53,340
8 Red-winged Blackbird 43,847
9 Ring-billed Gull 39,445
10 House Sparrow 38,541

The top ten number of individuals for the past decade, 2010-2019:

Species Total Individuals (2010-2019)
1 Canada Goose 42,699
2 Common Grackle 33,614 (16,694 in 2013)
3 European Starling 20,935
4 American Robin 14,073 (8,790 in 2013)
5 Common Merganser 9,378
6 Dark-eyed (Slate-colored) Junco 8,809
7 Mallard 8,089
8 White-throated Sparrow 7,172
9 Red-winged Blackbird 5,721
10 Ring-billed Gull 4,714

Mark your calendars. Next year’s count will be on Sunday, December 27, 2020.

This report is also at the following location on the mocosocoBirds.com web site:

https://mocosocobirds.com/birds-of-morris-county-n-j/boontoncbc/2019-2/

A list of the species found on this CBC is at the following link:

https://mocosocobirds.com/birds-of-morris-county-n-j/boontoncbc/species-list/

You can also access these pages through the Birds of Morris County > Boonton Christmas Bird Count menu item on the mocosocoBirds.com web site.

A wonderful 2020 to all!

Nature and Art, nothing else matters.

Jonathan Klizas, Compiler

Boonton Christmas Bird Count

Posted in Christmas Bird Count, Historical, Morris County | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

NJDEP Division of Fish and Wildlife: Piping Plover/Beach Nesting Birds 2019 Management Reports – Nov. 7, 2019

NJDEP Division of Fish and Wildlife: Piping Plover/Beach Nesting Birds 2019 Management Reports

Not a typical Morris and Somerset County blog post, but in case you do not subscribe to New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife newsletters, here are the following reports:

And other links regarding this topic:


View local eBird checklists in the mocosocoBirds region via eBird’s Region Explorer. Use the following links:

The eBird Hotspot Primer is here and can also be accessed via the Hotspot menu item on the mocosocoBirds.com website.


The mocosocoBirds Facebook page is located here and also posts timely information not found on the mocosocoBirds web site.

@mocosocoBirds at Twitter is another communications stream. Instant field reports and links of interest are tweeted as they occur. The latest tweets appear on the sidebar of this page. One can follow mocosocoBirds at Twitter or link to @mocosocoBirds.


Finis


Posted in Historical, Morris County, Somerset County | 1 Comment

Yellow Rail at Great Swamp NWR on Oct. 25, 2019

Yellow Rail Found (deceased) at Great Swamp NWR

Yellow Rail (Coturnicops noveboracensis) is a rare visitor to New Jersey with approximately forty accepted records going back to circa 1877 (see the New Jersey Bird Records Committee’s Accepted Records list here). There are zero records since 2014.

As Bill Boyle states in  The Birds of New Jersey, Status and Distribution published in 2011: “There have been almost forty accepted records of Yellow Rail in New Jersey, including twenty-one specimens, but many encounters are not reported to the Records Committee.”

As of October 2019, make that twenty-two specimens and this one will be reported to the New Jersey Bird Records Committee.

Yellow Rail, Great Swamp NWR, Morris Co., NJ, Oct. 25, 2019 (photo by Richard Hiserodt)

This is John Berry’s account from October 25, 2019, of finding a deceased Yellow Rail in the Great Swamp on the headquarters driveway: “I almost drove by the rail. We were in a UTV [Utility Task Vehicle, editor], driving to a worksite (we’re volunteers on the swamp strike team, which does habitat restoration/protection projects). I saw it was a dead bird and, from its color, assumed it was a sparrow, drove 30 more yards, then realized it wasn’t a sparrow, so stopped.”

The rail was not collected, but Richard Hiserodt documented the find with a photograph taken with an iPhone. The rail appeared to be recently expired so the October 25 date seems accurate and will be the date of the sighting in the eBird database.

Historically in New Jersey, Yellow Rail records from the autumn are visual records. Spring migration records should be vetted carefully as Yellow Rail nocturnal vocalizations can easily be confused with Cricket Frogs in cool spring weather.

Here is the range of Yellow Rails. As you can see, New Jersey is not on their radar.

Courtesy of Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology’s Birds of North America Online


Reporting Dead Birds on eBird

The Yellow Rail report raises an interesting dilemma regarding the entering of dead species on eBird checklists.

According to the eBird file What Data are Appropriate? found here:
“Only include living birds count. In the long run (eBird) hopes to gather information on dead birds, but at this point eBird is intended only for living birds.”

