Monday, April 27, 2009

Belleplain State Forest Birding

August-like temperatures made for an interesting late-April weekend birding around Cape May county. On Saturday, we primarily birded Belleplain State Forest about 40 minutes northwest of Cape May. This time of year is fantastic for breeding and migrant warblers and their “friends” at Belleplain. It’s also a nice spot for butterflies (more on that in a future post). The day started out with cool temperatures but peaked in the low 80s by mid-afternoon.

Our group met up at the Headquarters and birded along the roads all morning. Our first spot yielded the song of a Yellow-throated Warbler. The song was likened to water cascading down steps by our trip leader and I think that’s a terrific mnemonic. My promise of even a bad shot of the Yellow-throated Warbler did not work out as this bird was pretty well hidden in the treetops. I got some brief views of that glowing throat though!

We were greeted by other terrific birds. Ovenbirds called “TEACHER-TEACHER” from the woods, but never showed themselves. Blue-gray Gnatcatchers bounced around with several building nests of lichen, moss, and leaves. A blotchy Indigo Bunting perched near an empty feeder. Black-and-White Warblers sang “weeza-weeza” in the treetops and a White-eyed Vireo sang “Pick-up-the-beer-check” as my friend likes to say.

We visited a new spot to me that consisted of farm fields and “scrub-shrub” habitat. Here we found some species that love this habitat – lots of singing Prairie Warblers and a few Orchard Orioles. For some reason, I find it hard to pick up the song of the Orchard Oriole. I hear it fine. It just doesn't stick in my brain like other birds.

A final stop before lunch was a sandy road leading to a swamp. Our target here was the “Golden Swamp Warbler” – AKA the Prothonotary Warbler. We met some other birders there who had a brief glimpse of the Prothonotary. So we waited… and waited… and finally a distant “SWEET-SWEET-SWEET” call rang out. It stayed ever so out of reach until the bird flew literally at our group and then did a fast u-turn and landed on a tree only 10 feet away. Stunning! I rattled off a few bad pics. See below.

We finished the day at Jake’s Landing, a favorite writing topic for Pete Dunne. On the marshes there, we saw a young Bald Eagle, tons of Willets, and had a brief glimpse of a Clapper Rail. The sun was beating down hard and I wasunfortunately sunburned. A nice late afternoon nap was in store!


Nate said...

For some reason I have trouble picking up Orchard Oriole too. It takes three or four times before I can hear the regularly and every single year it seems I start from scratch.

Patrick Belardo said...

I'm glad I'm not alone. I hear it just fine. It just won't stick in my brain. I feel like the one that's on "Birding By Ear" (or is it "More Birding By Ear"?) doesn't sound like the ones I hear in NJ.

corey said...

Sounds like you had some good birds...and sorry I didn't get back to you but this weekend I was on a pretty short leash.

Looks like you found better birds than I did too!

Rick said...

Ah, you make me nostalgic! I love Belleplain.
Orchard Oriole: think of a slightly retarded House Finch made entirely of sheet metal. Works for me--or at least did back in the days when I saw more Orchard Orioles!

Patrick Belardo said...

Corey: I hope you at least got some good grub. There are some great places to eat in Cape May. Migration was virtually non-existent.

Rick: Glad to help you be nostalgic! Terrific tip on the Orchard.