Sunday, February 7, 2016

Trenton Sewer Utility 2/7--Nashville Warbler, Palm Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler

Yellow-throated Warbler

Yes, you read that right: I spent this morning at Trenton's sewage ponds. I could no longer resist the lure of winter rarity warblers that have been reported there for the last couple of months. I've been reluctant to go for a number of reasons, none of them good. I figured I'd eventually see the warblers that were there come spring or summer until I realized that a couple of them were not gimmes; it looked like a place that was a little difficult to get to (and it was, for me, even with directions from Google and a GPS I still took a wrong turn & wound up about a mile away before I found the place); and, even though I was born in NJ, up until today I had only set foot in Trenton once in my life and that was last year when I was with Mike who knows Trenton well. (I've been through Trenton many times on the train, each time amused by the world's most petulant sign that the citizens erected on a bridge over the Delaware: 
Talk about a sulky city!) But there were too many good birds being seen there and after talking to Hank on the field trip yesterday, who told me just how to bird the place, I resolved to go there this morning. 

And of course, I'm glad I did. Once I found the driveway into the facility and the parking lot across the street, I immediately saw a Brown Creeper on the first tree in. The area to bird, the driveway, is relatively short, less than a 1000 feet, but the activity in the trees is amazing. The reason it has had 7 species of warblers there at various times is due to the ponds which have a constant insect hatch that makes it easy for the warblers to find food. If a bird can find food and shelter it can overwinter--especially during a mild winter like this one. Why migrate when you have what you need right here and then you'll be closer to your breeding grounds come spring? 

I walked the length of the driveway, turning up Yellow-rumped Warblers (expected) along with other winter species. When I got back to the beginning of the driveway a photographer pulled up and asked me if this was where the birds were. I told him yes, showed him where to park, and just as he turned around, I found the Yellow-throated Warbler in a bare tree. This is always considered a "good" warbler and I usually have to go down to Belleplain Forest to see it in spring. I tried to signal to the photographer that I had the bird, but he was dawdling and missed it, though about an hour later it turned up again and he took a few hundred shots of it. 

I continued to pace up and down the drive, meeting a few more birders. Someone said that the activity usually picked up around 10 o'clock and as the sun warmed the trees and the wall of the ramp to Highway 29, it did get noticeably birdier. Next warbler to be found was a Palm Warbler, pumping its tail. Not considered rare, but still an FOY.

Nashville Warbler
A couple of birders I know who live in Mercer County were there and while we chatted about county lists, Todd found the next rarity (a very difficult Jersey bird for me), a very bright Nashville Warbler. By this point there were about 8 birders there, all staring into the sun-warmed trees. The Yellow-throated reappeared and gave spectacular looks (so much easier to bird when the leaves are gone), and with it a few Pine Warblers were seen, a couple of drab birds, probably females and one bright bird. Pine Warblers are listed as rare; I think they are just overlooked in winter.

After about an hour and a half I was still missing one rarity, the hardest one, as far as I'm concerned--Orange-crowned Warbler, but I figured, looking on the bright side, now that I knew the place, it just gave me a reason to come back, preferably with Shari, to look for it again. Larry? Looking on the bright side? Hmm.

Across the street from the sewage ponds, where I parked, is the Delaware, so I quickly scanned the river, admiring the sign on the bridge trestle again, and found a few ducks way up river. Lots of gulls, but none that stood out. 

The park was once the Trenton Marine Terminal and vestiges of it remain:
There was also one bird, a hawk, with a white head, that none of us could identify:
We couldn't figure out what it was until we realized it was a decoy to keep pigeons off the electronic billboard. It apparently isn't that effective, since its head is white with guano.

For walking a straight line of about 1000 feet, I had 26 species; I can sometimes walk 5 miles around here and not find that many species.
Canada Goose  9     f/o
Greater/Lesser Scaup  2     far up river
Bufflehead  3     on river, scanned from Trenton Marine Terminal
Common Merganser  4     on river, scanned from Trenton Marine Terminal
Ring-billed Gull  10
Herring Gull  50
Rock Pigeon  2
Mourning Dove  3
Downy Woodpecker  1
Blue Jay  2
American Crow  1
Fish Crow  1     Heard
Carolina Chickadee  1
Brown Creeper  4
Carolina Wren  1     Heard
Golden-crowned Kinglet  1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  4
American Robin  25
European Starling  100
Nashville Warbler  1     
Palm Warbler  1
Pine Warbler  3     
Yellow-rumped Warbler  10
Yellow-throated Warbler
Chipping Sparrow  1    
Northern Cardinal  1
House Sparrow  3

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