Sunday, May 28, 2006

Lifer - One that's avoided me...

The weather this Memorial Day weekend has been awesome. My friend Adam was up from Virginia so I joined him and some friends for a Sunday morning walk at Sandy Hook. We were hoping to see a Mourning Warbler, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, or Olive-sided Flycatcher since this is a great time of year for these birds. There's always a chance for a rarity at the Hook too.

We met up at 6:00 AM and started birding. Migrants were scarce but we did find a lingering Yellow-rumped Warbler and TONS of Redstarts. A flock of Cedar Waxwings was a nice find, as always. We arrived at North Pond, which is one of the only freshwater locations on Sandy Hook. The phragmites here are home to your usual marsh birds like Marsh Wren, Red-winged Blackbird, and Common Yellowthroat. This spot is also usually home to a breeding pair or two of Least Bitterns, a bird I have never seen.

Least Bitterns are notorious skulking birds. These tiny herons hide in the reeds and once in a while poke their head out. Even when they're exposed, they have amazing camouflage. Due to their size, they have the ability to straddle two reeds while feeding in relatively deep water - which is exactly what the bird that we found today was doing! My buddy Dave spotted it standing in the reeds and we were all treated to amazing looks. It really is unbelievable how well their coloration camouflages with the color of the reeds. I could barely see the bird naked-eye, but had crippling looks through my bins. This is a bird I'd been seeking for many years and in many different locations. I was thrilled to finally find one - ABA lifer #474!

The rest of the day turned out to be pretty lackluster. We had a few more species of warbler, a Scarlet Tanager, but no Mourning Warbler or any other late-season migrants. This might have been my last hurrah for spring migration birding. Soon it'll be time to hunt down more butterflies and dragonflies.

1 comment:

LauraHinNJ said...

Good find - they're so hard to spot at North Pond, aren't they?