Sunday, July 14, 2013

Molty and Nesty: High Point in mid-July

 [Its extensive white "pocket handkerchief" labels this male Black-throated Blue Warbler as an adult, but its dull appearance might lead one to think it was a young bird. It's more bedraggled than dull, with loose body feathers indicating molt underway. Kuser Bog in High Point State Park on Saturday. Click to enlarge photos.]

A forest in mid-July is different than a forest in June, and High Point State Park, NJ was no exception this past weekend. Oh, the birds were all still there, and busy. . . but quiet, with much less song than June, making it necessary to really pay attention to flight and call notes, and the begging calls of young wanting to be fed, and any slight movements in the trees. Any less of an effort and you would never have known how rich these woods are for birds.

Many of the birds we encountered were in obvious molt, with loose or missing feathers, and sometimes new feathers growing in were apparent, though these things are not easy to see except with birds in the hand. Many birds fed young, too - around our campsite the yellowthroats and redstarts were particularly busy carrying food, while the local Veeries were happily the most vocal birds in the area, suggesting perhaps these were involved in second nestings.  It's worth a trip to High Point (a solid 4.5 hours north of Cape May) just to hear Veeries sing.

At Kuser Bog in High Point, it seemed overall very quiet, until we suddenly bumped into a mixed-species flock containing Black-throated Blue Warbler, American Redstarts, Northern Waterthrush, Northern Orioles, Red-breasted Nuthatch, and several others. All of these were local breeders, but clearly were done with nesting for the year and had flocked up in a mixed-species foraging flock, which is exactly what birds do between the end of nesting and the start of migration.

 [This Blue-gray Gnatcatcher is in molt, and you can see in particular that it has a new tertial feather, the obviously pale-edged feather on the lower "back" (It's actually the top feather in the stacked folded wing feathers). If you look really closely at the base of this feather, you can see it is still growing in out of the white sheath. Such feathers are termed pin feathers. High Point State Park, NJ yesterday.]

[This Blue-winged Warbler is obviously worn with loose feathers indicating molt, but it was territorial in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, singing the Blue-winged's alternate song. We encountered a hybrid "Brewster's" Warbler nearby, in an area that had Golden-winged Warblers last spring.]

[Another molty bird, male American Redstart along Sawmill Road in High Point, where they are absolutely abundant. Though you wouldn't have known it this weekend, because most have stopped singing as they molt and tend young. Chip and flight notes are much more commonly heard than songs now.]

[Veery singing in High Point.]

[This male Canada Warbler in Kuser Bog chipped continuously and at one point was carrying food. The agitation and food-carrying are obvious signs of nearby young.]
[Eye of a nesting female American Redstart in High Point, obviously a second nesting given the late date.]

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