Thursday, October 30, 2008

Black-throated Sparrow

On this day in 1961, a Black-throated Sparrow showed up at a feeder maintained by Mrs. H. MacKenzie near New Brunswick in Middlesex County. According to John Bull, who did the writeup in the Auk, "She reported that it fed on marigold seeds as well as a mixture of 'wild bird' feed," (in case you have any ideas about getting Black-throated Sparrows at your feeder this winter). The bird stayed until 23 April of the following year and was seen by "hundreds" (Bull, again) of birders. There have been two more accepted records of Black-throated Sparrows in the state since then, both starting in mid-December: one in 1974-1975 and another in 1992-1993.

The bottom line is that most birds that visit feeders are the expected ones, but way-out-of-range birds are in no position to shun feeders and a fair number of rarities over the years have turned up in this situation.

Bull, John L. 1963. Black-throated Sparrows in the eastern United States. Auk 80:379-380. PDF here

"We take you now to Grovers Mill, New Jersey"

Originally uploaded by ammodramus88
On this day in 1938, a Martian saucer landed in the bucolic setting of Grover's Mill, a mere stone's throw from where I currently reside. I have to say, given the remaining traces on the landscape, it's as if it never happened; all that's left is this monument and, of course, the typical local pride that comes along with something so momentous having happened in the immediate neighborhood. Why, even the old mill that gave Grover's Mill its name survives. The Yoyodyne Systems campus is difficult to locate, but that comes as no surprise given its checkered history, as well as the plentitude of corporate campuses (campii?) along this part of the Rt. 1 corridor.

What many people don't realize is that another Martian craft landed in the Great Swamp, an NWR that seems ignorant of its connection to this event. According to a news bulletin of the time from Basking Ridge, it was discovered by hunters, although the pinpointing of its location as "twenty miles south of Morristown" is wildly inaccurate. I guess that if the newscasters of the day had had access to modern-day bird-finding guides, they might have done a bit better. Or perhaps they were somewhat over-excited by the unprecedented events they were called upon to report.

As usual, seeking a birdy connection to this non-birding event, I came up short. The best I could do was the report of "black birds" that feasted upon the unlucky Martians' remains in Central Park; perhaps NJ corvids from the Newark and Secaucus marshes joined the mayhem, but that would require further digging into historical crow roost reports, some of which were notably vague due to concern over persecution.

War of the Worlds script
War of the Worlds website
Wired post on War of the Worlds

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Perfect Birding Librarian Storm

As a birding LIS student, I just couldn't resist blogging this.

When my mom asked about Bar-tailed Godwits the other night on the phone, I knew a bird celebrity had been born. Sure enough, today the Dewey Blog had an entry entitled "Migration of Bar-Tailed Godwits". If you had any reason to wonder what Dewey Decimal Number such a migration would get, wonder no longer.

All four species of godwits have been recorded in NJ. The first Bar-tail showed up at Absecon in 1937, and one bird visited Longport from 1972 to 1982. The last NJ record was from Nummy's Island in September 1985.

Thursday, October 02, 2008


On this day in 1932, Charles Urner found two Ruffs near Tuckerton, Ocean County. In that day, on the cusp between specimen and sight identification, Urner took no specimens but notes, then repaired to specimens to double-check his conclusions. This was not the first record of Ruff for NJ, since there was at least one previous specimen record cited in Chapman (1906).

In subsequent years, Ruffs became synonymous with Pedricktown in springtime, but that is not so much the case now. They seem to be easier to find in Delaware than Jersey these days, at least in spring.

Urner, Charles A. 1933. The Ruff in New Jersey. Auk 50:101. PDF here