Sunday, May 23, 2010

Stirling Forest and nw NJ, May 22nd

A better title might be "Stirling Forest and afterthoughts" since the action was squarely at the first location.

Along Long Meadow Road there was a beautiful male Brewster's Warbler (Golden-winged X Blue-winged hybrid) singing, along with more silent Golden-winged males, something that sounded like a Blue-winged, Great Crested Flycatcher and some fast-acting Eastern Phoebe's that already had two fledgelings. There was signs of trimming and herbicide use here, which has damaged the habitat. A Pileated Woodpecker was touring its territory, making big drumming noises and flying over twice. Warbling Vireo, Eastern Kingbird, Yellow Warbler, American Redstart fleshed out the list here.

On to the other part of the power line cut at Ironwood Road where the same patches of herbicide use were evident. However there were still good numbers of Golden-winged Warblers, a Blue-winged, several Prairie Warblers and Indigo Buntings and a pair of Field Sparrows. A calling pair of Common Ravens drifted over. Unseen but vocal birds included Eastern Wood-Peewee, Hooded Warber, Ovenbird and a quick burst from a Worm-eating Warbler. I didn't hear any Ceruleans, however.

That was a good start, with several "year" birds, although the Brewster's was the #1 star since I see this hybrid rarely. I then cut across through Warwick toward Oil City Road and the northern edge of Wallkill River NWR. Not a great deal there, just a few swallows and Least and Solitary Sandpipers. And then on to High Point State Park, although en route I did see a few Wild Turkeys.

Following a fairly typical route I coasted down Sawmill Road listening for Ceruleans, although I failed to find any. Despite it being 1pm many birds were in full song: American Redstart, Red-eyed Vireo, Ovenbird were the most frequent. A brief sprint along Deckertown Pike brought me to Stokes State Forest and more Cerulean territory and eventually I did find an actively singing one. I walked along the trail downstream along the Flatbrook River and saw Ovenbird, Veery and heard a Black-throated Green Warbler. What was missing here were Empidonax flycatchers - no Acadian on the Flatbrook, no Least near the parking lot, no Willow at Wallkill and as it turned out there would be no Alder at Layton. Dropping out of Stokes SF I heard a couple more Ceruleans singing.

And then finally to Layton and the Delaware Water Gap at Van Ness Rd, itself a destination for several early morning forays over the years. Prairie, Yellow and Blue-winged Warblers sounded off. There was no sign of any Golden-winged. The habitat here has filled in compared to my first years here and has probably become too overgrown for Golden-winged, now nearly extirpated in NJ. It's probably getting too "mature" for Blue-winged too. Wood Thrushes and Veeries were singing in the background, but it was relatively quiet (and late in the day) for a "good" day at Layton.

For the final stop I took a somewhat circuitous route before finding the Kay Environmental Center just south of Chester (west of Morristown). I was trying for a Golden-winged sweep by seeing the Lawrence's Warbler (another hybrid) that was reported there, but directions were a little vague and a Priarie Warbler was the only species in evidence here.

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