Friday, April 11, 2008

Spring Migration at Higbee Beach

After the delightfully warm evening yesterday, I expected some migration overnight. Listening outside my home around 10 p.m. didn't yield any nocturnal flight notes, but CMBO's Friday morning walk, 7:30-9:30 a.m. at Higbee, found some new arrivals.

Perhaps the most fun were the Brown Thrashers: many were singing, and one tree held 4 sitting relatively peacefully together, a pretty clear indicator that they had migrated last night, were tired, had little intention to stay and nest at Higbee, and thus were content to be in close proximity. Thrasher of course is not new for the year down here, since a few lurk in the thickets all winter, but seeing many, and hearing many, was new.

It was great to encounter warblers, too - we had 5 species, including my first Northern Parula and Prairie Warblers of spring. Palm Warblers were fairly common, some were singing their unique, slow, buzzy trill, and many were in fine bright plumage, rusty caps and all. Pine and Yellow-rumped Warblers rounded out the warblers. Blue-gray Gnatcatchers were common, including some flying high overhead, though I didn't see any flying north in the manner typical of morning flight. Many Palms and Yellow-rumpeds foraged low to the ground in the third field and also the tower field at Higbee, where they were joined by Phoebes and occasionally a low-foraging gnatcatcher.

We saw several groups of Common Loons pass over, and a few Red-throated Loons were on the bay or flying past, along with many Northern Gannets and scoters. I'm sure the Purple Martins were pleased with the warm weather, since for the past few days cool temps have meant that pickings in the form of flying insects have been very thin. Tree and Rough-winged Swallows joined the martins.

Not to ignore the common, a single Dark-eyed Junco entertained us in the parking lot. As Tom Reed posted a few days ago, there has been a bit of an influx of juncos in the past few days. These will rapidly taper away over the next two weeks, "snowbirds" heading north. A few juncos breed in NJ, but only in the extreme north, for the most part near rocky balds on the Kittitinny Ridge.

We also noticed several Mourning Doves performing their stiff-winged, gliding display flights that often catch birders unaware and lead to calls of "Accipiter overhead!" And we lingered for a long look at a Field Sparrow, listening to it alternate "seep" flight calls with it's sharp chip. Several Field Sparrows were in strong song.

The full list from this morning is below; I was surprised to see the tally reached 60 species, not bad for a fairly leisurely morning's birding, and it will only get better as spring progresses. [A note especially to the participants from this morning's walk: a few of the species below, notably Blue-headed Vireo, were birds I encountered before the scheduled walk began, and so may not have been seen by all.]

Location: Higbee Beach
Observation date: 4/11/08
Number of species: 60
Canada Goose 2
Mallard 4
Surf Scoter 50
dark-winged scoter sp. 100
Red-breasted Merganser 20
Red-throated Loon 5
Common Loon 30
Northern Gannet 30
Double-crested Cormorant 40
Great Egret 1
Turkey Vulture 3
Osprey 5
Red-tailed Hawk 1
Greater Yellowlegs 4
Laughing Gull 10
Ring-billed Gull X
Herring Gull X
Great Black-backed Gull X
Forster's Tern 2
Mourning Dove 20
Red-bellied Woodpecker 4
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 1
Downy Woodpecker 5
Hairy Woodpecker 1
Northern Flicker 5
Eastern Phoebe 2
Blue-headed Vireo 1
Blue Jay 5
Purple Martin 10
Tree Swallow 5
Northern Rough-winged Swallow 1
Carolina Chickadee 15
Tufted Titmouse 5
Carolina Wren 20
Winter Wren 1
Golden-crowned Kinglet 2
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 20
American Robin 10
Gray Catbird 4
Northern Mockingbird 2
Brown Thrasher 20
Cedar Waxwing 60
Northern Parula 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler 50
Pine Warbler 4
Prairie Warbler 1
Palm Warbler 10
Eastern Towhee 5
Chipping Sparrow 1
Field Sparrow 3
Song Sparrow 1
White-throated Sparrow 10
Dark-eyed Junco 1
Northern Cardinal 15
Red-winged Blackbird 15
Eastern Meadowlark 1
Common Grackle 25
Boat-tailed Grackle 5
Brown-headed Cowbird 10
House Finch 4

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