Monday, June 11, 2012

Bear Swamp Part II - Pretty Yellow Ones

 [First year male Kentucky Warbler, Bear Swamp, Cumberland County, NJ, Sunday, June 10 2012. That's the hand of Mike Crewe, of CMBO, holding the bird.]

You stare long at the camera and flash, in the dull light of 5:00 a.m. and a long hike with a lot of gear ahead, and they seem heavy and you decide, "No."

That's the best recipe I know to create great photo opportunities, which explains why the shots here are iPhone-camera specials. But how fine it is to sit in a swamp and hear the birds sing, especially when they are Kentucky Warblers and Prothonotary Warblers?

Migration may be over, songbird wise, but birds are still moving around. The Protho, for example, disappeared from Bear Swamp last week, yet it (or another) returned to be banded yesterday. The Kentucky (I assume both birds are the same ones we've heard before) had been in the area, and I suspect, since both wound up within a meter of each other in the same net, one of them was chasing the other. Both were first year males, aged by the pointed shape of their tail feathers, left over from juvenile plumage, and molt limits in the wing showing both juvenile and "formative" plumage, telltale signs of a bird hatched last summer. Those are both things you would not notice in the field, but one might detect the gray-and-brown spotted crown of the Kentucky in a perfect view, different from an older male's solid or just gray-flecked crown.

Hah! Perfect view at a Kentucky Warbler. That's a Holy Grail for birders, unless you are willing to enter the Kentucky's swamp habitat with a great deal of patience, or get very, very lucky. I don't count banding views in this equation.

 [First year male Prothonotary Warbler, Bear Swamp, Cumberland County, NJ June 10, 2012.]

[Besides the brighter head and body plumage, male Prothonotaries can be told from females by the tail pattern, with males showing white on five tail feathers to the female's three. The book is Peter Pyle's Identification Guide to North American Birds.]

I've recently noticed a couple other "new" land birds since migration "ended." A Scarlet Tanager singing in the woods at the entrance to Forsythe NWR this morning has not been there recently - a floating male, perhaps, searching for a mate? Tonight there was a White-eyed Vireo at Cox Hall Creek WMA, along the east side, where I haven't had one all spring - same thing?

 [Mike Crewe gave me a thumbnail sketch of south Jersey ferns between net runs Sunday. Left, we have Virginia Chain Fern, with a reddish, stiff, plasticky stem. Right is the most common fern of Bear Swamp, Cinnamon Fern, which always has cinnamon colored fuzz along the base of the stem.]

[More pretty yellow, proof that I planted Prickly Pear Cactus in our Del Haven yard for more than its resistance to browsing by Chesapeake Bay Retrievers. . . ]