Mourning Warbler – Garret Mountain August 18th, 2014

Mourning Warbler
Mourning Warbler

Always a great bird and one of my favorite less common species in New Jersey we had a wonderful Mourning Warbler today in the wet area down from the tiered lot. This guy even sat a preened for 5 seconds and let me get a couple photos (a feat in itself with skulky and quick Mourning Warblers)! Great Bird!

Mourning Warbler
Mourning Warbler

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Kirtland’s Warbler! Grayling, Michigan – May 17th, 2014

Kirtlands Warbler
Kirtland’s Warbler

I have always wanted to see a Kirtland’s Warbler and had hoped for them in migration at Magee Marsh in years past without success. This year I took into my own hands and decided to head up to Grayling, Michigan for a tour into local Jack Pine habitat to see birds on territory preparing to nest. The Kirtland’s Warbler tour started off at Hartwick Pines State Park, just north of downtown Grayling, and you are lead onto nearby habitat suitable for these picky nesters! :) 5-20 foot tall and 6-22 year old Jack Pine trees are needed and a tree recycling boost is needed to fill the void naturally occurring fires provided the Kirtland’s with. Promising land management efforts and initiatives to stop cowbird parasitism seem to be yielding promising results!

Kirtland's Warbler
Kirtland’s Warbler

We headed out with a group of about 12 and the day’s early warming sun had us hoping for good results. The tours had run the previous two days with a single male on the first day and a female on the second. We got to the protected area and within 10 minutes heard multiple singing birds! Our skilled guide walked us through the territory and we quickly had a male 1 foot off the ground 5 feet away from the group! He was concerned with his task of hunting and singing and sped by us as we continued on down the path. We came across at least 5 Kirtland’s Warblers (seen and heard) and saw multiple males up on tress singing their hearts out! What a bird. A bigger bird than I expected, these guys were amazing. The stunning views and ability to actually watch this bird bob its tail and work through the bottoms of the Jack Pines was thrilling. This bird’s population and existence is threatened and the opportunity to not only learn about and hear them, but to also get amazing views, was an experience I will never forget!

Here are a few more pictures I got:

Kirtlands Warbler

Kirtlands Warbler

Kirtlands Warbler

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Magee Marsh – Oak Harbor, Ohio – May 15th-17th, 2014

Blackburnian Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler

Every year, if I am able, I take a long weekend in mid-to-late May to go to Magee Marsh in Oak Harbor, Ohio.  Magee is a truly special place with up-close access to the beautiful migrants of May as they make their way to their nesting grounds in the Boreal forest of the northern United States and Canada. Situated on the southern shore of Lake Erie, many migrants will settle into the low trees of Magee for a break, rather than braving the lake crossing into Michigan or Canada. (Similar to Fall migrant Warblers in Cape May) This makes for spectacular views for those wondering the winding boardwalks of Magee Marsh.  Magee gives the opportunity to see Connecticut or even Kirtland’s Warbler as it migrates through and the sheer amount of birds present make it almost always productive (many first timers laugh at what locals would call a slow day as the slow days at Magee are usually highly impressive!) and the experience is one I highly recommend.

Bay-breasted Warbler
Bay-breasted Warbler

I only had 3 days and I was going to take one day to drive 3.5 hours north to Grayling Michigan to seek out the Kirtland’s Warbler so I wanted to make the best of the time I had.  Thursday was overcast  but there was still (remember that thing about Magee slow days?) a good number of birds around and I marveled at the proximity to Cape May and a female Golden-winged Warbler. Philadelphia Vireo, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher and 22 species of Warbler was the “slow” day at Magee. Magee is an amazing place to study the movement and size and shape comparisons. The birding experience to be added in a trip is as significant as the wonderful birds you will see!

Chestnut-sided Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler

Thursday was the opposite of slow. As the sun rose and the bugs got going the birds rose in chorus to meet them and us. After taking a pass on the boardwalk looking for Connecticut, I made my way to the area outside the boardwalk along the parking lot where Blackburnian, Bay-breasted, Cape May, and Canada Warblers, along with Tanagers and Orioles made appearances for the hundreds of onlookers swooning at their presence. The birds were gleaning insects and preening just feet above our heads in turns and it made for an amazing show. What a day! I heard someone say that they had been to Magee a few years and they had heard about days like this at Magee but never experienced it. They had now. FUN!

Below are a bunch of the amazing views I got.

