Sunday, April 15, 2012

Forest Morning, Beach Afternoon

 [Louisiana Waterthrush in Belleplain State Forest, NJ on Saturday.]

It was a good weekend to be a naturalist. Mine began Saturday with an early morning bicycle tour of Belleplain State Forest, where it is definitely still April (not May), but that makes the April singers all the louder, and the more appreciated. I could listen to a Louisiana Waterthrush sing all day, and nearly did. Though I've yet to hear one at the famous Sunset Road Bridge spot (which, call me paranoid, makes me suspicious that folks have been playing recordings there), two others at different locations wielded songs for many minutes at a time. The pictured bird seemed particularly riled by a nearby Yellow-throated Warbler. Perhaps, like birders, it needed to listen for the song's ending to know it was not one of its own kind. . .

[Male Blue-gray Gnatcatcher Saturday, in Belleplain.]

Most of the Blue-gray Gnatcatchers seem to be in the nest-building stage, and I watched one pair return repeatedly to a lichen-riddled branch fork. The male added lichens several times, but I never saw the female add to the nest.

 [Yellow-throated Warbler on Saturday in Belleplain.]

Yellow-throated Warblers seem to have firmly established their nesting territories, and the males are flying from tall pine (mostly white pine) to the next tall pine, slowly, obviously, and singing as soon as they land. I saw a couple Yellow-throated Warblers on the ground, perhaps gathering nesting material, though I never located a nest in progress.

[Adult female Pine Warbler busy gathering nesting material in Belleplain on Saturday.]

 Saturday afternoon I wandered over to Stone Harbor, where the highlight had to be multiple Western Sandpipers foraging on the beach with Dunlin and Sanderlings. Sibley writes in his The Birds of Cape May (1997), and I quote, "Despite published reports, there are no documented records of spring migrants." I'm not sure the Westerns at Stone Harbor this weekend prove Sibley wrong - because they could easily be birds that overwintered in the area (mild as this winter was), and that are now molting into breeding plumage before heading north.

 [Western Sandpiper, front, with Dunlin behind, Stone Harbor on Saturday. The Western is well on the way to breeding plumage, with speckling below and new rufous-marked feathers in the scapulars, cheek and eyebrow. The Dunlin has also begun developing breeding plumage, but is not as far along as the Dunlin pictured below.]

 [Roosting Dunlin, Stone Harbor Point on Saturday. The orange-marked scapular feathers begin to hint at the "Red-backed Sandpiper" to come (a former name for Dunlin), and more black belly feathers will soon be added to make the solid black belly of the breeding plumage.]

[Piping Plover was a year bird for me at Stone Harbor Saturday. Sanderling behind.]


  1. Great image of the Western and Dunlin racing...they're both stunning birds, at the right time of year.

  2. Thanks, Steve! It was cool just sitting on the beach watching them run back and forth. Wonder when the Westerns will leave. . .

  3. The Dunlin Western Sandpiper image above is both instructive and visually stunning.