Date: 2/28/17 11:47 am From: CHELEMER, MARC J <mc2496...> Subject: [JERSEYBI] White birds: Absent and Present; the birder's rant
I took the opportunity today to make the drive to the Assunpink WMA "region" to search for "designer" waterfowl. First stop was the lake at Assunpink, which, like yesterday, contained no large white swans of any species...Mute or Trumpeter. That's two days in a row with no swans; I wonder if they have moved to more permanent 'summering' bodies of water with the warm weather. Otherwise, there were a few duck species and many sparrows in the fields on the south side of the lake.
Then, a drive along all of the farm roads in the area. A few flocks of Canada Geese (scanned carefully for the Greater White-fronted seen yesterday...not today). But where were the Snow Geese? It turns out that they were at the Reed Sod Farm at Herbert and Old York, the spot where Golden-Plovers forage in the fall.
As I pulled up on Old York, got out my 'scope ,and started scanning the one acre flock of Snow Geese, I went through the internal monologue I frequently mutter when looking at a giant flock of one kind of bird (gulls, geese), when I know (or hope) that there's ONE individual of a different species within it: "How am I going to find a Ross' Goose in this giant flock? Every bird is moving, most have their heads down, it's absolutely ridiculous to think that a Ross' Goose will be at this edge of this giant group of birds. I'll have to look at goose bills for an hour, and I've only got thirty minutes to scan, what, 5,000 birds. And how am I really going to be able to see the difference in bill size, or discern the overall different GISS? This is a totally impossible task and it's a complete waste of...wait a minute. Oh. There it is!" And sure enough, there it was, at my edge of the flock! And, yes, one COULD see the small bill with the purplish base and the thick neck and the small head. I couldn't get a photo despite numerous tries. Darn.
On the way into AT&T's offices in Piscataway, I was driving along Route 18 through the Rutgers campus when I spied a large all-white bird taking wing from the right side of the road. It was the local leucistic Red-tailed Hawk, rising from prey. What a simply gorgeous creature...all white with just a hint of rufous on the tail feathers and a beady and alert dark eye. Lacking any camouflage or the ability to even remotely disguise itself while hunting, yet having survived this long, it must be a wily bird indeed.
So...no white swan, but a small white goose and a big white hawk. A good two hours before work!