I was able to slip away for a few hours of birding Saturday morning and decided to go chasing a report of an Eared Grebe at Round Valley Reservoir (photo above courtesy of New Jersey Water Supply Authority). This wasn’t my first trip to Round Valley, as I had chased reports of a Redhead at Round Valley back in January or February (it all blends together after a while, no?).
Saturday morning dawned damp and dreary after an all-night rain, but the skies began to brighten a little as I approached the designated parking area. The sun was peaking through clouds as I unloaded my gear and realized, much to my dismay, that I had left my gloves and stocking cap at home! Apparently, I left them lying on top of my camera case – also at home.
At this point in My New Jersey Big Year, all I could really accomplish was a smile and slight self-admonishment at my peristent forgetfulness. This wasn’t the first time I had rushed out and left things behind and, as I have come to accept, it won’t be the last.
The lake appeared completed devoid of bird life as I hiked along the Blue Trail and I was coaching myself that this could be yet another fruitless search. Until this year, I really have not been much of a chaser or lister, topics about which I will have more to say once my year is complete. While there are those rare times when the bird is found quickly at the previously reported spot, more often a good deal of time is spent looking for a bird that has moved on, or is foraging in a different area, or is simply no place to be found.
I did not spot the Bald Eagle reported by other birders at Round Valley that day, but clearly something had happened to clear out bird life on the lake’s open water. Unfamiliar with the trail, it took me a bit longer to arrive at the bird’s location than I expected. My walk was well rewarded, though, as I found the Eared Grebe hanging out with a small raft of American Coot in the exact place reported by the Voice of New Jersey Audubon.
Here’s a great public domain photo of an Eared Grebe I found on Wikipedia. About the same size, the bird was happily feeding and interacting with the raft of American Coot and seemed well tolerated by the other birds. Winter makes for strange flock-fellows in the birding world, I suppose.
December is grinding along and I’ve signed up for a couple Christmas Bird Counts , which will account for nearly all of my birding time between now and New Year’s Eve. I plan to finish the year as I started it, with a North Shore run along New Jersey’s northern coastline.
Until next time, Good Birding!