When I went to back east in June one of the most exciting things I did was travel to New Jersey to meet Rick Wright and go birding with him. Until this summer I only had recorded three species of birds in New Jersey, and all of those were seen last year on the highway as Kathryn Kelley and I drove across the country with my pets on our move back to Tucson. Meeting Rick Wright was going to be exciting enough, and to go birding with him, even better. To go birding in New Jersey…well, I had my doubts, because everything I know about New Jersey I’ve mostly learned from TV and I can’t help but ask: Can anything good come out of New Jersey? I was about to find out!
This whole trip was full of new experiences for me, like getting up around 4:30 so we could get to Penn Station so I could take a train to meet Rick. I have never done anything like this by myself before, so I was a bit scared but my desire to see birds overrode my fear. My brother helped me get it all straight and off I went! It took about an hour to get to our meeting point. As the train pulled out of the station I could see water and bridges and birds, but after going through a tunnel we came out into an urban wasteland which only confirmed me ideas about New Jersey! Still, I persisted in my desire to count birds in new jersey, so I counted any birds I saw out the window of the train. Soon we were pulling into the station and Rick was there to meet me as promised.
It was almost another hour before we reached our destination. Along the way we talked and looked for birds out the car window. I watched as the city fell away and we entered the New Jersey Pine Barrens. Now I was starting to see the beauty of this state! Before I knew it Rick was pulling onto a back road and we were out and counting birds! We began in a partially wooded and marshy area with catbirds and orioles but soon moved on to the visitors center where we found Eastern Bluebirds, Purple Martins, Carolina Chickadees and Carolina Wrens.
We took a short walk down a trail where we saw this small dinosaur tromping down the trail!
This snapping turtle is sporting the latest style in double chins!
(Yes, this was the only shot I got as it kept on going and flew away!)
That little brown dot on the twig is a Seaside Sparrow. Can you say, Life Bird? I can! In the background is a Laughing Gull. On this trip I discovered that Laughing Gulls not only laugh, they also dance!
This is about as close as I ever want to get to it!
Every shot I have of this bird it is preening.
I guess it wanted to look its best for me!
Though I have seen this bird before in Florida, this is my first ever photo of one. Just look at that steep forehead! The tail is not quite as long as on the Great-tailed grackle, which we have here in Tucson.
A Ruddy Turnstone joined the dance of the laughing gulls. I had never observed this behavior before and it cracked me up! The gulls stood in these shallow pools of water stomping their feet to stir up the bottom and the creatures below that they eat. I have now adopted it as my Life Bird Dance, which is what some birders do whenever they find a new Life Bird! However, I could not do a Life Bird Dance when we found the next species as we were riding in a car, but inside my heart I was still dancing!
The birds in the back with the black bills are Gull-billed Terns. Life Bird number 3 for this trip! In front are a couple more Forster’s Terns. I am sure glad I had Rick there to help me or I could have spent hours trying to Identify all these new birds!
The Great Black-backed Gull is fairly easy as well with its large size, black back, pink legs and yellow beak with the red spot on the lower mandible. The Lesser Black-backed Gull is smaller and grayer with yellow legs instead of pink.
On the drive out of the refuge Rick stopped at a trail in a more forested area. We tired to walk down the trail to get more woodland species but the mosquitoes were ravenous so we fled back to the car. However, before we left we did find an Orchard Oriole high in a tree top. He would not cooperate with my photography efforts but I did get to see him and hear him sing! We had so much fun at the refuge. I found Rick to be an intelligent, thoughtful, and quiet soul. He was easy to talk to and easy to get along with as we both share a passion for birds. After leaving the refuge we stopped for a bite to eat, then continued on our way back to the train station, but first we made one last stop at a place called Cheesequake State Park!
But, before we get there, I will be posting photos of some pesky peeps, those ever difficult shorebirds ID’s!
- Birding New Jersey (Rick's Blog)