The Core Team ventured out this Saturday to visit a friend at New Jersey’s Lake Hopatcong (seemingly pronounced “octagon” by the locals.) We couldn’t have had a better time. This friend and her delightful parents have a perfect little home on Raccoon Island, just a short ferry ride from the mainland. On this ideal summer day, the highlight was, without a doubt, spending time in a secluded grotto constructed exactly like a wading pool. This pocket cove consisted of a hollow about eighteen inches deep with a sandy bottom surrounded by a ring of low boulders. Suffice to say, Mason was completely in his element and delirious with happiness.

We didn’t expect much in the way of birds at the lake nor did we encounter much. On the way in, we spied kingbirds and mallards. On the island itself, titmice, chickadees, pewees, and at least one Red-bellied Woodpecker thrived. But other than those species and the Ring-billed Gull and Turkey Vulture overhead, the area was pretty quiet. With, I should add, one notable exception.

Since our expectations of the local avifauna were pretty low, we didn’t pay much attention to the random dove or gull flying by. Once I noted a number of Barn Swallow, I stopped trying to identify passing swallows. However, during a boat tour of the lake, we spotted a couple of exceptionally dark swallows perched on a telephone line. Though we didn’t have much time to scan these birds, we picked out two diagnostic traits. The first was the bird’s uniformly dark plumage and the second its notable size. Surprise, surprise, this was a bird that had long eluded us, the mysterious Purple Martin! Next time, we’d like a more leisurely look, but for now, we’ll take this beauty as life bird #350.

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Written by Mike
Mike is a leading authority in the field of standardized test preparation, but he's also a traveler who fully expects to see every bird in the world. Besides founding 10,000 Birds in 2003, Mike has also created a number of other entertaining but now extirpated nature blog resources, particularly the Nature Blog Network and I and the Bird.