Conserve Wildlife Blog

Posts Tagged ‘birding’

Have You Seen This Bird?

Monday, October 1st, 2012
LOOKING FOR HELP FROM BIRDWATCHERS TO FILL-IN DATA GAPS

By Michael Davenport, Marine Species & GIS Programs Manager

Young barn owls. Photo by MacKenzie Hall.

Conserve Wildlife Foundation staff work with the New Jersey Endangered and Nongame Species Program (ENSP) to manage and populate the state’s official database of rare wildlife, known as Biotics.  Currently, this database contains over 35,000 animal and plant records within New Jersey.  ENSP and CWF currently collect and enter data for the state’s 173 endangered, threatened, and special concern species.

There are several species of birds for which more observation data would be useful; and it’s likely that birdwatchers or other nature watchers may have the data needed.  Most good birdwatchers keep logs of what they’ve observed, when, and where.  It would be helpful if anyone with detailed observation data for the species listed at the end of this blog could submit their data for potential inclusion in the Biotics database.

To submit your observation data, please complete a Rare Wildlife Sighting Report Form.  The form is available on ENSP’s website for download as well as instructions for completing the form (a map must be attached when submitted).  In addition to the species listed below, please feel free to submit one or more forms for any of the state’s endangered, threatened, or special concern species.  A complete list of all of the species tracked by the state can be downloaded here.

If you have a large amount of data to submit, please contact Mike Davenport of Conserve Wildlife Foundation at (609) 292-3795 – alternative data submission options may be available (such as submitting Excel spreadsheets or GIS files).

Barn Owl (Tyto alba)
Nashville Warbler (Oreothlypis ruficapilla)
Saltmarsh Sparrow (Ammodramus caudacutus)
Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus)
Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularius)
Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus)
Winter Wren (Troglodytes hiemalis)

Cheesequake State Park: Winter Bird Photography…with Climate Control

Monday, January 9th, 2012

by Brett Klaproth, CWF volunteer photographer & wildlife advocate

Forested habitat at Cheesequake State Park. © Brett Klaproth

What does Middlesex County’s Cheesequake State Park have over Cape May, Forsythe, Sandy Hook, the Great Swamp, and other more notable New Jersey birding sites?  Reliably abundant and nearly effortlessly managed (Talkin’ to you there, Barnegat Light…) stellar winter photo ops.  Plus heat.

Cheesequake is just 5 minutes off Garden State Parkway exit 120 and a 5 minute walk through the hardwood forest off its first parking lot reveals the park’s nature center. The building’s raised and roofed entrance deck sits before a small, lightly wooded area designated as a wildlife sanctuary and serves as a near ideal (Shadow issues (See wooded…).) shooting platform.

The center is operated and the sanctuary maintained by naturalist Jim Faczak, who has installed (soon to be upgraded) platform, jar, and commercial seed and suet feeders–the most active a mere 3 or so yards from the deck’s edge. Protected from hikers by split rail fencing and a steep decline across its far end, the location attracts a roster of favorite species, at times in dizzying (Almost fell once…) numbers, with most taking little issue (Aaand…there’s a titmouse on my lens…) with human observers.

Red-bellied woodpecker. © Brett Klaproth

The most prevalent–the aforementioned tufted titmouse and the Carolina chickadee and white-breasted nuthatch–frequently alternate positions on the platforms (Focus on the one on the right (Ha ha–focus (Never mind…).).), with the latter assuming dominance in the pecking order by virtue of its, well, yes, pecking. Red-bellied and downy woodpecker compete similarly at the suet cages with their
hairy cousins sometimes entering the rotation.

Dark-eyed junco scavenge below, and several resident Carolina wren (One lives in that house hanging off the corner of the building…) maneuver in intermittent shifts through low lying branches. Blue jay make their presence known vocally before venturing in, and a small group of more reserved mourning dove typically makes its way closer as afternoons progress.

Song sparrow. © Brett Klaproth

Northern cardinal, song sparrow, and brown creeper are occasional visitors, with others including American crow, American goldfinch, American robin, hermit thrush, American tree sparrow, and fox sparrow observed during more brief and isolated periods. Though rarities are aptly uncommon, there are also no invasives with which to contend, unless we define the term differently and include the occasional hawk.

