New Year, New Birds – Live Updates from the Field!

On Monday, December 31st myself and honorary nemesis birders Josh Lefever and Mark Mizak are embarking on a 5 day birding trip through Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. The goal of the trip is to find some lifers for Josh and Mark, conduct a Big Day in Delaware, and get a really nice start to our 2013 year lists!

Harlequin Duck (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

Harlequin Duck
(Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

Like we did with the Thanksgiving Birding Adventure, I will be running a live blog throughout their trip! The live blog will feature real-time updates from the field concerning our successes, failures, and any interesting sightings or anecdotes from our trip as well as photos and video. The live blog will be towards the bottom of this very blog post, so be sure to check back often to see how we are doing throughout their trip as well as join in the excitement!

As you can see from the Google Map below, we have quite a few target species and locations lined up – hopefully the birds cooperate and we have a little luck on our side! The general outline for our trip is to leave Hershey, PA early on the 31st and drop down into Maryland for the day, attempting to find a few rarities in the state to end 2012 on a good note. From there, we will jump over to Delaware to do a little scouting for January 1st. On the first, we are hoping to do a Big Day throughout the state of Delaware. Thermal Birding‘s Tim Schreckengost (who lives and works in Delaware right now and is also a good friend of ours) will be joining us for the Delaware Big Day. We have been planning for over a week, so we are pretty pumped to finally get out there and do it!

From the 2nd to the 3rd, the three of us are jumping across Delaware Bay to New Jersey. Here we hope to pick up some rarities and as many new year birds as possible. We will then work our way north up the NJ coast and eventually over towards Philadelphia, PA. On the 4th, we plan to hit a few targets in southeast PA and then head back to Hershey. This is the plan for now, so we will see how it actually all turns out!

Feel free to explore our target map and click on the markers to check out the birds we hope to see! The second map shows our current location using my phone’s GPS so you can really follow along with us (and see us get lost, etc)! We hope this will be fun for our viewers and we would love for you guys to comment on this post – I will try to reply to as many as I can between birding and driving!

Alex Lamoreaux January 4, 20138:11 pm

We spent nearly 3 hrs searching through the thousands of Canada Geese at Peace Valley Park and not a single one was a Pink-footed Goose as far as we could tell, but I am sure it was hiding there somewhere. As a consolation we saw a first winter Iceland Gull there as well as 70+ Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 3 Snow Geese, and 4 Cackling Geese. Headed back to Hershey now. Overall a great trip with loads of great birds and fun times. We are at about 150 species for the trip with 8 lifers for Mark and 4 for Josh. Here is a photo from yesterday of a Purple Sandpiper. Be sure to check back in the coming days for detailed posts and more photos/video from our New Years trip!
Purple Sandpiper

Alex Lamoreaux January 4, 20131:33 pm

No luck finding the Pink-footed Goose in the fields that its been seen forging in the past few days. Going to drive over to Peace Valley Park now.

Alex Lamoreaux January 4, 201312:11 pm

Iceland Gull – Tullytown, PA
Kumlien's Iceland Gull - Tullytown, PA

Alex Lamoreaux January 4, 201310:12 am

Last night we dropped Mark off at the bus stop and Philly, and now Josh and I are looking for Gulls around Eastern PA. Nothing of note yet, but we will post an update as soon as we find something good!

Alex Lamoreaux January 3, 20132:44 pm

We had a good time at Barnegat, with lots of close seabirds and ducks. Harlequin Ducks, Long-tailed Ducks, and Razorbills were some highlights. Here’s a digiscoped video of some Harlequins off the jetty-

Alex Lamoreaux January 3, 201311:13 am

We tried for the Western Tanager again this morning, but didn’t have any luck. The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker that the Tanager hangs out with was around though-
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker - Cape May Courthouse, NJ
Got to keep moving though! Onto Barnegat Light House

Alex Lamoreaux January 3, 20139:53 am

Thanks to a dead car battery, we got a late start to the day. Things are still working out well though; we’ve gotten our first target of the day-
Townsend's Warbler - Cape May, NJ
Townsend’s Warbler – female – Cape May, NJ

Alex Lamoreaux January 2, 20136:31 pm

We had a great time watching the continuing Western Grebe in Cape May Harbor. If you haven’t read about this grebe yet, it is in love with that lookalike buoy.

