Thursday, May 8, 2008

Princeton area Grasslands - May 7th 2008

After an uninspiring stint in Central Park on May 6th I decided to look locally on May 7th at three local grassland preserves: Griggstown, Six Mile Run and Negri-Nepote, all of which are in Franklin Twp which seems to value its open space in contrast to other localities.

Starting at Griggstown there were swallows looking for mud on the ground, including a Northern Rough-winged Swallow that dropped down into the parking lot. There were four Bobolinks around the parking lot, which left when I arrived, but I kept seeing male Bobolinks in the preserve - they weren't being vocal or displaying however. There were also (silent) Savannah Sparrows but I heard no singing Grasshopper Sparrows. Griggstown appears to be getting a slow start. Wood Thrushes were to be heard from the woodland, at least.

Next I went to Six Mile Run, where the usual Chipping Sparrows were in the parking lot and Brown Thrasher, Baltimore Oriole and Yellow Warbler were in the scrubby area nearby. One interesting thing was watching a female Yellow Warbler gather silk strands from a Gypsy Moth caterpillar tent for nest building. She visited various tents several times for this. In the fields Eastern Bluebirds, Tree Swallows and Field Sparrows are inevitable. Two Indigo Buntings were singing, along with a Blue-winged Warbler. Further down the trail I came across the first of four singing Grasshopper Sparrows - in fact the first one was a very brightly-marked male. Since they starting singing later in the morning it's conceivable that they hadn't started at Griggstown.

After Six Mile Run I went to Negri-Nepote, where a Prairie Warbler sang near the parking lot, another Grasshopper Sparrow at the first of the grasslands. At the freshwater pond there were Hooded Merganser, several Least Sandpipers, Solitary Sandpipers, a full breeding plumage Spotted Sandpiper and a Lesser Yellowlegs. The sun was high enough that I didn't waste time photographing them, but it was interesting to see how they use any little bit of water they can find. Near Negri-Nepote I noticed other undeveloped private land that looked like it could be good for grassland species, although the two lots on the corner of Skillman Rd right next to the preserve had For Sale signs on them.

Finally I visited Princeton's Institute Woods to check that there hadn't been a warbler dropout - apart from Rose-breasted Grosbeak and singing Yellow Warbler things were relatively quiet at 11am and I left without spending too much time there.

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