The NJ Bird Records Committee met recently and today announced their decisions on rarities that were submitted for review during the first half of 2017. The most noteworthy result from this report is that Little Egret was accepted as the 479th species sighted in New Jersey. That makes me happy, because Jeanine and I had a role in that story. The short version is that a Little Egret was originally found by Cameron Cox at Heislerville WMA on April 27, but it appeared to be a classic one-day wonder despite extensive searching. Seven days later, on May 4, we were birding at Heislerville, and when we parked the car on the dike, the same Little Egret was feeding in the channel right next to us! So we had the honor of re-finding that bird, which stayed around for three more days for others to enjoy. Yay. (click here for a longer version)
I anticipated that there would be questions about this bird because of the presence of several blue patches that might be interpreted as it being a hybrid, perhaps with a Western Reef-heron. However, the pattern of the blue spots was judged not to be typical of a hybrid trait, but more likely due to environmental contamination or some other factor. One committee member noted other species that occasionally show dark spots. After the discussion, the committee voted unanimously to accept the record and include Little Egret on the state list.
Twenty days later we spotted a group of nine Black-bellied Whistling-ducks in Cape May. The details are here. This sighting also was accepted, making a super first half of the year for us. There is something very special about finding a rarity that needs to be documented. Finding two review species in one month was exceptional.