Sunday, June 1, 2014

Burlington County 6/1--Hooded Warbler

I went out with my friend Greg today to bird spots in Burlington County. It was what Greg calls "targeted birding." We have a few species in mind that we really wanted to see and went to the most likely places to see them.

The species I most wanted to see was Kentucky Warbler, so our first stop was on the weirdly named Ong's Hat Road, The Dot & Brooks Evert Memorial Nature Trail, a small preserve through which the equally weirdly named Stop-the-Jade Run courses. Half the preserve is a red maple swamp on the Outer Coastal Plain which constitutes the Pine Barrens and is very wet, while the other, drier section lies on the Inner Coastal Plain, so the variety of habitat is diverse for such a small area. The attraction to birders is the breeding population of three popular warblers.

We were lucky in that the boardwalk that runs through most of the preserve was dry and not slippery or under water as it often is. We weren't so lucky in finding birds. We heard a lot of species, but finding them in the dense foliage was a real chore. In a couple of hours we managed to tease out an Ovenbird, a Black-and-white Warbler, and a Yellow-billed Cuckoo, as well as a few wrens. We did hear two of the target species--Prothonotary Warbler singing beside the water, where you would expect to find one, and a couple of Hooded Warblers. I was disappointed that we couldn't come up with a Kentucky Warbler--it remains an elusive potential lifer for me. We also thought/hoped we heard a Worm-eating Warbler but it turned out to be the much more common Pine Warbler. Their songs are similar, one "drier" than the other, and I could probably listen to recordings every day for a year and still have just a 50/50 chance of telling them apart.

Our next stop was a place I'd never been but with which Greg was familiar--Bear Swamp down around Medford. Prothonotary and Hooded breed there too--we were hoping to get looks at them and this time were not disappointed. We pulled off the road into a little cut out and immediately heard a Prothonotary singing and within a few minutes found this beautiful yellow bird with the beady eye on a tree branch. We got excellent looks at the bird, then crossed the road and entered the preserve. There our good fortune continued. We heard more Hooded Warblers singing and soon I actually found one--I can't remember the last one I saw (but I can look it up--Wow! April 18, 2005). A little farther on down the trail we came across another one, this one giving us killer looks--every field mark sharp and perfect in our binoculars.

We moved on down the road to a power cut that was literally buzzing--I've never heard power lines hum like that. I didn't imagine we'd find any birds perched on the wires--I think they'd be instantly electrocuted--but we did manage to add Common Yellowthroat and Prairie Warbler to our day list.

Our last stop was Rancocas Nature Center, where Greg had never been but with which I was fairly familiar. There are 4 habitats in a small area there--a meadow where we saw an Indigo Bunting plus heard another Prairie Warbler, a conifer forest where we saw a Veery fleeing from us, Rancocas Creek, which had 4 Cedar Waxwings sitting in a tree, and a large marsh where we found a Baltimore Oriole and heard a Warbling Vireo. We also came across a cardinal family--the adults did not like us walking by their area and we soon found out why--a very young cardinal was standing on a branch--not a chick, but probably only recently emerged from the nest. I've never seen a baby cardinal--gray all over with a huge eye and the start of a crest.

So in our four stops we started the month with 34 species:
Species                  First Sighting
Turkey Vulture     Bear Swamp IBA--Little Creek
Mourning Dove     Evert Nature Trail
Yellow-billed Cuckoo     Evert Nature Trail
Red-bellied Woodpecker     Bear Swamp IBA--Hawkin Rd
Downy Woodpecker     Evert Nature Trail
Northern Flicker     Evert Nature Trail
Eastern Wood-Pewee     Evert Nature Trail
Great Crested Flycatcher     Evert Nature Trail
White-eyed Vireo     Evert Nature Trail
Warbling Vireo     Rancocas Nature Center
Red-eyed Vireo     Evert Nature Trail
Fish Crow     Evert Nature Trail
Tree Swallow     Rancocas Nature Center
Carolina Chickadee     Rancocas Nature Center
Tufted Titmouse     Bear Swamp IBA--Little Creek
Carolina Wren     Evert Nature Trail
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher     Evert Nature Trail
Veery     Rancocas Nature Center
Wood Thrush     Evert Nature Trail
American Robin     Bear Swamp IBA--Hawkin Rd
Cedar Waxwing     Rancocas Nature Center
Ovenbird     Evert Nature Trail
Black-and-white Warbler     Evert Nature Trail
Prothonotary Warbler     Evert Nature Trail
Common Yellowthroat     Bear Swamp IBA--Hawkin Rd
Hooded Warbler     Evert Nature Trail
Pine Warbler     Evert Nature Trail
Prairie Warbler     Bear Swamp IBA--Hawkin Rd
Eastern Towhee     Evert Nature Trail
Field Sparrow     Rancocas Nature Center
Northern Cardinal     Evert Nature Trail
Indigo Bunting     Rancocas Nature Center
Red-winged Blackbird     Rancocas Nature Center
Common Grackle     Evert Nature Trail
Baltimore Oriole     Rancocas Nature Center

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