Sunday, February 22, 2015

Wandering Around Cumberland, NJ and a Scaup I.D. Tip

[Mixed flock of scaup and Common Goldeneye in the Maurice River, Bivalve, Cumberland County, NJ, February 21 2015. Click to enlarge all photos.]

Lately, mainly I've been doing what ducks are doing, which is look for open water, and that's hard to come by this winter.  Ducks and geese have been maintaining a little open patch on the big pond at Cox Hall Creek WMA, in Villas, NJ, and there has been a fun and interesting changing cast of characters in that pool including up to three male Redheads, both male and female Canvasback, Common Mergansers, Green-winged Teal, Northern Pintail, and the more usual suspects.

Yesterday I wandered up to Bivalve, near the mouth of the Maurice River in Cumberland County, NJ, with my son Tim, and we found a different bunch of ducks where the strong current has kept the river open.

[Male, rear, and female Greater Scaup, Maurice River, Cumberland County NJ.  Scaup are tough to i.d., but in flight most are easy.  Note how on these birds the white wing stripe extends well out onto the primary feathers. If these were Lesser Scaup, the white would be confined mainly to the secondaries, appearing as a white patch on what is classically called the speculum on duck wings.]

[Male Bufflehead and Hooded Merganser, similar head patterns on very different birds.]

[Male Common Goldeneye, a scarce bird in southern NJ but regular on the upper bay and on the Maurice River. We had dozens on the Maurice on Saturday.]

[Nice adult Red-shouldered Hawk near Turkey Point on Saturday.]

[Fresh water is always a limiting factor for wintering "half-hardies," such as this Brown Thrasher, which found some in a drainage ditch at Turkey Point, Cumberland County, NJ on Saturday.]

Other cool birds we saw included a light morph Rough-legged Hawk and a Short-eared Owl, both out hunting at Turkey Point at about 1:00 p.m. And a delightful flock of Wild Turkeys along Route 553 between Bivalve and Dividing Creek, scratching grain out of a snow-covered field.