Sunday, April 15, 2012
Forest Morning, Beach Afternoon
It was a good weekend to be a naturalist. Mine began Saturday with an early morning bicycle tour of Belleplain State Forest, where it is definitely still April (not May), but that makes the April singers all the louder, and the more appreciated. I could listen to a Louisiana Waterthrush sing all day, and nearly did. Though I've yet to hear one at the famous Sunset Road Bridge spot (which, call me paranoid, makes me suspicious that folks have been playing recordings there), two others at different locations wielded songs for many minutes at a time. The pictured bird seemed particularly riled by a nearby Yellow-throated Warbler. Perhaps, like birders, it needed to listen for the song's ending to know it was not one of its own kind. . .
Most of the Blue-gray Gnatcatchers seem to be in the nest-building stage, and I watched one pair return repeatedly to a lichen-riddled branch fork. The male added lichens several times, but I never saw the female add to the nest.
Yellow-throated Warblers seem to have firmly established their nesting territories, and the males are flying from tall pine (mostly white pine) to the next tall pine, slowly, obviously, and singing as soon as they land. I saw a couple Yellow-throated Warblers on the ground, perhaps gathering nesting material, though I never located a nest in progress.
Saturday afternoon I wandered over to Stone Harbor, where the highlight had to be multiple Western Sandpipers foraging on the beach with Dunlin and Sanderlings. Sibley writes in his The Birds of Cape May (1997), and I quote, "Despite published reports, there are no documented records of spring migrants." I'm not sure the Westerns at Stone Harbor this weekend prove Sibley wrong - because they could easily be birds that overwintered in the area (mild as this winter was), and that are now molting into breeding plumage before heading north.
Posted by Don Freiday at 8:18 PM