What about extraordinary dead birds? Yellow Rail is a very significant bird in New Jersey, dead or alive. A search through the eBird reviewer’s forum regarding this issue returned the following comments by Marshall Iliff, the eBird Project Leader at Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.

From Marshall Iliff, the caps are Marshall’s:
“So, for those who have NOTEWORTHY dead birds to enter, these are the considerations that need to be factored in:

1) Dead birds must not be entered on complete checklists. The best protocol is to have live birds on a complete checklist and dead birds on a separate one.

2) Dead birds should not be entered as the date is not likely to be correct. Beach-washed birds or very old roadkill may not have any association with the date it was found. As Chris Wood wrote in a 2010 (!) exchange on this topic “there is really no way that a mummified Long-tailed Jaeger found in Ithaca in February should ever be entered and validated in eBird because we have no idea on the date the bird really showed up” [this is a real example]

3) Dead birds should not be included in your personal count *unless* you have opted out of Top 100 and plan to remain that way. Dead birds quite simply do not “count” on bird lists when they are featured in competitive fora like the Top100

4) the best way to avoid #3 is to have a separate account, such as “Wisconsin Historical Data” that can enter the dead bird information.”

That sums it up. If you find a NOTEWORTHY dead bird, use intelligent judgment when listing it on eBird. eBird reviewers, please be consistent with the aforementioned guidelines.


View local eBird checklists in the mocosocoBirds region via eBird’s Region Explorer. Use the following links:

The eBird Hotspot Primer is here and can also be accessed via the Hotspot menu item on the mocosocoBirds.com website.


The mocosocoBirds Facebook page is located here and also posts timely information not found on the mocosocoBirds web site.

@mocosocoBirds at Twitter is another communications stream. Instant field reports and links of interest are tweeted as they occur. The latest tweets appear on the sidebar of this page. One can follow mocosocoBirds at Twitter or link to @mocosocoBirds.


Finis


Posted in Historical, Morris County, Somerset County | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

eBird tidying up and a request – Sept. 26, 2019

This is a quick post to report that a pair of Troy Meadows eBird hotspots are merged into one: Troy Meadows Natural Area–So. Beverwyck Rd. and Troy Meadows Natural Area–Patriots Path.

Both former hotspots are the same habitat and in the same area causing unnecessary confusion and potential duplication of data. The new hotspot name is Troy Meadows Natural Area–So. Beverwyck Rd./Patriots Path but may take a day or two to reach all of the eBird interfaces. All data from the former hotspots are merged into the new one. This hotspot is in addition to the primary Troy Meadows hotspot labeled Troy Meadows Natural Area which encompasses most of the north and eastern sections of this valuable and historic area.


While on the subject of eBird, allow this reviewer to ask for cooperation from the many eBird users in Morris and Somerset Counties and everywhere in general.

Many observers are already thorough about using the details section of an eBird listing to describe what they saw or heard and making a solid case for the species they are listing. Of course, photos, and audio files take the place of many words, but these media are not always close at hand or practical.

When a species is listed as rare, whether using the eBird mobile app or a browser, saying that one simply “saw the bird”, or giving scant details is not sufficient for a valid record. This reviewer will most likely reject it as “Unconfirmed”, meaning that it will not be included in any public eBird output. Unfortunately, and a major flaw with eBird in this writer’s point of view, is that it will still show in the observer’s personal list and add to his/her tally in those ridiculous eBird scoreboards, known as the Top 100.

Please add details when a species is flagged as rare in whatever eBird interface you use.
– Mention all visible field marks, behaviors, vocalizations, etc. that are apparent.
– A very brief mention of habitat type is appreciated.
– Describe how other species were eliminated.

Enter details about an interesting species even if it isn’t flagged as rare. eBird is an incredible record of avian activity worldwide. Creating a record of bird sightings with the previous criteria helps everyone become better naturalists.


View local eBird checklists in the mocosocoBirds region via eBird’s Region Explorer. Use the following links:

The eBird Hotspot Primer is here and can also be accessed via the Hotspot menu item on the mocosocoBirds.com website.


The mocosocoBirds Facebook page is located here and also posts timely information not found on the mocosocoBirds web site.

@mocosocoBirds at Twitter is another communications stream. Instant field reports and links of interest are tweeted as they occur. The latest tweets appear on the sidebar of this page. One can follow mocosocoBirds at Twitter or link to @mocosocoBirds.


Finis


Posted in Historical, Morris County, Somerset County | Leave a comment

Winter Finch Forecast for 2019-20 – Sept. 14, 2019

Ron Pittaway’s annual winter finch forecast is published. Bumper crops of spruce cone, Mountain-ash, etc. foretell the probable absence of winter finches in New Jersey this coming fall and winter seasons.

