Waterfowl through Shorebirds
The warm fall and Dec. weather resulted in a late waterfowl migration, but by mid-Dec., Snow Geese were at very high numbers in DE and NJ. According to the CBCs totals, there were about 100,000 in NJ and 530,000 in DE.
An extraordinary number of sightings of Pink-footed Geese occurred in NJ and NY this season; one was even reported in DE. Determining how many individuals were involved is always a challenge, because they tend to move around in search of food. In NY, outliers included one seen at Camel Farm, Orange, 2–7 Dec. (Bruce Nott), and one in Wallkill in neighboring Ulster, 6 Feb. (fide Richard Guthrie), the latter possibly a migrating bird. On Long I., NY, five reports of the species likely pertained to two or three individuals: one near Henderson’s L. 2 Dec.–10 Feb., Nassau, (Tim Healy); one at Valley Stream S. P., Nassau 21–22 Dec. (Richard Haimes); one at Van Corlandt Park, Bronx 22–29 Dec. (Tom Fiore) continued during the Bronx-Westchester CBC 26 Dec. (fide Michael Bochnik); one at St. Charles Cemetery, Suffolk 11 Dec.–16 Jan. (Chase Cammarota); and one at Elda L., North Babylon, Suffolk 4–8 Feb. (Peter Morris). It appears that only one Pink-footed Goose was responsible for all the reports in NJ and DE. For the third year in a row, one appeared at Wall Twp., Monmouth, NJ 5–12 Dec. (Paul Lehman, S. B., Barbara Calson, L. M.); thereafter, likely the same individual was reported at Holmdel, Monmouth, NJ 24–28 Dec. (Rob Fanning); at Lyons VA Hospital, Somerset, NJ 31 Dec.–2 Jan.; in Monmouth, NJ 7–14 Jan. (Hank Burk); at the Cape May Zoo, Cape May, NJ 28 Jan.–2 Feb. (Kyle Chelius); and, finally, at Cods Rd., Sussex, DE 24 Feb.–10 Mar. (Richard Breckenridge). For NY and NJ, this bird is now expected, but in DE, it is a big deal. This was DE’s second record, and few had the original 1954 sighting on their DE list.
All of the reports of Barnacle Geese reported in New York this year were seen in Suffolk: one at Riverhead 4 Dec. (Derek Rogers); one at Belmont L. S. P. 13 Dec.–22 Jan. (S. M., P. L.), one at Pineland Cemetery 31 Dec. (Mike Yuan); and one at St. Charles Cemetery 8 Feb. (A. B.). In NJ, two were in Princeton Junction, Mercer 21 Dec.–16 Jan. (Vincent Nichnadowicz).
Trumpeter Swans breed in ON and n. NY, so it is not surprising that 40 were reported on the Montzuma CBC, Cayuga, NY 18 Dec. (Christopher Lajewski). As the flock gets larger, they have been wintering routinely in NJ: two wintered at L. Assunpink, Monmouth, 8 Dec.–24 Feb. (Bob Dodelson), and one was found on the Moorestown CBC, Burlington, 26 Dec. (Tom Bailey).
A Eurasian Green-winged Teal was found on the Setauket Mill Pond, Bronx, NY, on the Smithtown CBC 27 Dec. (fide Rich Gostic). Only three Tufted Ducks were reported this winter: one at Crown State Historic Park on L. Champlain, Essex, NY 27–29 Jan. (Richard Guthrie, et al.); one fem. at Swan L., Patchogue, Suffolk, NY 30 Jan.–3 Feb. (Ken & Sue Feustel); and one male at Sandy Bottom Park, in Honeoye, Genesee, NY 27 Feb. (Bill Howe). King Eiders and Barrow’s Goldeneyes remained mainly north in NY this season.
Four Eared Grebes were reported: one on Copake L., Columbia, NY 30 Nov.–5 Dec. (Leigh McBride); one at Round Valley Reservoir, Hunterdon, NJ 20–21 Dec. (Adrian Smith); one on the Nassau CBC, Nassau, NY 1 Jan. (fide S. M., P. L.); and one at Oak Beach, Suffolk, NY 18–26 Feb. (P. L.). Though Western Grebes were absent in our region, a Clark’s Grebe found in Oswego Harbor, Oswego, NY 22 Feb.–1 Mar. (Menachem Goldstein, Greg Dashnau) more than made up for any disappointment. This sighting was, in fact, a first-ever NY state record.
