Sunday, April 18, 2010

Spring Birding at Manasquan Reservoir

Oak leaflets

Yesterday I did some birding at Manasquan Reservoir. The woods along the south side of the reservoir were very birdy, with large numbers of common species Tree Swallows and Red-winged Blackbirds. I saw about seven or eight red-winged males sitting close together in the same tree, something I would not normally expect at this time of year, as the males become more territorial and aggressive. The only explanation I could think of was that they had a momentary truce as they gathered around the bird feeders. Males elsewhere in the park were singing and displaying their red epaulettes flamboyantly.

Probably my best sighting for the day was a pair of singing male Palm Warblers moving together through the woods by the nature center. I am not sure I had ever noted their song before in the field. In instructional recordings they tend to be paired with Yellow-rumped Warblers, but I thought their songs bore a closer resemblance those of the Pine Warblers and Chipping Sparrows I encountered in the same area. In any case, my first sighting of the species for this year.

Birds were pairing and starting to set up nests along the trails. I saw at least two pairs of Tufted Titmice entering nestboxes with nesting material, and at least one courting display between a pair. Some of the Carolina Chickadees and Blue-gray Gnatcatchers also seemed to be acting as pairs, though in their cases the behavior was less obvious. One Osprey was sitting on a nest, with its mate keeping watch close by.

The reservoir is probably best known among birders for a pair of Bald Eagles that have nested there for the past several years. They returned to the nest again this winter and hatched one chick. There a remote camera set up so that visitors can watch the activities at the nest on a monitor at the nature center. I saw the eaglet on the nature center's monitor and then later saw the two adults near the nest.