Tuesday, May 17, 2016

UTT-North 5/17--Indigo Bunting

I tore myself away from Ocean County to look for a couple of new year birds this morning. Missed one, found the other.

I started the morning walking through the grasslands of Assunpink by the navigation beacon, hoping to find a Yellow-breasted Chat on my first foray. Last year, it took me at least 3 tries before I found a couple and it looks like it will take multiple trips this year to add the bird to the list. Alternatively, I could jump in Mike's car and go someplace with him where we don't expect the bird, only to have him find one in the parking lot before the gear shift is in "P." That's what happened last year after I trudged through those tick- infested fields for what seemed like a month until I found my bird.

Walking the fields for a couple of miles I did turn up quite a few Blue Grosbeaks, saw one Grasshopper Sparrow, and heard a Yellow-billed Cuckoo, so the trip wasn't completely fruitless. My next target I hoped to find in a semi-new spot.

I've been birding the Union Transportation Trail in Upper Freehold for years, walking a 2 1/2 to 3 mile stretch of it from its start/finish on Millstream Road up to around Burlington Path. Recently the trail was extended all the way up to Herbert Road (it isn't important for you to have a map), with a new parking lot at Sharon Station Road. This is only about 10 minutes away from Assunpink, so I drove over there to see what kind of habitat it passes through.

It is a little different than the southern section, with more open fields and a couple of big yards with heavy construction equipment huffing and puffing around, but it does go through a rather large wetlands area and over a few small creeks. It wasn't until I had walked about a mile and half south that I found Indigo Buntings, the birds I wanted. They were singing in a line of trees and diving into a ditch next to the trail. It took me a while to convince myself that these were buntings because the light was so bad and they do superficially look like grosbeak, but eventually my birding brain kicked into gear and checked them off the mental list and later, the eBird list.

In the last week or so at Colliers Mills I have heard a snippet of their song or saw a fleeting glimpse of a bird shape that someone called out as Indigo, but it is such a pretty bird that I wanted my FOY to be a clean look.

My lists:
33 species
Mute Swan  1     Stone Tavern Lake
Double-crested Cormorant  1     f/o
Turkey Vulture  1
Mourning Dove  2
Yellow-billed Cuckoo  1     Heard, Norway Spruce grove
Chimney Swift  1
Red-bellied Woodpecker  2     Heard
Northern Flicker  1
Acadian Flycatcher  1     Heard
Eastern Kingbird  3
White-eyed Vireo  2     Heard, Norway Spruce grove
Warbling Vireo  1     Heard, parking lot
Blue Jay  1     Heard
Tree Swallow  2
Barn Swallow  1
Wood Thrush  2     Heard Norway Spruce grove
American Robin  3
Gray Catbird  15
Brown Thrasher  1
Common Yellowthroat  15
American Redstart  1
Northern Parula  1
Yellow Warbler  5
Grasshopper Sparrow  1
Chipping Sparrow  2
Field Sparrow  5
Eastern Towhee  1     Heard
Northern Cardinal  1     Heard
Blue Grosbeak  6
Red-winged Blackbird  2
Brown-headed Cowbird  1
Orchard Oriole  1     parking lot
American Goldfinch  5

At the Union Transportation Trail I added:
Canada Goose  12     Fields
Great Blue Heron  1
Killdeer  1
Fish Crow  2
European Starling  1
Song Sparrow  15
Indigo Bunting  6
Common Grackle  1     Rt 524
House Sparrow  3

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