Birding New Jersey with Bill

After another busy sight-seeing day, I got back to the hotel only to receive a message from Bill Elrick - a long time acquaintance going back to Compuserve days - to say that he was OK to go birding tomorrow! Bernie and Heather had plans so that left me free to sneak out at 5:30 to get a train from Penn Station (just at the end of the block where we were staying) into Secaucus Transfer in the Meadowlands of New Jersey (near the Giants stadium) - all of 9 minutes away on the other side of the Hudson. With some consternation, Bill eventually found the drop off point on this new interchange and we met in person for the first time. It was a very cold morning (well not by NJ winter standards I suppose) as we headed for the Great Swamp Wildlife Refuge - a flooded (and frozen) area of woodland and marsh which had a few unfrozen patches.
At the first we cam across a large concentration of wildfowl - Canada Geese (including two small ones), Mallard and Black Duck were the most obvious with a supporting cast of American Wigeon, Pintail and Wood Duck. We couldn't park here for long - a bit of a constant thorn in the side was this as the locals seemed very possessive and paranoid about the roadside adjacent to their homes - so we headed for the first feeder area.
Here we had Swamp and American Tree Sparrow as well as plenty of Red-winged Blackbirds starting to give their raucous song. However there was little else so we moved on further round where Bill was hoping for Red-headed Woodpecker. Unfortunately, we didn't get this but there were plenty of Red-bellied Woodpeckers (surely a misnamed bird when its red crown and nape stand out like a sore thumb!).
We also had a very obliging Mockingbird that was very protective of its feeding area but apart from a few commoner birds such as titmice and nuthatches, there was little else.
So it was on to Lord Stirling Park where Bill was fairly confident we might get some wintering warblers - a Carolina Wren was a good start but the rest of the trails were quiet - Turkey and Black Vultures soared overhead whilst I concentrated on one species of bird that was being rather noisy and showy - Bluebirds. Although they gave me little opportunity to get an image of them other than the rubbish one below, they were a splash of colour in an otherwise cold brown landscape.
After a brief stop at the NJ Audubon spot (just Pine Siskins on the feeders), we headed for the Meadowlands and Saw Creek. Just before there, we stopped at and area that had held a Snowy Owl recently, but of course with my luck it was not there - "Left two weeks ago!" Anyhow, at least four Red-tailed Hawks, two Northern Harriers, a Rough-legged Hawk (below) and an adult Bald Eagle somewhat made up for it!

Onto Saw Creek and it was duck heaven. 10 - 20 Hooded Mergansers and Buffleheads as well as Goosander, Red-breasted Merganser, 81 Canvasbacks, Black Duck, Pintail, Mallard, Green-winged Teal and Gadwall. There was no mud and consequently no waders at all. We searched the edges for sparrows and came up with several Song and White-throated as well as a single American Tree Sparrow and four Savannah Sparrows.

We stopped briefly at Overpeck, Bills old stomping ground, where we hoped for more Sparrows but just got a load of Slate-coloured Juncos before Bill dropped me off to head back to Manhattan. A splendid day with good birds and splendid company - it was great to have a long chat about birds and common acquaintances but to my chagrin, I never took a photo of Bill and I in the field! Something to rectify in the, hopefully, not-too-distant future.

I got back in time to get back out to Broadway where we'd booked tickets for Phantom of the Opera - a good end to a great day and our last night in New York.


  1. Anonymous1:22 pm

    Dave, Nice to see you have that still up as it brings back the day very vividly.
    Bill Elrick


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