As we finished our afternoon drive Jeanette and I decided to take the “scenic” route and drive past the Griggstown Farmer’s Market. The market sells quail and pheasant eggs and has an abundance of both birds caged on the property. Hawks love the area to look for any meal that may “escape” from its cage. We passed the Bunker Hill Golf course prior to the market and I saw a raptor perched on a post half way down it’s entry road. We drove down to look and photograph. This guy was confident and unflinching. We got as close as possible to him and he looked unaffected. Always nice when you can really see the detail of these beautiful birds.
So, the Fall Warblers and Fall Migration are not too far away now. It will be Jeanette and my first fall go-round, and we have booked a week in Cape May to enjoy it. Although the bright and vibrant Spring colors may be dampened some, our spirits won’t. Cant wait! Can anyone say exactly when the fall migration for warblers is? Shoot me an email if possible. Above are a few of our favorite warbler pictures from this year.
Lost is all the Spoonbill fun was a very photo friendly Least Bittern in the reeds near the Gull pond tower. Our first bittern (Digi-scoped Pic below).
So, we see and read the NJ RBAs (Rare Bird Alerts) often now. A Roseate Spoonbill that should probably be somewhere in Florida or down south, had found its way up to New Jersey’s Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge (aka The Brig). With a busy week at work and a two and a half hour drive it didn’t seem likely that we would get down to try and see it until the weekend. Then we would have to scope among the crowds and hope the bird hadn’t moved on. We decided to make the effort and hope for the best. At 6:45 PM, after a relatively light rush-hour (by NJ standards anyways), we pulled into the Gull Pond tower area and parked among the six or seven cars that brought other would-be Spoonbill hunters to this locale. Seeing a crowd of 12 to15 people all peering in the same direction brought hope and excitement as we jumped out of the car and rushed to join the birders. The excitement was short lived as the Spoonbill had not yet been seen and many there reported being there for many hours and some even since the morning. Either way it was a beautiful night and the company of good people and the Brig’s “normal” bird contingent would make the trip enjoyable.
First a skating show performed by three Black Skimmers right in front of us as we “oohed and ahhhed.” Then a Least Bittern made an appearance to keep things interesting. This would be an okay night after all. Then it happened. As newbie birders you are almost silent when it comes to making a “spotting” call. An incorrect identification among experienced birders was not something you wanted to do. Well this bird made it easy. I was looking through binocs toward the bridge on the way out of the Brig where the bird at some point had been seen when “pink” flew right in my line of sight. Knowing there wasn’t much pink at the Brig and the assistance of the previous spot made it easier. All the same it still felt sort of special being the first one to say “There it is!” as the beautiful bird rose into the air. We all got good looks and when it turned the corner and landed in a tree we all looked at each other with huge childish grins and enthusiastic chatter. We got it! So, a few birders left after an all day vigil having accomplished what they came for. We decided (after being suggested by one of the experienced birders) to walk down a hundred yards and hope to find the tree the bird landed in. Sure enough there he (i think?) was sitting in a tree 5 feet below a Great Egret.
Looking like he belonged there and had done it a million times he gave plenty of nice looks at plumage and bill. After about 10 minutes the bird rose into the air. Rose being the appropriate word as the color of the Spoonbill was unmistakably distinct. It flew in our direction, in the same general path it had the night before and then veered a few feet to make it directly over our heads. Amazing silence filled the air as we collectively held our breath as it glided by. Another round of smiles followed. I turned to Jeanette and saw what I had hoped I would. Her holding our camera and a smile that said “I got him.” The only disappointment of the night was the clarity of the pictures as we had “tweaked” the camera settings to attempt to get a digi-scoped picture just minutes earlier. Still, the pictures were great and Jeanette was the only one of this group to capture the spoonbill (I believe). An unbelievable birding adventure and one that if you weren’t already made you a birder “for life.”
Today we decided to head down to a favorite shore bird site the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge (Also know as “The Brig” to most birders). We had been a few times but this was to be our first at High Tide (a time I had heard was good for birds). Constant assault by flys can make this 8 mile drive an in-car activity. I can’t imagine walking around with the swarms attacking, although two older birders calmly rolled by us with windows open and binocs and scopes at hand seeming to hardly notice the bugs. Anyways, the Snowy Egret and Great Egrets were everywhere with American Oystercatchers, Terns, Gulls and Night-herons seemingly in every pool. A nice sized group of Glossy Ibis greeted us as we made our way out. The highlight was a family of Osprey tending to their young and their nest.
Ok, so its great and all that Jeanette is no longer the “only” person to have seen the Lawrence’s Warbler in the house, and the number of amazing looks I got were second to none. But, as far as “style” goes, I am not even in the same ballpark. 🙁 Further proof that I need a very expensive camera is the collection of beauties below. Yes those are actually pictures taken by a person.
Ok, so yes its with my binocluars, and yes they are fast, and yes the terrain was difficult…did I mention they were fast?
Anyways, around 7:00 PM, they (he was running with another Blue-winged Warbler) let me follow them for 5-10 minutes around the dense thicket on the right hand side of the road that leads up to the Kay Center parking lot. PICTURES = BAD Knowing you now have a Lawrence just like Jeanette = PRICELESS. 🙂
(I also did see two Hooded Warblers…all of a sudden they are everywhere, and actually managed to get a decent shot)
As new birders you realize how much was “going on” around you without you even knowing it was there. When you aren’t “looking for birds” parks and hiking trails are a completely different world. The dog you used to think was “cute” running through the grass becomes a “nuisance” and “shouldn’t be off a leash.” Before you know it, you want them to stop drilling in Alaska, save the tropical rain forest, and preserve the little habitat left in the world for the same birds you barley knew just a year before. Such is the greatness of Birding. One of the great examples of a well “preserved” park is the Negri-Nepote Grasslands (maintained by the New Jersey Audubon). Grasshopper Sparrows (Got this one) and Bobolinks (Not this one yet) are around as well as loads of Indigo Buntings and Cedar Waxwings. Wild Turkeys, Falcons and Hawks walk and fly through the colorful grasslands.
This curious young Red-tailed Hawk was being “carefully” cared for by an attentive mom and dad who let us get a nice look before being “politely” asked to leave. Her distinctive call let us know she appreciated us stopping by but she needed to get back to hawk mothering and stuff. A beautiful day full of birds and color. Who says summer birding can’t be wonderful?!