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Southern Ocean Birding Group

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Oct. 2016

A Summer of Birds
by Jeanine Apgar


Summer is a time when many people give up on birding due to the heat and spring migration coming to an end. Greg Prelich and I decided to make the most of the season this year and came up with a plan to explore some of the harder-to-get-to spots for migrants and breeding birds. It started out with several hikes and a kayak trip in the Pinelands. We birded the Michael Huber Prairie Warbler Preserve near Tabernacle, where there are good open trails, and true to the name, lots of Prairie Warblers. We also found Pine, Hooded, Black-throated Green, Blue-winged, and Prothonotary Warblers, American Redstarts, Great Crested Flycatchers, Phoebes, Peewees, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, and Summer Tanagers. And yes, a few ticks. But only a few!

Another plan was to look for late day species in the Franklin Parker Preserve by Chatsworth. This naturalized cranberry bog can be hot mid-day, so we thought evening might be interesting. It doesn’t feel like New Jersey, but more like some surreal place far away. Pine Barrens Treefrogs were calling, and Whippoorwills were hawking insects right next to the trail with their eyes reflecting our flashlights.

As summer heated up we had to get out to the water, so many canoe and kayak outings to the Island Beach Sedge Islands followed. Early in June we found Red Knots, American Oystercatchers, and enough Common and Forster’s Terns to perfect our skills at telling them apart. I considered it good enough to be able to get it right 75% of the time. But getting better with practice practice practice. Later in July, Royal Terns began coming in, and it was lots of fun to watch them feeding their young. They are vocal and loud. We spotted Tri-colored and Little Blue Herons, and many Short-billed Dowitchers. In August we came across Marbled Godwits, a beautiful and much sought-after species for us. In September, re-finding Greg’s Reddish Egret was a thrill, and four Black Terns was all we hoped for. Success!

Terns in the Sedge Islands: Royal Terns, Common Terns, Forster's Terns, and three Black Terns.
                 Tern heaven in the Sedge Islands: Royal Terns, Common Terns, Forster's Terns, and three Black Terns.

   
                                      Marbled Godwit                                                   Immature Reddish Egret

Trying to find more shorebirds and terns was the aim for a hike on North Brigantine Natural Area, a 5-plus mile walk on the beach, complete with greenheads biting us all the way. What won’t we do to see birds! We were rewarded with gorgeous views of Piping Plovers, huge numbers of American Oystercatchers and Red Knots. Our reward for walking all the way to the far… far… end was a single Sandwich Tern, sitting among a group of Common and Royal Terns, standing out as being larger than the Commons and smaller than the Royals, with a bill that looks like it is dipped in mustard. And still, Greg looked behind us and sitting on the beach was a Lesser Black-backed Gull, an adult with yellow legs making it a definite identification. All greenheads forgotten.

It's sad to say good-bye to a fabulous summer, but time to look forward to Fall Migration! The birds are coming….

  
                      Four Piping Plovers at North Brig Natural Area                          Adult breeding Lesser Black-backed Gull

 
                    Sandwich Tern and Common Terns                                            North Brig Natural Area. Look at all those birds!