Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Belleplain Breeders on Memorial Day

[Acadian Flycatcher is the greenest-backed of NJ's 4 breeding empids (though some Alders look pretty green). It is also the longest winged, with on average the longest primary projection past the tertials of any of them. The tertials are the wing feathers (with pale outer edges on our empids) that lie over the rest of the folded wing, with the primaries sticking out beyond. Primary projection is a good clue to look at on almost any bird. In general, the longer distance migrants are longer winged, with longer projection. Click to enlarge photos.]

I beat the outbound traffic on Route 47 early Monday morning (don't EVER try to go north from Cape May after about 11:00 a.m. at the end of a summer holiday weekend) and went up to Belleplain State Forest. A good project for post-spring-migration birding is to study, really study, the breeding birds. The nice thing about breeders is they are not going anywhere, e.g. the Acadian Flycatchers at the "four corners" area of Belleplain State Forest, near the entrance to Lake Nummy campground, which is where the pictured bird was photographed. This is a great time to put a scope, or a camera, on otherwise elusive species to learn details of shape and plumage, and to listen to calls and songs over and over again. Just be careful not to bother the birds.

One thing to notice on the photos, all the same bird, is how the eyering appears, or doesn't, from photo to photo. Acadians almost always show a complete eyering. . .if you look carefully, from different angles and in different light.

This Acadian sang steadily, occasionally throwing in its squeaky pweek call note. There is disagreement about how to describe Acadian's song - I hear it as descending, and the sonogram bears that out with a pronounced rise but a complex, lower finish, so the old mnemonic pizza or PEET-suh works great for me. Yet other birders hear it rising; for them so-PEET works. Mnemonics are for the ear of the listener; the important thing is learn the sound and find the words that help you remember. And as with other species, individual Acadian songs can vary slightly.

[Acadians have very large, broad bills (for empids, anyway), all pale below. Yellow-bellieds, which don't breed as far south as NJ but are an i.d. contender in migration, have a shorter, narrower bill, and are smaller and more compact overall. YBFL's also have yellow or olive-yellow throats, not white. Least Flycatcher has a doinky little bill, and the lower mandible shows a dark tip if you get a good look. Willow and Alder bills are closer to Acadian in size.]

[Of the empids, Acadians have the pointiest wings, with p10 (outermost) and p6 about the same length, and p7-9, in between, sticking out farther beyond p6 than on other empids. P6 is longer than p10 on all the other emipids, which together with their shorter primaries contributes to a rounder appearance on the open wings.]

[Hooded Warblers love Belleplain's Mountain Laurel thickets. This male made a nice piece of eye candy after all that empid study; so did the laurel, still very much in bloom.]

[Black-and-white Warbler doing what BAWW's do, gleaning insects from branches. This one is a male, note the dark cheek.]

Belleplain had all the other usuals, including Summer Tanagers on Frank's Road and elsewhere, and Kentucky and Prothonotary Warblers in a few places, including along Sunset, and the Louisiana Waterthrushes were chipping there, too. Yellow-throated Warblers were a bunch of places (I was on my bike), and although I found no Red-headed woodpeckers, Hairy Woodpeckers were unusually easy to find, with a half dozen or more for the morning.

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