Saturday, May 7, 2016

Jackson 5/7--Chimney Swift, Warbling Vireo, Grasshopper Sparrow

A small child ran up to me in panic, one hand pointing at a shining orb in the sky, the other shielding frightened eyes.  "Fear not, little one," I said, "for that is something we call 'the sun.' I realize you are young and have not actually seen it in your lifetime, but believe me, in days of yore it once hung in the sky for days at a time. Now, put on these dark glasses, though you won't have to wear them long; the wizards at the weather bureau say this bright interlude will not last." And the wizards were right as soon the blue sky turned gray again and the sun disappeared behind lowering clouds and all returned to normal. The child returned the sunglasses and went to play in a puddle.

That fable could have taken place today at Colliers Mills, where, on a Birds of Jackson trip with Mike the group saw shadows on the ground for the first time this month.
Grasshopper Sparrow
We made the usual circuit, the idea being to go to the same spots as the season progresses to see what leaves and what comes in.  We started at FREC, looked briefly at Butterfly Bogs, but the birding didn't become interesting until we hit little Lake Enno, which is actually a dammed portion of the Metedeconk River. There we heard Baltimore Oriole and I saw my first Chimney Swifts of the year.

Always birding, even during a stop at Wawa on County Line Road, we found Yellow Warbler, Song Sparrow, House Finch, catbird, mockingbird, and a flyover flock of about 200 cormorants.

We move along to Prospertown Lake where we found our only true rarity of the day--a Common Raven (not really as rare as eBird would have you believe) easily identified by size and its huge honker.

We end our day and spend the most time at Colliers Mills. As I was hoping, Warbling Vireos were singing in the parking lot and I was able to see three of them, not that they are anything to look at, being possibly the drabbest little birds you are going to see--shades of gray, perfect for the day.

The fields at Colliers Mills get burned every year to prevent succession and keep them as grasslands, whether for the birds or the dog trainers I don't know. Mike and I were discussing if the grass was high enough yet to get Grasshopper Sparrows. It is our go to spot on the World Series of Birding for that species, which is next week. I was there a few days and didn't find any, but as we were driving up Success Road we both heard its little buzzy song. Mike quickly stopped and we found the sparrow directly across the field in a bare, burnt bush. So they're there. We should only have as much luck find the Red-headed Woodpeckers that we know are nesting on the other side of the field but were not in evidence today.

For the day I had around 70 species, a lot of them "by ear." Good practice for the WSB

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