All Things Birds
All Things Birds Blog

The Call of the Hawk-Watch:

Labor Day weekend is in our rear-view mirror, summer is about over and for many that means raptors and lots of them.  Yes there are many shorebirds and Neotropic migrants to be seen, but for many birders fall raptor migration trumps all.  There are many folks out there whose only birding is hawk-watching and for them it is a great passion.  Late August signals the beginning for raptors to start thinking about their impending journey south and by mid-September migration is proceeding with many Ospreys and Bald Eagles on the move with the hawk aficionados anxiously anticipating the day of the massive Broad-winged Hawk flight.  Not every year will there be a flight day of ten-thousand or more Broad-wings, but most years there is that special day taking place right about now at one or more NJ hawk-watchers.

By month’s end falcon's will be at the top of the raptor scorecard as American Kestrels, Merlins and Peregrine Falcons are moving big time.  Just as the falcon numbers are thinning out in mid-October Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s Hawk are at their peak along with Red-tails and Red-shouldered Hawks.  If you interested in the rarer raptors such as Golden Eagles, Northern Goshawks and Rough-legged Hawks November is your month.

The Garden State is home to many great hawk-watches, rendering finding a nearby location rather easy.  New Jersey Audubon sponsors the Montclair and the Cape May hawk-watches, the latter, one of the most successful in North American averaging about 40, 000 hawks per season.  Most hawk-watches run from September 1st to November 30 with an official counter present daily who will often point out birds for the novices.  North Jersey also features the Scott’s Mountain Hawk-watch over looking Merrill Creek Reservoir in Warren County, Chimney Rock in Martinsville, Wildcat Ridge in Hibernia and Raccoon Ridge also in Warren County overlooking Yard’s Creek Reservoir and the Delaware River.  All the watches are easily accessible except the last two which require a hike and climb.

NJ Audubon’s Scherman-Hoffman Sanctuary in Bernardsville also has a deck where many hawks pass over in fall almost daily and worth a visit if you have a few minutes or an hour or two to spare.  Sunrise Mountain in Stokes State Forest in Sussex County can also offer a great vantage point for raptor observation and was at one time an official hawk-watch.  Go out and enjoy yourself.


Bald Eagle Flying 1 WD

Bald Eagle:  Image taken by Bill Dix


Broad-winged Hawk Flying 8a SB

Broad-winged Hawk:  Image taken by Steve Byland


Broad-winged Hawk Kettle 3a KK

Broad-winged Hawk Kettle:  Image taken by Kevin Karlson


American Kestrel Male Flying 4 HT

American Kestrel:  Image taken by Harvey Tomlinson


Merlin Female 2 BDa

Merlin:  Image taken by Bill Dalton


Peregrine Falcon Flying 11a TK

Peregrine Falcon:  Image taken by Tiffany Kersten


Sharp-shinned Hawk Flying 12 TR

Sharp-shinned Hawk:  Image taken by Tom Reed


Cooper's Hawk Flying 1 SG

Cooper’s Hawk:  Image taken by Sam Galick


Red-tailed Hawk Flying 1a BDa

Red-tailed Hawk:  Image taken by Bill Dalton


Red-shouldered Hawk Flying 8a TK

Red-shouldered Hawk:  Image taken by Tiffany Kersten

A Time for “Grasspipers”

There is a select group of uncommon to rare shorebirds that rarely or never appear in New Jersey in spring migration, but do appear usually in small numbers in summer and early fall.  They are the group the birders affectionately call “grasspipers” for their predilection to sod farms and grassy areas.  They include: Baird’s and Buff-breasted Sandpipers which have never appeared here in spring and American Golden-Plover which is quite rare in spring, but occasionally appears in double digit numbers here in summer.  This cast can be joined by Killdeer which love the sod and are found often in flocks and occasionally Pectoral and Least Sandpipers as well as Black-bellied Plover.  Upland Sandpiper, an endangered species also prefers sod, but are very rare and found in only in early summer.  With the exception of the Killdeer, these are all birds heading south for a tropical winter vacation.