Eurasian Collared-Doves, for some inexplicable reason, do not to seem to like either our region or New England. In 1997, a pair was found in Selbyville, Sussex, DE, and by 2004, a flock of about 20 birds was present. Since then, the number of birds has fallen precipitously to one or two nesting pairs. This year, two pairs were actively nesting in Selbyville 24 Feb. (Dave Fees). The species’ only other serious attempt to live in the area was a second colony founded in 2005 in Hamlin, Munroe, NY. That colony had increased to 15-20 birds (fide Steve Taylor), but only a single bird was reported there this winter (3 Jan., Pat Martin).
Winter hummingbirds were scarce with this year, with just one Ruby-throated Hummingbird found on the Cape May CBC, NJ 18 Dec. (fide T. J.). At a crowded feeder in Aquebogue, Suffolk, NY, two Rufous Hummingbirds were present 25 Nov.–8 Dec., and an unidentified Selaphorus hummingbird joined the pair 3–8 Dec. (Eileen Schwinn).
The only Common Gallinule reported was found on the Quogue-Watermille CBC, Suffolk, NY 17 Dec. (fide Steven Biasetti). American Avocets appeared on two CBCs, with five seen on the Bombay Hook CBC, Kent, DE 18 Dec. (fide A. P. E.), and 11 on the Cape Henlopen CBC, Sussex, DE 1 Jan. (fide F. R.). While 296 American Oystercatchers found on the Oceanville CBC, Atlantic, is just a normal count, in DE, where they don’t winter, the five on Bennett Piers Rd., Kent, 14 Jan. (A. M.) were a big deal. When Red Knots were doing poorly in Delaware Bay each spring, hundreds, and occasionally a thousand or more were found on numerous CBCs in NJ and on Long I., NY. This year, only 16 were reported this winter: ten on Southern Nassau County CBC 1 Jan. (fide S. M., P. L.); one on Cape May CBC 18 Dec. (fide T. J.); and five on Bennett Piers Rd., Kent, 14 Jan. (A. M.). A Red Phalarope was on the fishing boat Voyager out of Point Pleasant, Ocean, NJ 11 Dec. (A. D. F., L. S.).
Dovekies through Flycatchers
Dovekies were seen almost continuously at Montauk, from three reported on 29 Dec. (J. M., S. Bi.) to 20 reported on 20 Feb. (Kevin Topping). One Dovekie was seen from the fishing boat Voyager out of Point Pleasant, Ocean, NJ 11 Dec. (A. D. F., L. S.), and 15 were found on the ‘See Life Paulagic’ out of Cape May, NJ 4 Feb. (P. A. G., et al). Two Common Murres were reported this year, with one seen from the fishing boat Voyager out of Point Pleasant, Ocean, NJ 11 Dec. (A. D. F., L. S.) and one found on the ‘See Life Paulagic’ out of Cape May, NJ 4 Feb. (P. A. G., et al). Thick-billed Murres were very rare as usual, with two at Montauk on 29 Dec. (J. M., S. Bi.); one at Point Lookout, Nassau, NY 20 Jan. (Mike Zito); one at Rocky Point Marsh, Queens, NY 11 Feb. (A. B.); and one at Manasquan Inlet, Monmouth, NJ 11 Feb. (Mike Britt). Razorbills were present from the shore and from boats at normal numbers from Montauk, NY, to Indian River Inlet, Sussex, DE. Only one Black Guillemot was reported, at Montauk L., Suffolk, NY 11–21 Feb. (B. Be.). The only reported Atlantic Puffin was recorded on the ‘See Life Paulagic’ out of Cape May, NJ 4 Feb. (P. A. G., et al.).
