Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Recent Sightings

I was sick early last week, which prevented me from posting very much on this site. However, by the weekend I had recovered enough to do some birding. At this point I am not going to write up a full report about any of my trips from last weekend or the previous weekend. Rather I am going to give some notes on sightings from the two weekends.

At Sandy Hook on Saturday, October 1, the birding was slow but worthwhile. My personal highlight was a lifer northern waterthrush. This bird was stalking through some underbrush - the mix of poison ivy, brambles, blueberry bushes, and Virginia creeper characteristic of the Hook - and it vigorously pumped its tail as it walked. Other warblers that day included worm-eating and Nashville. Yellow-rumped warblers were to be found everywhere.

The Hook also had a decent showing of raptors. Ospreys were most numerous of all, from one end of the peninsula to the other. These birds linger much longer at the Hook than at inland locations. (My latest date for an osprey at Sandy Hook is November 26.) A sharp-shinned hawk made a nice display at the hawk watch site (staffed only in the spring). The most spectacular show was by a trio of falcons, two American kestrels and one Peregrine. First, one kestrel wheeled above a flock of tree swallows that was passing by. Soon it dove at a Peregrine that had appeared in the meantime. Another kestrel joined in taking shots at the larger falcon, until the two birds tired of the game and moved on.

My other recent birding walks were not as productive as the trip to the Hook, with few outstanding sightings. I saw my first pied-billed grebe and northern pintail of the fall last weekend. I am beginning to see flocks of ruby-crowned and golden-crowned kinglets mixing with the resident chickadees and titmice, while I hear the thin squeaks of white-throated sparrows foraging in the brush underfoot. All these birds, for me, are harbingers of winter.

At the same time, warblers have continued to move through. My sightings have included chestnut-sided, magnolia, pine, and black-and-white warblers, among others. The pine warbler I saw on Sunday was joined shortly after by a blue-headed vireo in the same tree. Fall-plumaged scarlet tanagers have also been in evidence during my few walks the last two weekends.

Sunday's blue-headed vireo, by the way, set my year list for 2005 at 205.