My son Chris and family were visiting over Christmas and their stay was over. Sharon and I had to drive them to the airport at 5:30 in the morning on Saturday. So we figured since we were up anyway that we would drive to northern Jersey and chase a few rarities that have been hanging around for awhile.
Our first stop was near Princeton Junction which was the location of two Barnacle Geese. Since we left the Philly airport around 6AM we arrived in Princeton around 7AM which proved to be too early for the geese to be roaming around in the fields where all the reports were saying they were located. So we drove around not having high hopes and eventually gave up on them and headed further north to a construction site in Somerset County.
We arrived at the construction site and a few birders were standing around with binoculars and scopes but after asking, no one had found the bird as of that time. We were looking for a Rock Wren, a western bird only occasionally found in the east. Since everyone was standing around, another birder from New York and I started walking around the building. I spotted some dumpsters and headed in that direction and what do you know but a Rock Wren pops up out of some old wooden pallets.
|Cute little guy trying to hide from me|
Once we found it, I ran back to get the other folks while the New Yorker kept an eye on the wren's whereabouts. Fortunately, everyone got to see the bird. While we were standing around watching the wren I asked this local guy about other birds in the area. He happened to be doing the Christmas Count for Somerset County. He told me that about a mile from here there were 7 Sandhill Cranes in a corn field. So we jumped in the car and drove directly there. Sure enough they were right where there were supposed to be.
|Seven Sandhill Cranes|
From here we headed 40 miles southeast to a location that was supposed to harbor both Pink-footed Goose and Greater White-fronted Geese. We spent about an hour searching the area but came up blank. It's always hard to find geese because they roam around so much and can be in a field not visible from your car. So we decided to head back and search for the Barnacle Geese again.
We searched for half an hour in the small area where they are usually found to no avail. So we started heading home and stopped at McDonald's for a bite to eat. In the meantime I checked the eBird alerts and some woman had relocated three Barnacle Geese on a little pond in a development. So we finished up lunch and drove back up north again for our third attempt. This time luck was with us and we were able to locate our quarry. We couldn't find three but were able to locate one.
So after chasing four state birds we came away with two. I always say that if you can find a third of the birds you are looking for you are doing good. So we were happy with achieving 50%.