Monday, May 14, 2012


 [Anywhere can be a sugar maple-mixed hardwoods forest (arguably the richest forest type there is), like the one at Point Mountain, NJ where this Veery serenaded on Saturday afternoon. . .]

. . . or anywhere can be the Cook-Douglass college campus of Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, from which my daughter Becky graduated Saturday. And from which, speaking mainly of the former Cook College (now Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences), a startlingly high proportion of NJ wildlife professionals derive, including me.

Anywhere. Anywhere is where birds are, and in mid-May, birds are everywhere.

I'm not sure how many daughters get a graduation gift of an eBird checklist of avian attendees at the ceremony, but Becky did. . . 24 species, including a convocation of 35 Chimney Swifts towards the end that most people didn't notice, but the folks sitting behind us did. "Look at all the bats out there!" I thought to correct them, but was glad enough that some folks noticed what was going on around them, whether correctly or just close enough. . . The New Brunswick graduation list is below, sans bats.

I'm not kidding, though, birds are everywhere and therefore anywhere in mid-May. Five neotropical migrant warblers were on the New Brunswick, NJ list last weekend, including Black-throated Blue and Black-throated Green Warblers. 

Of course the number swelled when we did our post-grad hike at Point Mountain, with added travelers and nesters there like Yellow-throated Vireos, Worm-eating Warblers, and Scarlet Tanagers. And the Baltimore Oriole, below. It's hard to believe there seems to be no hotspot designation for Point Mountain in the eBird database - so I suggest you go there, and make it one. I covered the area, overlooking the Musconetcong Valley straddling Hunterdon and Warren Counties, during the NJ Breeding Bird Atlas, and found close to 90 nesting species. Ahhh, memories of the 1990's. . . Ruffed Grouse distraction display right in the trail, Kentucky and Hooded Warblers, a Yellow-billed Cuckoo nest. . ..

The anywhere theme. In 1986 I was 21 years old, in the middle of a paved parking lot in Warren Township, NJ - and found a singing Cape May Warbler in the only spruce (a Norway) within miles, and a Northern Waterthrush happily settled for the day in a nearby detention basin. I've been looking in unlikely locations in May ever since. We birders like to say "we're never not birding." Don't ever be not birding in May.

[Tulip poplar tree flower settled to earth at Point Mountain on Saturday.]

Sunday first thing we went down to the Bay just to see if it was still there. It was - and populated with a few thousand shorebirds, mainly Sanderlings, Ruddy Turnstones, and Semipalmated Sandpipers, but including 60 Red Knots. All these were at Norbury's Landing 3 hours after high tide. But I can tell you - the height of the tide along the bay there, and the birds that attend, are difficult to predict. Some days, 3 hours after high the tide is all the way out. Others, like Sunday, it's halfway and the birds are closer.

Afterwards we went to Cape May, where there were birds, yes, (Magnolia Warblers in particular seemed common) but the best part was buying bread from the stand along Sunset Avenue (some of the best bread ever). A young Broad-winged Hawk in heavy molt flew over the bread stand, but a Mississippi Kite did not, not for us (one has for others).

Following is the list of birds seen at the Douglass College, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ graduation ceremony:

Canada Goose  2
Mallard  2
Double-crested Cormorant  1
Herring Gull  3
Rock Pigeon  1
Mourning Dove  2
Chimney Swift  35
Downy Woodpecker  1
Great Crested Flycatcher  1
Eastern Kingbird  1
Blue Jay  1
American Crow  1
Northern Rough-winged Swallow  1
Barn Swallow  3
American Robin  2
Gray Catbird  1
European Starling  1
Common Yellowthroat  1
American Redstart  1
Northern Parula  1
Blackpoll Warbler  3
Black-throated Blue Warbler  1
House Finch  2
House Sparrow  4

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