Wednesday, April 25, 2007

LSP Morning Mile

t was gorgeous, cool, and sunny for the Morning Mile today, with an intermittent light southerly breeze.

Common Grackle, Robin, Savannah Sparrow and Red-winged Blackbird were noisy and active in the wooded swamp between the NJ Turnpike overpass and the park entrance, but the pine grove on the opposite side of Zapp Drive was quiet -- still not hosting the Pine Warblers I'm expecting, and its been inactive since I saw a singleton Prothonotary Warbler and a couple Eastern Phoebes in there ten days ago.

Spied a Swamp Sparrow dabbling along the edges of the recessed, reedy stream right off the bat, but none of the Waterthrush the spot seems designed for, and which are turning up in all the Jersey bird reports from points south.

The Grove of Remembrance fenceline and willow planting hosted the usual Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Savannah and Song Sparrows, Robins, Starlings, Brown-headed Cowbirds and Northern Mockers. Two pair of House Finches and six to eight American Goldfinches are new arrivals to this area of the park, though the Eastern Towhee, Yellow Warbler and Wood Thrush -- first-of-years all -- that showed here earlier this week failed to make encores. The numerous Mallards nesting in the brushy swampland beyond the fence hopped in short flights, mostly in pairs, from hole to hole, and Canada Geese overflew twice in 15-20 bird formations.

I cornered the fenceline, checking fruitlessy in the other reed-sheltered creek for Waterthrush while darting Savannah, White-throated, Chipping and Song Sparrow caused constant distraction. The southerly trek up the chainlink set the rising sun to my back, allowing nice looks at the Sparrows and Robins ground feeding the road berm and grass edge. Red-winged Blackbirds dominated the chorus from higher perches in the cottonwood and birch across the fence as I spotted the day’s first Towhee kicking up bursts of dead leaves at the base of the barrier. Goldfinch also sang and performed acrobatic chases.

Made the eastbound turn to skirt the marshy area south of the Interpretive Center, which has the greatest concentrations of Tree Swallow and Boat-tailed Grackle, but encountered only about a dozen Trees, mostly perched on the split rails. One male was buttering up his chosen with flutter flight and bowing. The Solitary Sandpiper that I’ve seen three or four times previously was back, dipping in one of the last vestiges of the Nor’easter flooding. I startled it and it winged off to the west before I could get a proper look.

I scattered a rolling wave of Sparrows as I made my way back up to the road and made for the IC path in search of Wood Warblers and other new passerines that may have checked in since yesterday, but with little luck: Twelve Yellow-rumped Warbler and a couple Ruby-crowned Kinglets above, and a carpet of White-throated Sparrow below. Two more Eastern Towhees were down among the Sparrows, as were four Hermit Thrushes. Still no Blue-headed Vireo, and the Blue-gray Gnatcatchers and Black-throated Blue Warbler I thought I might have seen the day before were disguised as empty branches today. The two male Northern Cardinals of a few days back are now three matched sets, and provided most of the soundtrack. Alas.

The return journey up the fenceline showed more of the same, with only my first Cedar Waxwing of the year and distant sightings of possible Bobolink and Broad-winged Hawk to lively things up.

My usual farewell glances into the lawn and embankment behind the Light Rail station turned up only Common Grackle and Robin.

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