Monday, May 2, 2016

Assunpink 5/2--Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Orchard Oriole

Fork-tailed Flycatcher in Trinidad
Photo: Shari Zirlin
It wasn't even a year bird.    We'd seen Fork-tailed Flycatcher in Trinidad last month.    But I'd never seen one in New Jersey (our life FTFL was in Connecticut of all places), so despite another cold, foggy day, I hauled my butt up to Assunpink, parked by the famous mulberry tree, and walked out to what has already become known as "the original field" where the bird was first found. There were a couple of birders standing out in the middle of the field, looking forlorn, and the idea of standing there for who knows how long, hoping that the bird was show became very depressing to me.

I had seen that the bird had once again been seen yesterday about 4 hours after we left, but not in this field, but over by the dam that forms Assunpink Lake. I'd rather be moving than standing so I after a few minutes I told the two others I was going to look by the dam (perhaps a 1/2 mile away) and they figured that was a decent notion too. As I crossed over the guard rail and started down the slope, I saw two birders coming my way and heard the phrase "hanging around."

"Any luck?" I asked and they told me they had just seen the bird on the berm between the dam and spillway but it had hidden again. At least I was in the correct vicinity. There were a few other birders in the middle of the berm and they said the bird had flown farther down the tree line. Someone saw it in the phragmites a few minutes later. I caught a glimpse of a bird that could have been anything.

Then it flew to our right and once more hunkered down in the reeds. I saw it briefly. B.V.D. (Better View Desired) While we were looking toward the water, somehow the bird flew across the berm without our noticing it, because the next time it was seen it was perched up a stem in the middle of the field downhill from the berm.  This time I got my scope on it and got the desired view--all the field marks, including a yellow crown stripe. Now I was kicking myself for not taking my camera. I had thought that it would be too far away in the field I was in yesterday, but in this location I probably could have at least gotten documentary photos. Not that there way any doubt as to identification.

After 10 or 15 minutes watching the bird and getting it in the scope for the others, I now could do some real birding. I drove back over the now heavily traveled dirt road (it probably had more traffic on it in 3 days than it gets in 3 months) and parked my car in the boat launch parking lot. I walked that road that roughly follows the shore line of the Assunpink Lake. Field Sparrows were singing their bouncing Ping-pong ball song everywhere, I finally got good looks at Yellow Warblers and, best of all, a completely unexpected bird showed up, my first Orchard Oriole of the year, a nice brick red male, which made up for the one I missed down at Belleplain on Saturday.      

After completing the 2 mile loop, I drove back down Imlaystown Road, stopping, just for the heck of it, by the farm driveway where White-crowned Sparrows like to feed in the winter. I was pleasantly surprised to find at least one still lingering.          

Looking through the eBird reports I see about 75 reports of the FTFL and many birders don't list on eBird. I saw a car there today with Ohio plates. This bird is a "Mega." I'm glad to see that many of today's reports are from people I saw there yesterday who also, like me struck out.
40 species
Canada Goose  75
Mute Swan  6
Mallard  2
Ruddy Duck  8
Spotted Sandpiper  1
Mourning Dove  2
Red-bellied Woodpecker  3     Heard
Eastern Kingbird  1     Sharing field, apparently not willingly, with Fork-tailed Flycatcher
Fork-tailed Flycatcher  1     
White-eyed Vireo  3     Heard
Blue Jay  2     Heard
American Crow  1     Heard
Fish Crow  1
Purple Martin  1     Parking lot at boat launch
Tree Swallow  20
Barn Swallow  30
Carolina Chickadee  3
Tufted Titmouse  2     Heard
House Wren  1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  9
Wood Thrush  2     Heard
American Robin  6
Gray Catbird  8
Brown Thrasher  1     Heard
European Starling  2
Ovenbird  2     Heard
Common Yellowthroat  10     Heard
Yellow Warbler
Palm Warbler  1
Yellow-rumped Warbler  5
Chipping Sparrow  4
Field Sparrow  10     Heard
White-crowned Sparrow  1
White-throated Sparrow  1     Heard
Song Sparrow  2
Northern Cardinal  1     Heard
Red-winged Blackbird  20
Brown-headed Cowbird  5
Orchard Oriole  1     Road around lake
American Goldfinch  2


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