Sightings 2021

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2/24/21 – Newton (Giselle Smisko) – (night) Heard at least two Killdeer calling.  Happy to hear the Red-winged Blackbirds calling from the swamp on the edge of our yard, Northern Cardinals singing, and a few Common Grackles have shown up at the feeder.  

2/24/21 – Wantage & Lafayette Twps (Karyn Cichocki) – I was traveling on Roy Rd. in Wantage and saw 2 immature and 1 adult White-crowned Sparrows. Here at home in Lafayette, spring is definitely in the air. The Red-bellied & Downy Woodpeckers have started drumming on the local trees and the Red-bellied has also used our gutter, which is really loud in the house. Early morning brings the song of the Northern Cardinal and I heard the sweet song of a Dark-eyed Junco, which is a slow trill similar to a Chipping Sparrow. The Tufted Titmice are happily singing their “cheer cheer”, and the Common Grackles and Red-wing Blackbirds are showing up under the feeders almost every day now.  We are finally seeing patches of grass in the yard, and I’m sure once more is visible that American Robins will be showing up. 

2/24/21 – Fredon Twp (Sharon & Wade Wander) – This Red-shouldered Hawk (a State Endangered local breeder) has been hanging around our Fredon Twp. yard ever since the deep snow more than 3 weeks ago made hunting small mammals almost impossible. It didn’t seem to be able to hunt birds successfully despite the scores of Dark-eyed Juncos and a big flock of mixed blackbirds that have been inundating our yard.  But it must have been watching the Common Grackles and woodpeckers feasting on our beef suet, and today it made its move and cleaned out a full cage that lacked a top. We hope this new food source helps the bird make it through these tough times. Photo taken through a window and a few snowflakes.

2/19/21 – Montague Twp (Marianne Ofenloch) – More than 5 years ago, I installed a mealworm cake feeder in the hopes of attracting Eastern Bluebirds, who are known to eat mealworms and who have nested in my yard for many years. While the feeder has attracted a wide variety of birds, including sparrows, finches, woodpeckers, and even a Hermit Thrush that fed on the cakes throughout the fall & winter of 2017, the bluebirds never paid a visit…until the snowstorm on the 19th. What a delightful surprise to finally see their bright colors against the backdrop of snow and bark! They were visiting daily afterwards, though they often didn’t stay for more than an hour. Competition from Blue Jays and gray squirrels kept them moving. But on the 22nd, after a hawk (most likely a Cooper’s Hawk) nabbed a Mourning Dove in the same tree from which the feeder hangs, the bluebirds have not returned for a worm. Still, hope springs eternal…and they’re sure to be active at the nest box soon. Ice is melting, Spring is coming!

2/14/21 – Search for Eagles trip (Jack Padalino, leader) – The season’s third trip took place in the Delaware Valley from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The temperature at the start was 19 degrees and at the finish 30 degrees. It was a cloud covered gray day with 31 inches of snow on the ground; however, all roads were clear and navigable. We began by watching feeder birds including two Red-shouldered Hawks at PEEC, Hairy Woodpeckers, Dark-eyed Junco, Blue Jays, and Pileated Woodpecker among others. Total of 35 species of birds were seen on the trip. Nine participants, wearing face covering and social distancing, logged 141 miles in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area and Upper Delaware Scenic River from PEEC to the Bushkill Access and the trip’s conclusion at the headwaters of the Lackawaxen River. 

2/14/21 – various locations (Don & Donna Traylor) – We took a driving tour of Sussex County this afternoon to see what was around. Phil Hardin Rd in Fredon Twp (near Springhouse Farm) had 44+ Horned Larks working the spread manure areas. Compton Rd in Wantage Twp had male and female Pileated Woodpeckers about 20 ft from the road (the image was taken with my point and shoot camera). 25+ Wild Turkeys were walking down Beemer Rd near the Ricker farm (also in Wantage). The feeders at the Cosh Farm on Sally Hardin Rd just up from Beemer Rd had a good mix of typical feeder birds including American Tree Sparrow. There were Dark-eyed Juncos along most roads trying to feed. There were many Red-tailed Hawks no matter where we were. The bonus was at Kuperus Meadows Farm on County Route 651 (Unionville Rd) in Wantage. There was a mixed flock of at least 120+ Horned Larks and 15+ Snow Buntings. They were at the manure spread close to the road (be careful pulling over).

