Tuesday, June 30, 2009

HMF banding continues

We continue to band birds and collect data over at Hutcheson Memorial Forest. We added a few more species to our list last time out including White-Brested Nuthatch and Common Grackle. I'm still holding out hope for some edge/field birds to sneak into the woods a bit. Indigo Bunting or Prairie Warbler would be really neat.

I was able to handle more of the tasks the last time around. It's still tough getting the birds out of the nets, especially when their wings get all tangled up. Getting them out of the bags and banding them is becoming more natural, so hopefully the untangling will come easier next time out.

We're going to try and get out once or twice this week so hopefully I'll have some more photos and species to share!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Dismal Swamp tour rescheduled

NJ Audubon's tour of the Dismal Swamp has been rescheduled and will take place on Tuesday, July 7th at 7pm. The "Diz" is conveniently located in Edison, NJ.

Check out the Facebook event for more information by clicking here.

Hope to see you out there!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Cape May - Spring 2009

I was once again lucky enough to be able to visit Cape May for a week in mid-May to bird. Despite some rain on our first day there, it turned out to be a gorgeous week of weather. We hit all the usual spots - Cape May Point State Park, The Meadows, Reed's Beach, Jake's Landing, Beaver Swamp WMA, Villas WMA, Higbee, and of course Belleplain.

On the beach between the park and The Meadows there were Least Terns setting up territories and beginning to mate. I spent an entire afternoon watching and photographing them.

Territorial Dispute

Love is in the air

Jake's Landing was surprisingly quiet the night we visited, but on the way there Beaver Swamp produced a singing Prothonotary Warbler and some great looks at the Bald Eagles. Reed's Beach was packed with Red Knots and Ruddy Turnstones feeding on the shore. A new location for me this year was Heislerville Wildlife Management Area. Unfortunately the Curlew Sandpipers that had been seen there were nowhere to be found when I arrived, but the trip was far from a waste. The spectacle of tens of thousands of migrating shorebirds more than made up for it. As high tide came in and filled most impoundments, the main impoundment was high enough to resist completely filling. This meant that ALL the shorebirds in the area flew in during high tide to feed and roost. Check out the video I took with my P&S camera (quality isn't great but you can get a sense of how many birds there were):

Higbee produced more mosquitos than birds, but what else is new? Even this poor guy couldn't escape the onslaught:

Pesky mosquitos

A trip down to Cape May isn't complete for me unless I'm able to stop at Brigantine National Wildlife Refuge, which happened twice (on the way down and back up). Despite a horde of insects on the second trip, Forsythe delivered as usual. Clapper Rails were out and about (we saw at least four individuals). We also observed a gull dropping a mussel in the road over and over until he finally appeared to crack it open. He took it off to the side and had himself a little brunch. Some other cool views included:

Brigantine Black-Crowned
Black-Crowned Night Heron

Hard at work
Ospreys building a nest

Cedar Waxwing
Cedar Waxwings

Another great week down in Cape May! Can't wait until next spring!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

HMF banding commences

Through July 15th, I will be assisting in the banding of birds at Hutcheson Memorial Forest in Somerset County. For those unfamiliar with the location, it is a very unique place and is one of the last remaining tracts of old growth forest left on the eastern seaboard. It is also off-limits to human disturbance and management (outside of once-every-few-months tour groups that walk only on the trails), which is certainly a rare thing in the Garden State. You can read more about it in one of my earliest blog posts, as well as at the Rutgers' HMF website.

By banding these breeding birds (migrants are excluded by the timing of our collection) and recording the available data, we will be able to compare the results with banding statistics from the 1980s. This will ideally shed some light on trends within neotropical migrant populations. It may also help to identify some negative effects that invasive plants may be having on breeding bird communities, as HMF has not been saved from an onslaught of barberry, stilt grass, and a slew of other non-native plants.