Red-tailed, Cooper’s, and sharp-shinned all check for status updates, mostly via flyover. Strikes occur extremely rarely. The raptors’ mere appearances though, elicit an instant freezing (as in assuming a motionless position–not in an it’s 30 degrees in the shade and I forgot the Under Armour kind of way) among the smaller birds, creating a silent and somewhat surreal spectacle.

On the plus side of contending with 30 degree temperatures, though choosing a sunny day is most advantageous, shooting here after or even during (See roofed…) a snowfall makes for a sublime photographic experience. The forest itself provides a kind of magical (That’s right, going with magical.) setting when coated in white. And the ground being blanketed not only encourages increased activity at manmade food stations but provides images with added beauty and character as well as enhanced lighting (See shadow issues (Maybe see wooded again if necessary…)…).

With a slight increase in temperature, titmouse and chickadee cling to icicles, drinking droplets as they form. And for those without prejudice, deer can often be easily spotted under these conditions throughout the park. This might be of worthwhile if secondary interest as the sanctuary of course loses the light before do Cheesequake’s many fields.

Carolina wren. © Brett Klaproth

The nature center is typically open from 8-4 Wednesday through Sunday. Calling in advance is advisable if one wants to be assured of immediate access to bathroom facilities and escapes from the cold (and a hand dryer which, okay, odd, but for the warmth provided a photographer would likely eventually share my appreciation).

Food might not be present at all times but Jim is giving readers permission to bring and distribute seed (Be sure there’s sunflower in the mix.) and suet to insure activity. Results are typically swift and satisfying.

And oh yeah, nuts. Offering peanuts will garner immediate popularity with certain (upwards of two dozen) bushy-tailed residents. If not looking to make friends nor prone to begging-induced guilt (Just me?), indulging the squirrels will also help keep feeders clear for the more typically welcome feathered patrons.  And dispensing on the previously recommended platform in particular will optimize results by bringing the most discriminating (blue jay, wren) and timid (red-bellied woodpecker) subjects closer.

Throw in lunch for yourself and a rewarding and unusually comfortable cold weather day at Cheesequake is virtually guaranteed.  Just remember the Under Armour.

All photos were taken last winter with a handheld Canon 40D and 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS. That’d be the author on deck with a tripod-mounted Canon 500mm f/4L IS this winter.

Birding by kayak

Friday, August 5th, 2011
Nature Tours at Island Beach State Park

by Skyler Streich

So far at Island Beach State Park, this year, we had two Birding-by-Kayak trips sponsored by Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ and they were a huge hit. The highlight, was a Greater Scaup which was present on both trips in the same location in the little cove called, “Spizzle Creek.” This bird should be high in the northern latitudes at this time of the year on it’s breeding grounds. Instead it did not make it up there this year due to many possible causes. We also had a Turkey Vulture fly right over us on the Sedge Islands, which was a first for me there and many others for that location. It was a strong west wind that day, which most likely brought the vulture all the way to Island Beach. Herons, egrets, warblers, flycatchers and terns were plentiful on the tours. Two weeks ago, we also had the first of the migratory shorebirds showing up on the sandbars and mudflats to refuel for their journey back south to their wintering grounds in the southern U.S, Mexico, and Central and South America.  More and more shorebirds are trickling into the area each day!

Birders use kayaks to reach birding hot spots inside Sedge Islands. Photo by Skyler Streich

Conserve Wildlife Foundation is partnering with Island Beach State Park and The Friends of Island Beach this year to help keep these wonderful tours for years to come. There are many more birding tours available at the park this summer, so all you have to do is sign up and you are on your way to a learning adventure at a beautiful location!


There are 3 more “Birding by Kayak” tours being offered this season.  August 18; September 1, 15. Cost is $25. To sign up call Kathy at 732-250-6314 or email her: D-Kathy@live.com.

We are also offering two great birding programs for both beginner and advanced levels of birdwatchers. The Beginner program on August 25th, will show participants how to properly use binoculars, and learn how to use field guides to identify the birds they are seeing. The Advanced program will focus on tackling the identification of the many shorebirds that will be present at Island Beach. That program is offered on July 28th and August 11th. The Cost is free.  Please preregister by calling the nature center at Island Beach at; 732-793-1698 or email: ibspnature@netcarrier.com.

We hope that you join us for an unforgettable experience at Island Beach State Park!