Black-legged Kittiwakes were seen from shore occasionally along all the coasts, but only near Niagara Falls and Montauk did one have a real chance of finding one. One of the best places to see this species was obviously the fishing boat Voyager out of Point Pleasant, Ocean, NJ 11 Dec. (A. D. F., L. S.), which saw 45. This was a good year for rare gulls, but some of the commoner gulls were in short supply. A Sabine’s Gull, on the Niagara R., Niagara, NY 10 Dec. (fide Willie D’Anna) was a great bird. Bonaparte’s Gulls were plentiful throughout our region, but the 13,927 found on the Buffalo CBC, Niagara, NY 18 Dec. (fide David A. Gordon) was by far the highest total of the season. The count also had a Black-headed Gull, one of only 4 counts with this species, and the only Little Gull on any count. Black-headed Gulls were also found on the Bronx-Westchester CBC NY 26 Dec. (fide M. B.); on the Cape Henlopen CBC, Sussex, DE 1 Jan. (fide F. R.); and on the Southern Nassau County CBC, NY 1 Jan. (fide S. M., P. L.). A cooperative Ross’s Gull found on Tupper L., Franklin, NY was feeding on fish egg bait discarded by fishermen 26 Jan.–2 Feb. (Jack Delehanty). Laughing Gulls were not on many counts, with just two Long Island, NY counts reporting a total of six birds (five and one), and two DE counts reporting a total of 15 birds (eleven and four). Two Mew Gulls were reported: the first was an ad. ‘Common’ Gull at Veteran’s Pier, Brooklyn, Kings, NY 12 Dec.–27 Jan. (B. M.); and other was an ad. L. c. brachyrhynchus found in Branchburg, Somerset, NJ 3 Jan. (Jeff Ellerbusch). Finally, a Slaty-backed Gull was reported on Goat I. on the Niagara R., Niagara, NY 1–26 Jan. (Chris Kundl). Two Black Skimmers were at Coney Island Beach, Brooklyn, Kings, NY through at least 29 Dec. (J. M.).
One Pacific Loon was at Camp Hero Bluffs, Montauk (S. M., P. L.). One Northern Fulmar was reported from the fishing boat Voyager out of Point Pleasant, Ocean, NJ 11 Dec. (A. D. F., L. S.). One American White Pelican was first seen in Fair Haven S. P., Cayuga, NY 30 Nov.–1 Dec. (Greg Dashnau), and relocated at the south end of Cayuga L., Cayuga, 3–4 Dec. (Tim Lenz). Not many egrets and herons stayed late this year. The common species such as the Great Blue Heron, Great Egret and Black-crowned Night-Heron are doing fine. The only Little Blue Heron was found on the Barnegat CBC, Ocean, NJ 1 Jan. (fide R. R.). One Tricolored Heron was found on the Southern Nassau County CBC, NY 1 Jan. (fide S. M., P. L.), and one was found at Burtons Island S. P. on the Rehoboth CBC, Sussex, DE 31 Dec., the latter staying all winter. The latest report of Cattle Egret was that of five at Little Creek S. P., Kent, DE 30 Nov.–11 Dec. (Chris Bennett). One Yellow-crowned Night-Heron was found on the Southern Nassau County CBC, NY 1 Jan. (fide S. M., P. L.).
Only four Ospreys were seen: late this winter at Brandywine Creek S. P., New Castle, DE 18 Dec. (Bill Stewart); one on the Northern Nassau County CBC, NY 17 Dec. (fide G. Q., J. W.); one on the Southern Nassau County CBC, NY 1 Jan. (fide S. M., P. L.); and one was found on the Barnegat CBC, Ocean, NJ 1 Jan. (fide R. R.). Snowy Owls were late arriving, with only a total of seven reported on NY and NJ counts. DE had to wait until its one and only Snowy Owl visited South Bowers Beach, Kent for one day, 6 Jan. (Chris Bennett). A very rare winter species in the region, one Great Gray Owl was at Massena, St Lawrence, NY 3–28 Feb. (Mary Curtis, John Gluth), and second was found nearby 17 Feb. (John Gagline). Reports of Black-backed Woodpeckers included three at Long Lake, Hamilton, NY 27–31 Dec. (J. C.), and one on the Saranac Lake CBC, Essex, NY 1 Jan. (L. Ma.).
A Crested Caracara was reported at the Cape Henlopen Hawk Watch at Cape Henlopen, Sussex, DE on 10 Dec., when it was seen spiraling up and drifting south. It was again reported at Gordon’s Pond S. P., which is the southern portion of Cape Henlopen 18 Dec. (Gale Janiszewski). The bird’s roost was located on Holland Glade Rd., a few miles south of Cape Henlopen, 26 Dec.–6 Jan. (Sue Gruver). The bird remained in the area and was picked up on the Cape Henlopen CBC 1 Jan.; it left during a blizzard on 6 Jan. At least a couple Crested Caracaras were sighted in NJ, with one in Milford, Holland Twp., Hunterdon 26 Dec.–3 Jan. (Dave Harrison), one in Holmdel, Monmouth 7 Feb. (A. B.), one at Barnegat Lighthouse S. P., Ocean 12 Jan. (Chris Takacs), and, then again at nearly the same time on 12 Jan., one at the North Brigantine Natural Area, Atlantic (David Gaffrey).
