Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Negri-Nepote Dickcissel

Trying to pack in a few breeding season sites in good weather before I wander off to the Pacific NW I went to Six Mile Run (Grasshopper Sparrow etc) and Negri-Nepote Grasslands. I've been to Negri-Nepote before but not very often - it's just far enough away to represent a higher effort barrier. However this Franklin Twp-managed site is better than Griggstown and probably should become my spring-summer alternative to that.

For example: I heard (and probably saw) a Grasshopper Sparrow within the first 200 yards from the parking lot at Negri-Nepote. I wasn't there for very long since this was a short visit sandwiched between Six Mile Run and work. Predictable birds were: Indigo Bunting, House Wren, Field Sparrow, Common Yellowthroat. On the pond was a male Mallard, Killdeer, Great Egret and a swarm of feeding swallows (Tree, Barn). The bird I mainly came to see was a singing male Dickcissel, given a relatively monotonous and uninspired song even compared to other Dickcissels, but it did make it pretty easy to find.

Dickcissel's breeding range once covered the Atlantic coast but breeding in this area has become a rare to very rare event. They breed here and there in Delaware, but breeding in NJ is extremely irregular. Normally I see this species as a misdirected fall migrant (Jones Beach) or more rarely as a spring wanderer (Central Park) but this is the first Dickcissel I've seen in NJ. Unlike the movement of Cassin's Sparrow's east in response to the major drought of the interior west, there's no obvious climatic reason for Dickcissel turning up in NJ. I saw some in very late May in coastal TX at Anahuac NWR, in March in FL, and for me this is a banner year for them since previously I've seen them very infrequently.

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