Close Encounters of the Bird Kind

After working 12 hours on Sunday, I promised myself I was going to sleep in on Monday. However, my birding posse had plans to return to Garrett Mountain.  I peaked my eyes open around 6:20, saw bright blue skies and popped out of bed!  With the bet on, I couldn’t let my adviser garner birds.

I jumped from bed to the kitchen where I made tea and ate quickly.   I was on site by 7:00 am, getting the parking spot of choice as I was the first car to arrive.  Not knowing if or when they would arrive, I headed down the slopes to collect some birds.

Birding at Garrett Mountain solo is a different experience.  I could go whichever way I wanted, stop when I wanted, linger when I wanted, talk to whoever I wanted. People were more inclined to talk to me!

Being on my own, meant I had a few fortunate opportunities to get really close to some of the birds, including orioles and warblers.  Met some really nice birders who helpfully gave me specifics on the location of some of the best finds at the mountain though I didn’t have a chance to follow up on them (Hooded Warbler, Wilson’s Warbler, Red-headed Woodpecker) or I dipped (Veery, Swainson’s Thrush, Least Bittern).

Ovenbird scurries along a fallen limb. Garrett Mountain, NJ. Photo taken on May 5, 2014.

Ovenbird scurries along a fallen limb. Garrett Mountain, NJ. Photo taken on May 5, 2014.

Orchard Oriole rests between chases with a Baltimore Oriole. Garrett Mountain, NJ. Photo taken on May 5, 2014.

Orchard Oriole rests between chases with a Baltimore Oriole. Garrett Mountain, NJ. Photo taken on May 5, 2014.

A second Orchard Oriole peers out from the new spring foliage. Garrett Mountain, NJ. Photo taken on May 5, 2014.

A second Orchard Oriole peers out from the new spring foliage. Garrett Mountain, NJ. Photo taken on May 5, 2014.

A Black-and-white Warbler intent on insects comes up close. Garrett Mountain, NJ. Photo taken on May 5, 2014.

A Black-and-white Warbler intent on insects comes up close. Garrett Mountain, NJ. Photo taken on May 5, 2014.

American Redstart forages in the foliage. Garrett Mountain, NJ. Photo taken on May 5, 2014.

American Redstart forages in the foliage. Garrett Mountain, NJ. Photo taken on May 5, 2014.

Hoofing it back to make it to training on time, I stopped and searched the phragmites for the least bittern when I saw a group of familiar birders arrive on the other side of the pond. I didn’t have time to say hello, but continued up the mountain.

Overload: Too Much of a Good Thing

On Thursday of last week, John invited his students to bird Great Swamp with him.  This time, three of us took him up on the offer.  Meeting up at 7:30, we quickly picked up a Yellow Warbler, GBH, Black-and-white Warbler, Yellow-throated Vireo, and Scarlet Tanager.

Scarlet Tanager view #2.

Scarlet Tanager view #2.

The Great Swamp is a great big swamp which has a few boardwalks and blinds great for birding when not off-limits during the hunting season.   In the swamp proper, we picked up Wood Thrushes, Veery, Ovenbird, and Northern Waterthrush.

The Wood Thrush belts out its electronic melody.

The Wood Thrush belts out its electronic melody.

The other two didn’t want to play bird-by-ear, so all the questions and quizzes were directed at me.  Being on the receiving end of these quizzes is intense – I didn’t realize how much so at the time.

At the blind, we saw more warblers, spotting Yellow Warblers, Common Yellowthroat, American Redstart, Swamp Sparrow (not a warbler, but appropriately placed, in the swamp!).   I might remember the Common Yellowthroat – an association with the Lone Range and translating the call to what-d0-we-do-what-do-we-do? I finally heard the call of the Willow Flycatcher. Fitz-phew!  John has talked about this call for years, so it was well overdue for me to hear it!  Haven’t laid eyes on it yet but some day!

Afterwards, our group size dropped by 1 and drove to a drier portion of the swamp where we spotted a Baltimore Oriole, Yell0w-billed Cuckoos flying by, lots of Gray Catbirds. (We affectionately call them Garys because that’s totally what the call sounds like!) and a punky Lincoln’s Sparrow.

I think the Lincoln's Sparrow looks more punk like Puck, than esteemed like Abe.

I think the Lincoln’s Sparrow looks more punk like Puck, than esteemed like Abe.

Baltimore Oriole takes advantage of the sun.

Baltimore Oriole takes advantage of the sun.

We wrapped up at the education center just in the next county where we picked up Blue-winged Warbler and Great Crested Flycatcher. At this point, all my photos become non-bird related and I think I was physically and mentally done with birds for the day. I can show you photos of painted turtles, bull frogs, scouring rush, and cyprus knees, but no more birds.

Great Crested Flycatcher before he flew away.  We heard him at Great Swamp, but got good looks at Lord Stirling Park.

Great Crested Flycatcher before he flew away. We heard him at Great Swamp, but got good looks at Lord Stirling Park.

Afterwards, when I got home, all the birds sounds were jumbled up in my head and I couldn’t hear myself think over the cacophony.   By evening, I had the worst headache of my life: nauseous, room spinning – no bueno.   I suspect it was some product of audio overload, too much glare, or not enough water.  So I took some time off from birding to recuperate. I gave it a couple days and am slowly working my way through the calls trying to retain them in my memory.  I’ve lost some of the ones I had recently acquired, so I need to refresh some older ones and drill some new ones.

Great Swamp List: (lifers denoted with *)

  • Canada Goose
  • Wood Duck
  • Mallard
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Black Vulture
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Mourning Dove
  • Yellow-billed Cuckoo
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Northern Flicker
  • Eastern Wood-Pewee*
  • Willow Flycatcher*
  • Eastern Phoebe
  • Great Crested Flycatcher*
  • Yellow-throated Vireo*
  • Warbling Vireo
  • Red-eyed Vireo
  • Northern Rough-winged Swallow
  • Barn Swallow
  • Tufted Titmouse
  • White-breasted Nuthatch
  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  • Eastern Bluebird
  • Veery*
  • Wood Thrush
  • American Robin
  • Gray Catbird
  • Ovenbird
  • Northern Waterthrush*
  • Blue-winged Warbler*
  • Black-and-white Warbler
  • Common Yellowthroat
  • American Redstart
  • Magnolia Warbler*
  • Yellow Warbler
  • Blackpoll Warbler*
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • Eastern Towhee
  • Chipping Sparrow
  • Field Sparrow
  • Song Sparrow
  • Lincoln’s Sparrow
  • Swamp Sparrow
  • Scarlet Tanager
  • Rose-breasted Grosbeak
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Common Grackle
  • Orchard Oriole
  • Baltimore Oriole
  • American Goldfinch

New for the day at Lord Stirling Park:

  • Turkey Vulture
  • Red-shouldered Hawk
  • Belted Kingfisher
  • Eastern Kingbird*
  • Cedar Waxwing
  • Brown-headed Cowbird
  • House Finch