One grey morph Gyrfalcon was seen south of Seneca Falls, Seneca, NY 1–29 Jan. and 13,20 Feb. (Caroline Manning), and another grey morph was seen at the State Lane Lookout in Alpine, Bergen, NJ (Mike Girone). Monk Parakeets are now being found on seven CBCs, five in NY and two in NJ, with a high count of 103 in the South Nassau County CBC, NY 1 Jan. (fide S. M., P. L.). A total of six Ash-throated Flycatchers were recorded: one at Lido West Town Park, Nassau, NY 13 Nov.–4 Dec. (B. Be.); one at the Salt Marsh Nature Center, Brooklyn, Kings, NY 5–7 Dec. (Juan Salas); one at a yard in Kent, DE 7 Dec.; one on the Southern Nassau County CBC, NY 1 Jan. (fide S. M., P. L.); and one at Gordon’s Pond S. P., Sussex, DE 28 Dec.–6 Jan. (Joy Peters, David Peters).
Jays through Dickcissels
High counts of Gray Jays were 13 at Long Lake, Hamilton, NY 31 Dec. (J. C.), and nine on the Saranac Lake CBC, Essex, NY 1 Jan. (L. Ma.). Several Northern Rough-winged Swallows were at the Trenton S. T. P., Mercer, NJ 25 Dec. (Bob Dodelson). One Cave Swallow was at Lido Blvd., Nassau, NY 3 Dec. (Dennis Hrehowsik, Kristin Costello, B. M.), and as many as seven were at Cape May Point 4–8 Dec. (m. obs.). A “pink-sided” Dark-eyed Junco was found at Hamlin Beach S. P., Monroe, NY on 24 Nov. and last seen on 1 Dec. (Andy Guthrie).
Black-capped Chickadees in a normal year migrate south to the Carolina Chickadee/Black-capped Chickadee line in mid-Pennsylvania. Normally, a few over-shoot, and find their way to n. DE. There, a few may winter, but most realize their error and go north. This winter, extremely large numbers reached n. DE, and though most returned north, dozens stayed. The high count of Boreal Chickadees was 13 at Long Lake, Hamilton, NY 31 Dec. (J. C.). A Rock Wren was a great find at a construction site in Somerset, Somerset, NJ 25 Dec.–5 Jan. (Cliff Miller). One Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher was found on the Cape May CBC, NJ 18 Dec. (fide T. J.). One Townsend’s Solitaire was at North Fork in South Hold, Suffolk, NY 6 Jan.–10 Feb. (Aaron Virgin).
The highest counts of Bohemian Waxwings were five at Sunset Beach, Orleans, NY 1 Dec. (fide David F. Suggs) and 49 in Keene, Essex, NY (L. Ma.). Evening Grosbeaks were present on seven CBCs, all in upper NY, with the highest count of 32 on the Massena-Cornwall CBC, St. Lawrence, NY 27 Dec. (fide Bruce Di Labio). Two Pine Grosbeaks were seen in Minerva, Essex, NY 31 Dec. (J. C.). Purple Finches start Dec. with a rush even in NJ, where 30 were present at Cape May Point 10 Dec. (m. obs.), and even in DE, appearing in dozens of CBCs. Most totals were rather low on each count, except for the 175 reported on the Saranac Lake CBC, Franklin, NY 1 Jan. (L. Ma.). In DE, the few Purple Finches that had been seen were gone by Jan. Common Redpolls did not irrupt, appearing in only 6 CBCs, with the highest total 20 birds found by the Hamburg-East Aurora CBC, Erie, NY 31 Dec (fide Thomas O’Donnell). Red Crossbills did not irrupt, but some birds were seen this winter. They were only on three CBCs: one in Cayuga, NY; four in West Chester, NY; and one in Bergen, NJ. Other sightings include as many as five at Cape May Point, NJ 4 Dec. (Michael O’Brien, George Armistead); one on Staten Island, Richman, NY 6 Jan. (Isaac Grant); and six at Double Trouble S. P., Ocean, 18 Feb. (Daniel Horvath). Pine Siskins did not move much from their breeding grounds, and the highest count was 75 on the Pinelands CBC, Burlington, NJ 18 Dec. (fide Chuck Kanupke). Virtually no Pine Siskins made it to DE.
