New Adventures

We took advantage of our 3 day weekend by going on 3 birding adventures. One of our trips was to Palmyra Cove Nature Park, but the other days we explored 2 new places: Taylor Wildlife Preserve and Michael Huber Prairie Warbler Preserve.

On Saturday night we wanted to go to Amico Island. Every time we go there, we pass a place called Taylor Farm & Wildlife Preserve. People go to Taylor Farm to pick their own fruits and vegetables, but part of the property was turned into a wildlife preserve with a few hiking trails. We’ve been curious about Taylor’s for awhile, so we decided to check it out. We never made it to Amico that night, but had a great time exploring Taylor Wildlife Preserve instead.

Taylor’s Wildlife Preserve is right on the Delaware River and Dredge Harbor. It’s a wooded habitat that features stretches of wetlands. We arrived to the sounds of Gray Catbirds and Red-winged Blackbirds. As we walked towards the foot trails we spotted some Northern Cardinals, Eastern Phoebes, and Baltimore Orioles. Yellow Warblers and Warbling Vireos sang from high in the trees while we explored the winding trails. We found the wetlands area not long after entering the trails. There was a beaver lodge, Eastern Kingbirds, swallows, Common Yellowthroats, and Blue-gray Gnatcatchers.

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Taylor Wildlife Preserve (Image by BirdNation)

“Breep! Breep!” A raucous call came from high in the tree over our heads. It was a Great Crested Flycatcher! These large flycatchers have lemon-colored bellies and long tails, although the crest mentioned in their names are not very prominent. For being about 7 inches in length, the Great Crested Flycatcher has a pretty ear-piercing call. These flycatchers are agile fliers, and we watch it for a bit before it disappeared into the treetops. We also ran into a muskrat on the trail. He didn’t notice us right away, and was pretty surprised when he realized he was being watched. It was a fun moment.

Another highlight of our Taylor trip was finding Wright Cove, where there is a platform with an Osprey nest. At the end of April, Dave and I bought a spotting scope and tested it out at the local yacht club where some Osprey nest nearby. We found a second tower with nesting Osprey that night, and wondered if there was a way to see them better from land. It turns out the Wright Cove in Taylor Preserve is exactly where we want to be to see these Osprey really well. We will definitely go back to observe them, as well as explore more the preserve.

We woke up early Sunday morning to spend some time at Palmyra Cove. It was a quiet morning so we were able to see 42 species. Some highlights included Cedar Waxwings eating berries, a Green Heron flying through the woods, a Ruby-throated Hummingbird at the honeysuckles, and an Orchard Oriole pair chasing each other around. We ended up seeing some more Great Crested Flycatchers on this trip too. Ever have the experience where once you learn something is around, you start seeing it everywhere? Well it seems like we’ve been missing Great Crested Flycatchers for awhile, because now that we know them, we’ve been seeing them all weekend! Amazing how learning about a species can open up a brand new world you never knew was there before.

Today we went to Michael Huber Prairie Warbler Preserve in Woodland Township for the first time. The preserve is 1,227 acres of pitch pine/scrub oak woodlands. An interesting feature of the preserve is a spung. A spung is a hydrologically isolated wetland that relies entirely on rainfall/snowfall to maintain its water level and is habitat to rare plants/amphibians.

Our hike started off with some of the usual suspects: Eastern Wood-pewees, Eastern Phoebes, Cedar Waxwings, Eastern Towhees Gray Catbirds, Common Yellowthroats and woodpeckers. But we kept hearing an ascending buzzy sound. It turned out this was the sound of the park’s namesake: the Prairie Warbler. Despite its name, these warblers don’t live on prairies, they prefer scrubby pine forests. This makes Huber Preserve the perfect breeding habitat. We were able to see and hear these beautiful yellow and black warblers throughout the entire walk.

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Prairie Warbler (Image by David Horowitz)

At one point on the blue trail Dave heard a low bellowing call. We froze and listened. “Hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo, hoo-hoo-hoo-HOO!” I couldn’t believe it. I could recognize that voice anywhere; it was a Barred Owl! It was in the distance, but we heard it call a few times. I’m so excited that we added our 2nd owl to our lifelist :-).

There are actually 2 spungs at the preserve: one on the green trail and the other on the red trail. I really wanted to go to the red trail spung (which was mentioned on their website), but we would have had to walk at least 3 miles (one way that is). You can bike at the preserve, so we will probably go back and bike to that spung. We did try to find the green trail spung, but its seems like it dried up. So no spungs for us today :-(. We did however see a Pine Warbler, more Great Crested Flycatchers, Ovenbirds, an American Redstart juvenile male, Black-and-White Warblers, and the Prairie Warblers/Barred Owl listed above, so it was a great day despite there being no spung. It was a fun weekend of adventures, and overall May was a great birding month for us.

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Hawks, and Owls, and Feeders, oh my!

So I learned today that I have a problem…

Too many bird cams! I don’t know which one to watch! I guess that’s a good problem to have.

Yesterday Wild Birds Unlimited’s Barred Owl cam started up again. Today, Big Red, the female from Cornell’s Red-tailed Hawk cam, laid her first egg of the season.

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Big Red rolls her egg (Image by CornellHawks)

This is the 5th season that Cornell has had Red-tailed Hawk cam. The resident hawks are the female Big Red (named after Cornell’s mascot) and the male Ezra (named after the university’s founder). Last year this pair raised 3 hawklets named F1, F2, and F3. Each year the Lab uses letters/numbers for the chick’s names and last year we all referred to them as the “F-troop”. Unfortunately, F1 died in July because s/he crashed into a building on campus while trying to hunt. As far as I know the other hawks are still doing well. Big Red and Ezra have two nest sites that they switch between. This year they chose their 2013-14 nest site called “Weill”.  Today’s egg, “G1”, is the earliest egg laid by Big Red on record since 2012. Last year she laid her first egg on March 28. Historically, Big Red has laid her 2nd egg exactly 3 days later so we’ll see if we have a new egg on Wednesday. I’m looking forward to an exciting new season!

I also had the “too many cams problem” last year, but it was an enjoyable and I learned so much. Thank goodness you can have multiple tabs open on your browser and I have multiple devices! So my time will be well spent watching: Great Horned Owl, Albatross, Cornell Hawks, Barred Owl, Barn Owl (which is ongoing) and of course Cornell’s two Feederwatch cams.

Oh yea, and the House Sparrow cam in my yard. Dave says he sees the sparrows working on the nest and going in and out of the box in the mornings. Here’s our nest today:

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Also, as promised yesterday, here is my new hummingbird feeder. It’s a copper feeder from Perky Pet.

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I can’t wait to see some hummingbirds! Last year a hummingbird cam up to my seed feeder (probably because it’s red) and then realized it wasn’t nectar so it tried my orange New Guinea impatiens. It was disappointed by that too I guess so it flew away. This year will be different! Now it’ll have some food to feast on.

And now for some happening around my apartment:

Right after I took the image on the right, the two male House Sparrows started fighting with each other. I’m guessing they were fighting over the female the bottom male was next to.

We’ve had about 4 European Starling visitors the past week frequenting the feeder. Boy, are they loud.

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European Starling (Image by BirdNation)
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Matt watches a Starling (Image by David Horowitz)

And finally, here is a picture of our Senegal Parrot, Matt, sitting in our cat’s seat (aka The Throne). I came home today to find him bird watching at the feeder, while our cat, Jenny, sat on the floor below him. Dave said that he was watching from that spot for a few hours. Honestly, I’m surprised that Matt has taken up bird watching. He loves to yell at the outside birds in the mornings (especially those pesky Blue Jays and Cardinals), but today sat silently and watched curiously.  At least he was happy 🙂

Tomorrow is Round 5 of the March Migration Madness. The lineup is American Kestral vs. Barred Owl. Don’t forget to log onto Facebook and vote! Speaking of Facebook, you can join BirdNation on our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/birdnation123