As I have often stated, there isn’t much better for Warblers in NJ than Garret Mountain in the Spring. Although not yet the super big number days that I have seen often in the past, Garret still always delivers and provides context to my official start to Spring. The weather was a bit odd this year after a warm winter and a not so wet April, and I expected early numbers and species in late April. However, the big numbers on warbler species didn’t open up until the first week of May and per usual, you never can tell when the floodgates open. Wind direction/speed, pressure systems and national weather all attribute to broad North American bird migration and its always helpful to keep one eye on your calendar of past experience and one eye on Bird Migration Radar information like that at http://www.woodcreeper.com/. You can usually get a good idea of what is coming and what the good days for the upcoming week “should” be. So, how did we get here? Where did our Spring/Warbler season start this year?
It always starts for me with early April trips to Garret at lunch and this year followed a similar pattern. First come the Pine Warblers followed shortly by Palm Warbler and Louisiana Waterthrush, Winter Wren and Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers. This is a pretty common arrival order and you better see them early because they all become scarce within a months time. Then you get trickles (of course this is all just in my 5+ year Garret Spring exp) of Black-and-white Warbler, Blue-headed Vireo, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, a Northern Parula here and there and sometimes and early Hooded Warbler or Black-throated Green Warbler and an Orchard Oriole or two. No early Parula or Hooded for me this year but all the rest came pretty much as expected. You usually then hit a big push where the walls sort of break down and species poor in. The Baltimore Orioles, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks and Scarlet Tanagers arrive in force and a walk around Barbour’s Pond can’t help but yield the call of one if not all of them. The Black-throated Greens and Blues come on strong with Nashville Warblers, Magnolia Warblers, and American Redstarts peppered with beautiful Blackburnian Warblers. The odd Hooded or Worm-eating Warbler shows up and usually an early Blackpoll Warbler or Canada Warbler makes an appearance Chestnut-sided Warbler, Cape May Warbler and Bay-breasted Warbler seem like second push birds to me and when they have all showed up its officially on. Almost anything can show up and they can show up in numbers. I have had morning with 10-15 Cape May Warblers on a section of tree up on the ridge or Rose-breated Grosbeaks pouring off the sides of trees by the tiered lots. The trees appear literally alive at times with all of the “small movement” stirring boldly. Its a cornucopia of activity and a feast for the identifying eye and mind. The turn for home includes heavier pushes of Canada and the outside chance at Mourning Warbler or even a Connecticut Warbler. This is May at Garret Mountain and it is a thing to behold. 🙂
April, however, was not without incident for Jeanette and I as we looked to beat the “migration” streak and shot down to Belleplain and Cape May April 21st for some early breeding birds and a shot at migrants hitting the coastal spots as opposed to inland. It serves to reason (mine anyways :)) that the distinctive southern species of breeding warblers would “get in” before their northern brethren. The Prairie Warbler at Higbee beach and the Worm-eating, Prothonotary Warbler, Hooded, Blue-winged Warbler and Yellow-throated Warblers at Belleplain are great bets with Louisiana Waterthrush thrown in for good measure. It was a great way to get an early start and we got looks at all of these birds on April 21st.
So Spring had started and this weekend was our first “landing” on the first wave of birds at Garret in May! Blackburnian, an early Blackpoll and loads of Black-throated Greens greeted me with Black-throated Blue and Magnolia Warbler all making early appearances by the central picnic area by the Basketball court. I was greeted on my walk down here from the Castle parking area by the return of Oriole and Tanager calls ringing though the air. Its like dipping your brain back into an experience its been deprived of for some time and having it invigoratingly rush back in. “Yes, that was a Magnolia Warbler song.” Its and exhilarating experience for a brain ripe for recognition. Ovenbird and Black-white were numerous and the final nice bird of the day was a cooperatively singing Tennessee Warbler! Just the start of things to come at Garret. Fun!
I haven’t done a great job of the blogging side of things but I usually have updating “outing” picture at our Flickr site.