and we begin..

I headed up to Stokes State Forest to do some early scouting, and to refresh myself on the "lay of the land" this past weekend. Stokes, combined with High Point State Park, comprises one of the largest tracts of contiguous forest in northern New Jersey. It is critical habitat for a large variety of species. There are perhaps a dozen or more that will be difficult to come by during the WSB if we don't see or hear them here!

Residents and early migrants are hard at work, preparing for spring. Many Eastern Phoebes were present and clearly establishing territories. Brown Creepers were singing, and I observed one individual carrying nesting material. White-breasted Nuthatches were frequent and vocal, presumably engaged in courtship. It may seem overly cautious to make note of common species, but keep in mind that by May 9th nuthatches, our local Picids & Parids, etc will be well into their nesting season. Once they have eggs and young ones to defend they tend to keep quiet, so knowing precisely where to look can save you time. A pair of Red-shouldered Hawks were clearly courting, flying just above the forest canopy and frequently vocalizing to each other. However they were moving around quite a bit, leading me to believe they were not quite yet on territory.

Most astounding was the number of Pine Siskins. I heard or saw them everywhere I went (including my stop at Jumboland for a coffee on my way up)! Flocks of 10-30 were frequently observed along Crigger, Park Ridge, & Sawmill Rds. I heard several singing and took the time to watch for any indications of breeding when the chance arose. Breeding Siskins is something all NJ birders should have on mind this year, given the incredible numbers being reported state-wide.

Well, that's it for now. In the coming weeks, the natural areas of New Jersey will fill with bird song, and then the real scouting effort begins! I'm hoping my experience in the north will help us locate sought after species efficiently. Planning our trek down south- Cape May by way of SE NJ- will definitely take a little more work. Of course the real trick is going to be balancing our school & work schedules with time spent scouting....we'll just have to wait and see how that goes.


Brian Clough ( is an ecosystems ecologist studying the effects of land use on ecosystem-level functions, such as carbon cycling. He also works for Duke Farms as a part of their Natural Resources Team. Brian has a wide breadth of interests including (but not limited to) birding, ecosystems ecology, botany, and local agriculture.

Bill Lynch ( is currently writing an exhaustive literature review on the breeding success of wetland birds on the east coast. He is also assisting the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife with their current survey of inland heron colonies. Bill is passionately interested in birding, wildlife conservation, and photography.

David La Puma ( has been working closely with the federally endangered Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow and how fire processes in the Everglades affect the species. He also started Woodcreeper to track bird migration using radar. David is an avid birder and photographer.

Charlie Kontos ( is THE fisher expert in the state of New Jersey. He is credited with the first verification of fishers in NJ, and has also conducted research on bobcats, coyotes, timber rattlesnakes, and red knots. Charlie holds a Master's in Biology from Montclair State University and is a recent convert to birding.

All four gentlemen are currently enrolled in the Ecology & Evolution Graduate Program at Rutgers University. They are planning to compete in the 2009 World Series of Birding to help raise money for their Graduate Student Association. The GSA is a valuable member of the scientific and local communities. They run weekly student seminars on interesting ecological research, help to manage and conserve vital habitats (including Helyar Woods and Hutcheson Memorial Forest), and much more.

If you would consider donating, please feel free to contact any of the team members or to click on the donate link on the right-hand side of this page. If you have donated and have a business or other site you would like advertised on this page, please contact Bill with a website link or small button/logo. Thank you everyone for reading and for donating!