Saturday, June 11, 2016

Laurel Run Park 6/11--Dickcissel

Digiphoto: Ray Duffy
I have a special fondness for Dickcissels, since we got our life bird the same day we first saw the house we now live in, 5 years ago. I most often see them in a grasslands preserve up in Somerset County, but when three were reported in nearby Burlington County yesterday, I decided to drive over to the park. That I'd never been there before just added to my interest, since my regular birding spots are in the June doldrums. I didn't expect that my quest for a year bird would turn out to be an adventure.

I found the park easily enough, just under an hour's drive from here and as I was pulling into the parking lot I recognized a birder I know, Ray, from way up in Hudson County. We had both read the same instructions on where to find the bird in the open fields which were planted with winter wheat and we set off walking to the spot we thought they'd be in. We were disabused of this by another birder named Chris, who regularly visits the park. He told us we were as far from the right place as one could be when walking a loop--about 180 degrees. So, taking expert advice we walked around the loop with Chris and sure enough, just in the spot he all but guaranteed the bird we heard the bird calling it's name, at least the first part of it--"dick dick dick." It didn't take long to locate the singing male, sitting on a stalk or stick. Then, from the other side of the path we heard another. When we found that one, it was joined by a female, so speculation was rampant about nesting. Happily, those fields won't be mowed until August, giving the birds plenty of time to nest and raise their brood.

The "original" Dickcissel crossed the road and was fought off by the 2nd male. Unless another female shows up, it looks like he's SOL.  By now, we'd been joined by a few other birders including Susan (whose name I knew, but had never met) who was taking some pretty good shots. I was getting okay shots with my little camera, but the bird was fairly distant. I decided to try to digiscope with my new iPhone (not bragging) and had no luck at all. Ray took my phone, put on his scope and not only got some good shots (above) but also recorded a video of the bird (below).
So, that was a successful outing and it was only about 9 o'clock. On the way to the park I passed another park I'd heard about but never visited, Boundary Creek, only about a mile away from my Laurel Run, and asked Chris and Susan if it was worth looking into. Oh, definitely, they told me and we 3 went over there for a good walk and some fine birds like Willow Flycatcher, Baltimore Oriole and a nesting Barn Swallow. Talk turned to other Burlington hot spots, none of which I'd visited, so the next thing I knew we were caravanning to the Delaware River, after a stop at a Wawa in Edgewater Park, a new one for my list.

Rocky ready to attack
Photos: Susan Jarnagin
The first stop was Amico Island Park and it was here that the very pleasant day turned turned scary. Amico, like nearby Palmyra, is formed from dredge spoils out of the Delaware. The river is so heavily and often dredged that there are small sections of Salem County where the spoils have been dumped that are technically part of Delaware, since it's boundary goes all the way to the Jersey shore line. We were walking a loop, where the highlight was a large heron rookery, full of immature Great Blue Herons, when off a side trail we saw a raccoon--immediately dubbed "Rocky." I don't like raccoons and I especially don't like them in the day time because they're supposedly nocturnal and if one is out during the day there's a good chance it is rabid. We were about 25 feet away from the critter, with Chris in the middle when Rocky decided to attack. With a growl it hunched down then sprang at Chris, who kicked it away while I was yelling at it to get out of here. Luckily, the kick was enough to make the raccoon run off, because the kick made Chris lose his balance and fall to the ground. Not so luckily, the raccoon was able to draw blood even through Chris' heavy jeans and that meant he was going to need a prophylactic rabies shot. It was a stark reminder how thin the membrane is between every day life and disaster.

(I received an email from Chris this evening and he had the shot and is fine. A ranger at the park also encountered the raccoon and both agreed that there was no foaming at the mouth, so it more likely that the animal was protecting its unseen young.)

Chris went off to seek medical attention. I followed to Susan to the 4th spot of the day, Taylor's Preserve, which shows up on eBird alerts in winter and during migration, but was pretty quiet today.

In all, I garnered 41 species for the day and have a tale to tell. And there is going to have to be a pretty damned good bird before I go back to Amico Island.
Species   First Sighting
Canada Goose   Laurel Run Park
Mallard   Amico Island Park
Great Blue Heron   Boundary Creek
Turkey Vulture   Taylor's Wildlife Preserve
Red-tailed Hawk   Boundary Creek
Mourning Dove   Laurel Run Park
Red-bellied Woodpecker   Amico Island Park
Willow Flycatcher   Boundary Creek
Great Crested Flycatcher   Boundary Creek
Eastern Kingbird   Boundary Creek
Warbling Vireo   Laurel Run Park
Red-eyed Vireo   Amico Island Park
Blue Jay   Boundary Creek
Horned Lark   Laurel Run Park
Tree Swallow   Laurel Run Park
Barn Swallow  Boundary Creek
Carolina Chickadee   Amico Island Park
Tufted Titmouse   Boundary Creek
House Wren   Boundary Creek
Marsh Wren   Boundary Creek
Carolina Wren   Taylor's Wildlife Preserve
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher   Amico Island Park
American Robin   Laurel Run Park
Gray Catbird   Boundary Creek
Northern Mockingbird   Laurel Run Park
European Starling   Laurel Run Park
Common Yellowthroat   Boundary Creek
Yellow Warbler   Amico Island Park
Grasshopper Sparrow   Laurel Run Park
Chipping Sparrow   Laurel Run Park
Song Sparrow   Laurel Run Park
Eastern Towhee   Taylor's Wildlife Preserve
Northern Cardinal   Amico Island Park
Blue Grosbeak   Laurel Run Park
Dickcissel   Laurel Run Park
Red-winged Blackbird   Laurel Run Park
Common Grackle   Boundary Creek
Brown-headed Cowbird   Amico Island Park
Baltimore Oriole   Boundary Creek
House Finch   Amico Island Park
American Goldfinch   Amico Island Park

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