Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Sandy Hook Solitaire

Today felt unbelievably like spring - so warm that some butterflies (orange sulphurs?) were flitting around. It was a fine day to visit Sandy Hook and check for some recent sightings. At first, it was slow going - the Bohemian waxwing was not with the waxwing flock, the Townsend's solitaire was not by the maintenance building, the king eiders were not at Lot C, the orange-crowned warbler was not at Spermaceti Cove, and the western kingbird was not at the North Beach Pavilion.

The Hook was not bereft of birds. The holly forests around the scout camp and maintenance areas were full of golden-crowned kinglets and yellow-rumped warblers, along with a couple hermit thrushes. A handful of tree swallows were still present. One of the more interesting sights of the day involved some very common birds. At the North Beach Pavilion, a northern mockingbird was vigorously defending its perches from the intrusions of numerous European starlings. It was thirty against one, but that one mockingbird succeeded in chasing them away.

Finally, a second try in the late afternoon netted the Townsend's solitaire. It landed in the top of a tree in front of a large yellow maintenance building on Randolph Road. After flying again to a second tree, it perched in full view for several minutes before diving back into the shrubs. My impression was of a very nervous bird as it kept twitching its wings and tail. This bird has persisted at Sandy Hook for over a month and has been seen by many birders (e.g., here and here).

In the end I missed five potential lifebirds but saw a good one.