Black Friday Big Day - 2015

This is a short-lived tradition.  On Black Friday while the majority of our country is fighting for the best deals, my kids and I are instead, out fighting for as many bird species as we can find in a day.  This was our third year.  We set the bar high in 2014 with 97 species, with the help of Alex - a superb birder and friend, and another friend Matt, who while not a birder, is a gifted naturalist.  Unfortunately Matt couldn't make it this year.  But we had Alex... the ringer.

So here's how the day was laid out:

1.  Leave my house at 4:45 AM.

2. Bird Cape May, South of the canal, picking up whatever we can and calling it quits by 11:30.  We would concentrate around the State Park, hit Coral Ave, the Meadows, and whatever else we had time for...

3.  Head to Brig (Edwin B Forsythe NWR)... Do a quick 8 mile loop, seeing what else we could pick up quickly.  For those who haven't been there, there is a wildlife loop out into the marsh.  It's an incredible place to bird.  Be done no later than 2:00.

4.  Arrive at Barnegat Light by 3:00.  Barnegat is a premier birding spot on Jersey's coast in Winter.  It is home to the fabled Harlequin Ducks.  Walking the jetty is a rite of passage for NJ birders; and hopefully not killing yourself in the process.

5.  Arrive at Bridge to Nowhere to see if we can pick up an owl or two at dusk and into the impending darkness.

So that's the main gist of the day.  Instead of list the birds, I'm gonna add photos of everything.  Of course, I didn't get photos of everything this day.  But if I captured something half-decent, I added it.  I will fill in the holes with past photos.  I figure its a big day... might as well be a big blog.  Will we beat last year's mark???  We had high hopes.  Here we go...

Starting early

1.  Canada Goose

2.  Mute Swan

3.  Tundra Swan - this was spotted through Alex's scope, so I took a distant shot.

4.  Black Swan - still hanging out... an escapee.

5.  Gadwall

6.  Eurasian Wigeon - a rare, but regular visitor to Cape May.

7.  American Wigeon

8.  American Black Duck

9.  Mallard

10.  Northern Shoveler

11.  Northern  Pintail

12.  Green-winged Teal

13.  Redhead - Ok, we saw a female on Lily Lake, but I cheated with the photo of a drake.

14.  Ring-necked Duck

15.  Lesser Scaup

16.  Surf Scoter

17.  Black Scoter

18.  Bufflehead

19.  Ruddy Duck

20.  Red-throated Loon

21.  Northern Gannet - these were spotted with a scope, but I'm adding a close-up pic because they are worth it.

22.  Double-crested Cormorant

23.  Great Blue Heron

24.  Turkey Vulture - we had zero vultures until noon.  Nothing was in the sky.

25.  Black Vulture

26.  Northern Harrier - This guy was hunting at Brig.

27.  Sharp-shinned Hawk - flyby's but here's a close pic.

28.  Cooper's Hawk - same

29.  Red-shouldered Hawk - same... I'm a cheater.

30.  Red-tailed Hawk - see above

31.  Virginia Rail -ok, we only heard this but it counts.  Here's a pic from earlier in the year.

32.  American Coot

33.  Greater Yellowlegs - both yellowlegs flew by Bunker Pond and were an unexpected find for the day.

34.  Lesser Yellowlegs

35.  Ruddy Turnstone - we actually saw our first on the sunken ship.  This was from Barnegat.

36.  Ring-billed Gull

37.  Herring Gull

38.  Lesser Black-backed Gull - comparison shot on the beach off of Coral Ave.

39.  Great Black-backed Gull - and an adult since I posted an immature above.

40.  Rock Pigeon

41.  Mourning Dove

42.  Red-bellied Woodpecker

43.  Downy Woodpecker - we somehow missed this bird in the previous year.

44.  Northern Flicker

45.  Blue Jay

46.  American Crow

47.  Fish Crow - told apart by call.

48.  Tree Swallow - This poor guy appeared on a branch ten feet from us while we were looking at the black swan.  Either tired or injured, it didn't budge.  I snapped a few shots and we let it be, hopefully to recover.

49.  Cave Swallow -the boys found this guy underneath the pavillion at the hawk watch.  Sad.  We debating whether to count it, but fortunately had one fly by with a group of tree swallows.  No photo of that one.

50.  Carolina Chickadee

51.  Tufted Titmouse

52.  Carolina Wren

53.  Ruby-crowned Kinglet

54.  Eastern Bluebird

55.  American Robin

56.  Gray Catbird - embarrassingly, we first thought a squirrel was a catbird.  Eventually we rectified the situation.

57.  Northern Mockingbird

58.  European Starling - a bird is a bird, right.

59.  Cedar Waxwing

60.  Yellow-rumped Warbler - I have seen way too many of these already!

61.  Field Sparrow

62.  Dark-eyed Junco

63.  White-throated Sparrow - We heard their familiar tune throughout the day.


64.  Song Sparrow - This was the only bird we picked up from a very slow Beanery stop.

65.  Northern Cardinal

66.  Red-winged Blackbird

67.  Boat-tailed Grackle


68.  House Finch

69.  Purple Finch - This female or immature male stopped for a quick photo shoot at the hawkwatch.

70.  Pine Siskin - an old, not so great photo.  These flew over a few times.

71.  American Goldfinch

72.  House Sparrow

73.  Snow Goose -  a few hundred geese were seen at Brig.

74.  Brant 

75.  Greater Scaup

76.  Great Egret - only two on the day, both at Brig.

77.  Bald Eagle - only one on the day, after a bald eagle bonanza last year.

78.  Scissor-tailed Flycatcher - simultaneously the most exciting, and most disappointing part of the day.  This was an extraordinary lifer that we got great looks at through bins and scope, but sadly stayed too far away for any chance of an identifiable photo.   LIFER for me and the boys.

79.  Peregrine Falcon

80.  Savannah Sparrow

81.  Common Eider

82.  Harlequin Duck - only one, but I'll take it considering we missed it last year.

83.  Common Loon

84.  Dunlin

85.  Least Sandpiper - two of these were a welcomed surprise on the Barnegat jetty.

86.  Great Cormorant

87.  Swamp Sparrow

And... that's it.  No, we didn't beat last year.  We actually fell way short after a great start in Cape May.  That said, it was an amazing day.  The sun was bright, the temperature was in the mid-50's, and the birds were good!  I can't wait to do it again next year.  I'll leave you with a few random photo's from the day.  The countdown to Black Friday Big Day 2016 has begun...

...step into the outdoors.

Harbor Seal seen in Barnegat Inlet.

Monarch Butterfly found roosting in Cape May.

Red Admiral in Cape May.