No really rare sparrows were seen this winter, and those of interest were few in number. One Grasshopper Sparrow was seen on the Staten Island CBC, Richmond, NY 17 Dec. (C. H.), and a Lark Sparrow reported on the Sandy Hook CBC, Monmouth, NJ 18 Dec. (fide S. B.) was likely the same one reported there 1 Jan. (fide Bill Dix). Three Clay-colored Sparrows were found this season, all in NJ: one on the Cumberland County CBC 1 Jan. (Michael Fritz); one on the Long Branch CBC, Monmouth 31 Dec. (Partick Belardo); and one at the Cohanzick Zoo Nature Trail, Cumberland 18–23 Feb. (fide Sandra McNicol). Two NY CBCs had single Vesper Sparrows, both on 17 Dec.: Northern Nassau County CBC (fide G. Q., J. W.) and Brooklyn CBC, Kings (fide Rik Cech). Lincoln’s Sparrows were plentiful, with singles reported on four NJ CBCs and one DE CBC; others were found at Bryant Park, New York, NY 3 Dec.–25 Jan. (Alan Drogin); in East Hampton, Orange, NY 10 Feb. (Andrew Griswold); and in Frederica, Kent, DE 11 Dec. (Jerald Reb). Six Yellow-breasted Chats were found on CBCs this season, which is about normal, with four found on NY counts, and two on the NJ and DE counts.
One fem. Yellow-headed Blackbird was briefly at a feeder in Floral Park, Queens, NY 9 Feb. (fide G. B.), and four males and a fem. were reported in a large mixed flock of blackbirds on Staves Landing Rd., Kent, DE 12–24 Feb. (F. R.). One Brewer’s Blackbird was at Beach Plum Farm, Cape May, NJ 21–28 Dec. (Mike Pasquarello); and a small flock of at least nine wintered at a cow farm on Thirteen Curves Rd., Sussex, DE 1–20 Jan. (B. G. P., et al).
This was not a great year for wintering warblers. Two Ovenbirds were reported: one was on the Lower Hudson CBC, Hudson, NJ 18 Dec. (fide Debra Kriensky), and one was at City Hall, Manhattan, New York, NY 26–28 Jan. (Ben Cacase). Three Northern Waterthrushes were reported: one was found on the Orient CBC, Suffolk, NY 31 Dec. (fide Patrick Hanly); one was on the Southern Nassau CBC 1 Jan. (fide S. M., P. L.); and one was at Southards Pond Park, Suffolk, NY 11 Feb. (Peter Morris). Nashville Warblers were plentiful this winter, with one each on two DE counts, one each on two NJ counts, and three total on two NY counts. In addition, one was in a yard in Wilmington, New Castle, DE 10–16 Dec. (Alissa Kegelman), and one was at Fort Dupont S. P., New Castle, DE 29 Dec (Joe Sebastiani). An “Audubon’s” Yellow-rumped Warbler was on the Southern Nassau CBC 1 Jan. (fide S. M., P. L.). A Townsend’s Warbler was at Duke Farm, Hillsborough, Somerset, NJ 12–13 Dec. (Bruce McWhorter). A Western Tanager first found at City Hall Park, in Manhattan, New York, NY 23 Nov. lingered until 14 Dec. (Cedric Duhalde). Two Painted Buntings were found: one at a feeder in Mastic, Suffolk, NY 21 Dec. (fide G. B.), and one fem. at Annadale, Richmond, NY 13–24 Jan. (Maya Shikman, Liz Dluhos). Lone Dickcissels showed up on two CBCs: one on the Staten Island CBC, Richmond, NY 17 Dec. continued through 6 Jan. (C. H.), and one was on the Cape May CBC NJ 18 Dec. (fide T. J.).
Yellow-breasted Chat, subspecies Icteria virens virens, nests in the eastern portion of the United States from the gulf states (not including FL), north to the lower Great Lakes, and east through the middle of PA and NJ. It also breeds in the northwestern tip of NY around Buffalo. After nesting, this species abandons the country for southern Mexico and Central America; but for some odd reason, many decide to go north to tour the Maritime Provinces and Newfound before they head south in the fall. Normally, small numbers get caught in every bird trap from Newfoundland to Cape May, but this year, they really were caught north of us in way above normal numbers. I checked Yellow-breasted Chat on all of this year’s CBCs, and found that, sure enough, the top ten count totals for this species were on four counts in Belize (36/12/10/6), one in Guatemala (9), and one in Mexico (5); which made sense because that is where they winter. However, the other three counts in the top ten were all in Massachusetts, with seven in Cape Cod, five on Martha’s Vineyard, and five at Nantucket. From Nova Scotia, to Block Island, RI, these birds, if they survive, will have to migrate several hundred to a thousand miles south to breed. Maybe that is how they expand their range.
Report processed by Amy Davis, 7 Oct. 2020.