Read the report at Ron Pittaway’s Winter Finch Forecast for 2019-20


View local eBird checklists in the mocosocoBirds region via eBird’s Region Explorer. Use the following links:

The eBird Hotspot Primer is here and can also be accessed via the Hotspot menu item on the mocosocoBirds.com website.


The mocosocoBirds Facebook page is located here and also posts timely information not found on the mocosocoBirds web site.

@mocosocoBirds at Twitter is another communications stream. Instant field reports and links of interest are tweeted as they occur. The latest tweets appear on the sidebar of this page. One can follow mocosocoBirds at Twitter or link to @mocosocoBirds.


Finis


Posted in Morris County, Somerset County | 2 Comments

White Ibis in Somerset County; Herons and Egrets – July 17, 2019

White Ibis, Negri-Nepote Native Grassland Preserve, Somerset Co., NJ, July 17, 2019 (photo by Jonathan Klizas)

Negri-Nepote Native Grassland Preserve in Franklin Twp. continues to attract locally rare bird species. A juvenile White Ibis was found yesterday, July 16, by Christopher Daly and observed by many others late in the day. The White Ibis continues today, July 17.

The other avian celebrity of Negri-Nepote, the Henslow’s Sparrow originally documented on June 6, also continues.

An annual breeding location for Grasshopper Sparrows, Blue Grosbeaks, etc., Negri-Nepote is creating an impressive ledger of rare species, as well. The Negri-Nepote eBird hotspot species list can be found here.

Scott Barnes recently penned a tribute to Negri-Nepote at the New Jersey Audubon Blog. That post can be read here.

White Ibis, Negri-Nepote Native Grassland Preserve, Somerset Co., NJ, July 17, 2019 (photo by Jonathan Klizas)

Reports of White Ibis in New Jersey in recent years have increased to the point where it was removed from the state review list in 2018 by the New Jersey Bird Records Committee.

Prior to 2018, there are scant purported records of White Ibis in Somerset County, but the only historical record accepted by the NJ Bird Record Committee is from Far Hills in 1968, a White Ibis present from July 27 to August 10 and seen by many observers.


An influx of Herons and Egrets

On July 9, zero herons and egrets were found at the Lincoln Park Gravel Pits. One week later, July 16, 41 Great Egrets, 21 Great Blue Herons (both species undercounted), a juvenile Little Blue Heron, an adult Black-crowned Night-Heron, and 11 southbound Least Sandpipers were at the same location.

Today, July 17, across the Pompton River from The Pits (and in Passaic County), David Bernstein found 6 Little Blue Herons, and 21 Great Egrets at neighboring Walker Avenue Wetlands.

Also today, July 17, Roger Johnson tallied 21 Great Egrets, 19 Great Blue Herons 2 juvenile Little Blue Herons, and a Black-crowned Night-Heron at Troy Meadows.


View local eBird checklists in the mocosocoBirds region via eBird’s Region Explorer. Use the following links:

The eBird Hotspot Primer is here and can also be accessed via the Hotspot menu item on the mocosocoBirds.com website.


The mocosocoBirds Facebook page is located here and also posts timely information not found on the mocosocoBirds web site.

@mocosocoBirds at Twitter is another communications stream. Instant field reports and links of interest are tweeted as they occur. The latest tweets appear on the sidebar of this page. One can follow mocosocoBirds at Twitter or link to @mocosocoBirds.


Finis


Posted in Morris County, Somerset County | Leave a comment

Morris Co. Breeders in 2019: Kentucky Warbler and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – July 7, 2019

Confirmed: Kentucky Warblers nesting at Lewis Morris Park, Morris County

Kentucky Warbler, Lewis Morris Park, Morris Co., NJ, July 2, 2019 (photo by Ryan Doherty)

(Clicking on the image brings you to the Macaulay Library listing of the photo.)

On May 16, 2018, a Kentucky Warbler was found at Lewis Morris County Park. It was observed by a few people through at least May 18 and then either forgotten about or simply not found again.

Fast forward to May 17, 2019. This writer visits Lewis Morris Park to see what if on a similar date one year later, a Kentucky Warbler would again visit the park. Nothing.

On a whim ten days later on May 27, another visit was made to Lewis Morris Park. The Kentucky Warbler was loudly singing at the same location as in 2018, near the end of Doe Meadow Road, close to the driveway of the Delbarton School’s property. It was reported almost daily through June 17 with more than seventy eBird checklists recorded. Easily one hundred or more people came to pay a visit.

