Thursday, April 7, 2011

Tsip, Spich and Zo zo zid zid zid zeeeeee-tsup (among other things!)

Today was a day of two halves for me; a morning Birds, Beasts & Botany walk at Cape May Point State Park, then a lunchtime drive around Belleplain State Forest (with a fair wack of paperwork between and after!). The end result was six species of warbler, which is always nice this early in the year. The BBB walk turned into a session of comparing and contrasting - various pines and how to tell them apart, and looking at the differences between the native Pennsylvania Bittercress and the alien Hairy Bittercress. Birds were good to us too and we enjoyed four Chipping Sparrows (the Tsip in the title) in full breeding plumage on the Hawkwatch Platform hand rail, a full breeding-plumaged Palm Warbler of the colorful eastern form and plenty of passage Yellow-rumped Warblers. A calling Golden-crowned Kinglet, three Ospreys and two American Coots all added to our lists nicely. Dropping into the Northwood Center afterwards, I heard a Northern Parula singing right outside in the lakeside poplars and several of us got nice views of it as it sang from bare branches (the Zo zo.....thing in the title).

Male Northern Parula wondering where all the leaves are at the Northwood Center today [photo by Mike Crewe].

Belleplain is pretty quiet this time of year - and lunchtime is never a great time for bird song, but you never know! But you think that I would know by now, because I did my usual - no camera and a Louisiana Waterthrush (the Spich in the title) feeding not 30 feet from me in full sun at one point, on a quiet little backwater!! Pine Warblers were singing on and off and - just as time ran out and I was heading back to the car - a Yellow-throated Warbler started to sing.

Butterflies deserve a mention now and again and today wasn't too bad for them; several Question-marks, an Orange Sulphur and at least 10 azure things (don't ask!) were all nice, but eclipsed by the nice count of 38 Henry's Elfins along Narrows Road. Not that many of the small Lycaenids (that's blues and hairstreaks to you and I) like to sup mineral salts from dirt roads, so do be careful and attentive to them when you drive these routes.

Let me see - Cape May Point Lighthouse, the New Jersey state flag (nearly!), Purple Martins... Yep, the Purple Martins are back at Cape May Point State Park! [Photo by Mike Crewe.]

Male Purple Martins look black from a distance, but when the light catches them, they have a nice blue-purple shine to them [photo by Mike Crewe].

Female Purple Martins lack the shine of the males and are pale gray below with a pale collar [photo by Mike Crewe].

Purple Martins were first noted back at the state park on April 4th I believe and have been seen daily since, though this morning, a Merlin perched on one of the boxes may have been responsible for them being notable by their absence! Other news includes the first Green Darner of the year reported to me by Glen Davis on 6th, a continued scattering of Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Chimney Swifts and Glossy Ibises from various locations and - right this past few minutes - a Ruby-throated Hummingbird noted by Louise Zemaitis in Villas.

***Looking for something to do this weekend? Check out our Events Calendar for an embarassment of great ideas - there's just so much to do at Cape May!!***

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