Sunday, April 17, 2011

Spring in Belleplain Weekend 3: When is a Grackle More Interesting than . . .

. . . a Prothonotary Warbler? Well, probably never, but . . .

[Female Prothonotary Warbler, near East Creek Pond in Belleplain State Forest this morning. Click to enlarge.]

.  . . the thing is, the Protho didn't surprise me, didn't "stop" me. Understand, I was happy when I heard the clear metallic chip, said, "Hey, that's a Prothonotary!" (exciting a somewhat skeptical "really?" from my companion), crutched my way over to the water's edge, and sat on my folding stool hoping for a look. I was even happier when the bird, a "dull" female, worked right into my camera. Cool, my FOY. More or less on time, coming after Tony Leukering's apparent FOY for NJ at Cape Island Preserve on the 14th.

Ah, but the grackle! Common Grackles have been hammering my feeders all winter, but last week and the week before I spent 3 hours covering 11 miles of road in Belleplain and had not one. So when one sang near the outflow of Lake Nummy on my third spring weekend tour of the forest this season, it did stop me. Where you been, I thought? Answer to that: grackles have been where there's grackle food - and that's not in a wintry deciduous forest.

I confess to looking forward to these weekly visits to Belleplain more and more. Folks were banging away on birds down in Cape May today - Parasitic Jaeger, an Audubon's Yellow-rumped Warbler, over 1000 Northern Gannets - but spring is flowing into Belleplain, and I want to watch it come.

Despite the enthusiasm, we got to Belleplain at the crack of 9:10 a.m. today, which is technically only 10 minutes earlier than last week's 9:30, since the sun is rising 10 minutes earlier every week and that's what birders should go by. And the wind blew steady 20-25, luckily somewhat lessened by the trees, but my carefully clicked Pine Warbler and Yellow-throated Warbler counts were down by half compared to last week. Were more there that just weren't singing? Or have the arriving birds sorted out their territories and now the others have moved on? I think more were there than would sing in the wind, but maybe I'll click Pines one more time next weekend to check. I'm ready to switch to Ovenbirds or something fancier. We had 4 OVEN's and 8 Black-and-white Warblers today, as these birds trickle in. The wind squelched woodpeckers, e.g. we dipped on Hairy compared to last week's 8, and had only 1 Downy.

Another bird that stopped me was the Dark-eyed Junco on Sunset Road near a home there - I had two more after that and I bet that's it for them for me this spring. Had some fun perched on my chair watching the Louisiana Waterthrush and a Yellow-throated Warbler (with obvious yellow supraloral) foraging along the stream at New Bridge, and the swarm of swallows over East Creek Pond included my FOY Bank Swallow. Matching reports from south of the canal, we had at least 20 of migrant Yellow-rumped Warblers, with some of the males looking prettier than a protho, truthfully, as well as a Palm. The full list is below.

[Pretty "Eastern" Palm Warbler, New Bridge Road today. Click to enlarge.]

[One of two Juvenal's Duskywings that braved the chilly wind in Belleplain today. This one was along Cedar Bridge Road, the other was near Belleplain HQ. We also had a Mourning Cloak and an Azure today. Click to enlarge.] 

Location: Belleplain State Forest
Observation date: 4/17/11
Notes: 9:10-12:10, 13 miles, almost all from vehicle. Mostly sunny, 50's, but wind 20 with higher gusts.
Number of species: 39

Canada Goose 10
Black Vulture 3
Turkey Vulture 4
Osprey 2
Bald Eagle 1
Red-tailed Hawk 2
Laughing Gull 50
Herring Gull 10
Mourning Dove 4
Red-bellied Woodpecker 2
Downy Woodpecker 1
Eastern Phoebe 6
Blue Jay 2
Northern Rough-winged Swallow 10
Tree Swallow 20
Bank Swallow 5Barn Swallow 5
Carolina Chickadee 15
Tufted Titmouse 15
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 10
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 2
American Robin 6
Brown Thrasher 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler 15
Yellow-throated Warbler 8 clicked
Pine Warbler 15 clicked
Palm Warbler 1
Black-and-white Warbler 8
Prothonotary Warbler 1
Ovenbird 4
Louisiana Waterthrush 1
Eastern Towhee 2
Chipping Sparrow 12
Dark-eyed Junco 3Northern Cardinal 13 clicked
Common Grackle 1 singing near Lake Nummy, first for spring in Belleplain for meBrown-headed Cowbird 15
House Finch 2
American Goldfinch 20

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