Saturday, April 25, 2009

Bird Walk at Helyar Woods

This morning I helped lead a bird walk through Helyar Woods (adjacent to Rutgers Gardens) with a fellow graduate student, Charlie Kontos.  We led a group of 15-20 people from the Potting Shed around the trails of Helyar before re-emerging near the Log Cabin.  It was an absolutely gorgeous day, especially around 10am before the heat really started to kick in.

Before even beginning the tour, we heard a Carolina Chickadee singing and quickly spotted the tiny bird darting around from branch to branch.  The Black-Capped Chickadee and Carolina Chickadee are tough to distinguish, and you really need to hear their song to be 100% certain...and even then, they hybridize where their ranges meet (namely, in New Jersey) so it's tough to tell what you're really looking at.  This bird was singing the main song of the Carolina Chickadee, though, so it was neat to show people the difference (as we heard plenty of Black-Capped Chickadees throughout the day) even if this particular bird happened to be a hybrid.

Early on we spotted a female Eastern Towhee along with an abundance of Chipping Sparrows.  White-Throated Sparrows and Song Sparrows darted about the edge of the forest.  As we started walking along the main trail we could hear a Carolina Wren singing in the distance.  We could also hear the hum of cars and trucks on Route 1, but alas, that's birding in central Jersey.  A Scarlet Tanager gave us a nice surprise, as did a few Great Crested Flycatchers.  There were Yellow-Rumped Warblers everywhere, and earlier in the day we picked up a few Palm Warblers mixed in with them.  

As we came to the edge of the lake, we were excited to see two Wood Ducks swimming off in the distance.  American Goldfinches were singing and flitting about the rest of the way back to the entrance to the woods.  We walked along the forest edge back to the Potting Shed and added Hermit Thrush, House Finch, Downy Woodpecker, and Red-Bellied Woodpecker to our list for the day.

It was a great way to celebrate Rutgers Day, get out and breath some fresh air, and get people excited about birds and the outdoors.  On our way back we passed a wildflower tour and a salamander walk beginning.  See what you're missing?  These happen every year for Ag Field Day (now included in the all-encompassing Rutgers Day), so make sure to check it out next spring!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Piping Plover Pics

Got some cool news this morning from The Cornell Lab of Ornithology - two of my photographs of Piping Plovers were chosen to be used on their site, All About Birds. If you check out the "similar species" photographs in the bottom-right corner of the page, the first two were taken by yours truly! They also were kind enough to link to my Flickr page (which is on the right-hand side of this page as well).

The site is a great resource for birders, offering not only the usual range map and identification information, but also song recordings, extensive life history traits, cool facts, and even video recordings of the species! Check it out at the above link.

Photograph by Bill Lynch (c) 2007

Photograph by Bill Lynch (c) 2007

The last few weeks have kept me more than a little busy with work and school. I have an exhaustive literature review due in one week, and then a grade-deciding final the week after that. The day after the final, our World Series of Birding team, The Scarlet Knight Herons (check out our blog @ ), will be participating in the big event. It should be an interesting few weeks to say the least! Starting in mid-May, though, I plan to update NJ Outdoors much more regularly. Weekly species highlights are in the works, as are interviews with conservationists throughout the state. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Scarlet Knight Herons

For those who aren't aware, some of my fellow graduate students and I are participating in the World Series of Birding this year to help raise money for our GSA (Graduate Student Association). To find out more about the Ecology & Evolution program's GSA, check out the blog we've created to help raise awareness for our fund-raising cause -

Another fellow grad student, Dom D'Amore, has been kind enough to lend us his creative abilities. He's turned the team into cartoons!

Please pass on our blog to anyone who might be interested in our WSB efforts to raise money for an important part of New Jersey's scientific community. Thanks everyone!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Vote for New Jersey!

The Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey has been selected as a finalist to win $50,000 for a habitat restoration project in Cape May County!  With a win, they will be able to create over 20 acres of valuable habitat for migratory songbirds and other wildlife.  The contest is decided by public voting, so please head to and vote!  You can also text CONSERVE to 39668.  

You can vote each day between now and May 31st on both the website and through text message.  Help New Jersey gain more important habitat!  Thanks, everyone.