During that period reports of two Kentucky Warblers being sighted were described and possibly two being heard. These were tantalizing records. Breeding was a possibility but nothing was confirmed…until July 2.

June 17 was the last record of Kentucky Warbler even though people had looked after that date. On July 2, Ryan Doherty of Massachusettes came to Doe Meadow Rd. and reported a Kentucky Warbler, possibly a juvenile. The photos of his sighting arrived on his checklist three days later and very interesting photos they are (see the eBird checklist, here).

Veteran bander and researcher, Tom Brown, reviewed the photos and concluded it was a hatchling year Kentucky Warbler. The esteemed Paul Buckley concurred with Tom’s assessment.

Kentucky Warblers bred sporadically and very locally in the Morris and Somerset County areas throughout the 1990s. During that period, it was not unusual to find Kentucky Warblers somewhere between Jockey Hollow in Morris County (Morristown National Historical Park) and Scherman Hoffman Sanctuary in Bernardsville. Kentucky Warblers were present in suitable time periods to suggest breeding, even if visible confirmation was not available.

A few blocks of the New Jersey Breeding Bird Atlas in Morris and Somerset Counties had breeding confirmations in the 1990s. There are no known records since. Kentucky Warblers are reported for many years in the Middle Valley area of Washington Twp. near the Hunterdon County border, but breeding there is in the possible/probable category and not confirmed as far as is known.

Lewis Morris Park was not known as a birding destination before the arrival of the Kentucky Warbler in 2018. The possibility exists that this species has been present at this location longer than we know. Yet another reason to check locations other than the typical, trendy, glamour spots.

Confirmed: Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers breeding in Morris County

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Mount Paul, Morris Co., NJ, July 7, 2019 (photo by Matt Skalla)

From Bill Boyle’s The Birds of New Jersey, Status and Distribution:
“Prior to 1998, there was only one confirmed nesting record for Yellow-bellied Sapsucker in New Jersey. In June 1998, a pair was found feeding young along the Kittatinny Ridge in High Point SP.”

Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers have expanded their breeding range since that time but most reports are from Sussex County and recently from Passaic County. Louis Bizzarro reported the species on the Morris side of Holland Mtn. Road earlier in June. It seems inevitable that they will breed in northern Morris County at some point in time. That time is now.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Mount Paul, Morris Co., NJ, July 7, 2019 (photo by Matt Skalla)

Matt Skalla visits Mount Paul in Jefferson Twp. and has seen Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers throughout the spring and into summer. Mount Paul is a former Paulist monastery purchased by the state in 2009. Much of it is administered by Kittatinny Valley State Park. Read about the state’s purchase of the property, here.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Mount Paul, Morris Co., NJ, July 7, 2019 (photo by Matt Skalla)

This morning, July 7, Matt photographed a nestling and a parent at the nest. Interestingly, Matt says: “These must be a different pair than I have been seeing over the last few weeks, they are about a half mile from where I have previously been seeing them.”

Congratulations to Matt for locating the first confirmed nesting of Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers in Morris County.


View local eBird checklists in the mocosocoBirds region via eBird’s Region Explorer. Use the following links:

The eBird Hotspot Primer is here and can also be accessed via the Hotspot menu item on the mocosocoBirds.com website.


The mocosocoBirds Facebook page is located here and also posts timely information not found on the mocosocoBirds web site.

@mocosocoBirds at Twitter is another communications stream. Instant field reports and links of interest are tweeted as they occur. The latest tweets appear on the sidebar of this page. One can follow mocosocoBirds at Twitter or link to @mocosocoBirds.


Finis


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Henslow’s Sparrow, Somerset County – June 23, 2019

Henslow’s Sparrow, Somerset Co., NJ, June 22, 2019 (photo by Jeff Ellerbusch)

What’s the big deal? It’s just another Henslow’s Sparrow in Somerset County. They are practically annual summer visitors albeit on inaccessible private property and in tiny numbers. They have nested in the county so the Negri-Nepote bird could find a mate.

However, this is 2019. Since approximately the 1950s, the Henslow’s Sparrow population has dropped precipitously in the northeast to the point where they are virtually absent.

Here is a screenshot of the June 23, 2019 eBird distribution map for Henslow’s Sparrow. This gives an accurate picture of the current status of this species (click on the picture for a larger image):

eBird species map, Henslow’s Sparrow, June 23, 2019

Fortunately for birders, the current Henslow’s Sparrow is using publicly-accessible Negri-Nepote Native Grassland Preserve in Franklin Township for a possible nesting situation.

