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December 2007

New Year's Eve question


  Thought this would be a wise way to end 2007.

  It has been quite a year, what with the Ace family of screech owl and the wood duck babies all just beyond the backyard.  Plus the 250th species recorded at the Celery Farm.

   Here's a question for you. The official 250th bird  was the clay-colored sparrow in late September of 2007.

   What was the first bird on the Celery Farm list, and when was it recorded? 

   The answer appears on the "jump" to this post -- click on Continue reading "New Year's Eve question" below.

   Tomorrow, predictions on what the next new bird will be.

Continue reading "New Year's Eve question" »

Celery Farm Sunday


   I  had the Celery Farm to myself on my Sunday morning walk, or to be more accurate, I shared it with some raptors and smaller winged critters.
   It was colder on Saturday than I had expected, and there was a nice frosting on many of the branches. The ground had not yet turned muddy, always a plus.
   An odd highlight -- a vulture could be seen this a.m. perched near the lookout at Pink Potty Bridge. I thought it was a black vulture but now I detect a hint of red in the face -- making it a turkey vulture.
  I also got a shot of a redtail as it took wing, and a bunch of other shots that reminded me why the Celery Farm is beautuful in winter, even without much snow.

  The final shot is of fallen leaves on the edge of Lake Appert, under clear ice.

   Here's the gallery, a little celebration of the CF as we close 2007.

Cfpath_2                                                                                                                          Cfpath3        




Christmas Count final thoughts


    As I sat through the Ramsey count recap late Saturday afternoon, I was struck by a few things -- how many unusual birds the birding teams were able to find, and how many birds seen frequently at the Celery Farm almost went uncounted.
   One lesson for me was that even in winter, there's an incredible amount of bird diversity out there, if you know where, when and how to look.
   The birding teams yesterday were like a team of sharp CPAs going through Enron's books -- but only with a day to do it. So they found all sorts of neat stuff -- goldeneyes and scaups and buffleheads and gadwalls and so on -- but a lot of stuff just got overlooked due to a lack of time.
   The most glaring example, I think, was the red-winged blackbird -- I think maybe one was counted the entire day by the 40 birders.

   Yet I have been seeing them fairly regularly at my feeders. The photo at the top of this post was taken Friday morning.
   No rusty blackbirds were seen, though I had one less than two weeks ago in the stream by my backyard. And no Virginia rails were seen, even though you just know they are lurking in the Celery Farm.

   On a similar note, no bald eagles were counted even though there is every indication that they are making a strong comeback. One birder on the team I covered thought he saw one, but the sighting wasn't conclusive enough in his eyes to include in the count.

    The reason for the no-show birds, of course, is that these annual counts are mere snapshots, and sometimes at the annual family reunion Uncle Gus is in the men's room when the photo is taken.  Or maybe he went to the Carolinas for the winter a week earlier.
    This is, as group leader John Brotherton reminded me, citizen science.
    Fortunately, the science was done by some dedicated peole who spent their entire Saturday mucking through northern Bergen and Passaic counties -- including my team leader Dave, was looking and listening for owls at 3 a.m. in the pouring rain.

  If you haven't been on a Chrismas count, it's well worth the effort.   

The Ramsey Christmas Count totals


   The annual Ramsey bird count came up with 81 species this year, just seven shy of the group's all-time best.
  Highlights of the day included:

  Six screech owls, including Ace.Ace_1228_3

  Three great horned owls.

   Although it was disappointing not to get that rare Pacific loon seen recently on Greenwood Lake, my team's common loon seen on Monksville Reservoir (it's somewhere in the distance in the image below) was the only loon seen all day.
   I have a story with more details on the count in The Sunday Record, but a few of the highlights were 22 golden-eyes, 102 ring-necked ducks and 21 gadwalls.
   Also tallied 2 merlins and -- for only the fifth time on the Ramsey count -- an eastern phoebe.
   I think the Canada geese total approached 1,000.