Monday, April 30, 2012

A Long Way (but not a long time) to Tens of Thousands

 [Left to right on log: Dunlin, Eastern Willet, dowitcher, dowitcher, Dunlin, Dunlin, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Dunlin. Two dowitchers (spring dowitchers are Short-billed in the east) are in the water behind. Heislerville, NJ on Sunday.]

Habitat + high tide made for decent shorebirding at Heislerville Sunday afternoon, but the numbers were nothing like what's to come:

5 Semipalmated Plover
1 Killdeer
87 Greater Yellowlegs
3 Willet
111 Lesser Yellowlegs
2 Semipalmated Sandpiper
2 Least Sandpiper
66 Dunlin
139 Short-billed Dowitcher

The main impoundment at Heislerville is still 90% full of water, but the second (east) impoundment is mostly drawn down, and boy does it look like a place a Ruff ought to show up, but none was there. Despite plenty of habitat for shorebirds, numbers were low - because it's not mid-May yet.

 [World's rattiest Bald Eagle flew over Heislerville Sunday, flushing literally 100's of egrets.]

What there were a lot of at the second impoundment at Heislerville were egrets, ibis and herons, including a Little Blue Heron. Between the rookery and the second impoundment we counted over 200 Snowy Egrets. I should have taken a picture, but I got distracted by the fish attracting them.

[Spawning Killifish (not actually sure of the species, need to look it up) on the edge of the second impoundment at Heislerville. The iridescent blue on the back of the males sparkled like a tropical tetra.]

An Orchard Oriole sang in the bushes along the dike at Heislerville, my first of season, and the drake Red-breasted Merganser in the rookery pool would be a prize for World Series of Birding teams in a couple weeks - if it lingers.

Breeders continue to trickle into Belleplain State Forest, including Acadian Flycatcher at the campground entrance and Scarlet Tanager along Buckhill Road, but most migrants are still south of us. We did find a Rose-breasted Grosbeak, which does not breed in southern NJ. Other parties found Summer Tanagers, but we did not - mainly because we didn't really go to the right habitat for them, the drier oak-pine areas.

[This Rose-breasted Grosbeak quarreled with a Great-crested Flycatcher, alternating between chasing and being chased about the oak tops.]

[Red-banded Hairstreaks have been pretty common in Belleplain the past couple weekends. Tiny - nickel-size.]

[This Worm-eating Warbler near the Belleplain triangle was amazingly cooperative, here doing what they do: pick through dangling clusters of dead leaves for insects, a foraging method they are especially fond of. Worm-eaters don't eat worms.]

[A pattern so typical: once you see your first anything, you quickly see more. In this case, Rough Green Snake. Saw my first last week at Lizard Tail Swamp preserve, and yesterday this one climbed among the greenbriar in Belleplain, spotted by Mike Crewe.]

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