Winter time birding in New Jersey means lots of time spent near water. Many duck species over-winter along our rivers and near the Jersey shore. And it’s a good time to search large flocks of gulls for a rarity or two. Hawks and eagles are active this time of the year, some forming bonds with their mates as they prepare to nest (yes, some birds nest during the winter months).
And, occasionally, hummingbirds which are rare to the east coast show up at feeders. While birders along the western US coast enjoy a variety of native hummingbirds, the Ruby-throated Hummingbird is the sole east coast breeder. Like many other birds, hummingbirds migrate to southern climates to overwinter. And every once in a while, one of those western hummingbirds will find its way to New Jersey.
This year a juvenile Rufous Hummingbird turned up at the Palmyra Cove Nature Park on the shores of the Delaware River. While chasing rare birds can be a fun pastime most years, it takes on added significance during a Big Year when every bird counts! And so Bill Margaretta, a good friend and fellow birder, and I made the trek down to Palmyra Cover to attempt the Rufous Hummingbird. We arrived late in the morning and didn’t have to wait long – two feeders were located in a protected area near the main entrance and the bird was busily flying between them. Another great bird for my Big Year list!
Our next stop was the Glades Wildlife Refuge, an expansive area of protected salt marsh and forest located along the Delaware Bay in Cumberland County that provides habitat for a wide variety ducks, hawks, marsh birds, and eagles. We had great success locating hawks, like the Red-shoulder Hawk at the top of this post, and Bald Eagles.
The “bird of the day”, though, was a leucistic Wild Turkey. Leucism is a genetic mutation which causes some birds to have white patches in unexpected areas. Our bird ran into the underbrush before we could get a good photo, but was much more pale than all other birds in the flock, similar to the bird in the linked photograph.
The aftermath of Superstorm Sandy was evident is several locations we visited. Homes were destroyed, roads covered in sand, and debris (like campers and boats) scattered through the marsh.
And the birds were also present, like these Hooded Merganser hens taking flight from one of the many streams the flow through the marshes.
Hungry from several hours of great birding, Bill treated to a late lunch at one of his favorite places, the Landing Restaurant in Newport, NJ. This wonderful little eatery is located at the end of Landing Road and offers great service, delicious food, reasonable prices, and amazing views of the salt marsh to compliment your meal. Bill swears that the crab cake sandwich is the best in New Jersey! The next time you’re birding the Glades, stop by the Landing Restaurant and tell them Bill and Greg sent you!
After lunch, we drove several roads along the Bay, but the wind had picked up and birds were hard to find. So with a full tummy and great bird list, we headed for home. If your looking for great winter time birding, consider giving the Delaware River and Bay a try. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed!