Sunday, May 4, 2014

Jackson Twp 5/4: Solitary Sandpiper, Wood Thrush, Scarlet Tanager, Blue Grosbeak

Our friend, Mike Mandracchia, led an Audubon Field trip on his home turf of Jackson Township today. Mike is a longtime resident of Jackson, which borders our township on the northwest--the part of the Ocean County that has nothing to do with the ocean. Mike knows places to bird that so far have only been names on the map to me, so I'd been looking forward to this trip since it was announced.

Scarlet Tanager, FREC
Photos: Shari Zirlin
We met Mike and the rest of the group at the Forest Resource Education Center (which has the unfortunate acronym of FREC), a project of the NJ Dept of Environmental Protection. The Toms River runs through the property and there are a number of trails, boardwalks,  and lookouts scattered around. We walked the area for a couple of  hours, picking up most of the birds you'd expect for this time of year. The most spectacular bird, by far, was Scarlet Tanager, which we first heard singing (the classic description of its song is "like a robin with a sore throat") and then found high in a bare tree.  In our wanderings, we also came across a couple of Cooper's Hawks, a duo of White-eyed Vireos, a Great Crested Flycatcher, and heard the beautiful song of our FOY Wood Thrush.

Forest Resource Education Center
34 species
Canada Goose  1
Mallard  3
Turkey Vulture  1
Cooper's Hawk  2
Red-tailed Hawk  2
Mourning Dove  1
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  1
Red-bellied Woodpecker  2     Heard
Eastern Phoebe  1
Great Crested Flycatcher  1
White-eyed Vireo  2
Blue Jay  6
Carolina Chickadee  2
Tufted Titmouse  2
White-breasted Nuthatch  2
House Wren  1     Heard
Carolina Wren  1     Heard
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  1     Heard
Wood Thrush  1     Heard
American Robin  1
Gray Catbird  10
Ovenbird  1     Heard
Common Yellowthroat  10
Northern Parula  1     Heard
Pine Warbler  2
Eastern Towhee  1     Heard
Chipping Sparrow  5
Field Sparrow  1     Heard
White-throated Sparrow  1
Scarlet Tanager  1     Yellow Trail
Northern Cardinal  1     Yellow Trail
Brown-headed Cowbird  2     Heard
House Finch  1     Heard
American Goldfinch  1     Heard

Jackson is about 100 square miles (the 2nd largest township in NJ) and lies half in and half out of the Pine Barrens. Our next stop, Butterfly Bogs, was outside the barrens, in the hardwood forest section of town. Mike said the spot was reliable for Solitary Sandpiper and we very quickly found three of them, even though the water was very high due to the incredible amount of rain we had the last few days. There was just enough mud exposed for the sandpipers to pick at. We got good scope views of their eye rings and yellow legs. The two Red-tailed Hawks we saw hovering overhead (and not seeming happy with each other) were probably the same ones we had at FREC.

Butterfly Bogs
9 species
Mallard  1
Turkey Vulture  1
Red-tailed Hawk  2
Solitary Sandpiper  3
Red-bellied Woodpecker  1     Heard
Tree Swallow  5
Barn Swallow  2
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  1     Heard
Red-winged Blackbird  3

I had at least heard of FREC and Butterfly Bogs. The next place Mike took us to, Lake Enno, I was completely unaware of. It doesn't show up on Google Maps. Mike guaranteed a Baltimore Oriole. We got out of our cars, turned around, and there clinging to the just budding branches of tree, was a gorgeous male. I think Mike might have glued that one to the branches. Other notable birds at this location were Green Heron, Spotted Sandpiper, Eastern Kingbird, and Northern Rough-winged Swallow, the last one affording very close, naked eye views. 

Lake Enno
17 species
Canada Goose  5
Mallard  1
Green Heron  1
Turkey Vulture  1
Spotted Sandpiper  2
Mourning Dove  4
Red-bellied Woodpecker  1     Heard
Eastern Kingbird  1
Northern Rough-winged Swallow  1
Barn Swallow  5
Carolina Wren  1     Heard
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  1     Heard
American Robin  1
Red-winged Blackbird  2
Common Grackle  5
Brown-headed Cowbird  1     Heard
Baltimore Oriole  1 

Blue Grosbeak, Prospertown Lake
With the next 2 stops I was back on familiar territory. By the time we got to Prospertown Lake, a cool overcast day had turned downright nasty with a cold wind and an annoying spritz of rain. The spot didn't look promising at first with just swallows gliding over the lake, but after a bit I spotted a Chimney Swift, another in our party found a Wood Duck at the fare end of the lake, and turning around to look for Killdeer in the grassy area behind the parking lot, Mike got us our first Blue Grosbeak of the year, a stunner. 

Prospertown Lake
10 species
Canada Goose  3
Wood Duck  1
Killdeer  1
Chimney Swift  2
Fish Crow  5
Tree Swallow  10
Barn Swallow  5
Chipping Sparrow  2
Blue Grosbeak  1    
Red-winged Blackbird  2

I go to Prospertown Lake once in a while. I go to our next and final stop, Colliers Mills, all the time. But only a couple of times have I gone up Success Road, deep in the northern reaches of the WMA and it was there that we scored the most warblers of the day. The highlight for the area was an American Kestrel perched on a dead tree right off the road in the grassy area before you enter the forest. 

While standing by the sluiceway that leads from Colliers Mills Lake into Turnmill Pond, I asked Mike about the mysterious foam on the stream. Happy news: it is naturally occuring from the tannin in the cedars and oaks that border the creeks and rivers in the Pine Barrens, and not, as I feared, detergent. 

Mike figured 65 species was a likely number and the group tallied close to 70 I believe. I couldn't quite make the even number of 60, finishing with 59, but 4 year birds (and more than that for the Ocean County list) plus an introduction to some promising spots, made for an extremely gratifying day in the field, despite the March-like weather.

Colliers Mills WMA
31 species
Canada Goose  1
Turkey Vulture  4
Cooper's Hawk  1
Killdeer  1
Spotted Sandpiper  1
Herring Gull  1     f/o
Mourning Dove  1
Red-bellied Woodpecker  1
Downy Woodpecker  1
Northern Flicker  1     Heard
American Kestrel  1
Great Crested Flycatcher  1     Heard
Eastern Kingbird  2
Barn Swallow  5
Carolina Chickadee  2     Heard
White-breasted Nuthatch  2
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  1
Eastern Bluebird  1
American Robin  15
Gray Catbird  10
Northern Mockingbird  1
European Starling  15
Ovenbird  1     Heard
Black-and-white Warbler  2
Common Yellowthroat  5
Pine Warbler  2
Yellow-rumped Warbler  5
Prairie Warbler  2     Heard
Eastern Towhee  2
Chipping Sparrow  2
Red-winged Blackbird  5

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