Sunday, April 20, 2014

Atlantic County Park 4/20--Broad-winged Hawk, Yellow-throated Warbler

Estellville Glassworks arch
Atlantic County Park--or Estell Manor Park--or Belcoville--is a very strange park made from the ruins of a 19th century glassworks and a 20th century munitions compound. It also incorporates a veterans cemetery. Belcoville refers to the Bethlehem Loading Company, a huge munitions complex built during World War I by Bethlehem Steel deep in the Pine Barrens, with railroad tracks between buildings and an entire town for the workers. The thinking was that should the place blow up, it was remote enough that nowhere important would be harmed. Of course if you lived in Belcoville...

Belcoville ruins
Not much remains of either concern--the glassworks operated from about 1825 to 1877 and by the time the munitions factory really got rolling the war was over and there wasn't much need for it any longer. The pines and cedars took back the land long ago and with an elaborate network of trails and boardwalks, many of which follow the rail beds of the munitions complex, Atlantic County has turned it into a great park with fine habitat.

We went down today in search of warblers. I had good reports from my friend Greg. We hadn't been there in a couple of years so at first I didn't really know my way around, but then, looking at the map, it all started to come back to me. Unfortunately, the weather was cold for April and windier than it should be for productive birding, so the morning was slow except for one species--I said to Shari that for every gnat there seemed to be a gnatcatcher.

The day began to warm up as we left the boardwalk and started back on one of the trails--a few warblers made themselves known along with some phoebes. The first "interesting" bird of the day was the Broad-winged Hawk that flew overhead. As we were walking on Crossover Trail I heard a warbler sing and having this morning reviewed its song, I knew we had our target bird of Yellow-throated Warbler. Unfortunately, we couldn't find the bird, high up in tree. Couldn't find it until it flew out and away that is and all we saw was a small could-be-anything bird zip away. Not very satisfying.

Glassworks ruins
We drove around Purple Heart Drive, stopping a few places, including the glassworks where Shari
was distracted by the glittering shards of furnace waste scattered on the ground. There wasn't much to be found along Stephen's Creek aside from a few Purple Martins and in Cribbers Field we found a beautiful bluebird, a few more Pine WarblersChipping Sparrows and not much else.

We decided that we walk again on the boardwalk for a short ways since the wind had calmed and the sun was out. At the Nature Center, Shari ran into a friend of ours who was feeling pretty good about a bird she'd seen and photographed--a Prothonotary Warbler. She took us to the spot where she'd found it, about 1/2 mile away on the boardwalk, but of course, the bird was gone. As we walked back Shari heard a bird sing and thought at first it was a Yellow Warbler. The three of us started to scan the trees while the bird sang. It didn't seem quite right for YEWA, yet it didn't seem like the song I'd heard earlier, but when I found it there was not doubt--a bee-yoo-tee-ful Yellow-throated Warbler in plain and easy sight. When the sun hit the yellow on its throat the effect was incandescent. The day was made. Warblers are to be seen--hearing them is just a tool for location.

So, while our day list isn't huge, we did pick up a couple of new birds for the year and got to walk in some very odd scenery.
25 species (+1 other taxa)
Canada Goose  2
Mallard  1    Crossover Trail
Turkey Vulture  3
Osprey  2
Broad-winged Hawk  1
Mourning Dove  1
Red-bellied Woodpecker  1    Heard
Hairy Woodpecker  1
Eastern Phoebe  3
Blue Jay  1
Fish Crow  1    Heard
crow sp.  5
Purple Martin  3
Carolina Chickadee  9
Tufted Titmouse  7
Carolina Wren  2    Heard
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  16
Eastern Bluebird  1    Cribbers Field
Pine Warbler  6
Yellow-rumped Warbler  2
Yellow-throated Warbler
Eastern Towhee  1    Heard
Chipping Sparrow  11
Northern Cardinal  2
Red-winged Blackbird  1    Heard
Brown-headed Cowbird  4

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