Monday, May 30, 2016

The High Point of Spring

[Ovenbird with nesting material, High Point State Park, NJ, May 21, 2016. Click to enlarge all photos.]

Due to a variety of reasons, this blog is a week late, but there is still time for you. June in High Point State Park, NJ is almost as amazing as May, with a richness of breeding birds and other wildlife, from bears to chipmunks to porcupines to snakes, that is hard to match.

I spent most of last weekend in NJ's high country (> 1800 feet, not exactly the the Rockies, but if you go, you'll feel the high). Other than a day's sojourn helping my daughter photograph a horse show (after birds, horses and riders are pretty easy to photograph), I pretty much wallowed around in birds. As in: female Cerulean Warbler walking over my Teva-clad feet while collecting nesting material; Pileated Woodpecker fighting Broad-winged Hawk and winning handily; all of NJ's Empidonax flycatchers on territory, and more.

Like: learning what Boone will do when he sees a bear - that being roar and attack, but happily, respond when I call him back. It was more fun seeing him mess with chipmunks for the first time, since we have few in Cape May County and they are awesomely abundant in High Point. Like: hills and old moss-covered rocks and blooming wild azaleas and unfolding cinnamon and interrupted ferns. Canada mayflowers and starflowers carpeting the ground. A full moon rising over the Wantage grasslands.

[If you want to work out how to separate the similar songs of Chestnut-sided, Yellow, and Magnolia warblers and American Redstarts, High Point is the place to practice.]

[High Point is not true boreal forest, but it has boreal remnants from the last ice age, e.g. a few black spruce bogs, which hold northern nesters like this male Purple Finch.]

[Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers spread into High Point as nesters in the 1990's, and are now the most abundant nesting woodpecker there. These two females were in a serious territorial dispute.]

[Black-billed Cuckoo doing what cuckoos do: sit quietly, turning their heads slowly from side to side as they scan for prey - caterpillars. There were 6+ Black-billed Cuckoos at High Point's Deckertown Marsh last weekend, an excellent count for this rarer of the two species.]

[One morning I found myself at an apparent three-way territorial boundary of Louisiana Waterthrushes, and was serenaded from all sides.]

[Birders should track down ever singing Blue-winged or Golden-winged warbler; you never know what you'll find. This Lawrence's Warbler - type hybrid was at Deckertown Marsh.]

[There aren't many Bank Swallow colonies left in NJ, so I was pleased that this one west of High Point is still quite active.]

[Knowing I'm a biologist, the proprietor of my motel called me out to check out this Milk Snake.]

[Eastern Chipmunks have always been common in High Point, but this seems to be a banner year. Good news for nesting raptors.]


  1. Beautiful photo. 2nd one is the best.

    1. thanks! amazing what can happen when you simply carry a camera in the woods. . .