Saturday, April 9, 2011

Spring in Belleplain: Weekend #1 (of 9, I hope)

[This Pine Warbler was psyched on spring last weekend in Belleplain State Forest, Cape May County, NJ, chilly (in the low 40's F.) or not. He adaptably foraged on the ground - the best place to find insects in the cold - and sang frequently as he hopped about. Last Sunday, April 3, 2011, click to enlarge all photos.]

Yeah, I know it's supposed to be the "Freiday" bird blog and it's Saturday, but life has been busy and made busier thanks to the government shutdown that happily did not happen, but impacted us at work anyway. But busy or not, nothing on the calendar appears capable of deterring me from visiting Belleplain State Forest every weekend of April and May - so that's what I've decided to do, back there tomorrow for weekend #2! Belleplain is arguably the best area in NJ for "southern breeders," stuff like Yellow-throated, Prothonotary, and Kentucky Warblers, Summer Tanager, Acadian Flycatcher and the like, and weekly visits make a delightful prospect for staying in tune with spring.

The naturalist raps his tuning fork on the first weekend of April, and hears Pine Warblers - lots, 26 to be exact on an 11 mile route through Belleplain, which is part southern forest and part Pine Barrens outlier. And Eastern Phoebes, and residents and wintering birds, including some very cool Pine Siskins and Purple Finches at the HQ feeders. But not Louisiana Waterthrush and not Yellow-throated Warbler, both of which apparently came Monday, April 4, the day after I was there searching. Grrrr.

My full list from last weekend is at the end of this post, and I'm thinking I'll keep sharing them each week. I'm hoping tomorrow's includes not only the waterthrush and yellow-throated, but maybe something else new, like a Black-and-White Warbler (my favorite warbler) or White-eyed Vireo, both of which have been detected elsewhere in NJ this spring. And I'm hoping to write about it here sooner, maybe even tomorrow night. We'll see.

About the 11 mile route. . . car-birding is something I like less and less every time I do it, but a torn ACL and meniscus, recently repaired, mean it's car-birding supplemented by crutches at least for all of April. So through Belleplain I drive, ear out the window, from Pine Swamp Road over the Sunset Bridge, around on Cedar Bridge and on up through Frank's Road Summer Tanager Country. A check of Lake Nummy and surrounds, and finish at the HQ,  a couple clickers at play devoted to whatever strikes my fancy, last week being Pine Warbler and Carolina Chickadee. Tomorrow? We'll see. . .

[One of six Eastern Phoebes in Belleplain last weekend, this one was along a woods road near Lake Nummy and likely has moved on by now. Phoebes nest every year at Sunset Bridge and the HQ, otherwise are not particularly common in Belleplain, or in Cape May County as breeders.]

[Three years running I've had male and female Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers together in April at the Sunset Road Bridge. This female cooperated April 3. In the midst of a lot of negative bird news, sapsuckers offer a happy story of increase and range expansion. Could they breed as far south as Belleplain someday? I think yes, someday, but these birds will likely pull out soon. I wonder if the same individual birds have been there each year, and think yes about that, too.] 

Location: Belleplain State Forest
Observation date: 4/3/11
Notes: Almost entirely from car.
Number of species: 32
More interesting observations bold-faced.

Canada Goose 4
Wild Turkey 1Turkey Vulture 5
Laughing Gull 40
Herring Gull 5
Mourning Dove 8
Red-bellied Woodpecker 3
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 2Downy Woodpecker 4
Hairy Woodpecker 1
Northern Flicker 1
Eastern Phoebe 6Blue Jay 15
American Crow 10
Fish Crow 6
Carolina Chickadee 16 Clicked
Tufted Titmouse 10
Red-breasted Nuthatch 2White-breasted Nuthatch 1
American Robin 15
European Starling 5
Yellow-rumped Warbler 3
Pine Warbler 26 Clicked. Had one feeding onground and singing while doing it.
White-throated Sparrow 8
Dark-eyed Junco 4
Northern Cardinal 6
Common Grackle X
Brown-headed Cowbird 4
Purple Finch 4 HQ feeders
House Finch 2
Pine Siskin 6 HQ feeders
American Goldfinch 4

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