Sunday, April 10, 2011

Spring in Belleplain, Weekend #2: Sunday, April 10 2011

[Blue-gray Gnatcatcher along Pine Swamp Road today, a male as told by the black eyebrow. In most species, males arrive before females to maximize their chances for a good territory and mate. Note the swollen Sassafras buds, ready to burst. The green twigs are a good field mark for Sassafras, few trees contain chlorophyll in their branches. Click to enlarge all photos.]

Winter and spring blurred in Belleplain today, e.g. I believe this is the first time I've ever encountered both Ovenbird and Fox Sparrow on the same day in NJ, the Fox Sparrow being about the latest I've ever had and the Ovenbirds (at least 3 were recorded by various observers) are among the earliest anyone has ever had here. Give it a couple weeks and literally 100's of Ovenbirds will fill the woods with song in Belleplain. I'll miss Fox Sparrow and its sweet song, surely the one singing near Lake Nummy today will be my last of the spring.

I got to Belleplain at the crack of 9:30 a.m. . . .about 3 hours later than I would want. There was plenty of song despite the late start and cloudy sky. This was neat: using a clicker on Pine Warblers again, I got 29 to last week's 26, pretty consistent for an 11 mile roadside "survey." Neater still were the Yellow-throated Warblers, with a real influx. I clicked 15 of these, about half in their typical (for Belleplain) white pine grove nesting habitat, but half sort of randomly singing out in the pine-oak woods, obviously new arrrivals not sure where they want to be.

[Yellow-throated Warbler in a holly near Lake Nummy. This bird had almost no yellow in the eyebrow, you have to squint to see it in the photo, and had to through binoculars, too. Believe it or not, the bird had more yellow in its right side eyebrow. The white chin is also atypical for "our"YTWA race. The more western race of Yellow-throated has white lores (hence subspecific name albilora), but these things are variable and I believe this bird is just on the white end of the nominate race, dominica. The bill was fairly long and thin, matching other Yellow-throated's I saw today.]

Eight Hairy Woodpeckers seems like a lot, but that's what I had, 3 pairs and two singles. In the springier department, a solo singing male Black-and-white Warbler was the prize of the morning. The strutting Wild Turkey gobbler in a meadow south of Sunset Road would have debated that assertion, I suppose, though the five hens with him seemed unimpressed. The Louisiana Waterthrush sang steadily every 20 seconds or so at Cedar Bridge, bless him, and even flew past at close range. Two Blue-headed Vireos were my first of spring, and a single Pine Siskin lingered  near the HQ feeder. An annoying 20 or more Brown-headed Cowbirds occupied mostly woods margins near houses along my route, which are just the sorts of places that let cowbirds penetrate interior forest. My list for the morning is appended below.

Virtually all this was out the truck window (due to the hurt knee, not by choice), driving slow and stopping whenever a chickadee called or something of interest sang.

[One Blue-headed Vireo was singing at the west end of Sunset Road, near the sheep farm (you'll know it when you see it), and, stuck in the truck, I never saw it. Normally when you find one BHVI others are about, so two hours later when I hadn't bumped into another one I started wondering if I'd just heard a Purple Finch instead. Purples give a very vireo-like, high and sweet-sounding call, like a fragment of their song, and hence like a Blue-headed. Finding the pictured bird near Lake Nummy convinced me I heard the sheep farm vireo correctly.]

Location: Belleplain State Forest
Observation date: 4/10/11
Notes: 9:30-noon, 11.8 miles, all from vehicle. cloudy, 50's, light wind. NJ Chorus Frogs really going in Sunset pool and at HQ.
Number of species: 38. The more interesting birds are bolded below.

Canada Goose 10
Wild Turkey 6 A gobbler with 5 hens in field s side of sunset rd.
Laughing Gull 100
Mourning Dove 10
Red-bellied Woodpecker 4
Downy Woodpecker 6
Hairy Woodpecker 8 2 pairs on Pine Swamp, another on cedar bridge, 2 singles on sunset
Northern Flicker 4
Eastern Phoebe 4
Blue-headed Vireo 2Blue Jay 8
Carolina Chickadee 20
Tufted Titmouse 27 clicked
Red-breasted Nuthatch 1
White-breasted Nuthatch 2
Carolina Wren 2
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 1 maleGolden-crowned Kinglet 2
Hermit Thrush 1
American Robin 20
Brown Thrasher 1
Yellow-throated Warbler 15
Clicked. some in random pine-oak woods, obvious migrants
Pine Warbler 29 Clicked.
Palm Warbler 2
Black-and-white Warbler 1
singing Sunset Road west of bridge
Ovenbird 1 singing Pine Swamp road
Louisiana Waterthrush 1 singing cedar bridge
Eastern Towhee 6 obvious influx since last week
Chipping Sparrow 4
Fox Sparrow 1 latest I've ever had, singing near Lake Nummy outfall.
White-throated Sparrow 5
Dark-eyed Junco 5
Northern Cardinal 10
Common Grackle 5
Brown-headed Cowbird 20
House Finch 2
Pine Siskin 1 near HQ
American Goldfinch 5

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