Our lingering recession and subsequent decline in the housing market has not been a boon to “grasspipers’ and the birders seeking them.  The market for sod is now way down and many fields once planted with sod are currently in soybeans or corn, but there is still some sod out there if you look for it.  Some of the best sod farms are present near Assunpink WMA in the Allentown area and there is also the well known Johnson Sod farm in Pole Tavern on the Salem/Cumberland border.  Others sod farms are present in Hunterdon, Somerset, Mercer and Warren counties.

Unfortunately for birders, these sod farms are all private property and usually offer no parking and little space to pull off the road safely.  Farmers have complained in the past about birders trespassing on their property by driving up private roads and walking on fields.  When searching for these marvelous shorebirds please follow proper birding etiquette.

Grassy patches at Forsythe (the birders call it Brig) National Wildlife Refuge especially along the north dike can be productive for “grasspipers” with the exception of Upland Sandpiper which seldom ever appears there.  This is still an excellent time for shorebird diversity at the refuge.  The green-heads will be gone in a week or so eliminating one of the biggest excuses for not visiting this wonderful refuge in summer.  Enjoy.


Baird's Sandpiper Juv. 4 MF

Baird’s Sandpiper:  Image taken by Mike Fahay


Baird's Sandpiper Juv. 9

Baird’s Sandpiper:  Image from NJ Audubon Collection


Buff-breasted Sandpiper Juv. 14 aM

Buff-breasted Sandpiper:  Image taken by Art Morris, Birds as Art


Buff-breasted Sandpiper wa SG

Buff-breasted Sandpiper:  Image taken by Sam Galick


American Golden-Plover

American Golden-Plover:  Image from NJ Audubon Collection


Killdeer Flying p HT

Killdeer:  Image taken by Harvey Tomlinson


Pectoral Sandpiper Juv. 12

Pectoral Sandpiper:  Image from NJ Audubon Collection


Upland Sandpiper 6

Upland Sandpiper:  Image taken by Kevin Karlson

Fall Migration for Neotropic Migrants Begins in Earnest:

Our concentration has been focused on shorebirds for the last month or so, but there are other choices on the birding menu.  Neotropic migrants i.e. warblers, flycatchers, thrushes, vireos, swallows etc. are species that migrate south in summer and early fall to their winter homes in Central and South America and the Caribbean.  New Jersey lies firmly on the Atlantic Flyway and is the recipient of many of these migrant avian treasures.  These are birds that are primarily carnivorous, feasting on insects and other invertebrates which are not available once the cold weather arrives requiring them to seek warmer climes in winter.  Our Neotropic migrants have been on the move since mid-July, but are now beginning to peak as we approach the end of August and early September.

Eastern Kingbirds can be seen in numbers exceeding four digits around Labor Day Weekend.  Our challenging Empidonax Flycatchers i.e. Least, Alder, Willow, Acadian and Yellow-bellied Flycatchers also peaking in numbers at this time.  All can be identified by sight with some effort except Willow-Alder which are basically identical.  If you are lucky enough to get one to call you can ID it.  Willow Flycatcher says “whit” and Alder “Pep”.  Fall Warblers can be tricky, so make sure you do some studying before you head into the field and bring a good field guide with you.  Almost all of our annual occurring warblers occur here during the next month, so be prepared.  Louisiana Waterthrush is an exception as they are usually completely gone by early August.

Sandy Hook can be a great place to find fall warblers and Empidonax Flycatchers in particular the migrant only Yellow-bellied Flycatcher.  There is parking fee in place till the end of Labor Day weekend, but you can access the “Hook” if you agree not to park in beach lots and tell them you are birding when you arrive at the gate.  Garret Mountain noted for its fabulous spring migration numbers can be good in fall too.  Island Beach State Park and the woods around the Brigantine parking lot can also be rewarding.  Cape May Point is a legendary fall migration hotspot, but is quite a ride from north Jersey.