Report from the Barnegat Bay Birder in Residence

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010
Great birding at Island Beach State Park

by Skyler Streich, Barnegat Bay Birder-in-Residence

American Oystercatcher. © Chris Davidson

As the Barnegat Bay Birder-in-Residence for CWF of NJ I led a total of 4 Bird Walks and 4 Birding by Kayak Tours in Island Beach State Park.  It was very successful with a total of 60 people attending the Birding by Kayak trips and a total of 34 participants for my bi-weekly bird walks.  There were many repeat customers, mostly from participants that enjoyed the Birding by Kayak trips so much so they wanted to attend my bird walks too.  The participants ranged from beginners to excellent and avid birdwatchers.  So it was a nice mix of skill levels of bird identification abilities on the trips.  The Birding by Kayak tours were sponsored by the Friends of Island Beach State Park, so they advertised those tours via the IBSP Visitor Guide.  As for my bird walks I advertised them by printing out flyers and distributing them to local businesses like Big Ed’s produce, Lavallette Post Office, Wild Birds Unlimited and Cattus Island County Park.  Also Pete Bacinski of Sandy Hook posted my walks in the Rare Bird Alerts which is posted on the JerseyBirds forum. And of course, they were posted on CWF’s Calendar of Events.

The tours were extremely successful in seeing all of the common birds of the Barnegat Bay area as well as numerous uncommon to rare sightings.  Each kayak tour gave participants the chance to see and compare all the herons and egrets that inhabit the saltmarshes of Barnegat Bay.  Each tour there were juvenile Little Blue Herons, which are all white, and the later tours had Black-crowned Night Herons.  More than once we got to see beautiful and not too common shorebirds like Whimbrels and Marbled Godwits along with the much more common sandpipers and plovers.  Other great shorebirds seen on the BBK trips were Pectoral Sandpipers and a Solitary Sandpiper.  We even had a Caspian Tern amongst the Royal Terns.  It seems that Ospreys were even more abundant this year than last year, with plenty of hatch year juveniles around in late July and August.  Also, American Oystercatchers seemed unusually abundant this year.

Piping plover. © Steve Byland

The bird walks also produced some exciting and uncommon birds.  Least Terns seemed to be in pretty high numbers in August.  Also we had multiple Black Tern sightings in and around the inlet area.  One of the best finds was a group of 8 Common Eiders that decided not to migrate to their arctic breeding grounds and just stay in Island Beach for the summer. We also had 1 single Piping Plover feeding amongst the Sanderlings and Semipalmated Plovers on the shoreline.  That was only the second Piping Plover I have ever seen at IBSP in my life.  So all in all, it was a very successful season with very successful tours and each participant walked away with a greater appreciation of the magnificent birdlife that relies on the Barnegat Bay area for their survival.

Fall Migration is Underway!

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010
Viewing Wildlife and migration studies

by Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager

A juvenile black skimmer is viewed through a spotting scope at Forsythe NWR in Oceanville, NJ. © Ben Wurst

Fall migration is underway! Ospreys are headed south for the winter. Juveniles will spend the next two years in their wintering areas in northern South America. Rob Bierregaard, from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte has been tracking ospreys from Martha’s Vineyard since 2000. Currently twelve ospreys are fitted with satellite transmitters. Rob uses the data to study migration patterns and the local dispersal of juvenile and adult ospreys. Check out maps from this seasons birds by clicking here. A great place to view ospreys as they travel south is at Cape May Point State Park. Go after a cold front has passed and you should see high numbers of raptors including ospreys on migration.

Red knots, black belly plovers, dunlin, and ruddy turnstones are beginning to show up on beaches along the coastline. Many hop-scotch their way south to their wintering grounds in South America. Great places to view them include Brigantine Inlet, Avalon, Stone Harbor Point, and North Wildwood. Many of these shorebirds are banded with an alpha-numeric color band. If you have a high power spotting scope, then you should be able to read the band. You can contribute your sightings to the International Shorebird Project by submitting your sightings.

Another great website that tracks avian (bird) migration patterns over New Jersey is www.woodcreeper.com. It is run by David La Puma who uses Doppler radar to track movements of birds as they take off on migration, most at night. He is predicting that a large number of birds will take off Wednesday night/Thursday morning after a cold front with winds that prevail from the north passes through. He expects large numbers of migrants to arrive here to “rest and refuel” on Thursday/Friday. Check out this cool graphic of some Doppler radar where you can see birds moving behind the passing cold front (with precipitation).

Get out this weekend and enjoy the beautiful fall weather and watch some of the amazing natural events that take place in New Jersey. Learn key locations to view wildlife by visiting our wildlife viewing map.