Prothonotary Warbler
Prothonotary Warbler

Cape May Warbler
Cape May Warbler

Golden-winged Warbler
Golden-winged Warbler

Blackburnian Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler

Blackburnian Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler

Baltimore Oriole
Baltimore Oriole

Scarlet Tanager
Scarlet Tanager

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Garret Mountain – Olive-sided Flycatcher, Blackburnian Warblers and Migrants – Least Bittern

Blackburnian Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler

We had another wonderful day of migrants at Garret Mountain. We saw many of the same Warbler species seen over the last 4 days with Hooded, Magnolia, Black-throated Blue and, Black-throated Green Warblers, Northern Waterthrush, Magnolia Warbler, and 3 Blackburnian Warblers (First Of Spring for me). Also had a FOS Indigo Bunting on the hill on Wilson and a great Olive-sided Flycatcher on the west side of Barbour’s pond just down from Wilson Ave on a snag of one of the many White Pine trees (I think they are White Pine?) lost in recent years.

Olive-sided Flycatcher
Olive-sided Flycatcher

Below are some pictures from today and the last couple days @ Garret:

Black-throated Blue Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler

Chestnut-sided Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler

Black-throated Green Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler

Eastern Kingbird
Eastern Kingbird

Northern Waterthrush
Northern Waterthrush

Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Rose-breasted Grosbeak

I also saw the reported Least Bittern (reportedly found by some eager young birders on Sat! Good for them!!) on Sunday. Documentation shot below. (= not a good photo :))

Least Bittern
Least Bittern

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Spring Birding in New Jersey – Garret Mountain – May 2nd, 2014

Black-throated Blue Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler

When the winter months wear on and the cold days lead to cold days I hope for days like today! The Spring birding bonanza finally got underway today and got some pep it its step with what must have been a significant flight last night. 16 Warbler species and 3 Vireos with Baltimore Oriole and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks.  Hundreds of new birds in the park today with Wilson Ave. again being a hot spot.

As soon as I got down to the bottom of Wilson I had a beautiful (and not an easy bird at Garret!) Worm-eating Warbler working through the peeled bark and ground cover. One of 2 Worm-eating I would see today!  The end of Wilson held my first Great-crested Flycatcher of the Spring and an energetic male Black-throated Green Warbler.  We then happily watched a fantastically displaying Chestnut-sided Warbler and a male Rose-breasted Grosbeak. Others included a single Northern Parula and a pair of drab Pine Warblers along with the first of many Blue-headed Vireo of the day. Just as we were walking out of Wilson, we had a bright flash of yellow shoot out across the path for my first Blue-winged Warbler of the year! Lots of activity for mid day for sure!

Black-throated Green Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler

The path towards the boat house had many many Palm Warblers and the most numerous warbler of the day Yellow-rumped Warblers all over.  We also had another popping bright Chestnut-sided Warbler and Swamp Sparrow.  A singing Baltimore Oriole and my first few resident Warbling Vireos (these may not stay but some do breed at Garret in decent numbers). Barbour’s Pond had washed pretty heavy with recent heavy rain and the island that held a Canada Goose nest seemed abandoned. :(  Every year they try and often this is the end result. At least the resident Killdeer hasn’t yet made the same fateful decision. Still waiting to see a pair of Killdeer together.  In better news, a Eastern Phoebe pair was back at it and looked to be fastidious builders. Multiple Spotted Sandpipers were in too for the first time (for me) this year! Flashy dressers the Spotted are!

Worm-eating Warbler
Worm-eating Warbler

Back on the stream we had the only Magnolia Warbler of the day, that I saw, working along with a male American Redstart.  A male Common Yellowthroat, more Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers and another Swamp Sparrow, were seen with a possible Winter Wren that I only got unsatisfactory looks at.

I next headed up the hill to the rocky picnic area and had 2 Black-throated Blue Warblers (both males) and tons of Ovenbirds! Hermit Thrush are still around in good numbers and we had a single Swainson’s Thrush along with many Veery. We also had a single FOS Least Flycatcher.

A final walk down Wilson with fellow birder Greg (check out his Flickr photostream for great photos too!) proved advantageous as we got our FOS Northern Waterthrush and an awesome Yellow-throated Vireo to end the day!

These are the days I wait for.  Good Birding!

Here are a few more pictures from today. You can go to my Flickr page to see all of the photos I uploaded.

Magnolia Warbler
Magnolia Warbler

Chestnut-sided Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler

Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Palm Warbler
Palm Warbler

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Pine Warblers – Garret Mountain – April 16th, 2014

Pine Warbler Pair - Garret Mountain
Pine Warbler

It was a cold lunch time walk around Garret Mountain today and it was tough to revert back to coat weather after such a mild week last week. On days like this, where you may have less overall bird movement, I like to find the select locations that hold birds and try to find a “bird story” to watch.  With breeding activity and migration birds in food munchies mode, I like to take that opportunity to spend some time watching in one place (as opposed to attempting to cover as much ground as possible).  If you can find a spot with high gnat/bug content, early green growth, or even a bathing area you can sometimes come across some fun stuff.