If you are hooked on shorebirds, this is still an excellent time to go to Brig especially as the Green-headed Flies start to dissipate following Labor Day.  Shorebird species diversity is at its peak right now.


Eastern Kingbird h HE

Eastern Kingbird:  Image taken by Howard Eskin


Yellow-bellied Flycatcher 9 SS

Yellow-bellied Flycatcher:  Image taken by Stephanie Seymour


Alder Flycatcher 9a SS

Alder Flycatcher:  Image taken by Stephanie Seymour


Willow Flycatcher 15 JP

Willow Flycatcher:  Image taken  by Joe Pescatore


Acadian Flycatcher 5 Tom Halliwell

Acadian Flycatcher:  Image taken by Tom Halliwell


Least Flycatcher 8 CC

Least Flycatcher:  Image taken by Clara Coen


Bay-breasted Warbler Fall Male 3 HT

Bay-breasted Warbler:  Image taken by Harvey Tomlinson


Blackpoll Warbler Fall 13 HT

Blackpoll Warbler:  Image taken by Harvey Tomlinson


Cape May Warbler Fall 4 BK

Cape May Warbler:  Image taken by Brett Klaproth

If You Want to See a Lot of Shorebird Species, the Time Is Now:

Late August through early September is the best time on the calendar to maximize the number of shorebirds species you can find here in New Jersey.  Our state has three species of shorebirds that can only be seen in summer as they are not spring migrants along the east coast.  The three shorebirds are Baird’s, Buff-breasted and Western Sandpipers.  The latter is a common migrant in summer, but the other two are rare.  At this season you have a greater opportunity to see American Golden-Plover, phalaropes, godwits along with Stilt and Pectoral Sandpipers which can be uncommon or rare in spring.  Dunlin, Ruddy Turnstone, Wilson’s Snipe, Red Knot, Long-billed Dowitcher and White-rumped Sandpipers also become more common as the season progresses.  American Avocet and Black-necked Stilt are also more regular in summer here in the Garden State.  There is often still an “Eastern” Willet around  to be counted and this summer a few “Western” Willets appeared early. There are many possibilities out there now for you to achieve that 25 species of shorebird day. 

Forsythe (the birders call it Brig or Brigantine) National Wildlife Refuge is still the best place to reach this number at one location.  This past Saturday on an All Things Birds field trip there were 22 species of shorebirds were tallied there.  Many years ago the New Jersey Meadowlands occasionally attained those amazing numbers in summer, but they maintained favorable to shorebirds water levels in the impoundments there at that time.  You can still have very good days there now especially around the DeKorte Environment Center in Lyndhurst.  Shorebirds of the beaches such as Piping Plover and Sanderling are not likely to be found at Brig which is primarily mudflats and grassy areas.  Piping Plover is also for the most part gone after Labor Day weekend.  The Heislerville impoundments in Cumberland County could also provide an excellent shorebird species total.

For you shorebird fanatics like me this is your time.  For the newbies out there, binoculars are necessary and a spotting scope beneficial and don’t forget the sunscreen and insect repellant.  All Things Birds also has field trips scheduled at Brig this Saturday, August 24 as well as Saturdays, September 7 and 14.  Come join us and let us find you the birds.


Buff-breasted Sandpiper Juv. 1
Buff-breasted Sandpiper:  Image from NJ Audubon Collection


Baird's Sandpiper ha CC

Baird’s Sandpiper:  Image taken by Clara Coen


Hudsonian Godwit q HE

Hudsonian Godwit:  Image taken by Howard Eskin


American Golden-Plover

American Golden-Plover:  Image from NJ Audubon Collection


Wilson's Phalarope Juv. 4 MF

Wilson’s Phalarope:  Image taken by Mike Fahay


Red-necked Phalarope ta TS

Red-necked Phalarope:  Image taken by Tom Smith


Black-necked Stilt Male 3 KK

Black-necked Stilt:  Image taken by Kevin Karlson


Western Sandpiper y aHT

Western Sandpiper:  Image taken by Harvey Tomlinson


Stilt Sandpiper Juv. 1_edited-1

Stilt Sandpiper:  Image from NJ Audubon Collection

The Unique and Amazing Chimney Swift:

Chimney Swifts are not like any other bird in eastern North America.  They do not have the ability to perch or to land on a flat surface.  The only resting position they can achieve is hanging preferably on the inside or a chimney or a hollowed out old tree trunk.  This remarkable bird ranges from the Great Plains across the United States and southern Canada to the Atlantic Coast.  The bird has been described as a “cigar butt with wings” as it is a bit over five inches in length, but has a 14 inch wing span.  They are in decline in American and have been declared a threatened species in Canada as too many folks are capping their chimneys, add to that the loss of industrial chimneys and as well as hollow trees with wide-spread logging practices.  The vanguard of Chimney Swifts can appear in spring  in late March and are usually gone by October as they journey to South America for the winter.  They are a great benefit to mankind as they consume copious quantities of flying insects.  They are often mistaken for Little Brown Bats an animal that they can often be seen flying along side at dawn and dusk.  They appear to fly with one wing up and the other down, but this is just an optical illusion.

We have a great opportunity to view them up close and personal in town of Raritan in Somerset County.  There is a fifty foot industrial chimney where they nest and roost that is off Orlando Drive which runs along the Raritan River less than a mile from where Orlando meets Route 202.  Last year there was an estimate of over five thousand birds occupying this chimney.  A visit to this spot at dusk can provide a wonderful treat of watching the birds swirl into this chimney as they end their day.  There is a good place to park and watch on a short road called Mill Street by the foot bridge across the Raritan River.   Be sure to bring a pair of binoculars with you.  They should continue there for a few more weeks, but don’t wait too long as they are probably already contemplating their journey south.


Chimney Swift Flying 2 SG

Chimney Swift:  Image taken by Sam Galick


Chimney Swift Flying 1 TR

Chimney Swift:  Image taken by Tom Reed


Chimney Swift Flying 5a SG

Chimney Swift:  Image taken by Sam Galick


Raritan Chimney Swift Chimney 3a SE

The Industrial Chimney in Raritan:  Image taken by Sandra Escala


Little Brown Bat in Flight 1 Google

Little Brown Bat:  Image from NJ Audubon Collection

A Spectacle and a Great Bird:

Every year in August the Purple Martins return to their favorite staging area along the marshes of the Maurice River in Cumberland County.  Staging areas are locations where a particular species will gather often in very large numbers in preparation for a mass migration.  The Purple Martin returning annually in early August to this location in Cumberland County is a prime example.  The plethora of birds arriving here annually were the reason for creating this festival in their honor.  The festival last weekend experienced the over 300,000 Purple Martins present in these marshes.  Before month’s end these birds will get up en mass and depart for their winter home in the Amazon Basin of Brazil with many making this incredible journey non-stop.  Post Labor Day Weekend, there will not be a martin remaining in  state of New Jersey.  Purple Martins are our largest swallow at eight inches in length.

There is still space available for a boat ride to view the martins on Saturday, August 10.  Here is the information on that:

And the #1 Reason You Should Be on the Bodacious this Saturday is....
1,     200,000 to 300,000 Purple Martins swirling all around you!

Make your reservations now for this Saturday. Reservations are required, $35 per person; please pay in advance. The trip lasts approximately 3 hours and takes place RAIN OR SHINE. Contact Suzanne Olah 856-327-5118 or cureservation@gmail.com to make a reservation. Cruises depart Longreach Marina, 2806 High St., Port Norris at 6:15pm, but please arrive 15 to 30 minutes earlier. We can accommodate passengers with disabilities or other special needs if we are alerted well in advance. This trip will be cancelled if we don't have enough reservations to cover the cost of the Bodacious, so please make your reservations ASAP.