This individual was found and correctly identified yesterday, June 22 by Jeff Ellerbusch and seen yesterday and today by a multitude of eager observers looking for a post-spring-migration-early-summer adrenaline rush. Interestingly, this Henslow’s was probably present on June 6 based on photos that have come to light in the past twenty-four hours.

Here is an indication of how times have changed. This is the Henslow’s Sparrow account in A List of Birds of Morris County written by E. Carleton Thurber and published by the True Democratic Banner newspaper in 1887 (NOTE: recent taxonomic updates change Henslow’s genus from Ammodramus to Centronyx):

(Ammodramus henslowii) Henslow’s Sparrow. Rather common summer resident, but very local. The only places that I know of its being found are, a large meadow near Horse Hill, and in Wheeler Swamp near Littleton.

Horse Hill is present-day heavily developed Cedar Knolls. Littleton is swallowed up by Parsippany-Troy Hills.

Here is an excerpt from Bill Boyle’s The Birds of New Jersey, Status and Distribution:

Stone (1937) called Henslow’s Sparrow a “common summer resident” of the Cape May Peninsula at that time, and even at mid-century they were still uncommon and local breeding birds throughout New Jersey (Fables 1955, Bull 1964).

The Henslow’s Sparrow of today invokes the ghosts of Henslow’s Sparrows’ past. Even more of a motivation to protect what’s left of this critical habitat before it’s gone.


View local eBird checklists in the mocosocoBirds region via eBird’s Region Explorer. Use the following links:

The eBird Hotspot Primer is here and can also be accessed via the Hotspot menu item on the mocosocoBirds.com website.


The mocosocoBirds Facebook page is located here and also posts timely information not found on the mocosocoBirds web site.

@mocosocoBirds at Twitter is another communications stream. Instant field reports and links of interest are tweeted throughout the day. The latest tweets appear on the sidebar of this page. One can follow mocosocoBirds at Twitter or link to @mocosocoBirds.


Finis


Posted in Morris County | 1 Comment

Mourning and Kentucky Warblers – May 30, 2019

Mourning Warbler

Mourning Warbler, Troy Meadows, Morris Co., NJ, May 30, 2019 (photo by Warren Van Varick)

(Thanks to Warren Van Varick for the use of his photo. Clicking on the photo brings you to his Flickr photo where you can browse his other Mourning Warbler images.)

Seeing or hearing one Mourning Warbler in spring migration is a special treat. May 2019 is becoming an embarrassment of riches in Morris and Somerset Counties. One, two, and maybe more, Mourning Warblers are reported from Troy Meadows since May 22 through today, May 30. One, in particular, has frequented the same brushy location since May 22 through May 30.

Mourning Warblers are reported from Lord Stirling Park from May 26 through today. North Jerseyans should feel fortunate. Other than one stray report from Burlington County, the eBird database shows no other Mourning Warbler reports for New Jersey in 2019 south of I-195.


Kentucky Warbler, Lewis Morris Park, Morris Co., NJ, May 30, 2019 (photo by Chuck Hantis)

(Click on the photo for a larger image.)

For at least the second year in a row, a Kentucky Warbler is present at Lewis Morris Park. The Kentucky Warbler was found on May 27 near the end of Doe Meadow Road (park at the uppermost Sugarloaf lot), the same location where one was found in 2018.

Kentucky Warbler was a regular spring visitor and occasional nester in the 1980s and early ’90s from Jockey Hollow to Sherman Hoffman Sanctuary but absent in most years since. New Jersey is the northern extreme of this species’ nesting range.

Kentucky Warbler, Lewis Morris Park, Morris Co., NJ, May 28, 2019 (photo by Chuck Hantis)

Thanks to Chuck Hantis for the Kentucky Warbler photos. Clicking on the image above will bring you to his Flickr page.

Kentucky Warbler, Lewis Morris Park, Morris Co., NJ, May 28, 2019 (photo by Chuck Hantis)


View local eBird checklists in the mocosocoBirds region via eBird’s Region Explorer. Use the following links:

The eBird Hotspot Primer is here and can also be accessed via the Hotspot menu item on the mocosocoBirds.com website.


The mocosocoBirds Facebook page is located here and also posts timely information not found on the mocosocoBirds web site.

@mocosocoBirds at Twitter is another communications stream. Instant field reports and links of interest are tweeted throughout the day. The latest tweets appear on the sidebar of this page. One can follow mocosocoBirds at Twitter or link to @mocosocoBirds.


Finis


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The Raptor Trust Benefit – May 19, 2019




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