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...
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.
6. Eurasian Wigeon - a rare, but regular visitor to Cape May.
7. American Wigeon
8. American Black Duck
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
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.
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
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.