Doin’ the Turkey Trot

We’ve had some beautiful warm weather here in New Jersey the past couple of days.Dave and I decided to take advantage of the warmth by going to Palmyra Cove Nature Park on Sunday evening.

Palmyra Cove Nature Park is 250-acres and there are a ton of trails to explore. We can easily spend hours there, but since we were competing with the sunset we decided to check out the meadow and the beaver pond.

There were a lot of Tree Swallows gliding over the meadow. Tree Swallows can migrate south as early as July and August. The East Coast population migrates to Florida, Central America, and Cuba. I was surprised to still see so many Tree Swallows around at this point, but I guess since it’s still so warm they are continuing to feed before they leave. Towards the end of the meadow is a small pond. We saw a Lesser Yellowlegs, Great Blue Heron, some sandpipers, and Eastern Phoebes.

The next destination was the Beaver Pond. You have to pass through the forest to get to the beaver pond from the meadow. Along the way we saw Carolina Chickadees, different woodpeckers, American Robins, Carolina Wrens, some deer, and 2 Wild Turkeys. I’m always delighted to see the Turkeys at Palmyra. I know that there are a decent amount that live there, and we usually see a few at a time.

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Wild Turkey (Image by BirdNation)

There are a lot of little trails interspersed throughout the forest. It’s easy to “trail hop” from one to another without realizing it. We know the paths pretty well, but weren’t paying attention and took a “wrong” turn (there’s not technically a “wrong way”, we just missed the trail we wanted). We should have already been at the pond, but decided to continue and explore this new path.

And I’m glad we did. Because suddenly a group of Turkeys jumped out onto the trail in front of us. It started with about 5 or 6, but as we watched more and more ran from the bushes. By the time the whole flock ran past there were about 24 of them! They were apparently headed in the same direction as us, so we trailed behind at a distance.

What an experience! Just Dave and I and 24 Turkeys strolling along on a warm Sunday evening. I’ve never been that close to that many Wild Turkeys before. In the past we’ve watched a large group of Turkeys in a field doing mating displays (you can watch a video of it at that link), but it’s quite different being so close. They eventually caught on that we were following them, so a few started to trot and the other followed. The group ended up going back into the bushes to forage. It made me happy knowing that pretty soon all 24 of them were going to climb up into the trees to roost. You wouldn’t expect to see a bird that big sitting in a tree, but they do roost in trees at night. I unexpectedly discoveed that last year; it was quite amusing to me (you can read the story here).

At the Beaver Pond we saw Double-crested Coromrants, a female Belted Kingfisher, and Yellow-rumped Warblers. From across the pond we could heard Red-winged Blackbirds and our first White-throated Sparrows of the season.

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Myrtle Yellow-rumped Warbler (Image by BirdNation)

We always have a wonderful experience at Palmyra Cove, and Sunday was no exception. How can you beat spending some time trotting around with Wild Turkeys? 🙂

Have you ever experienced a large flock of Turkeys?  Tell us your Turkey stories in the comments.

They’re Finally Here!

Friends, I’m so excited! One of my absolute favorite birds is back! I saw one of my balcony this morning and all throughout my walk at Boundary Creek tonight. I’ve been waiting so long for this.

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Gray Catbird being awesome! (Image by BirdNation)

The Gray Catbird! I love Gray Catbirds. These little guys definitely have personality. First of all: they are super cute. I like their little black caps and their rusty rumps. Secondly, I love hearing their cat-like “meeeh!” calls coming from the bushes as I hike. They are also awesome because they are in the mimic family and their songs are a jumble of all sorts of interesting sounds. I am ecstatic that they are back and will definitely write a post about how great they are soon (so look out for that!).

We had a few “firsts” today. It was the first day in a whole week that it didn’t rain, so we walked at Boundary Creek. One of our “first of season” birds was the Baltimore Oriole. We spotted a male in a tree singing a song. Later in the walk we saw a male and female together. Last year we found a Baltimore Oriole nest at Boundary so I wonder if that nest will be used again this season or not.

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Male Baltimore Oriole (Image by BirdNation)

We also have a new lifer for our list: the Field Sparrow. There were two looking for food on the side of the path. I originally thought that it could have been a Chipping Sparrow. However, Chipping Sparrow’s rufous cap is brighter and it has a dark eye stripe as opposed to the Field Sparrow’s lighter eye stripe. It’s always exciting to add a new bird to your life list.

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Field Sparrow (Image by BirdNation)

Other birds we saw included American Robins, Carolina Chickadees, Canada Geese, European Starlings, Tree Swallows, American Crows, Song Sparrows, and Red-winged Blackbirds. We also saw a lot of cute rabbits.

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Female Red-winged Blackbird (Image by BirdNation)
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Tree Swallow checking out the real estate (Image by BirdNation)
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Adorable baby rabbit (Image by BirdNation)

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day. My mom, sister and I will be celebrating by going to Amico Island. We are hoping to see some more warblers so I’ll let you know what we see.

Also, exciting news! I will be going to my favorite place later this week for part of my vacation: the Cornell Lab of Ornithology! I will tell you more about this soon!

Amico…take two!

Tuesday was my last day off from my job’s spring break, so of course I used my free time to go birding. I went to Amico Island for the second time in a week, this time with Dave’s mother (Dave and I went Friday and saw all sorts of large birds). It was a lovely afternoon; sunny and around 60 degrees.

The area near the parking lot is part of Dredge Harbor, so there’s an area of water right when you walk into the park. It was low tide so the mudflats were exposed. When the tide is higher we usually see Great Blue Herons, gulls, or Mallards in this area. We had a surprise this time.

A flock of Green-winged Teals! There were around 30 of them waddling through the mudflats. They were busily looking for food and leaving trails in the mud. It was unexpected, but a nice start to the walk.

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Male Green-winged Teal feeding in the mudflats (Image by BirdNation)

Our first route was the blue trail, which passes by the Great Blue Heron rookery. On the way we saw Downy Woodpeckers, American Robins, and Carolina Chickadees. There were about 7 Great Blue Herons at the rookery. One was bringing a large stick to its nest, while another made low croaking noises. At the rookery observation area we spotted some Yellow-rumped Warblers (my ‘first of year’) hopping between branches.We were so busy watching the warblers that we didn’t notice a Great Blue Heron standing directly below us on the rocks. Its plumage was gorgeous up close and were able to see its striped crown really well (it looked better in person than in the picture I got).

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Great Blue Heron (Image by BirdNation)

After we left the rookery observation area, I was talking about how I haven’t see any deer my last few visits. Last year Dave and I would frequently see deer when visiting Amico and would almost always see a specific doe and her fawn. The deer must have known I was talking about them: suddenly 10 deer showed up! They noticed us, but quickly relaxed and continued feeding like we weren’t there. It was cool, because I don’t usually see that many deer in a group at one time. It was a nice transition to the second part of the walk.

We continued onto the red and yellow trails, which loop around the pond and lead to the beach entrance. Here we saw Red-winged Blackbirds, Grackles, Crows, and more robins (of course!). It was too windy to walk on the beach, but we did spot some Ring-billed Gulls, Canada Geese, and Mallards. At the pond there was an American Coot preening near a log. It was my first coot sighting at Amico Island.

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American Coot (Image by BirdNation)

One thing that was especially exciting for me about this trip was the fact that a new spring migrant arrived: swallows!  These little aerial acrobats were fluttering everywhere! Seeing swallows is another spring milestone that I look forward to every year. We mainly saw Tree Swallows, but there may have been some Northern Rough-winged Swallows mixed in. I’m thinking this swallow we watched resting on a branch is a Northern Rough-winged. I’m not 100% on id yet (I will let you know when I figure it out). If it is, then its a new “life bird” for me. It was awfully cute.

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Swallow resting on a branch (Image by BirdNation)

Our walk took about 2 hours. When we returned to the parking lot the flock of Green-winged Teals was still feeding, bringing our walk around full circle. It was a nice way to end my spring break.