I knew the bugs on Wilson Ave and the White Pine trees there had been really good so far this year for Pine and Palm warblers with some of the higher bird activity in the park.  I walked down the path, past the 2 Canadian Geese moms on nests, past a pair or Downy Woodpeckers mating and came across two foraging Pine Warblers. This is what I was looking for. I just parked and watched as they quietly went about gleaning insects and following each other around. Its easy to get lost in the motion and natural wonder of these little creatures going about their business. Sometimes simply finding a good spot to watch from can be the most rewarding!

Here are a couple pictures of the couple. You can go to my Flickr page to see all of the photos I uploaded.

Pine Warbler Pair - Garret Mountain
Pine Warblers

Pine Warbler Pair - Garret Mountain
Male Pine Warbler

Pine Warbler Pair - Garret Mountain
Female Pine Warbler

Pine Warbler Pair - Garret Mountain
Pine Warbler

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Possible Neotropic Cormorant – DeMott’s Pond, Clinton – April 12th, 2014

Possible Neotropic Cormorant
Neotropic Cormorant

This past Tuesday a possible Neotropic Cormorant was found by Rob Fergus in a tree in the center of DeMott’s Pond, in Clinton New Jersey. (Read his account HERE) There has been much debate about the ID (as you would expect for a bird normally seen in Texas) with some of the “heavier” discussion over on the American Birding Association ID Frontiers website.  I had to go down and take a look for myself. Definitely a smaller bird with a longer tail and lacking the yellow facial skin that a Double-created would show. It will be interesting to see how/what the records committee determines. Either way congrats to Rob on the awesome bird!

Jeanette and I also went to Garret to see of the Yellow-throated was still around and to see if anything else new came in. No Yellow-throated Warbler but plenty of Pine and Palm and I saw two different Louisiana Waterthrushes sharing the stream behind the boat house. What a beautiful 70+ degree day today!

Louisiana Waterthrush
Louisiana Waterthrush

Louisiana Waterthrush
Louisiana Waterthrush

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Yellow-throated Warbler – Garret Mountain – April 11th, 2014

Yellow-throated Warbler
Yellow-throated Warbler

I was watching Tom Auer’s tweets and blog (Check it out its a great thing to keep an eye on as a North Eastern birder http://tomauer.com/blog/?p=551) and I was very interested to see if any southern or early bird would be pushed up by recent migration conditions. Of course you can never be certain when something came in and how, but I was very happy to see a beautiful Yellow-throated Warbler!  This is only the second one I have seen at Garret ever (quite plentiful south at Belleplain and even along the Delaware at Bull’s Island) so I was thrilled to find it gleaning insects (LOTS of gnats on the hill on Wilson Ave) with a large number of Pine and Palm Warblers. Fantastic. I am curious how other parts of the Northeast made out today.

There were quite a few dull Pine Warblers (imm/female) around today that I hadn’t noticed all week. Today I saw 3 Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers as well (have been hard to find this week)  and another Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (yesterday was FOS). Should be a nice weekend of weather for birds so hopefully the Yellow-throated sticks around!

Pine Warbler
Pine Warbler

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Yellow-throated Warbler
Yellow-throated Warbler

Pine Warbler
Pine Warbler

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Palm Warbler
Palm Warbler

Pine Warbler
Pine Warbler

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Garret Mountain – April 8th, 2014

Mourning Cloak
Mourning Cloak

Quick Post for today. Nothing new for me for Spring at Garret other than 2 Wood Ducks sitting up in the trees on the hill at the end of Wilson. I did see the Louisiana Waterthrush on Wilson today with all the additional water and flow from all the rain from last night/this morning.  4 Palms, 1 Winter Wren and the Red-headed Woodpecker. A circling Osprey and quite a few Ruby-crowned Kinglets mixed in with the Golden-crowned. No Pines today.

Louisiana Waterthrush
Louisiana Waterthrush

Swamp Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow

Red-headed Woodpecker
Red-headed Woodpecker

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Garret Mountain – April 7th, 2014

Palm Warbler
Palm Warbler

I mentioned that the pictures get better as we move through the Spring and more birds are around to be seen. Today proved that out. There were 20+ Palms around Garret today with the stunning guy above one of the many. Some nice bright male Pine Warblers and 2 Rusty Blackbirds (FOS). The Red-headed Woodpecker was around and 5 Winter Wrens. Not bad for early April! (No Waterthrush again today :()

Pine Warbler
Pine Warbler

Winter Wren
Winter Wren

Rusty Blackbird
Rusty Blackbird

Eastern Towhee
Eastern Towhee

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