Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Grasslands Survey 1

So today I did my first of my NJ Audubon Grasslands Bird Surveys. I rolled out of bed at 5:00 and was quickly on the road to southern Somerset County. The plan was to make it to all of my 9 designated stops and then to work by 9:00. Each stop consists of a 5-minute survey of the birds from a specified point within a 100m radius. I count grassland birds like Bobolink, Meadowlark, and Grasshopper Sparrow. We're also secondarily counting "scrub-shrub" species like Field Sparrow, Prairie Warbler, Yellow-Breasted Chat, Cuckoos, etc. My stops are mostly rural fields or abandoned fields in the middle of suburbia. After my scouting trip a few weeks ago, I didn't have high hopes of seeing or hearing many of the target birds.

My first stop was across from a soccer field. A Mockingbird kindly perched in a tree above my head and made so much racket, that I could barely hear anything. The abandoned field of weeds and grasses yielded a few Red-Winged Blackbirds. Surprisingly, the soccer field area behind me had singing Field Sparrow and Prairie Warbler. Not too shabby.

My next three stops were bland and produced very little. On my 5th stop, I hit the grassland jackpot for my route. Upon getting out of the car, I heard the insect-like song of a Grasshopper Sparrow! I also had a distant fly-by Bobolink and a fly-by Eastern Meadowlark showing its bright yellow and black chest! Paydirt! This is probably the best I can hope for on my route. My next stop yielded a singing Meadowlark in addition to a distant singing Chat, Field Sparrows, and Indigo Bunting. I also heard Willow Flycatcher here, but we're not counting those. That's a year bird for me though.

My last few stops resulted in a few more Field Sparrows and a lot more Red-Winged Blackbirds. Alas, only 2 of my count areas had target grassland species. The birds seen and heard today are most likely breeding in the areas where I found them and hopefully I will re-find them on my next run. I hope the other volunteers are having better luck then I am. My next survey will be in a few weeks. On my ride home I had a vicious allergy attack. My eyes have never itched so much in my life. That will teach me not to take my meds prior to birding in allergen-land.

1 comment:

MojoMan said...

Hello. I just popped over through your post on Julie Zickefoose's blog. I look forward to catching up with your posts.