Monday, October 10, 2011

And Now, for Something Completely Different. . . or, the Columbus Approach

[View of Atlantic City from the top of Apple Pie Hill, the highest point in the NJ Pine Barrens. All of 184 feet above sea level, more or less, with a whole lot of undeveloped land around it.]

Why go to Cape May, a mere 15 minute drive away, where the season's first Golden Eagle soared and a big Yellow-rumped Warbler flight happened today, when you can set sail for points north, in Pines not quite Barren?

Yeah, well, Columbus went off to the unknown and, in honor of his day, so did we, first for a hike in Bass River State Forest, then a drive to see the world from the top of the Pine Barrens. Two places we've never been before, but likely will return to.

 [Take a compass if you hike the Pine Barrens.]

The Pines were surprisingly birdy, including Hermit Thrush, Swainson's Thrush, many kinglets of both kinds. . .yeah, okay, it wasn't Cape May, but it was kind of pretty.

[A Yellow-billed Cuckoo played hide and seek.]

[What would life be without seasonal change? The black gums are turning on schedule, earlier than most and the leading contributors of red to the early October landscape in south Jersey.]

[Okay, here's a fun one to play with, on the very top of the Pine Barrens at Apple Pie Hill, taking advantage of a flying ant emergence. What is it, and what's up with those tail feathers??!!]


  1. Looks mightily like a wood-pewee. That right-hand rectrix is pointed, as if a retained juvenile feather, and the left-hand one blunt, as if a prematurely molted feather. I'm betting there was a fright-molt-induced loss of much of this bird's tail, and it's growing an "adult" feather in response.

  2. I think it's a young Eastern Wood-Pewee with off-colored tail.

  3. @Rick and PH5, yup, Eastern Wood-Pewee, and Rick's analysis of the bird's left (right as you view the photo) truncate feather (as if an adult) and right (pointed, juv.) is probably spot on. And it's got to be adventitious molt, i.e. prematurely lost tail feathers. The thing that puzzled me was and is that both tail feathers looked white in the field, and I don't think it was an artifact of light. But it could have been. It wouldn't make sense that one original and one replacement feather would be white, but when I first saw the bird I wondered if it was nutritionally compromised when it re-grew these feathers in, hence white.