2/14/21 – Montague Twp (Marianne Ofenloch) – A pair of House Finches visit the feeders once in a while and a lone American Goldfinch visits even less often; the Purple Finches continue to be absent. Dark-eyed Junco numbers seem to be decreasing again while Song Sparrows have increased to three. An eastern cottontail was spotted for the first time since the deep snowfall, moving in and out of what appears to be a hollow dug into the snow under the shrubs where the sparrows retreat when one of the two Cooper’s Hawks zoom into the yard. The ice jams in the gutters have begun to create huge icicles and have spread into the soffits as yet another snowfall is forecast for this week…but it was nice to hear the hope of spring being sung by Tufted Titmice and Black-capped Chickadees as I tried to chop away some of the ice. The days are lengthening, so there’s more time to see and hear birds, and the white stuff should melt eventually. Hope everyone enjoys some good birds and sunshine this week!

2/7/21 – Fredon Twp (Bob & Kathy Wilson) – We saw a Snow Bunting in our neighborhood in Fredon on Oak Tree Road today.  One was recently reported on Phil Hardin Road recently which is nearby.  I should also note that we also saw Eastern Bluebirds and a Red-tailed Hawk flying in our neighborhood, which we’ve also seen hanging around our yard being pestered by crows and ignored by all the other birds. We had hundreds of Red-winged Blackbirds, Common Grackles, Brown-headed Cowbirds, and European Starlings at the feeders today along with the regulars. We had a record eight Northern Cardinals in our pussy willow by the feeders recently. 

2/5/21 – Andover Twp (Deborah Bifulco) – Hubby and I had just started breakfast when I spotted a Common Redpoll at the feeders just outside the window.  I nearly upended the table getting my camera and managed to get a few shots before they took off.  There were three, all either females or immature birds, and seemed to be traveling with some American Goldfinches. Also had a big flock of 40-50 Common Grackles descend, followed by about 20 Red-winged Blackbirds and several Brown-headed Cowbirds.  I’m up to five Song Sparrows and one little American Tree Sparrow at the feeders.  The leucistic Dark-eyed Junco is still here as well as a piebald leucistic White-throated Sparrow.  Otherwise, all the usual suspects. 

2/5/21 – Frankford Twp (Fred Weber) – Adult White-crowned Sparrow, corner Meyer Rd. and Plains Rd., brushy thicket by barn yard. Frankford Plains area used to host 15-20 White-crowneds, whittled down to 1 or 2 in recent winters. They’re taking a hit from neonic pesticides because they’re attracted to agricultural areas during migration.

2/3/21 – Lafayette Twp etc. (Karyn Cichocki) – We also had an American Tree Sparrow along with the crowd of Mourning Doves, White-throated Sparrows, & Dark-eyed Juncos. The Song Sparrow count is up to 2 and American Goldfinches up to 3. We also have the DE Juncos going on to not only the thistle feeder successfully but also the peanut feeder. We had a female Brown-headed Cowbird. On my way to the Main Library next to the Homestead and back I saw large flocks of mixed blackbirds on various roads in Augusta and Lafayette.

2/3/21 – Oak Ridge (Alice Piatek) – We had plenty of visitors at our feeder and suet basket the last few days. Black-capped Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, White-breasted Nuthatches, Downy Woodpeckers, Dark-eyed Juncos, White-throated Sparrows, some European Starlings, Northern Cardinals, Mourning Doves, and Blue Jays. After a long lull in visitors, it was wonderful to see.

2/3/21 – Andover Twp (Deborah Bifulco) – Not surprisingly, my feeders have been flooded with birds for the last few days.  Notable newcomers have been two American Tree Sparrows and 2 Song Sparrows.  I also have had groups of 20 or more Red-winged Blackbirds and Common Grackles.  Smaller group of European Starlings and a handful of Brown-headed Cowbirds have been coming and going.  Peak numbers of Dark-eyed Juncos and White-throated Sparrows numbering 30 or more each day. 

The leucistic Dark-eyed Junco that showed up on 31 December is still a daily visitor in the yard, which answers a question I always had about whether the juncos in my yard in the winter are moving around or staying near our yard.  One interesting thing that’s happened this winter is that several of the DE juncos have discovered the thistle feeders (including the leucistic bird) and often try to chase the American Goldfinches away (not usually successfully).  I don’t ever recall seeing DE juncos eating thistle this much in prior years and it only appears to be a small number of individual birds who’ve developed a taste for it. 

2/2/21 – Fredon Twp (Wade & Sharon Wander) – During the height of the storm, we saw an adult female Cooper’s Hawk feeding on a victim (probably a Common Grackle) in our back yard. It is a female because of its large size (compare it to the American Crow in the foreground). While it was feeding, most of the other birds returned, some within a few feet of the hawk. Photos were taken through a window and hundreds of snow flakes. More than 100 Dark-eyed Juncos and more than 20 White-throated Sparrows, many Common Grackles, Red-winged Blackbirds, Brown-headed Cowbirds, 2 Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, 1 Song Sparrow, and the other usual suspects, but no Fox Sparrows or American Tree Sparrows, both of which used to be regular visitors following snowstorms.

