Monday, May 6, 2013

Weekend: Delayed migration and Brigantine

In what was the quietest May 4th/5th in many years, I visited Bull's Island (NJ, Delaware River) to look for the Prothonotary Warbler and other summer breeding birds.   There were no Cliff Swallows nesting under the bridge, perhaps because of construction work there, although there were a number of Northern Rough-winged Swallows along the river.

The northern camping area of the island is closed currently, and you can't even walk in, so I was restricted to my preferred birding spots on the southern half of the island.  Activity seemed much lower than I usually associate with this place - not all the migrants had arrived and there was a single singing Ovenbird, two Northern Parulas and a pair of Blue-gray Gnatcatchers.  I also heard a Prairie and a Great Crested Flycatcher.  No Acadian Flycatchers.  Of course the main reason for going there was a male Prothonotary Warbler which was singing nearly non-stop and periodically offering up decent views.  Not a regular breeder here, not least of all because this is a riverside location not a dense southern swamp.

On Sunday I went into Central Park, and got what I expected - almost nothing.  Best bird was a singing male Prairie Warbler.  The rest of the migrant count included: two Warbling Vireos, two Yellow Warblers, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, one or two Baltimore Orioles.

So in the late afternoon I went down to Brigantine NWR to try my luck on the Bar-tailed Godwit.  This had apparently made a permanent departure that morning (I'd seen them in AK last summer) but still present were flocks of shorebirds and in particularly at least one hundred Whimbrels.  Tern numbers were low with just a few Forster's, but the Ospreys were already starting to nest.  As expected the saltwater surge from Hurricane Sandy had devastated the freshwater vegetation in the pool, but I saw some signs of sprouting.  The brackish pool fared better, but much vegetation has been removed from the wildlife drive where multiple breaches were repaired and the drive re-graded.  Some of the lower elevation woodland had been killed but much of it remained intact.  What was noticeable was the apparent lowering of the saltmarsh, in that there was much more high tide flooding than I remembered.  Part of this could be the easterly wind pushing water into the bay, but it's probably also a hurricane-induced effect that may mitigate over time.  How this changes the Forster's Tern population (a saltmarsh breeder vs the Common Tern's beach breeding habits) remains to be seen.

List from Forsythe/Brigantine NWR:

Double-crested Cormorant
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
American Black Duck
Blue-winged Teal
Green-winged Teal
Black-bellied Plover
Greater Yellowlegs
Sandpiper sp. including probable Semipalmated and Least
Short-billed Dowitcher
Forster's Tern
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow
Common Yellowthroat

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