Sunday, May 22, 2016

Baldpate Mountain 5/22--Swainson's Thrush

Baldpate Mountain Blue Trail
"The road not taken"
Baldpate Mountain in Mercer County is about an hour from, a little north of Trenton, but I had never been there before this morning. Looking at trail maps of the park was daunting; I didn't know where to go to look for birds and I had heard that some of the trails were rough. I needed a Virgil and Bob Auster was the man to call. Bob has birded the area enough to know his way around, so I asked him if he would show me the place and we met there early this morning. 

Baldpate Mountain (an elevation 1,165 feet qualifies as a mountain in central Jersey) has been designated an Important Bird Area and its list of warblers is impressive, including Kentucky Warbler, which would be a lifer for me. We tried looking and listening for the bird three times in a spot Bob knows, but though the bird was reported 2 days ago, we didn't hear (much less see) it. I theorized that they may be nesting now and if so, aren't about to call out their position. 

We then started up the Blue Trail which Bob told me was very rocky. It was, and the recent rain made it a little slippery, but I didn't think it was that bad, certainly no worse than trails I've hiked out west, until we got about 3/4 of a mile up the trail where we hit the rock fall pictured above. Had I been by myself, I would have thought the trail ended, but no, Bob assured me, that was the trail. I didn't really believe him until two hikers came up behind us and like billy goats rock hopped their way up and around the bend. 

We made our way back down, picking up some birds, mostly by ear, though we did see a great looking Baltimore Oriole and I did see my first of a few Swainson's Thrushes, a year bird for me. It was a tad discouraging for me, as Bob heard about 15 Blackpoll Warblers that eluded me, along with a few Black-throated Blues and some Blue-winged Warblers (I eventually did hear a couple of the last species--they must have been sitting on my hat). It was like walking in an alternate reality with Bob calling out warblers and me hearing Wood Thrushes and catbirds. The fact that we couldn't see any of these great warblers only added to my sensory disarrangement. However, we did hear (though see, no, of course not) a number of Worm-eating Warblers, which are apparently still within the range of these ears that spent 30+ years around printing presses. Ear-birding does have one very big advantage there, as you have to keep your eyes on the trail and not up in the trees unless you want to crack your skull. 

Back at the parking lot we walked a long road up to the summit and then took a muddy trail down the mountain. Unfortunately, the only real loop there that isn't an all day hike requires you to walk on the boulder-strewn blue trail, so we retraced our steps to get back to the parking lot. 
Baldpate Summit
I liked Baldpate, but I don't think it is a practical spot for me to bird very often since to get there early for the warblers I have to get up well before dawn. However, if anyone can give me a shot at the Kentucky Warbler, let me know and I'll set my alarm.

My list for the mountain. Bob's is longer, due to his hearing. Ironically, until last year, when I "brought him over to the dark side" as he likes to say, he wouldn't even count a bird unless he saw it. 
44 species
Turkey Vulture  2
Mourning Dove  3
Yellow-billed Cuckoo  1     Heard, summit
Chimney Swift  4     summit
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  1     Fiddler's Creek parking area
Red-bellied Woodpecker  10
Eastern Wood-Pewee  8
Great Crested Flycatcher  1     Heard, Fiddler's Creek parking lot
White-eyed Vireo  2     Heard
Red-eyed Vireo  3
Blue Jay  5
American Crow  1     Fiddler's Creek parking lot
Fish Crow  1     heard
Carolina Chickadee  6
Tufted Titmouse  2     Heard
White-breasted Nuthatch  2     Heard
House Wren  1     Heard
Carolina Wren  3
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  2
Veery  2     Heard
Swainson's Thrush  3
Wood Thrush  30
American Robin  50
Gray Catbird  100
Cedar Waxwing  8     f/o
Ovenbird  75
Worm-eating Warbler  5     Heard, road to summit
Blue-winged Warbler  2     Heard
Black-and-white Warbler  1     Heard
Common Yellowthroat  50
Hooded Warbler  3
American Redstart  4
Yellow Warbler  1     Heard
Prairie Warbler  3     Heard
Chipping Sparrow  2     Heard, summit
Field Sparrow  1     Heard, summit
Song Sparrow  2
Eastern Towhee  10
Northern Cardinal  2
Indigo Bunting  1     Summit, singing
Brown-headed Cowbird  2
Baltimore Oriole  2
House Finch  2
American Goldfinch  1     Heard, summit

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