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DVOC Field Trip Report
by Martin Selzer

September 3, 2005 (Saturday)
Johnson Sod Farm, Cumberland County, NJ


A late-August, early-September field trip to the Johnson Sod farm in Cumberland County, NJ is one of the, if not the best spot, in the Delaware Valley for the big three “grass pipers”, American Golden Plover, Upland Sandpiper and Buff-breasted Sandpiper as well as Black-bellied Plovers, Killdeer, Pectoral Sandpipers. Add to this the chance of finding another Sharp-tailed Sandpiper (seen here in 2003) or a Pacific Golden-plover (seen in 2002) and you have the makings of a highly productive short field trip.

Typically, one traverses Griers Lane and Olivet Road until you find the target species. This can be a challenge as this is an active sod farm (if there is such a thing) and rolling nature of the terrain causes the birds to move around a great deal and allows them plenty of places to hide. This year, Griers Lane had been completely harvested and was a vast expanse of dirt. A quick scan of the sod-less fields revealed a few Killdeer, Horned Larks and Morning Doves but none of big three grass pipers. After allowing the prerequisite 10 minutes for latecomers we headed to Olivet Road and there hit the motherload. In less than 30 minutes we had everything we had come to see. There was a flock of 20-24 American Golden Plovers, many still retaining much of their breeding plumage, 7 Upland Sandpipers and 4 Buff-breasted Sandpipers. At times all three birds could be seen in a single scope view. There were also a few Black-bellied plovers, Killdeers and Pectoral Sandpipers. The birds were so cooperative that every one of the 11 field trip participants got great looks.

We then checked out a small roadside pond near the Cowtown Rodeo that had been holding a nice mix of peeps. The pond was not as productive as it had been the day before but it still had several Western Sandpipers, Least Sandpipers, both Yellowlegs and more Pectoral Sandpipers. We then checked out the pasture on Featherbed Lane before stopping at Richmond’s Ice Cream for use of the facilities and an early morning ice cream fix.



Images by Bert Filemyr