Sunday, May 24, 2009

Birds of Bear Swamp + Horseshoe Crab Spawn

[Fair lady: female Kentucky Warbler, Bear Swamp, Cumberland County, today. Photo by Don Freiday.]

We opened the Bear Swamp MAPS banding station today, and the quality breeders of Bear Swamp didn't disappoint - many of the same species as we have been reporting on from farther south in Belleplain State Forest. Like Belleplain, Bear Swamp contains extraordinary forest habitat, and the birds that depend on it.

Merely listening along Route 555 in the first couple miles outside Dividing Creek, we heard all the species depicted in the photos, plus Whip-poor-wills at dawn, and Yellow-breasted Chat and Summer Tanagers at the railroad tracks. Multiple Acadian Flycatchers, Scarlet Tanagers, Black-and-white Warblers, Prothonotary Warblers, Yellow-throated Warblers, and a pair of Bald Eagles over 555 were other highlights.

We also heard a couple Yellow-billed Cuckoos. Cuckoos have been scarce this spring. The only Black-billed I've encountered was the one we saw last week up at High Point, Sussex County, NJ during the CMBO annual volunteer naturalists' field trip. Yellow-billeds have been findable in Cape May and Cumberland, but only in small numbers.

[The female Kentucky gives a lesson as to why she is a female; the book is the bander's bible, Peter Pyle's Identification Guide to North American Birds, Part I. We stock Pyle at the CMBO bookstore for a reason - it is rife with useful information to supplement the popular field guides, though the density of the info and the heavy use of abbreviations sometimes require patient study. Photo by Don Freiday.]

[Worm-eating Warbler. We caught several, and heard more. Photo by Don Freiday.]

[This female Ruby-throated Hummingbird was released unbanded, but not before a photo opp. Photo by Don Freiday.]

Shorebirds along Delaware Bay are peaking - I'm hearing reports of Red Knots in the hundreds, anyway, at the traditional places like Reed's Beach. Tonight, given the new moon and accompanying exceptionally high tide, I wandered down to Norbury's Landing. Horseshoe crab spawning peaks on the extra high tides of the new and full moons. I found some fairly dense horseshoe crab spawning, at least by current standards. It's nothing like the old days, but maybe it will be again, thanks to the moratorium on crab harvest in NJ waters.

[Above and below, spawning Horseshoe Crabs at Norbury's Landing, taken about an hour ago. Photos by Don Freiday.]

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