Author dmurray03

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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A Palm Sunday…and the schedule of upcoming guests

Palm Warbler
Palm Warbler

Today was another nice day for a walk around Barbour’s pond at Garret Mountain. Early in April the birds you will see can be estimated and hoped for, but you never know what has blown in or picked up and moved on.

The last few days of March and the first week and a half are usually pretty consistent for Pine Warbler, Louisiana Waterthrush (first/second week of April), Winter Wren and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and at the end of the run Palm Warblers. Lots of Palm Warblers. :) It is rare for me to make multiple trips to Garret during this time period and not see some or all of these. It is always a nice feeling to hear the first Pine Warbler song, see the Mourning Cloak fluttering past and watch the first Waterthrush bob its tail picking through the steam’s edges. All feels right with the world when these timings we become used to play out as expected in front of us with no human intervention required (or desired for that matter).

The second and third week of April usually bring in the next “wave” of migrants. This time is always interesting because an “early” member from the later groups can make guest appearances wetting your beak for the pending invasion you know sits waiting on waves of weather from the south. May is when those flood gates usually open, unleashing the traveling hordes through our borders. (happily mind you :)) So, the second and third weeks of April can bring Black-and-white Warbler, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Ovenbird, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Rusty Blackbird, Blue-headed Vireo, Lincoln’s Sparrow (uncommon), and circling Broad-winged Hawks.

Near the end of the third week (20s and on) comes the opportunity for Northern Parula and Black-throated Green Warblers. American Redstart is close behind as well. Orchard Oriole is also a bird that can make an early appearance at this time. Soon, Black-throated Blue and Green Warblers will serenade your entrance at the top of the park on Early May Saturday mornings welcoming you to a day of wonderful migrants abound. Orioles, Grosbeaks, Warblers, Vireos, Tanagers and Flycatchers scour the trees for inch worms and active bugs while eager Cuckoos pick through Tent caterpillars. It really is a wonderful time. So, the schedule is out there. Time has shown the migrator’s hand and its only up to us to show up and see it played! My favorite time of the year to be sure!

Today was “a” Palm Sunday as we came across a conservative estimate of 12 Palms flocked with Golden-crowned Kinglets (seemingly exclusively as no Ruby-crowned yet). Not much else “new” but nice to see fellow birding friends and catch up and prepare for what lies ahead. :)

Fun facts: In looking at my photos of 2008-2014 here are a couple of the possible April early birds and their dates: Hooded Warbler, April 10th, 2010, Northern Parula – April 7th, 2011. Keep your eyes open and Good Birding!

Palm Warbler
Palm Warbler

Palm Warbler
Palm Warbler

Red Fox
Red Fox @ Great Swamp

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Garret Mountain – April 3rd, 2014

Louisiana Waterthrush
Louisiana Waterthrush

Ahhh Spring. For some time now it is been “technically” Spring, but it sure hasn’t felt like it. We are just getting through a very cold and long winter and it was a nice relief today to simply take a walk around Garret in a light coat and take in the sun.

The first week of April is a great time at Garret to seek out some of the early Spring arrivals. Pine Warbler, Winter Wren and Louisiana Waterthrush are some of my favorite birds and can be found precisely this time of year at Garret. I parked at the top of Wilson and had 2 of the 3 within the first 10 minutes of my walk. A Winter Wren popped out of a pile of broken logs and twigs (very Winter Wren appropriate!) and hopped along the stream’s edge at the bottom of Wilson. (We saw at least 3 Winter Wrens around Garret today) Then, a bright yellow male Pine Warbler came into my view testing my small movement periphery skills. The bright yellow stood out, but the size compared to the many Golden-crowned Kinglets around also was telling. He didn’t call or sing at all so I will have to wait for my first Pine song of the year but I was happy with my first male (I had a female @ Charles H Rodgers in Princeton which was a FOS yesterday). The path on Wilson turned up more Golden-crowned Kinglets and a single Yellow-rumped Warbler and 2 Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers.

We then headed down towards the stream behind the boat house hoping to see the regular Louisiana Waterthrush. Sure enough, not even yet onto the path one popped into view and began working the rocks and stream sides for food pumping its tail all the way. Its officially Spring once I see a Louisiana Waterthrush. :) Awesome bird. There was also a Winter Wren here and more GC Kinglets. No Killdeer here yet for me and no Palm Warbler.

We continued our walk and had 3 awesome (slightly later than normal) Fox Sparrows working with a flock of White-throated Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos. Pretty orangy, (yes that’s an official color description I made up :)) none of them were the deep brick red but they were a pleasure to see! We also came across a pair of Eastern Phoebes on our walk past the picnic area and a first for me at Garret, a young male Red-headed Woodpecker!

A nice start to the spring walks at Garret.

(Early pictures of the spring are usually some of the worst due to minimal birds and fleeting views. These represent that to be true. :) Here they are anyways. If history proves true they will improve as the Spring moves on.)
Pine Warbler
Pine Warbler

Louisiana WaterthrushLouisiana Waterthrush

Brown Creeper
Brown Creeper

Winter Wren
Winter Wren

Eastern Phoebe
Eastern Phoebe

Red-headed Woodpecker
Red-headed Woodpecker

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Rufous-necked Wood Rail – More!

Rufous-necked Wood Rail

Rufous-necked Wood Rail

I wanted to put up a few more pictures that I got of the rail on July 17th as the early pictures were so distant. I got to see the rail 3 times over the 4 days! Fun little trip!

Rufous-necked Wood Rail

Rufous-necked Wood Rail

Rufous-necked Wood Rail

Rufous-necked Wood Rail

Here are a couple other pictures of birds (and a moth! :)) seen on the trip:

Phainopepla

Phainopepla

Red-naped Sapsucker

Red-naped Sapsucker

White-lined Sphinx Moth

White-lined Sphinx Moth

Dark-eyed Junco

Dark-eyed Junco

Green-tailed Towhee

Green-tailed Towhee

Broad-tailed Hummingbird

Broad-tailed Hummingbird

Band-tailed Pigeon

Band-tailed Pigeon

A few More Pics at our Flickr Site!

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Rufous-necked Wood Rail! – Bosque Del Apache – New Mexico

Rufous-necked Wood Rail

Rufous-necked Wood Rail

A coming home of sorts. I spent a good deal of the first 12 years of my life in Los Chavez New Mexico, and would come with my parents every New Year’s Day to Bosque Del Apache to see the Snow Geese and Sandhill Cranes (although there also were plenty to be seen in winters around my house in the surrounding fields). I am certain these formative trips and others to the Rio Grande Nature Center helped shape my love for nature, and in particular birds. I got “lost” for 15 years in the highly populated central New Jersey cities and High School, but a re-connection with nature as we moved to the suburbs, also rekindled my love for birds. So it was appropriate that I made it back to Bosque Del Apache for a special bird many years later for the recently found Rufous-necked Wood Rail!

Rufous-necked Wood Rail

There is a great video that Matt Daw (who found the bird) took while taking video of a Least Bittern and the Wood Rail walks right on through behind it completely unexpected! It was as if (to birders that is :)) Elvis had just photo-bombed your family Christmas photo! A special moment indeed. You can see it HERE.

So, with this wonderful sighting by Matt, and the amazing excitement it caused in the birding community, I hatched plans to work my way back to the Bosque.

As luck would have it (and birders no calling this “luck” is certainly appropriate) it worked out that, after being on the board walk for about 5 minutes, out popped the Rufous-necked Wood Rail! Enjoying the bird with all of the local and “migrant” birders was great too. They had all made their pilgrimage to New Mexico for the Wood Rail too. Everyone got to see the bird in the hour + that I was there, and its such a great thing to share in the experience with happy birders! Like opening Christmas presents with kids!

So, I wanted to try to get a few pictures of today and then maybe some better ones over the next 2 days. The pictures aren’t great as they are cropped from the significant distance it was away. What a bird and what a homecoming to an amazing place for birds at the Bosque Del Apache in the Land of Enchantment.

Sunday Wood Rail Waiting Crew!

The Sunday Wood Rail Waiting Crew!

A few More Pics at our Flickr Site!

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Book Review – The Warbler Guide

Time for another Bird Book review! I was excited about this one as it detailed one of my favorite bird species the Warblers! As a relatively newer birder, the process of working through which Bird Guide best suited me and allowed me to identify birds most accurately is still fresh in my mind. With all of the selections available today (to say nothing of the wonderful online/app choices) this process is loaded with options. As you progress in your birding, so too does the need for advanced clues to the tougher identification challenges that present themselves. The single colorful picture you sought to eliminate possibilities early, turns into a disadvantage as bird plumage and age make themselves known to you. This usually calls for multiple guides or, like in the case of The Warbler Guide, a single reference point packed with valuable information about a target set of species.

