More Truths

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single town in possession of a good fortune must be in need of a nature center. In Bergen County, where I live, work, and bird, nearly every town appears to have a nature center.  This leaves one with many choices for good birding.

I finally opened my eyes Friday morning.  I was going into work a bit late and could afford to sleep in.  Or I could until I saw the ebird notifications for what had turned up in the last 24 hours.  I bounded out of bed and was out the door within 20 minutes.  No breakfast, just a cup of tea to get me through.

This was me: Clara with her Tea| Doctor Who Tumbr

This was me: Clara with her Tea | Doctor Who Tumbr

Greater Scaup (1 report)
– Solitary Sandpiper (1 report)
– Greater Yellowlegs (2 reports)
– Bonaparte’s Gull (1 report)
– Northern Waterthrush (1 report)
– Savannah Sparrow (1 report)

Many of these were from New York, just across the border, about half a mile from where my folks reside.  I could make it there, get an hour of birding in and still be on time for work, all while getting breakfast at the local deli, to boot!

But it wasn’t to be.

The second truth universally acknowledged is when you want to get somewhere particularly quickly or badly, there will be traffic. Welcome to New Jersey, home of Bridgegate where we invented more traffic because there just wasn’t enough to begin with.

Despite the early hours, there was bad traffic on Rte 46, leading towards the GWB as a result of an accident.  I wasn’t going to make it to the Pier and to work on time.  Thus I began wracking my brain for an alternative.

I decided to go check out Demarest Nature Center of Demarest, NJ, home of the Redheaded Woodpecker. (We hope it’s occupying the tree for the season.)  Driving in, songs were dripping from the abundant greenery.

First stop was to look for the woodpecker, but there was no activity.  I began working my way along the very muddy trails of the center.  I had about 45 minutes there before I had to depart for work.

Surprise, a Louisiana Waterthrush bobs along the flooded pools. Demarest, NJ. Photo taken on May 2, 2014.

Surprise, a Northern Waterthrush bobs along the flooded pools. Demarest, NJ. Photo taken on May 2, 2014.

While there, I did locate Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, a Gray Catbird, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow Warbler, and several Yellow-rumped in addition to our resident birds. I also picked up Red-bellied Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, and Pileated Woodpecker. Plus, I picked up a Northern Waterthursh (edited).  I had been going with Louisiana because the white screamed white.  However, as Lawrence points out, there are stripes along the throat which indicates Northern. The joys of warblers! This waterthrush nicely jumped up on the branches for a photo op..

I saved a few minutes for a scan of the trees when I returned to my car.  And there it was:

Redheaded Woodpecker remains at the Demarest Nature Center near the playground. Demarest, NJ. Photo taken on May 2, 2014.

Redheaded Woodpecker remains at the Demarest Nature Center near the playground. Demarest, NJ. Photo taken on May 2, 2014.

Truth #3 achieved. What ye seek, ye shall find.

Truth Be Told

There are people who would scarcely believe it, but there are times it takes a bit of effort to get me in the field birding. May 1st was one of those days.  I might have gotten up that morning to bird except the forecast said rain until mid-afternoon.  Forecast was wrong: rain had passed, skies were clearing in the morning, but it wasn’t until late afternoon I got around to birding.  I was hoping with the rains of the last several days that there would be fallout (not nuclear).

Ultimately, it was the memory of the stellar birding from May 1st, that got me out the door and headed down the road to the NJ Meadowlands.   I arrived late afternoon and headed along the small ridge to see who had recently arrived.

Spring has finally arrived! Meadowlands, NJ. Photo taken on May 1, 2014.

Spring has finally arrived! Meadowlands, NJ. Photo taken on May 1, 2014.

There were Yellow-rumped Warblers in the trees; slightly difficult to locate due to the angle of the setting sun. Walking the trail in reverse might have helped. Had there been more birds in evidence would also have helped.

Yellow-rumped Warblers are taking over the planet; or at least they're leading the spring migration. Meadowlands, NJ. Photo taken on May 1, 2014.

Yellow-rumped Warblers are taking over the planet; or at least they’re leading the spring migration. Meadowlands, NJ. Photo taken on May 1, 2014.

Not that there’s clear evidence it’s a Yellow-rumped Warbler from the photo, but it was. Not much on the hillside, so I decided to walk the loops around the ponds.

The ponds seemed really empty until I got halfway out. On a mudflat I located a few shorebirds picking morosely at the offerings.  Or delightedly, it’s hard to read the expression on the face of a Charadriiformes.

Shorebirds take advantage of the low tide. Greater Yellowlegs mingles with Least Sandpipers. Meadowlands, NJ. Photo taken on May 1, 2014.

Shorebirds take advantage of the low tide. Greater Yellowlegs mingles with Least Sandpipers. Meadowlands, NJ. Photo taken on May 1, 2014.

Tree Swallows and Barn Swallows buzzed by, two Forester Terns coasted the gusty breeze. That breeze was the only thing saving all of us from death by insect consumption. Insects were a menace! I couldn’t help but kill them as I readjusted equipment they were so plentiful!

Forester's Tern returns to NJ.  Meadowlands, NJ. Photo taken May on 1, 2014.

Forester’s Tern returns to NJ. Meadowlands, NJ. Photo taken May on 1, 2014.

I walked all the way to the highway. And by highway, I mean the New Jersey Turnpike. Whenever I bird here, I feel obligated to walk all the way out and walk the stretch along the turnpike. I feel as though if there’s going to be a hidden gem, chances are it’ll be here.

And I was in luck.  As I made my way to the trail end, I spooked a Black-crowned Night-Heron.

While the sighting lifted my spirits a bit, I was feeling lethargic, and was considering calling it a day.  I decided to take a quick peak along the other pathway, just to verify I wasn’t missing out on much.  I picked up Killdeer and American Goldfinch.

But then I saw this fellow:

A surprising Savannah Sparrow. Meadowlands, NJ. Photo taken on May 1, 2014.

A surprising Savannah Sparrow. Meadowlands, NJ. Photo taken on May 1, 2014.

While, not a lifer, definitely my best looks yet!  I caught sight of the yellow and initially second guessed myself from “something really cool” to “yet another White-throated Sparrow who just won’t leave”.  But the way it moved was wrong.  This bird had graceful darts from cover to cover, not the hop up and down to flip leaves.  Fortunately, I stayed on it and got a photo before a runner ran past spooking the bird into the ether.

Recharged, I decided to do the longer path to discover whatever else there might be, but in the last light, my luck failed me.  It was bird empty.  Hurrying back before losing the light entirely, I checked the last loop and found all the birds.  There many more Greater Yellowlegs and Least Sandpipers, Egrets Great and Snowy, but in the fading light, all the photos were grainy, so we’ll close with a landscape.

Sunset at the Meadowlands. Meadowlands, NJ. Photo taken on May 1, 2014.

Sunset at the Meadowlands. Meadowlands, NJ. Photo taken on May 1, 2014.

Not such a bad start to May!