Northern Wheatears rarely visit the metro area. They breed in the high Arctic, Alaska and Greenland. (This bird is of the Greenland race, see how buffy it is.) I missed a Wheatear last fall at Garret Mountain and by the time I was able to get to the Connecticut bird; it had moved on. So when I read that there was a juvenile bird at DeKorte Park at the Meadowlands, I cleared my calendar and asked my boss for a personal day. (Although she is not a birder, she is understands the life bird thing.)
It was raining when I got up this morning and there was no report that the bird was around. But by lunch time the reports started to dribble through just as the sun started to peek through the clouds; so I dashed off to chase the bird. When I arrived at DeKorte Park there were, surprisingly, not a lot of birders. And those that were there had long faces. The bird had been there had not been seen for an hour. While I walked the Transco Trail peering at rocks and trailside sumac, I chatted with folks (You know how I am.) I met BA, one of my fellow hawk counters. She is the one who I spied waving madly from the far end of trail. As I hustled toward her, I found my friends Diane and Suzanne were also hot on the chase. The bird was flitting (and doing a Phoebe-like tail pumping thing) along the rocky edge down a small bank. I watched it for almost an hour. It is beautiful – so subtlety colored. North American life bird 620, I think. I’ll have to go look.
If you go, it is on the right-hand side between the 2 orange hoses. It is about the size of a robin and prefers the rocks.
I signed up for the 1st pontoon boat eco-cruise through the marsh at 7 am. Of course this meant I left my house at 5:15. I thought I would spare you the early morning drive and give you a virtual ride.
3 boats left the River Barge Park and Marina in Carlstadt. Our boat was captained by the RiverKeeper himself. My friend from Oak in the Seed has a great post on the trip.
It was hazy and misty as we motored away from the dock.
As we went up river, turning past the school park and gliding into the marsh, the sun started to burn away the fog.
We startled some Snowy Egrets.
While this Black-crowned Nightheron just watched us go.
We turned and went down river, sometimes ducking or bending over in our seats as we passed under bridges until we reached the open marsh. We heard loads of Marsh Wrens in the reeds. There were Red-winged Blackbirds, Great and Snowy Egrets, Double-crested Cormorants, juvenile Black-crowned and Yellow-crowned Nightherons, Great Blue Herons, Greater Black-backed Gulls, Ring-billed Gulls, a Common Yellow-Throat and an American Kestrel on a light post. We saw an Osprey snag a fish only to lose it. Since it was high tide, we saw no shorebirds on the trip.
As we floated amongst the byways, a commuter train crossed the trestle. I sat watching it go, reflecting on all the birds I used to see from the train windows when I commuted into the City every day to work; crossing this same marsh but not knowing it. Now I was on this side of the glass.
The Meadowlands Commission has evening cruises and canoe paddling trips into the marshes. Time is running out this year. Call now if you are interested.
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