Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Assunpink WMA Navigation Beacon 5/28--Yellow-breasted Chat, Indigo Bunting

It looks ominous and mysterious, but it is just an FAA navigation beacon plunked down in the fields of  the Assunpink WMA, where, at this time of year, it is a good place to look for chats.

Bob Dodelson, who birds Assunpink more than anybody, reported the chats there and gave very precise directions as to where to find them. I know the area pretty well and knew where he was talking about. Still, while I found Indigo Buntings in profusion--as Bob said there were--despite walking up and down the tree line for more than a half hour, I didn't come up with any of the elusive big warblers. I walked back to the main path then decided to go back and try again. Still nothing. Then, while idly scanning the fields, there one was, sitting atop a plant, a big warbler with a  dark back, white eyebrow, good sized beak, and very yellow breast standing out against all that green--a Yellow-breasted Chat, as if served up on a platter.

It is amazing how my mood changes after I find a bird I'm looking for, so despite the cool, gloomy weather, I headed up the hill toward the beacon feeling pretty happy and now looking for exercise as well as birds. I almost got run over a couple of times by horses--first a guy in a sulky working out his trotter on the hills and then later a woman on a nervous horse (I, apparently, was the source of its irritation) on the narrow path to the Norway spruce grove. Both times it was the horse's snorting that made me aware of something coming up behind me--I don't often hear snorting when I'm birding.

Just before the spruce grove, while scanning the fields and finding pairs of Indigo Buntings (one female was carrying nesting material) I found another blue bird that was different--the brown on its wings was the first hint and then, when it turn around, the big honker confirmed that it was a Blue Grosbeak. Did pretty well with the grosbeaks this month--Rose-breasted, Blue, Black-headed, and Evening.
Field Sparrow

Those field are also good habitat for Grasshopper Sparrows and I was actively looking for them. A few times I thought I saw one it turned out to be a Field Sparrow instead. Their bouncing ball song could be heard everywhere I walked today. I may actually have heard a Grasshopper Sparrow or two today, but it was only the buzzy end of the song I was hearing, not the little spitting sounds at the beginning, so I wasn't sure--could have been an actual grasshopper I suppose.

I walked a little farther than I usually do--out of curiosity I took a path that went down from the spruce grove hill and after about 10 minutes would up at the back of Stone Tavern Lake, which I thought was pretty cool, despite there not being a bird on, around, or over the lake.

I was thinking about birding the other side of the WMA, but just as I got to Imlaystown Road, the rain came and I turned around for home.

22 species
Canada Goose  11     f/o
Turkey Vulture  1
Mourning Dove  2
Red-bellied Woodpecker  3     Heard
Eastern Kingbird  2
White-eyed Vireo  2     Heard
Tree Swallow  2
Barn Swallow  3
Tufted Titmouse  1     Heard
Wood Thrush  1     Heard
American Robin  5
Gray Catbird  20
Brown Thrasher  1
Common Yellowthroat  25
Yellow-breasted Chat
Eastern Towhee  2
Chipping Sparrow  1     Heard
Field Sparrow  5
Northern Cardinal  2     Norway spruces
Blue Grosbeak  1     
Indigo Bunting  12     
Red-winged Blackbird  2

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