Some days, the birding gods smile upon us

One-third of the way through my “Big Month,” it’s time to assess my progress. Having set 60 as a “reach” goal, I find I have a legitimate shot.

Yesterday was a particularly encouraging day. I headed out to the Pole Farm, hoping to find one of the “should have” birds, the common grackle. I was just about finished with my route, maybe 200 yards from my car, when I spotted a black bird land in a field to my left. Was that a flash of iridescence?

It was. A common grackle for sure, one glimpse in the binoculars confirmed. Another grackle landed on a small tree, and a few more may have lurked farther back.

The biggest surprise was yet to come.

Late in the afternoon, I headed to the Abbott Marshlands at Trenton, a good spot to see waterfowl. Almost immediately after getting out of the car, I spotted three mute swans on Spring Lake to one side, and another in the nearby marsh sitting on what appeared to be a nest. I’d see two more on the day, and I was happy, satisfied to add a new bird for the month but hoping to see a bald eagle. I’d seen one the last time I was at the marsh.

Heading up the trail, I noticed a large bird high up in the distance. An eagle, I wondered, my pulse quickening.

An osprey in flight
Way up there over Spring Lake, an osprey, April 9, 2002.

No — osprey. No doubt about it. I thought I had already seen one this month, but a check of my logs would show that was in March when I last saw one.

One more bit of luck lay ahead. I decided to walk around the lake to get a better shot at the swans. That was not to be, but I spotted two duck-like birds swimming away from me. I got a fleeting glimpse of one of their bills, and I saw white. A coot or scaup, maybe. I would need to get a look from another angle.

A few minutes later and a few hundred yards down the trail, through my binoculars I could see a male to the right and what surely was its mate to the right. She was brown, he was black with white sides, and his bill had some white.

I pulled up my camera, zoomed all the way in and snapped a couple of frames. I then pulled up the image and zoomed in — a ring-necked duck! Another lifer for me.

Now it’s off to Texas. What wonders await?

Ring-necked duck, seen from a distance.
Poor photo but proof of a ring-necked duck.

Published by Dan

University media executive by day, blogger by night, I am a well-traveled resident of New Jersey

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