Saturday, May 14, 2011

Free as a Chat

[And this chat you cannot change. . . flight song over a hidden meadow in Belleplain State Forest today. You don't think of Belleplain State Forest (sic) for edge and thicket birds, but hidden away meadows hold chats, Indigo Buntings, Blue Grosbeaks, all those early successional goodies. Sometimes, I think, more easily found and seen than places like Higbee Beach or the Beanery.]

While much of the NJ birding world was focused on the World Series of Birding today (wonder how my pals on the Rutgers Scarlet Night-herons and the Monarchists faired), I was free as a sky-larking chat this peak weekend in May to wander around Belleplain yet another day, being a naturalist, not a ticker-birder. Which is pretty cool, being able to hang on, for example, to the Lousiana Waterthrush who steadily sang in an atypical location for the second week in a row (NOT Sunset Bridge) and makes me wonder if he's an unpaired male. Must be, I figure. Though The Birder's Handbook is silent on the number of broods LOWA raises per year, I have to believe they only get one off, since they leave so early in summer, thus if this bird is still singing for a mate, it isn't raising any young this year.

Understand, by the way, that I don't fault the WSB folks - how could I, having competed every year 1990-2010? Only a busted knee and a new job kept me out of it this year. I ran into my friend Jim Wilson near Sunset Bridge, who for yet another year is mentoring a youth team in the WSB. Something I admire greatly - and intend to do myself again, maybe even next year, though a no-carbon-footprint team at Forsythe NWR merits consideration, too. I think my best WSB ever was the year with the "kids" - Kaitlyn, Sam, Kyle and Joey on a very fun whole state run about 10 years ago.

Jim's kids missed the Kentucky Warbler at Sunset Bridge - I wanted to shout after them, since it began singing as they pulled away, but that's against the rules. A Prothonotary Warbler sang there, also. Migrants were scarce today -  a single each of Blackpoll Warbler and Rose-breasted Grosbeak  were all I could muster. A full list from Belleplain is at the end of this post - week 7 of my explorations there this spring.

It was too cool and cloudy for most cold-blooded things - I went butterfly-less - , but I did hear my first Pine Barrens Treefrogs of spring, honking in a wetland off Cedar Bridge Road. It was also pretty dark for bird photos, between the clouds and the leaves, but plants are easier. . .

 [Mountain Laurel will begin blooming in south Jersey next week.]

 [Golden Club in a hidden Belleplain stream.]

[Same shot, different week (see posts below): Dogwoods wane, leaves fill in the gaps.]

Though I recorded 50-some birds in Bellplain today, I don't think I eyeballed more than 20 species thanks to a whole lot of leaves. A bird heard is as good as bird seen for me anymore, especially the good singers - like Louisiana Waterthrush.

This afternoon post-Belleplain, a careful low tide count at Norbury's Landing yielded only 42 Red Knots, but some serious numbers of other shorebirds: 15 Black-bellied Plover, 23 Semipalmated Plover, 1 Greater Yellowlegs, 107 Ruddy Turnstone, 3400 Sanderling, 1700 Semipalmated Sandpiper, 5 Dunlin, 25 Short-billed Dowitcher, and competing with them all,  9900 Laughing Gulls.

Here's the Belleplain list from today:

Location: Belleplain State Forest
Observation date: 5/14/11
Notes: 645-1015a, 12 miles, cloudy, 50's-low 60's. fairly quiet. Pine Barrens Treefrogs calling off Cedar Bridge Road.
Number of species: 51

Canada Goose 2
American Black Duck 2
Wild Turkey 3
Mourning Dove 3
Yellow-billed Cuckoo 2
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 3

Red-bellied Woodpecker 4
Hairy Woodpecker 2
Eastern Wood-Pewee 10
Acadian Flycatcher 8
Eastern Phoebe 1
Great Crested Flycatcher 10
Eastern Kingbird 1
White-eyed Vireo 8
Red-eyed Vireo 25
American Crow 1
Carolina Chickadee 6
Tufted Titmouse 15
Carolina Wren 1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 20
Wood Thrush 25
American Robin 5
Gray Catbird 5
Brown Thrasher 4
Blue-winged Warbler 2
Northern Parula 1
Yellow-throated Warbler 12
Pine Warbler 20
Prairie Warbler 2
Blackpoll Warbler 1
Black-and-white Warbler 15
Prothonotary Warbler 1
Worm-eating Warbler 15

Ovenbird 65
Louisiana Waterthrush 1
Kentucky Warbler 1
Common Yellowthroat 1
Hooded Warbler 8
Yellow-breasted Chat 2

Eastern Towhee 8
Chipping Sparrow 6
Summer Tanager 4
Scarlet Tanager 2
Northern Cardinal 4
Rose-breasted Grosbeak 1
Blue Grosbeak 1
Indigo Bunting 2
Common Grackle 2
Brown-headed Cowbird 15
American Goldfinch 2
House Sparrow 2

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