Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Labor Day weekend: Central Park and Brigantine

Saturday, at an obnoxious 92 degrees, kept me around the house doing yard work.

On Sunday I trekked into Central Park on a day with at best modest migration prospects.  I was lured in by the reports of Red Crossbills the previous two days - a very rare bird for the park in what might be a major irruption year for them.  The Crossbills bad obviously left, despite some time spent searching Hemlocks for them.  Migration was also less than spectacular, with very low numbers of migrants with the exception of one small active patch near the Gill: this yielded Chestnut-sided, Magnolia, Worm-eating, Yellow and Northern Waterthrush.  That was my first Worm-eating Warbler in the park this year - I'd seen or heard others at Sterling Forest and Belleplain SP but as with Cape May Warbler I had struck out on it during spring migration.

On Labor Day itself I went down to Brig again and had a better birding day there than the previous weekend despite some pretty overcast weather.  Three Bobolinks at the start of the one-way section of the wildlife drive.  A Lark Sparrow (my first in NJ and fairly rare in the East) made itself obvious by lurking around the drive itself where the bulky side and white-tipped tail feathers drew my attention.  Several other birders drove right past it and flushed it from the driveway, so it wasn't apparently obvious to everyone.  Double-crested Cormorant numbers were quite high - already on the move with some flocks in the air, there were also a lot of them staging in the area and big flocks were feeding on fish schools along with similarly high numbers of Forster's Terns.  Since it was windy I did unusually poorly with passerines, i.e. no Seaside Sparrows, and the two Ammodramus sparrows that I did see where a nice bonus - Saltmarsh (Sharp-tailed) Sparrows.  While not the first time I've seen them there, they are not an every-trip bird.  Shorebirds were in modest numbers with the typical selection augmented by Ruddy Turnstone, Red Knot (one adult, one juvenile) and three Pectoral Sandpipers.  There were also some interesting terns - a flock on a sandbar with shorebirds had many Royals and a few Caspians.  Later on I saw juvenile Caspians still begging from their parents.  And best of all a juvenile Gull-billed Tern was still being fed by parents that had already started their pre-basic molt and losing their black caps.  A Wild Turkey in the forested area capped off the trip and I did fairly well at avoiding the worst of the Labor Day traffic on the way back home.

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