2/1 & 2/2/21 – Lafayette Twp (Karyn Cichocki) – During the snowstorm, there was a feeding frenzy. At one point, we had 5 male Northern Cardinals and 2 females, 1 Common Grackle, 1 male Red-winged Blackbird, 3 Brown-headed Cowbirds (2 males 1 female), 2 American Goldfinches along with the usual group of many Black-capped Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, White-throated Sparrows, Dark-eyed Juncos, Mourning Doves, House Sparrows, a couple of House Finches, and a lone White-breasted Nuthatch. The suet feeder was visited by both pairs of Downy & Red-bellied Woodpeckers. This morning, there are a few birds after I managed to shovel a path to the feeder & birdbath and throw out some mixed seed. But I was happy to see the Carolina Wren return to pick at the door frame and boot scraper.

1/30/21 – Annual Dr. S. Marie Kuhnen Memorial NJ North Coast Field Trip (Jack Padalino, leader) – One Sussex County Bird Club member joined me to enjoy the birding. We logged 289 miles from & to Ross’s Corner from 7:30 a.m. through 7:30 p.m., a 12-hr day. Temps ranged from 2 to 31 degrees Fahrenheit. Winds from the northwest were btwn 10-30 mph. The shore tour began at Manasquan Inlet’s south jetty Point Pleasant Beach where there was an abundance of Common Loons as well as a Long-tailed Ducks (Oldsquaw.) Notable among the 43 bird species observed were Razorbills, Black Scoter, as well as a Pacific Loon. Also seen: Red-throated Loon, Great Blue Heron, Double-crested Cormorants, many Mute Swans & Brant at Shark River, Canada Goose, 15 duck species –  American Wigeon, Gadwall, Mallard, American Black Duck, Redhead, Greater & Lesser Scaup, Long-tailed Duck, many Common Eider, a King Eider, Black Scoters, Bufflehead, Red-breasted Merganser & many Hooded Mergansers, & Ruddy Duck. American Coot. Shorebirds: Purple Sandpiper & Sanderling. Five gulls: Great Black-backed, Bonaparte’s, Herring, Lesser Black-backed, & Ring-billed. Three Razorbills spotted from Manasquan inlet. Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Blue Jay, American & Fish Crows, Carolina Chickadee, Northern Cardinal, European Starling, Song Sparrow, Common Grackle, Boat-tailed Grackle, House Finch, & House Sparrow. Look forward to next winter’s 2022 North Shore field trip. 

1/29/21 – Fredon Twp (Wade & Sharon Wander) – Our main new visitors during this bitter cold have been Brown-headed Cowbirds, Red-winged Blackbirds, and Common Grackles. We have had this male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker for most of the winter at suet and sunflower seeds, but his latest feeding favorite is a cake of dried mealworms and sunflower hearts. This is also a big hit with Downy Woodpeckers, Dark-eyed Juncos, Tufted Titmice, Black-capped Chickadees, White-breasted Nuthatches, Carolina Wrens, and the occasional American Goldfinch. It was so popular that we had to put out 3 more cakes. Photo was taken through a window.

Male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

1/22/21 – Lafayette Twp (Karyn Cichocki) – Today we had 13 Mourning Doves joining the group of regulars under the feeder.  The Cooper’s Hawk has been hanging around the yard so the birds have been a bit scarce this past week. Late this afternoon there was a Brown Creeper foraging on the various tree trunks in the front yard.  I haven’t seen one in the yard in several years.

1/20/21 – Wawayanda State Park & Hewitt yard (Russ Edwards) – Belted Kingfisher at main road, bench overlooking wetlands (opposite campsite road). Red-breasted Nuthatch continues intermittently at feeders. Note: NJDEP is culling the wooded areas around campsites and old iron furnace in effort to control infestation of Emerald Ash Borer.  

1/20/21 – Oak Ridge (Alice Piatek) – I discovered just this morning the possible reason we may have less birds.  I saw several Tufted Titmice fly across the road and followed them by sight.  Lo and behold a neighbor a few doors down has 3 feeders attached to the deck.  One is the large squirrel buster feeder which I also have.  Hmmmm.

1/14/21 – Wallkill River Nat’l Wildlife Refuge (Mike Tracy) – I took a walk at the Liberty Loop; saw a few Northern Harriers and a few Red-shouldered Hawks including a young bird that is very photo friendly; also saw a Rough-legged Hawk. Was a bit surprised to find an Eastern Phoebe in the section where the trail passes through the area with trees on both sides; it stayed high up in the trees. 

