Tuesday, August 28, 2012

High Point Summer

[Female Blackburnian Warbler with a prize, High Point State Park, NJ, Saturday August 25. Warblers love geometrid moth caterpillars, a.k.a. inchworms.]

I wonder if the Blackburnian Warbler, Prairie Warbler, or Wood Thrush in this post will be in Cape May Wednesday morning. There's a fine looking cold front coming, arcing from Lake Ontario across western PA as I write this, and slated to cross our "bird sending districts," as I like to think of them, in PA, NY and southern New England by 8:00 p.m. tonight, and clearing Cape May by 2:00 a.m. Wednesday morning. North winds all night. I'm taking Wednesday off to look at birds!

Be that as it may,  we were in High Point State Park for another weekend. The birds were quiet and you might have gotten the impression there wasn't much around. . . until you hit one of the mixed species feeding flocks that coalesce around chickadees, titmice and nuthatches (we had several Red-breasteds] at this time of year. Then the birding was hot! In one flock we had several Yellow-throated Vireos, a half dozen or more Red-eyed Vireos including youngsters still being fed by parents, Magnolia Warblers, Nashville Warbler. . . good stuff. But all most likely local nesters, rather than migrants. Except maybe the Red-breasted Nuthatches, which could represent the beginnings of a flight year.

[Wood Thrushes calling as they descended from nocturnal migration over our campsite on the Kittatinny Ridge actually woke me from a sound sleep around 5:15 a.m. Saturday morning. A few were findable on the ground the next day, although thrushes have this habit of disappearing when they come in. This one was at Kuser Bog.]

The naturalizing in High Point, i.e. looking at everything natural, is especially good, since the park has widely varying habitats and all of them are pristine. Among my favorite discoveries was the biggest living American chestnut I've ever seen - and the single chestnut fruit underneath it, the first I've ever seen! Chestnut stump sprouts are common in the mountains, but chestnut blight kills them before they reach flowering and fruiting size, so this was a big deal. I've been walking by this tree for over 20 years, since it's on the path to Kuser Bog, a must stop on the High Point circuit.

 [Closest thing to an old growth American Chestnut we'll see in our lifetimes, High Point State Park.]

 [Lonely American chestnut fruit.]

Mushrooms were everywhere in High Point thanks to recent rains, and it was tough to resist picking the chantarelles we found, but resist we did.

 [A mushroom NOT to be eaten - Yellow Agaric, High Point State Park. This one's supposed to send you on a crazy trip. . . before you die.]

 [Prairie Warblers breed in the high elevation, Pine Barrens-like habitats of High Point, and presumably this male was a local. Look at all the white in the undertail. The outer tail feathers on Prairies are almost all white, except for small dark corners and a thin outer edge.]

[A Dark-eyed Junco in NJ in August is a big deal, since migrants don't appear until late December. This one, a molty adult male, certainly bred locally, but was in a surprisingly accessible location along the road to Kuser Bog in High Point. As anyone who's tried to find breeding juncoes for the World Series of Birding knows, they don't really occur where you can get at them close to road. I've only found them at high elevations (for NJ) e.g. along the Appalachian Trail.]

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