White Pelicans in New Jersey!



“American White Pelican” by Manjith Kainickara – originally posted to Flickr as American White Pelican.

My alarm was set for 4:00 AM on December 20, a Sunday morning. I woke up excited and eager to start the day. My phone started going off with text messages from friends about our meeting location. As any birder will tell you, this scenario is far from uncommon we love our birds! and will likely wake up at any time on any day for a chance to add another species to our life list.

I woke up early to look for owls to tally in the Sandy Hook Christmas Bird Count (Highlands and Atlantic Highlands territories are included in the Sandy Hook count). Our team drove through Hartshorne Woods Park in Highlands, New Jersey, in search of the nocturnal raptors. I thought the highlight of my day would be hearing two great horned owls calling to each other as first light came over the woods. While this was exciting (and definitely worth getting up at 4:00 AM for), I was in for another treat.

Read the full story on the Conserve Wildlife blog.


Up Close and Personal with an American Redstart


Today, I helped New Jersey Audubon Society scientists record data on the resighting of this banded American Redstart. Such a beautiful warbler and a wonderful day birding on Sandy Hook (Gateway National Recreation Area, Highlands, New Jersey)! Arguably the best way to add a bird to your life list.

American Redstart

American Redstart on Sandy Hook. Photo by Lindsay McNamara

Nature Notes: Birding on Sandy Hook

Fields Near an Old Tennis Court on Sandy Hook

Fields Near an Old Tennis Court on Sandy Hook

The bird nerd that I am, I decided to join a New Jersey Audubon field trip on Halloween today. It was a cold and overcast morning as we walked along the fields and trails of Sandy Hook.

New Jersey Audubon does a great job of providing every birder (regardless of skill level) with an excellent, informative program. I highly recommend their guided walks for any beginner (like me). The community of birders, in my experience, has always been extremely welcoming and energized by a new person on their walks. I learned so much about identifying different types of sparrows, warblers and other song birds from everyone in our group.

Today, we saw a wide array of species. Dark-eyed Juncos and both Golden-crowned and Ruby-crowned Kinglets were out in high numbers. The crowd favorite was a Winter Wren. Usually, Winter Wrens are heard but not seen because they hide in brush and at the base of trees. We were able to see one up-close along the wall of an abandoned building.

Winter Wren Photo Credit: AllAboutBirds.org

Winter Wren Photo Credit: AllAboutBirds.org

The Kinglets were my personal favorite. They are the second smallest type of bird (hummingbirds are the smallest) and were adorable hopping around in the fields and trees.

Golden-crowned Kinglet Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Golden-crowned Kinglet Photo Credit: Wikipedia


Ruby-crowned Kinglet Photo Credit: AllAboutBirds.org

I do know all birders love making lists, so here’s one of all the birds I saw today:

  • American Kestrel
  • Black Phoebe
  • Brown Creeper
  • Canada Goose
  • Chipping Sparrow
  • Common Loon
  • Dark-eyed Junco
  • Double-crested Cormorant
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • European Starling
  • Golden-crowned Kinglet
  • Gray Catbird
  • Hermit Thrush
  • Mallard
  • Merlin
  • Mourning Dove
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Northern Gannet
  • Northern Harrier
  • Northern Mockingbird
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • Savannah Sparrow
  • Sharp-shinned Hawk
  • Song Sparrow
  • White-crowned Sparrow
  • White-throated Sparrow
  • Winter Wren
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler

Nature Notes: Birding in Northern Jersey


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As any bird nerd will tell you, migration months are the best time for birders to see so many species! Warblers, thrushes, vireos, flycatchers, and other migratory birds, including shorebirds have flown thousands of miles from Central/South America and the Caribbean to nest in my home state of New Jersey, or to continue on to the boreal forest of Canada and Alaska. These mass migrations allow for more bird species to be observed in NJ than any other time of the year.

My friend and fellow birder Dana and I made plans to get outside and do some birding this weekend. We brought along our friends and family and headed to a few different spots in Northern Jersey.

Wood Turtle

The Wood Turtle is a threatened species in NJ

Our first stop was New Jersey Audubon’s Scherman Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary in Bernardsville, NJ. Turns out, a dear friend of mine from my days as a nature camp counselor was leading our walk!

Miss Stephanie guided us throughout the property as we searched for the Blue-Winged Warbler. During our walk, the group learned that skunk cabbage is able to generate its own heat in order to grow and flower while snow is still on the ground. How cool is that?!


We also found a Wood Turtle, which is classified as threatened in New Jersey. AND at the end of our walk, we were able to spot a Blue-winged Warbler in the tallest branches of a beautiful tree.

Blue-winged Warbler. Photo Credit: birds.audubon.org

Blue-winged Warbler. Photo Credit: birds.audubon.org

Eastern Towhee. Photo Credit: AllAboutBirds.org

Eastern Towhee. Photo Credit: AllAboutBirds.org

Here’s a list of the other birds we saw (birders LOVE lists):

  • Black-capped Chickadee
  • Blue Jay
  • Eastern Bluebird
  • Eastern Towhee
  • Gray Catbird
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Hairy Woodpecker
  • Mourning Dove
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Song Sparrow
  • Tree Swallow
  • Turkey Vulture
  • White-breasted Nuthatch
  • Wood Thrush

If you are curious about any of the species of birds listed, check the National Audubon Society’s website for more information about them.

Yellow Warbler. Photo credit: birds.audubon.org

Yellow Warbler. Photo credit: birds.audubon.org

Next, we went for a hike through Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. There we saw a number of bullfrogs, painted turtles, cowbirds, and a Red-breasted Nuthatch. My favorite was the Yellow Warbler that we saw in its nest above the water of the swamp. It was such a beautiful and striking bird, bright yellow among all the green.



Barred Owl at The Raptor Trust

Barred Owl at The Raptor Trust

After lunch, my sister and I took a drive over to The Raptor Trust. The Trust, located in Millington, NJ, provides care to over 3,500 injured and orphaned wild birds each year. Many of them are rehabilitated and released back into the wild. For those birds that would not survive if they were released, The Raptor Trust property has become their home. My sister and I saw so many birds of prey, we even circled back through the area where the birds live to make sure we didn’t miss seeing anyone. Our favorites were definitely the owls.

I’m so happy to have spent such a beautiful day outdoors and in nature among friends and family. I am looking forward to purchasing my own pair of binoculars and going birding more often. It was revitalizing to step away from my computer and desk and get back into nature! I truly believe in the restorative power of nature. Do you?