You can pay online on CU's website here: or mail your check to CU Maurice River, PO Box 474, Millville, NJ 08332. Hope to see you there! 



Purple Martin Spectacle in Cumberland County 1 Sue Slotterback

The Purple Martin Spectacle:  Image taken by Sue Slotterback


Purple Martin h HT

Purple Martin Male:  Image taken by Harvey Tomlinson


Purple Martin Female t JP

Purple Martin Female:  Image taken by Joe Pescatore


Purple Martin Flying 1 Google

Purple Martin:  Image from NJ Audubon Collection


Purple Martin Colony 3

Purple Martin Colony:  Image from NJ Audubon Collection


The great bird is a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher that was discovered at NJ’s cranberry capital Whitesbog in Burlington County on Monday.  The bird was found by a couple who are very used to discovering great birds Shari and Larry Zirlin who discovered the Northern Lapwings in New Egypt earlier this year.  New Jersey has over forty records of the this breeding bird of the south Central United States.  This is arguably one of America’s most beautiful birds in flight with their long streamer tails.  In flight they are the epitome of grace and elegance while making sorties for unsuspecting flying insects.  This is a bird that likes to perch in conspicuous places, but is likely not to linger as many of the previous records were one-day wonders.  Here are some images of the Whitesbog bird.


Scissor-tailed Flycatcher vaa Shari Zirlin

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher:  Image taken by Shari and Larry Zirlin


Scissor-tailed Flycatcher Flying ha Larry Scacchetti

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher:  Image taken by Larry Scacchetti


Scissor-tailed Flycatcher Flying ya Larry Scacchetti

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher:  Image taken by Larry Scacchetti


Scissor-tailed Flycatcher va Larry Scacchetti

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher:  Image taken by Larry Scacchetti

The Summer “Peep” Show Is for All to Enjoy:

The smallest of our migratory shorebirds are referred to as “peeps”.  These include: Semipalmated, Least, Western, White-rumped and Baird’s Sandpipers, all of which will be appear in this summer’s “peep” show at Forsythe (the birders call it Brig) National Wildlife Refuge just north of Atlantic City.  Semipalmated Sandpipers are the extras in this production as they appear by the thousands, but the real stars of the show are Baird’s, the true headliner along with co-stars Western and White-rumped Sandpipers.  Least Sandpipers are common and are usually found hanging around on the edges of the set in this case the mudflats and grassy areas of the refuge.

Baird’s Sandpiper is an unusual NJ birds in that it is only a southerly migrant here not appearing in spring migration.  They are found in very small numbers arriving in New Jersey in early August and still possible into early November.  They prefer the grassy areas of the refuge to the many mudflats that prevail there, but there are always exceptions to every rule.  Adult Baird’s seldom ever visit here as we mostly receive juveniles  during summer shorebird migration.  The adults once they depart their high Arctic breeding grounds have their sights set on their South American winter home with little interest in lingering here, whereby the juvenile birds are in no great hurry  to reach that place they have never seen.

Least Sandpipers, the only peep with yellow legs can be found scattered about the marshes at Brig and is our smallest shorebird at six inches. The less common Western and White-rumped sandpipers can on occasion exceed the century mark in numbers at the refuge especially later in the season. Western Sandpipers are  slightly larger than Semipalmated sandpipers and a half inch larger than Least Sandpipers.  Westerns will show the longest bills, an excellent field mark, while White-rumped and Baird’s are the largest of the peeps at seven and a half inches rendering them quite visible among their smaller cousins.  Beside their larger size, both have wings longer than their tails giving them an attenuated look as if you took the bird by the head and tail and stretched it out.  Both species in juvenile plumage exhibit a scaly backed appearance which also helps with ID.  Baird’s gives the impression of having a hood, while White-rumped can retain some streaking below the wings from breeding season and also can exhibit a distinctive eyebrow aka supercilium.   White-rumped Sandpipers will have a predilection for mudflats and not the grassy areas preferable to the Baird’s, but their paths do occasionally cross.  Semipalmated Sandpiper will become scare by November, while Least, White-rumped and Western will often be present into late fall.


