Sunday, August 19, 2012

Wrenstart Morning

[American Redstart over the Higbee Beach, NJ dike this morning showing the golden bar in the backlit wings from the yellow bases to the primaries and secondaries (orange on adult males).]

The funniest thing happened when I stepped out on the porch, predawn, to listen for flight calls. The radar was saying I should hear some, and a few redstart tsweets rewarded me. When I turned to go inside, I reached up to grab my ball cap, which dangled from a hook on the porch overhang where I'd hung it to dry. In a swift, smooth motion I lifted it off the hook - and a bird fell out of it and pretty much fell, with just a little fluttering, to the deck! Sorry to disturb your night-time roost, little Carolina Wren! The wren flew off into the darkness, clearly surprised but uninjured.

Taking this as a good omen, I joined the usual cast of friends up on the Higbee Beach dike. Late August is American Redstart time, and they were flying, not tons but enough to make it interesting, and spiced, in order of abundance, with Northern Waterthrushes, Yellow Warblers, Black-and-white Warblers, and at least one each Blackburnian and Wilson's Warblers, among others.

Later in the morning, Higbee's fields were full of. . . mosquitoes. And small numbers of this and that, with Canada and Blue-winged Warblers discovered by Virginia Rettig, Worm-eating Warbler found by Beth Ciuzio, and a supporting cast of kingbirds, redstarts, and Bobolinks both overhead and feeding in the fields.

But redstarts ruled the morning for me. I love this bird - what's not to love about it? How great is it that such a pretty species can be so abundant, and widespread. It's range is impressive, well up into Canada and west to British Columbia and the Yukon. I wonder how many of the ones we saw this morning derive from the densely populated (by redstarts) Kittatinny Ridge and valley of north Jersey, and how many were from further afield.

[This Northern Waterthrush's yellow wash below is accentuated by the morning sun. Morning flight, Higbee Beach this morning. The mid-belly bulge is a good shape clue for this species, although as we were talking about this morning, flying landbird shapes are tricky and should be supported with plumage and other characters.]

[Black-and-white Warblers often point their bill down in flight.]

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