Another successful grassland citizen science survey season has passed. I completed four surveys at Lakehurst Naval Air Station this year and ended at point 11, shown in the above photo. Lakehurst is unique for me in that my points are arranged at intervals around an active runway. Fortunately, the runway is almost always quiet on my survey dates – I think I have witnessed the takeoff of one plane and a few helicopters during the years I’ve completed the count.
Last year I ended my surveys at point 19. Another unique feature of Lakehurst is that numbered plaques have been placed at several of the points, ensuring the count takes place at the same point year after year. I took this photo last year, looking from point 19 back to point 11. If you look closely, you’ll see the treeline in the distance matches the
Points 11 through 19 have been my responsibility for the past 3 years. In earlier years, I surveyed other points, but always near the runway. Over the years, I have counted numerous Grasshopper Sparrows and Eastern Meadowlark at my points. Though fewer in numbers, I’ve found Horned Lark, Upland Sandpiper, Savannah Sparrow, American Kestrel and, this year, a Northern Bobwhite.
Lakehurst is home to nesting Common Nighthawks. I found this Common Nighthawk nest, little more than a scrape on the ground, while completing , my survey in early June. Arriving before daylight in May, I heard Eastern Whip-poor-will and Chuck-will’s-widow calling from the Pine Barrens as I made my way to the first survey point.
Lakehurst was not my only survey location, but the count period is longer here than at my other locations and allows time to witness the progression from Spring migration through mid-Summer nesting and fledging of young birds. Of all the places I go birding in New Jersey, Lakehurst ranks as my favorite.
This has been a typically busy survey season and while I will miss my periodic visits to Lakehurst, I am eager to resume my Big Year activities in earnest. After completing my count Saturday, I spent time successfully chasing down a Summer Tanager that had been reported at a nearby location.
That makes 294 species!
Even though we are just finishing 4th of July weekend, the fall migration has already started. Ever increasing numbers of shore birds are being reported as sandpipers and dowitchers return from their nesting grounds in northern Canada. They will linger for a while to feed and rest before resuming their long annual trips to South America. Hopefully, they will bring along a rare bird or two with them!
Until next time, Good Birding!