Category for Spring Birding

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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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 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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Garret Mountain – May 15th – 17th, 2013

Olive-sided Flycatcher

Olive-sided Flycatcher

A really nice week of birding this week at Garret! I had 26 different Warbler species and had Blackburnian, Bay-breasted, Blackpoll, and Cape May almost daily (in my experience these are all tough to get). Although not the big fallout days where birds were dripping off all the trees, there have been strong large flocks of birds that can be found and then identified. I am sure my improved song recognition has helped this year as many were found after hearing them sing and then tracking them down. On Thursday, a pair of Wilson’s Warblers and finally a Lincoln’s Sparrow. On Friday, nice looks at Tennessee and an Olive-sided Flycatcher!

Always fun seeing the birds and birders at Garret in the Spring! Also, at the end of this post I am including a map of Garret with suggested birding routes for people new to the park. I know I would have like to have this information starting out as the big park can be frustrating when the part you are at is quite yet people keep reporting great birds! Just keep on moving along through the park and you are bound to come across singing flocks. The green, haphazardly done lines are for morning (I like to start at the top of Garret if you are there early) and then the red if you get there in the mid-day or afternoon. Of course it is always variable and any part of the park can be amazing but this is based on my experience and the places I like to bird. I will put up another post next week with a final list of the Garret birds seen. For today just some pictures from the week and the map. Good Spring Birding All!

Tennessee Warbler

Tennessee Warbler

Lincoln's Sparrow

Lincoln’s Sparrow

Blackburnian Warbler

Blackburnian Warbler

Wilson's Warbler

Wilson’s Warbler

And below finally just some of my suggestions on Garret Mountain birding routes: (Green if you start in the morning and then do Red.  If you start in the afternoon/mid-day I usually just do the Red)

 photo GarretPath_zpse3858f8f.jpg

 More Pics at our Flickr Site!

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