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Thursday, June 07, 2012

Juvenile Chipping Sparrow

I caught sight of this brand new young Chipping Sparrow a couple days ago, but he got away before I could grab my camera.  I like how striped and different he is from his parents.  Here it is hopping around under our feeders on my patio.  With all the cowbirds around, good to know at least one Momma and Poppa Chippy got off at least one young in my yard this year.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Arrow Goose

This morning I found this unfortunate goose at Spruce Run.  The bird can swim and seems fully mobile, but it's so sad to see.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Cerulean Death March

 Monday morning, while getting ready for a church picnic, I got word that a friend had found a singing Cerulean Warbler in Musconetcong Gorge, a county preserve 20 minutes from my home.  Since this is a very scarce bird in the county, and this was the first (and likely to be the only) one reported in the county this year, I decided to head over to see if I could find it.  My youngest was up for a hike, so we geared up and headed out.

Musconetcong Gorge is a beautiful forest, and we enjoyed the sights and sounds of Ovenbird, Worm-eating Warbler, Indigo Bunting, American Redstart, and dozens of other birds.  Highlight for us was probably catching several toads.

The princess and the toad
But after over an hour of listening, I didn't see the bird, and couldn't be 100% positive that what I thought I heard a couple times in the distance really was the Cerulean Warbler.  So we packed it in and hiked the mile back to the car.
Intrepid Hiker in the Gorge
The next morning, I wasn't able to get away until later in the day, and it was even hotter than ever!  The bird had been relocated earlier in the morning, and I had plenty of water, but it was past 11am and getting really hot by the time I got down to where I hopped to see it.

Male Scarlet Tanager, day two of the Musconetcong Gorge death march.
Long story short, while I got good looks at everything else I heard down along the river (including several beautiful Scarlet Tanagers), in two hours I heard the Cerulean Warbler a couple times, once quite closely, but never got a glimpse!  Sometimes you've gotta just take what you can get--especially when threatened by heat exhaustion!  So I look forward to actually seeing this bird at some point.  In the meantime, its good to know that this bad boy is hanging out in the gorge, keeping hopes for local breeding alive here in Hunterdon County.

Blue Grosbeak Quest

Migration is winding down, and as I continue to explore my new home county in New Jersey, I'm hunting down some of the more scarce breeding species.  Near the top of that list is Blue Grosbeak.  These birds are scarce and local here on the edge of their range.  A few are found each year down in the southern end of our county, and since they've been reported a few times recently, I've been heading down there this week to see what I can find.

Dickcissel, 18 May 2001, Hunterdon County, NJ
The first two attempts, I spent hours looking and listening in vain.  Fortunately, there are plenty of other fun birds around to see in the area--including Dickcissel--another locally rare bird here on the edge of their range.  While watching this one male singing on territory near Clover Hill, I've also enjoyed watching Willow Flycatchers, Grasshopper Sparrows, Savannah Sparrows, Eastern Meadowlarks and Bobolinks in the same fields.  But I've become frustrated looking for my main quarry, the illusive Blue Grosbeak.

Finally, this morning, I had time to just park myself and watch the field.  After about half an hour, a male Blue Grosbeak flew across the field and landed nearby!  But before I could get my camera on it, he flew off to the other end of the field.  Here's the best shot I could get, with the bird in the top of a tree over 100 yards away.  Not a great shot!

Male Blue Grosbeak, hand held CoolPix P500, 36x optical zoom, 100+ yards

Before I could get a good shot, it flew all the way across the large field and landed in the top of a bare tree even farther away.  As I was walking towards it, it dropped back down into the field, where I was finally able to get a more decent shot.

Male Blue Grosbeak, Clover Hill, Hunterdon County, NJ, 1 June 2012
At one point, the Blue Grosbeak was even in the same view with a Dickcissel!  Two locally scarce breeders in one shot!
Dickcissel (left) and Blue Grosbeak (right)
I was very happy to see these two birds in Hunterdon County.  But it is a hard life for these grassland breeding birds.  In a nearby field, where a second male Dickcissel had recently started singing, this was all that was left of the habitat this morning.

Recently mowed grassland bird habitat, Hunterdon County, NJ.

It's actually very hard to understand how these grassland birds persist, since their nesting fields are constantly being mowed before they can nest and produce young.  The best way to help these birds is to avoid mowing from late April to late July--which unfortunately is exactly when these fields are usually the most productive as hay fields.  Fortunately several organizations are working to promote grassland stewardship for nesting birds.

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