Eastern Phoebe

1/14/21 – Newton; Lafayette & Frankford Twps (Karyn Cichocki) – Mourning Doves – although not uncommon birds, I’ve been seeing large flocks of them.  Today, there were at least 100 on the high tension wires across from Kohls in Newton; last week, between 30-40 on the wires near the intersection of Warbasse Junction Rd. & Rt. 94 on two days that I went by there. Common Grackles – today, there was a flock of probably 1,000 birds feeding in the corn field on Augusta Hill Rd. just south of Rt. 206 in Augusta. Here at home in Lafayette, we had a Cooper’s Hawk come into the yard that was hopping around on the ground around the feeder and in the bushes around the feeder.  There have been several times this past week when there was not a bird in sight nor were any chattering, so I figured something was around but didn’t spot anything up in the trees.

1/12/21 – SCMUA, Lafayette Twp (Fred Weber) – Immature Glaucous Gull (after almost 2 hours of looking) and adult Lesser Black-backed Gull. (Please follow guidelines for birding at SCMUA as posted elsewhere on this website.)

1/12/21 – Fredon Twp (Sharon & Wade Wander) – The red phase Eastern Screech-Owl is back in the tree cavity in Fredon Township that it occupied last year. Once or twice last year we saw a gray phase bird in the same cavity. We see or hear Red-shouldered Hawks from our yard in Fredon Township almost daily. For many years a pair nested in the forest fragment next to our house. After this photo was taken of one adult we woke the next morning to two sitting side-by-side in a large Sugar Maple about 70 feet from our front door.

1/12/21 – Montague Twp (Marianne Ofenloch) – Over the past week, the number of yard birds seems to have been decreasing, esp. in the afternoon. There’s no shortage of White-throated Sparrows or Black-capped Chickadees, but Dark-eyed Juncos and the various finches have been sparse at best. I thought perhaps the neighbor’s marauding cat could be the main reason, but over the last 2 days, an adult Cooper’s Hawk has been making attack runs in the yard in the late afternoon. A look out the window one minute yields the regulars feeding, and then a subsequent look is into an empty or near-empty yard, sometimes with a bird frozen in place on a branch. Within a few minutes — zoom! The raptor either speeds after a passerine or perches in the garden on the remains of a snapped young tree to survey the vegetation. Its eyes are too sharp for me to get a photo; even if I reach for the camera slowly, it notices and heads into the trees. Haven’t seen it succeed at a hunt yet, but it’s surely only a matter of time.

1/10/21 – Search for Eagles trip (Jack Padalino leader) – It was a pleasant sunny day that began with watching feeder birds including Hairy Woodpeckers, Dark-eyed Junco, Blue Jays, and Pileated Woodpecker among others. 16 participants, wearing face covering and social distancing logged 151 miles in the Delaware Water Gap Nat’l Rec. Area and Upper Delaware Scenic River from PEEC to the Bushkill Access and the trip’s conclusion at the headwaters of the Lackawaxen River. 31 species of birds were seen, including 24 Bald Eagles (BE), 8 Red-tailed Hawks, 1 Sharp-shinned Hawk, and 3 Common Ravens.

1/5/21 – Oak Ridge (Alice Piatek & Alan Gutmore) – For more than 3 weeks, we have had only a few of our usual visitors occasionally at our feeders: Dark-eyed Juncos, Black-capped Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, Northern Cardinals, White-throated Sparrows, White-breasted Nuthatches, woodpeckers, Blue Jays. We have 2 mixed seed feeders including black-oil sunflower seeds, suet, and thistle. Is anyone in the club experiencing a decrease in feeder visitors? Could there be a hawk in the area for more than 3 weeks? Could it be a cat? We do have occasional paw prints seen in the snow. Could it be environmental and habitat degradation? I have read that common species have been observed on the decline. We are concerned. It is very eerily quiet out there. It’s unsettling.

1/1/2021 – Frankford Twp (Don & Donna Traylor) – Great Horned Owl calling at 12:20 am; 14 more yard birds added to the growing yearly list including 20 Mourning Doves, 12 American Goldfinch, 15 House Finches, numerous Dark-eyed Juncos, Red-tailed Hawk, White-breasted Nuthatch, Downy & Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Northern Flicker, & Black-capped Chickadee (plus our mink in the stream). Swartswood Lake: American Wigeon, Ring-necked duck, scaup sp., Mallard, Common Merganser, Hooded Merganser, American Black Duck, Ruddy Duck, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, White-throated & Song Sparrows, Eastern Bluebirds, & a calling Red-shouldered Hawk. A mature Bald Eagle was at Little Swartswood and an immature at Swartswood. Culvers Lake: added Pied-billed Grebe & Mute Swan. Roy Road in Wantage: Common Grackle, Red-winged Blackbirds, and Red-shouldered Hawk. We finished the first day of the year with 41 species.