Semipalmated Sandpiper Breeding n HE

Semipalmated Sandpiper:  Image taken by Howard Eskin


Shorebirds in Flight 1 AB

Semipalmated Sandpipers:  Image taken by Ashley Bradford


Least Sandpiper Winter 7 WD

Least Sandpiper:  Image taken by Bill Dix


Western Sandpiper Winter e

Western Sandpiper:  Image from NJ Audubon Collection


Western, Semi and Least h TB

Western, Semipalmated and Least Sandpipers:  Image taken by Tom Boyle


White-rumped Sandpiper g

White-rumped Sandpiper:  Image from NJ Audubon Collection


White-rumped Sandpiper

White-rumped Sandpiper: Image taken by Mike Fahay


Baird's Sandpiper Juv. ha CC

Baird’s Sandpiper:  Image taken by Clara Coen

Brigantine Is Beginning to Heat-up with Shorebirds:

Thousands of shorebirds have already descended upon Forsythe (the birders call it Brig or Brigantine) National Wildlife Refuge this summer.  The predominant species include: Semipalmated Sandpipers, Short-billed Dowitchers and Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs.  There are also many Least Sandpipers, Semipalmated Plovers, Spotted Sandpipers, Stilt Sandpipers and Black-bellied Plovers visiting the mudflats along with the nesting Willets and American Oystercatchers.

Most birders are looking for the uncommon and rare birds in order to add another tick to there burgeoning Jersey year lists and if rare enough, a life bird.  Brig has been really good since June with the likes of American Avocet, Black-necked Stilt, Marbled Godwit as well as Wilson’s and Red-necked Phalaropes making appearances at the refuge and getting birders to rub their hands together with excitement.  About a month ago a Ruff, an rare Eurasian vagrant appeared at Brig and was photographed, but immediately departed with no one but the photographer getting a look.  This past Sunday two Reeves, the female counterpart of a Ruff were discovered at the refuge in a large flock of shorebirds in the west pool and were still being reported at the there as of Tuesday.  These two avian visitors provided life birds for several birders on Sunday who happened to be at Brig at the time of discovery.  Getting the word out is so important in birding.

Last weekend there were other interesting shorebirds to study there as a few still in breeding Long-billed Dowitchers which can with care be extracted from the myriad of Short-billed Dowitchers present.  Pectoral and Western Sandpiper as well as Whimbrels have been present in small numbers too.  Interesting are the “Western” Willets that have arrived early this year.  Our nesting “Eastern” Willets will soon be finishing their nesting duties and departing for points south with most gone by mid-September.  That is about the time the changing of the guard takes place whereby the “Western” Willets arrive in numbers and replace their eastern cousins with many spending the winter months here in NJ.  Four western variety Willets were present this past weekend.  Many believe they will receive separate species status in the near future.  An interesting fact, when Marbled Godwits appear in New Jersey in fall and winter they are almost always accompanied by “Western” Willets.

All Things Birds has a field trip to the refuge this Saturday and almost every Saturday through late August.  Call 908-766-5787 for more information or to register.


Reeve 1a

Reeve:  Image from NJ Audubon Collection


Reeve and Greater  Yellowlegs 1aa

Greater Yellowlegs and Reeve:  Image from NJ Audubon Collection


Willet, Eastern Breeding 27 HE

Willet “Eastern”:  Image taken by Howard Eskin


Willet, Western Winter 9a

Willet “Western”:  Image from NJ Audubon Collection


Marbled Godwits and Western Willets 2 AM

Marbled Godwit with “Western” Willets:  Image taken by Art Morris


Both Yellowlegs and Stilt Sandpipers

Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs with Stilt Sandpipers: 

Image taken by Mike Mandracchia


Spotted Sandpiper Juv. n CC

Spotted Sandpiper Juvenile:  Image taken by Clara Coen


Pectoral Sandpiper ta LS

Pectoral Sandpiper:  Image taken by Larry Scacchetti


Short-billed Dowitcher Flying HE

Short-billed Dowitcher:  Image taken by Howard Eskin

The Time Is Now for Shorebirds:

Shorebirds are now returning from their high Arctic breeding grounds in full force.  Generally, mid-July signifies the start of the summer migration of shorebirds, but the last two years they have appeared in significant numbers by early July.  The term fall migration for many birds is a misnomer as they actually migrate in summer with shorebirds at the top of that list along with warblers and other Neotropic migrants, that is birds that spend their springs here in North America and their winters in the tropics of Central and South America as well as the Caribbean.  Many shorebirds are still migrating into November, but the peak of their migration is in mid-summer.  Short-distance migrants like sparrows and American Robins for instance are true fall migrants as well as most raptors and waterfowl.  Short distance migrants nest in North America and migrate but don’t leave the continent.

Forsythe (the birders call it Brig or Brigantine) National Wildlife Refuge is one of the best locations not only in New Jersey but in the country to experience shorebird migration.  The refuge lies just north of Atlantic City in Galloway Township (Oceanville) just south of Smithville off of Route 9.  Brig features an eight mile loop-drive along dikes overlooking salt and brackish marshes, meadows and woodlands.  If you know your birds, you can  tally over 70 species this time of year even in the heat.  There is a four-dollar entrance fee unless you have a Duck Stamp or Golden Age Pass.  There is a visitor center next to the refuge parking lot where you can purchase a duck stamp.  There are also trails there you can investigate.  Many wildlife photographers visit this location and get great images.

In late July the smallest of North American shorebirds the Least Sandpiper is peaking in numbers with hundreds present and by August 1, their cousin the Semipalmated Sandpiper an abundant species will be there in the thousands.  Other birds you should find at this time of year include: Black-bellied Plover, Semipalmated Plover, American Oystercatcher, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Willets, Spotted Sandpiper, Whimbrel, Western Sandpiper and Short-billed Dowitcher.  Rarities seen in the refuge in the last month or so include: American Avocet, Black-necked Stilt, Ruff, Marbled Godwit, and Wilson’s and Red-necked Phalaropes.  Shorebirds are the not only show in town as there are plenty of egrets, ibis, herons, terns, Black Skimmers, salt sparrows and Clapper Rails to be seen.  Keep your eye out for Blue Grosbeak once you leave the marsh section of the eight-mile loop.

There is one downside to going there before Labor Day weekend and that is the ever present Green-headed Flies unless there is a breeze.  A word of advice is the flies are more interested in bouncing off your car as the are attracted the UV radiating off if it than they are you.  That said if you exit your vehicle walk twenty feet away from your vehicle and the flies will not bother you as much as they are pre-occupied.  The other approach is stay in the car, keep the windows up and the AC on high.  The flies do not like air-conditioning.  Binoculars are a necessity and a spotting scope would really improve your experience.  Of course, plenty of water, sunscreen and a hat are summer necessities.  A major suggestion here is if you are uncomfortable about attempting this on your own, join one of the several trips there sponsored by New Jersey Audubon and their All Things Birds program.  We are running trips to the refuge on July 20 and 27 and August 3 and 17.  For the July 20 and August 3 trip call 609-897-9400 and for the July 27 and August 17 trips call 908-766-5787 for more information or to sign-up.


American Oystercatcher 13

American Oystercatcher:  Image from NJ Audubon Collection


Black Skimmer Skimming 27 WD

Black Skimmer:  Image taken by Bill Dix


Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs 1a TR

Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs:  Image taken by Tom Reed


Least Sandpiper p CC

Least Sandpiper:  Image taken by Clara Coen


Whimbrel p CC

Whimbrel:  Image taken by Clara Coen


American Avocet Pair h

American Avocets:  Image from NJ Audubon Collection


Marbled Godwit Juv. 2 AM

Marbled Godwit:  Image taken by Art Morris, Birds as Art


Wilson's Phalarope Juv. 5 MF

Wilson’s Phalarope:  Image taken by Mike Fahay


Blue Grosbeak y HE

Blue Grosbeak:  Image taken by Howard Eskin

The Time Is Now for Hummingbirds:

Hummingbirds are the smallest birds in North America with the only nesting hummingbird in New Jersey’s and the eastern United States, the Ruby-throated Hummingbird measuring up at 3.75 inches.  This unique avian gem arrives here in the Garden State in mid-April and for the most part have all departed south by early October.  Numbers increase dramatically in July when all the newly fledged young birds are upon us which is a reason we should act now.  August provides the heaviest Ruby-throated Hummingbird concentrations as this is the peak of their migration.  They spend their winters from southern Mexico south through Central America and on some Caribbean Islands.

The males are the ones with the bright red throat known as a gorget.  The only role the males play in reproduction is mating and once it is over they are on their way leaving the entire nesting process to the females.  The hummingbirds in spring that lack the gorget and are white below are the females and by early summer the arriving young birds also resemble the females.  Hummingbirds are beneficial to have around as they help pollinate flowers and eat small flying insects like gnats and mosquitoes.

People are fascinated by hummingbirds and why not.  They have a wing speed of over 50 beats per second and can hover and do almost anything they want on the wing.  The best way to get up close and personal with these amazing little birds is to put out a hummingbird feeder in your yard or garden.  A good hummingbird feeder will cost around $25 and can be purchased at any New Jersey Audubon nature store.  Check out this link: http://www.njaudubon.org/Centers/OurNatureStores.aspx for the closest NJA nature store to you.  With this purchase comes a great responsibility, that is you must continuously supply it with sugar water and keep it clean once you put it up.  The sugar water solution used for hummingbirds is four parts water to one part sugar.  Never exceed this ration with the sugar as it could be detrimental to the hummingbirds.  A little more water is acceptable.  In spring put a small amount of the solution in the feeder as bird traffic will probably be light and when late June arrives start filling it completely as you could have a multitude arrive.

Refrigerate unused sugar water and fill the feeders once a week in the spring and two or more times a week in the summer.  Most importantly you must thoroughly clean the feeder with hot soapy water every time you fill the feeder and make sure you rinse out the feeder thoroughly with clean water after washing.  You don’t want the sugar to ferment or bacteria or mold to form.  You cannot take this responsibility lightly, but in the end the experience will be well worth the effort.

Keep the feeders up until at least the end of September and it may behoove you to keep them up even longer.  The reason why is New Jersey has been the recipient of six other species of hummingbirds over the years with most appearing from late October to early December at feeders left up by people or late blooming colorful flowers.  Rufous Hummingbird, a western hummingbird that breeds up into Alaska is now an annual visitor to the garden state and normally shows up at these dates.  Others that have visited us are: Black-chinned, Calliope, Allen’s,  and Broad-tailed Hummingbirds as well as Green Violet-ear, a tropical hummingbird. 

Now is the time.  Get yourself a hummingbird feeder or two and help support New Jersey Audubon and our tiny avian friends too.


Ruby-throated Hummingbird w HT

Ruby-throated Hummingbird Male:  Image taken by Harvey Tomlinson


Ruby-throated Hummingbird Close-up t HT

Ruby-throated Hummingbird Male:  Image taken by Harvey Tomlinson


Ruby-throated Hummingbird SW

Ruby-throated Hummingbird Male:  Image taken by Shawn Wainwright


Ruby-throated Hummingbird Female e JP

Ruby-throated Hummingbird Female:  Image taken by Joe Pescatore


Ruby-throated Hummingbird Female ta JP

Ruby-throated Hummingbird Female:  Image taken by Joe Pescatore


Green Violet Ear a

Green Violet-ear:  Image from NJ Audubon Collection


Rufous Hummingbird Hovering 1aa_edited-1

Rufous Hummingbird Male:  Image from NJ Audubon Collection

All Things Birds Blog
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