Tim Schreckengost January 2, 20136:02 pm

A little shaky, but here’s a video showing our best gull, a Lesser Black-backed Gull, during the Big Day yesterday. The video gives a side-by-side comparison of the Lesser Black-backed Gull to a Great Black-backed and Herring Gull.

Alex Lamoreaux January 2, 20133:38 pm

Western Grebe- Cape May, NJ
Western Grebe- Cape May Harbor

Alex Lamoreaux January 2, 20132:59 pm

We dipped on the Western Tanager (for now), but went over to Stone Harvor and got gray looks at 2 adult Peregrine Falcons, Snow Buntings, and Red Knots!

Alex Lamoreaux January 2, 201312:29 pm

After stopping to scope out the Western Tanager spot in Cape May Court House, just jumped over to Stone Harbor Point. Hoping for cooperative Snow Buntings and Red Knots.

Alex Lamoreaux January 2, 20139:54 am

We took slight detour to check for two Sandhill Cranes that were reported at Mannington Marsh in NJ. We had a little trouble finding the right spot but eventually got to where we figured the birds must be and starting scanning for them. As I was scoping across some Canada Geese, I noticed the two cranes flying in and dropping down to the marsh! Distant but still really great looks at our 110th species of 2013!

Alex Lamoreaux January 2, 20139:02 am

After getting a good night’s sleep, we were able to start the day viewing the Anna’s Hummingbird by Tim’s house

Now off to Cape May!

Alex Lamoreaux January 1, 20139:43 pm

We are working on editing our eBird lists from today and planning our day for tomorrow – Anna’s Hummingbird in Newark, DE and then down to Cape May.

Tim Schreckengost January 1, 20138:53 pm

The Big Day is over, but we tried to scour over huge flocks of Snow Geese in the southern part of Delaware.

Snow Geese - Delaware

Alex Lamoreaux January 1, 20137:57 pm

Driving back up to Newark after an exhausting day of birding. We found a total of 102 species. Which would have set a new big day record for Delaware, but a local team found 107 in the state…oh well, we had a ton of fun! I’ll be posting our full big day list in a little while.

Alex Lamoreaux January 1, 20134:28 pm

With the sighting of a Horned Grebe, we have set a new big day record for Deleware in January!!

Alex Lamoreaux January 1, 20134:11 pm

We’ve just tied the Deleware January Big Day record with our 100th species- Lesser Scaup! Can we break the record before dark?!!

Alex Lamoreaux January 1, 20133:28 pm

Picked up a bunch of new birds at Indian River Inlet, including Long-tailed Duck, Great Cormorant, and Purple Sandpiper. Now we’re racing to find sparrows, Horned Grebe, and Lesser Scaup before dark.

Alex Lamoreaux January 1, 20132:22 pm

Things are coming down to the wire! Just picked up Canvasback and Redhead, to bring our total to 90 species. Can we find 11 more before the day is done?

Alex Lamoreaux January 1, 201312:28 pm

Just got the Eurasian Wigeon at Prime Hook NWR. Now we’re off to Cape Henlopen SP. Here’s a picture of 2 of the 6 American Oystercatchers that we saw at Fowler’s Beach-
American Oystercatchers - Fowler's Beach Road, Prime Hook NWR, DE

Alex Lamoreaux January 1, 201312:13 pm

We’re at 75 species for the day. Missed some species at Bombay Hook, notably Marbled Godwit and White-crowned Sparrow. Just made up for it though at Fowler’s Beach- 6 American Oystercatchers and 2 Hudsonian Godwits! We’ll have some pictures posted later.

Tim Schreckengost January 1, 201310:03 am

Working our way around Bombay Hook picking up many new birds and a super close Red Fox!

Tim Schreckengost January 1, 20137:46 am

Picked up the Short-eared Owl and a Clapper Rail, which was a first for Mizak! Added a roadside Merlin and Hooded Merg for 21 species! A fifth of the way there!

Tim Schreckengost January 1, 20136:01 am

Waiting along Port Mahon Rd. for daybreak to try our luck with a Short-eared Owl before heading back to Bombay Hook.

Alex Lamoreaux January 1, 20135:09 am

Doing better with owls now – we have Great Horned, Barn, and Eastern Screech. Up to 8 species now total. Tim and I also saw two snipe flush but Josh and Mark missed them.

Alex Lamoreaux January 1, 20133:39 am

By the way – Tim Schrekengost from Thermal Birding.com is doing the Big Day with us and helping to get live updates out!