Our first time out, June 13th, was fairly successful. Despite a somewhat late start (5:50am) we were able to set up our 12 mist nets and do two rounds until close to 11am. We caught and banded three Gray Catbirds, three American Robins, two Wood Thrushes, two Blue Jays, a Tufted Titmouse, and an Eastern Towhee. The two Wood Thrush were found in the same mist net, so it is suspected that they may be breeding very close by. We should find out in the coming weeks if we recapture the same individuals.

Unfortunately the weather has been a major limiting factor. It pushed back our first outing twice and our next scheduled banding (June 18th) looks like it may be rained out as well. Hopefully we'll be able to get out at least once this weekend - check back to see what else we get! I've got my fingers crossed for Rose-Breasted Grosbeak, Yellow-Billed Cuckoo, Indigo Bunting, and maybe a Prairie Warbler.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Raritan Bay beaches closed

EPA finds high levels of lead at Raritan Bay sites

A standoff is brewing between local fisherman, environmental groups and state and federal agencies after three beach sites along the Raritan Bay in Old Bridge and Sayreville were closed by the state. Earlier this year, the Environmental Protection Agency found toxic levels of lead, arsenic, copper and other metals in the sand, sea walls and water. Further testing found high levels of lead in sea life like mussels and bait fish near the Laurence Harbor sea wall in Old Bridge. Environmentalists point the finger at National Lead, which operated a 400-acre industrial facility in Sayreville from 1935 to 1982. The company agreed with towns to deposit what is now known to be toxic slag to help support the shoreline. (Two environmental watchdog groups, the Edison Wetlands Association and NY/NJ Baykeeper, have filed letters of intent to sue National Lead, as well as local and state organizations, in federal court for the pollution of the Raritan Bay, although the lawsuit is not related to the slag sites in Old Bridge and Sayreville.) In April, the EPA formally recommended the site as a Superfund site -- a federal designation for the most polluted areas in the country — but local fisherman are frustrated, saying the closures are overkill and will affect local businesses. (Video by Nyier Abdou/The Star-Ledger)

Source: nj.com

Friday, June 5, 2009

Dusk hike at Great Dismal Swamp in Edison, NJ

On Tuesday, June 9th, at 7pm the New Jersey Audubon Society and the Edison Wetlands Association will lead a dusk hike through "The Diz". Here's some information from the Facebook Event page:

"WildNewJersey.tv to host nocturnal wildlife hike in the Dismal Swamp Conservation Area

New Jersey Audubon wildlife experts are leading a public dusk hike of the Dismal Swamp Conservation Area from Edison Wetlands Association (EWA)’s Triple C Ranch at 7 PM on Tuesday, June 9, 2009. Free and open to anyone who enjoys the outdoors, the event is hosted by WildNewJersey.tv and others and is an opportunity to get a guided tour of “The Diz.” The tour will begin at 206 Tyler Road in Edison.

New Jersey Audubon wildlife experts Nellie Tsipoura and Kristin Mylecraine will explore nature in twilight, as diurnal animals find rest and nocturnal animals start to emerge from slumber and start their nightly hunt for food. Animals such as great horned owls, beavers, red foxes, salamanders, and bats may be spotted. Visitors are encouraged to call ahead to confirm their attendance. This hike is a great opportunity to take photos for the annual Dismal Swamp Photography Contest. Bring your camera and/or binoculars. Wear boots or shoes that can get wet and dirty.

The 1,240-acre Dismal Swamp Conservation Area is located in South Plainfield, Edison and Metuchen, and is home to an estimated 175 species of birds, 25 mammals, and 24 amphibian and reptile species including at least a dozen threatened and endangered species. EWA is a grassroots non-profit organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment in central New Jersey. WildNewJersey.tv is the only daily nature and conservation news source in New Jersey, serving as the most comprehensive online guide to New Jersey wildlife news and videos."

Should be a good time if thunderstorms stay away for long enough. If you haven't been out much this spring, now is your chance! I'll be there hoping for a close encounter with some owls.