Thursday, January 18, 2007

A Day to Remember

Today will probably go down in the annals of great Jersey birding stories. First it was a Black Guillemot at Sandy Hook; this would've gotten more respect except for the long-staying (in guillemot terms) bird at Barnegat last winter. Then it morphed into a Pigeon Guillemot; this would be an East Coast mega. Finally the word settled on Long-billed Murrelet, a first state record (obligatory disclaimer: if accepted).

Harvey Tomlinson's post on JerseyBirds provides a good discussion of birding "in the heat of battle," when an identification can be more fluid than one would expect. Harvey analyzes which species names were in play and why.

This is on top of a Band-tailed Pigeon (it would be the second state record if accepted) that has outstayed the first state bird by two days now. It (briefly) reduced the list of NJ rarities not seen in Cape May County, but now the murrelet has redressed that balance.

Then there are the continuing Hunterdon County Ash-throated Flycatcher and Western Tanager. If you want a write-up bird, there are plenty to choose from.


Anonymous said...

Wow. Makes me wonder why we bothered moving west!

Jennifer Hanson said...

Hi Rick,

I have to say that as someone who hasn't gotten out west nearly as much as she would like, it's encouraging to get strays like this. It's also interesting that fall was almost on the quiet side in the rarity department, but early winter has picked up dramatically.

Thanks for stopping by!

Ben C. said...


Thanks for your post on NYSBirds pointing to your blog entry.

Here is Harvey's post in case it falls off the edge of Jack Siler's site.

If you think this is inappropriate please feel free to delete this comment. I stripped out his email address to avoid it from getting harvested for spam.

/----- begin quote -----\
Subject: Long-billed Murrelet
From: Harvey Tomlinson
Date: Thu, 18 Jan 2007 16:00:50 EST

Hi Jersey Birders!

This morning at 8:15 I discovered what was finally identified as a LONG-BILLED MURRELET on the ocean off lot B on Sandy Hook, NJ.

I was NOT the birder who identified this bird.

That honor goes to Scott Barnes ... I only wish I was as good as Scott. Hence the reason the initial reports went out as a Guillemot. Actually, I first thought the bird was a Dovekie.

I first saw the bird from the Lot "B" platform. It was resting and all tucked up. I knew it was an alcid and dovekie seemed to fit. I called over to the NJAS to see if Pete or Scott were in. They weren't so I left a message. I decided to get closer and as I approached the waterline the bird took off and flew south. It couldn't see where it went so I decided to drive down to the toll booth parking lot and try again.

When I got there I immediately relocated the bird and knew it wasn't a Dovekie. Its bill was longer and it had an odd white patching on its wing. Its head, nape and most of it's back was black and its throat and neck into the belly was white.

I left Scott a message saying it was a Black Guillemot in an odd molt. I probably should have gotten a field guide to look at but up to this point I hadn't. Mistake number 1.

Mistake 2 came shortly after when the guide I chose to look at was Seabirds, by Peter Harrison. Not that Peter's book is flawed its just it was written before Long-billed Murrelet became a species. It is not a choice in Peter's book, so the closest bird I could find was a Guillemot.

Pete Bacinski showed up after I got the guide out and he knew something was wrong but using the same guide he came up to the same conclusions. A bird in a very odd molt.

Then we saw the under wings were very dark and that's how Pigeon Guillemot was born.

Right before Scott showed up I went and got National Geographic but still never made the connection.

I am glad to be the Luckiest birder in NJ today but when Kudos are handed out they need to go Scott's way.

I just happened to be pointed in the right direction this morning!

Good Birding,
Harvey Tomlinson
\----- end quote -----/

Anonymous said...

Hello. This is a very good column.

I would recomend more pictures,
or habitation info on the bird
in your next column (:

alright, thanks.

bye bye.