Alex Lamoreaux January 1, 20133:38 am

Besides the one noisy Barn Owl, we are continuing to strike out with the other owl species. Wind isn’t helping. Lots of time before daylight though, so fingers crossed….

Tim Schreckengost January 1, 20133:35 am

Just picked up Barn Owl! Up to four species so far.

Tim Schreckengost January 1, 20133:18 am

Dipping on all of the owls. Listening at Bombay Hook NWR now.

Tim Schreckengost January 1, 20132:00 am

It took forever to get Mizak out of bed, but we’re finally trying for owls at White Clay Creek. First bird of the day at 1:40 was Canada Goose!

Tim Schreckengost December 31, 201211:03 pm

We just finished a tentative schedule for tomorrow. Starting the day off owling at midnight.

Alex Lamoreaux December 31, 20129:58 pm

Well we are done birding for 2012….just got in to our friend Tim’s house and are working on finalizing our plans for the Delaware Big Day tomorrow! Today was really fun, despite a few dips we saw some really great birds and both Josh and Mark got a few lifers. We updated the target marker map to reflect what we did today. Be sure to check back often tomorrow for updates on our how Big Day is going!

Alex Lamoreaux December 31, 20126:16 pm

We enjoyed the last bit of daylight at Blackwater NWR. Highlights were a flyover Merlin, Cackling Goose, and Clapper Rail. Clapper Rail is a nemesis bird of Mark’s and today was the second time this year that I have seen a Clapper Rail run past while birding with Mark, but he missed it…hopefully we can find him a rail tomorrow. There were also thousands of Snow Geese gathered to roost and we picked out an adult Ross’s Goose mixed in with them! We were about to iPhone-scope it but then an eagle flushed all the geese. I shot this video of then flushing and relanding.

Alex Lamoreaux December 31, 20123:40 pm

Just when we were losing hope of finding the Barrow’s Goldeneye, George Armisted (Events Coordinator for the ABA) showed up and saved the day. He spotted the female BAGO come out from under the bridge- a lifer for Josh and Mark-
Barrow's Goldeneye- Adult Female Choptank River Fishing Pier SP, MD
Heading down to Blackwater NWR to finish out 2012!

Alex Lamoreaux December 31, 20122:53 pm

We are now at the Rt 50 bridge searching for the female Barrow’s Goldeneye. No luck so far. It hasn’t been reported since the 29th but hopefully it’s still hiding somewhere here….

Alex Lamoreaux December 31, 20121:32 pm

As expected due to hunters in the area, we dipped on the Tufted Duck. We also just found out that a Greater White-fronted Goose was found this morning close to the Rufous Humminbird that we saw! Too late to go back now though. Onward to the Barrow’s Goldeneye!

Alex Lamoreaux December 31, 201211:49 am

After a frustrating time with the Summer Tanager, we were pleased to see this female Rufous Hummingbird with relative ease-
Rufous Hummingbird- HY Female Silver Springs, MD
Now we’re off to try our luck with the Tufted Duck.

Alex Lamoreaux December 31, 201210:53 am

Had to move on without re-sighting the Summer Tanager. At least Josh got to see it, it was a lifer for him! On our way to check out a Rufous Hummingbird now. We’ve gotten some bad news about the Tufted Duck- hunters have set up in the area and are continually flushing any waterfowl. Hopefully they leave and the Tufted Duck can return before we get there!

Alex Lamoreaux December 31, 201210:09 am

We are still waiting on the tanager to show itself again. In the meantime I can fill you in on our day so far and plans for the rest of the day. We decided to skip the Eurasian Wigeon near the Black-headed Gull since we wanted to save time and have other Eurasian Wigeons we could chase later in the trip. We were able to figure out last minute Summer Tanger access details as well as confirm the bird was still visiting the feeders. If we hadn’t been able to go for the tanager, our alternative was going to be the male Harlequin Duck on the east side of Baltimore. We don’t have time to do both due to the duck being out of the way at this point (see the map to understand this better). Once this tanager comes back in to the feeders and I can get some photos we are headed to the Tufted Duck. Stay tuned!

Alex Lamoreaux December 31, 20129:24 am

At the Summer Tanager location now. We split up to figure out which house it was coming in to feeders at. Josh found the right one and saw the bird but Mark and I haven’t yet. Hopefully it comes back in to the feeders!

Alex Lamoreaux December 31, 20128:48 am

A successful start to the trip!
Black-headed Gull Hunt Valley, MD
Black-headed Gull
Hunt Valley, MD