When I personally dove into Warbler identification (the species that helped bring me to birding in the first place! Could those colorful birds really be in my backyard in Central New Jersey?!) I pieced together multiple guides that had information on undertail covert colors and tail patterns, as well as song detail and plumage specification. I had to use multiple sources then for what this guide accomplishes itself. That, to be honest, is putting it mildly.

The first thing you come across is the standard (yet much more colorful and advanced overall) Parts of a Bird or “Topography” of a Bird. The “real” pictures of actual birds are well suited for this examination and new birders would be well to learn the lingo and terminology referenced within. The following sections start to “bake” out the basics of thoughts on identification with references to things like color, size, shape and behavior (Peterson has a similar, and I think valuable, introduction prior to the plates or bird pictures). Again, the use of real bird pictures provides wonderful examples to drive the ideas home. Specific references to the head, body, top of head, bill color, necklaces, side stripes and rump give the birder tons of identification points that other guides glaze over (or don’t go into as much detail) and this would again provide newer birders with key points of focus to add to their mental playbook.

I mentioned the undertail area earlier and once mastered (or for newer birders with photographs) the next section, combined with the Quick Finder shots of the undertail covert and tail patterns, surpass even the Peterson “Warblers” Guide in usefulness. (In my humble opinion of course) I often went to the pictures of the underside of different warblers all lined up together to differentiate a tough species that I wasn’t initially sure about. I’ll get into the usefulness of the Quick Finder in a bit.

A section on aging and sexing warblers is next and while I thought this expressed the concepts fine, it could have been even more beneficial had it included Fall pictures of Blackpoll and Bay-breasted to hammer the point home. (A nit-pick to be sure)

 photo Warbler_Guide_03_zps2907e6d9.jpg
Princeton University Press info on The Warbler Guide

The next section I found fascinating. As the specialized aspects of birding evolve quickly with technology, so too should the guides evolve that we use to interact with birds. Understanding Warbler song structure and Sonograms has it own, significantly long, section with harmonic details and structure references. This part has been the section I have read myself a few times as I have dabbled in song recording and identification of tough to ID birds (A possible Pine Flycatcher in Texas for example). I am curious how useful the birding community finds this as our hobby makes its way into the technological future.

After the hefty info on bird vocalization we come to the Quick Finder I mentioned earlier. These 16 pages (including the two on Western and Easter Undertails) alone should be greatly appreciated for those working through their Warbler ID fine tuning skills. I really liked the tough Fall Warblers and views of some of the odd positions you often view Warblers in. (A case of Warbler neck can often lead to unsatisfactory views of the bottom of the birds which is considered here!) Another quick reference grouping of some warbler song classification (Buzz/Trill/Rising and Falling) leads us to the meat of the guide and the individual Warbler species.

The spread given to each species (as can be done in specialized guides) is outstanding and it would be hard to come away from a review wanting for detail. Many views and photos, comparison species (I really liked this) and highly detailed age and plumage information hit their mark. I could see this being a lot to process for newer birders but again, if you have sought out a specialized guide for Warblers, you are probably looking for that edge to sharpen on to your identification tool kit. The plates and bird details are about as solid as it gets and the enhanced images of bird positions (similar to, but less thought out than the Crossley guide-type strategy to show mass viewing angles) further adds to the function of picking these guys out from whatever vantage point you’re in.

I also appreciated the detail on some of the more rare vagrants that show up occasionally on our side of the US border as this is often overlooked. I would look to others on the accuracy of the Range information, but from my perspective it seems sufficient and I like the attempt to display when in a migration band the bird would show up. (early in Spring and then late in Fall for example) The book closes with information on hybrids, highly useful flight shots (maybe these could have been with the main birds in their section?), and even a quiz and review! I love that the entire purpose of the book to identify Warblers is tied up with a bow in the delivery of a quiz to assess your comprehension of the wonderful information you have been provided. Perfect.

I obviously recommend this guide about as highly as I could and I look forward to utilizing it in my future birding adventures! Check it out!

Check back soon for more birding book reviews!

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