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DVOC Field Trip Report
by Tony Croasdale

January 25, 2009 (Sunday)
Husted Landing, New Jersey

15 members and non-members (about half and half) attended the first DVOC trip to hunt for the mysterious crane flock in Cumberland County New Jersey. The weather was sunny and cold but not freezing. A pre-trip to the Villas Wildlife Management Area proved very productive. Rusty-Blackbirds, Red-breasted Nuthatch, and a double dose of Redheads, both the Woodpecker and Duck! The big find was by Vice President Windfelder who found a Eurasian Wigeon hen in the large pond.

The official trip began at 11:30 after convening at the super Wawa at Route 47 and the Mauricetown Crossway. Our first stop was at the High Street entrance to Bivalve. We were immediately greeted by an adult Sharp-shinned Hawk that perched on the railing. We looked unsuccessfully for the snowy owl that had been seen a few weeks earlier. Hooded Mergansers and Swamp Sparrows were some of the more notable birds. We headed over to the Strawberry Rd entrance and had great looks at an American Kestrel carrying a vole. An adult Bald Eagle was seen over the frozen marshes. Our next stop was Turkey Point but nothing was really shaking there.

As soon as we arrived at Husted Landing at 2:30 the crane flock came right in and circled. We were afforded great looks at all 16 birds and we could pick out the Common Crane and three hybrids amongst what were pure or what appeared to be pure Sandhill Cranes. We watched the cranes land in a field adjacent to the marsh. I knew this to be the property of the landowner I had spoken to while scouting for this trip and had permission to be on his property, so we squeezed into four vehicles (down from ten!) and drove over to see the cranes. We were able to see the cranes forage in a corn stubble field and had good scope views. Several Eastern Meadowlarks gave us good looks in the fields. After about half an hour the cranes took off for parts unknown but not before they flew low over our heads.
After seeing our target bird the group disbanded into factions that wanted to get home early to chase the ivory gull the next day (I had seen it the day before!), look for the green-tailed towhee in Collingswood, or go to Jakes Landing.

At Jakes Landing were were greeted by Tom Reed who showed us a stunning perched dark morph Rough-legged Hawk. I had an American Bittern land right in my scope's field of view and it blew my mind. Eventually after a longer wait than usual three or four Short-eared Owls finally showed themselves, however it was well worth the wait as we got to see two engage in some aerial combat.
The three of us who were left were feeling quite a bird high and we reflected fondly on a fantastic day in the field with a wonderful assortment of folks.