Monthly Archives: May 2009

Grassland Bird Survey

country road

As soon as I turned off the engine, I heard the sliding song of a Prairie Warbler.  While not one of the targeted species, at least it was something.  The grassland survey has been a disappointment so far.  The route maps were vague, and the variety and number of species were so low that I was disheartened.  Determined to persevere, and finished what I had started, I grabbed my pad and pencil, got out of the car, and sucked in a lungful of the aroma of the country: of grass, and cow manure and the sweet heady scent of the flowering Black Locusts. Ah, fresh country air.  I waited the requisite two minutes reveling in the big sky, then started to listen.

From the stream flowing through the field a Bullfrog boomed, drowning out every other sound. I listened in vain for any bird song.  I walked across the road hoping to put some distance between my ears and his voice; but it was only marginally better.  I tried tuning him out.  Red-wing Blackbirds were everywhere hopping up and down in the high grass;  Song Sparrows sang; (Bullfrog) Common Yellowthroat; (Bullfrog, again, egads were there more than one?) a Carolina Wren chortled from somewhere near the Bullfrog; a Catbird mewed in a hedge row; (Bullfrog) a Yellow Warbler sang sweetly; (Bullfrog).  Grrr, that dratted Bullfrog was getting on my nerves!  I crossed behind the car thinking my movement would startle the frog into silence.  I peered into the shadowed water.  I didn’t see it. Or hear it. I guess the ploy worked.  As flash of yellow caught my eye as a Meadowlark  landed in a tall roadside Cedar tree; I made a note, finally one of the target birds.  Hearing the faint buzz of a Grasshopper Sparrow, I whirled around to listen and look behind me.  Off in the distance wafted the bouncing song of a Field Sparrow.  I made more notes.  I glanced at my watch; my time was up.  As I walked back to the car, the Bullfrog started to bellow again.  I smiled to myself in a childish way and thought “Ha, ha, fooled you.” It will be interesting to see if he is still at it in a few weeks when I come back for Survey part II.


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Mouths to Feed

Baby bird

A flutter of movement drew me across the street.  A dark bird flashed away.  I was scanning the trees when a hole in an adjacent snag suddenly filled up.  The phrase “gaping maw” leapt to mind.  If he had had a spoon he would have been banging it against the table.  It must be hard to fill even a tiny belly, one bitsy caterpillar at a time. I never saw the harried parent.


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Bird Photography Weekly

Chestnut-sided Warbler

Sitting in the car with all the windows and sunroof open, I leaned back with my eyes closed to revel in the cascade of voices around me.  Wood Warblers were singing, off in the distance a Black-billed Cuckoo called, the Wood Thrushes led the  flute section of the woodland orchestra, a Scarlet Tanager chatted hoarsely, a Least Flycatcher provided explosive commentary.  I had just opened my eyes, considering a side jaunt over to check on the Ceruleans, when a friendly Chestnut-sided Warbler popped up close to the car to meet me.

Go see what’s shakin’ elsewhere at Birdfreak’s Bird Photography Weekly.


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Birding Doodletown

Doodletown map

Seriously.  There is actually a place  called Doodletown.  It is one of the local hotspots and the one place were many of the hard-to-see warblers nest; think Cerulean.  Doodletown always pops up on the local ListServ and in conversation when the topics of warblers comes up.  I finally made the trek because there was a Kentucky Warbler singing on territory and I had never seen one.

Doodletown is a town that once was; a ghost town, if you will.  The buildings have all been demolished, but their stone foundations peek through the encroaching brambles.  There are paved streets, 2 cemeteries, a reservoir, a waterfall and trees that sing with bird call.  I cannot imagine what it must have been like to live there.

Here are some of the highlights:

Scarlet Tanagers

Look at him giving her the once over.

Hooded Warbler

Lots and lots of Hooded Warblers everywhere.  Totally a Gimme.


Ditto Redstarts. Yes, they are common, but how can you not love them?

I know you were just dying to know if I saw the Kentucky Warbler. Meet Life bird 614.  It is a totally crappy picture, but my excuse is that he was 40 feet up a tree.


Did I wet your whistle?

Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture. Black-billed Cuckoo, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Eastern Phoebe, Yellow-throated Vireo, Warbling Vireo, Red-eyed Vireo,
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Wood Thrush, Veery, Gray Catbird, Blue-winged Warbler, Cerulean Warbler, American Redstart, Hooded Warbler, Scarlet Tanagers, Chipping Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Indigo Bunting, Red-winged Blackbird, Brown-headed Cowbird, Baltimore Oriole and Life Bird 614 – Kentucky Warbler.


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Wordless Wednesday

orange butterfly

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Birding Duke Farms

Savannah Sparrow

Once upon a time, friends and I would go to Duke Gardens every February to walk in the greenhouses and feast on the riotous color of spring flowers; a treat for our winter-weary eyes.  We did it for years.  Then Doris Duke died, we all scattered to the winds and the annual pilgrimage fell by the wayside.  So when I heard that NJ  Audubon was making arrangements for an optional grassland birding training session at Duke Farms, I jumped at the chance.

As we milled about in the cool gray morning, waiting for everyone to arrive, birds called from the trees and shrubs.  Chimney Swifts fluttered over head, a flock of Cedar Waxwings lifted to settle in another tree, a Song Sparrow belted out his song and off in the distance the call of an Indigo Bunting lifted skyward.   The assembled birders chatted about the World Series the week before, the birds they were hearing and seeing, Nightjars or the lack thereof, their grassland survey routes and the wonder of Duke Farms and its huge amount of grassland in the midst of suburban NJ.

Once we got to the fields in the western portion of the estate, the first thing we heard was the buzzing of a Grasshopper Sparrow; followed soon after by the bubbling song of Bobolinks. Lots and lots of Bobolinks.  Like everywhere you look Bobolinks.  I just love them!  We were also treated with an immature Orchard Oriole, lots of Indigo Bunting and big open sky. Part of the joy of grassland birding for me is being out in big sky country.

Here’s the list of what we saw, probably not complete and done from memory:  Cooper’s Hawk dashing past with a yellow warbler in its clutches;  Red-tailed Hawk;  Am. Kestrel; Chimney Swift; Purple Martin; Barn Swallow; Tree Swallow; N. Rough-winged Swallow; E. Bluebird; Catbird; N. Mockingbird; Cedar Waxwing; House Wren; E. Meadowlark; Red-winged Blackbird; Bobolink; Orchard Oriole; Indigo Bunting; Grasshopper Sparrow; Savannah Sparrow; Song Sparrow.

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Wordless Wednesday

Green Frog

My favorite green frog quote “They seldom scream in alarm when caught.”


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