Sunday, April 10, 2011

New Spring Birds

Yesterday I was at Cheesequake State Park for the first time in a few months. As I mentioned once before, the park sits in an interesting position. It encompasses both the salt marshes around Cheesequake Creek and Pitch Pine and deciduous forests along the salt marsh's southern border. The habitat mix should make for varied bird diversity, though I have not quite figured out how to take full advantage of it.

When I arrived I saw the scene above out in the salt marsh. A pair of Ospreys had set up a nest on one of the platforms – I am not sure if they were incubating yet or not, but it seemed like at least one was on the nest every time I saw it. In the background, heavy construction equipment was clearing the way for another housing development (to add to the ones that already border the marsh).* It struck me that this was a typical Jersey birding scene: you can see the natural world here, but you rarely lose reminders of the state's urban character.

Other birds in the salt marsh included about a dozen Great Egrets (the most I have seen together for a while) and about the same number of Double-crested Cormorants. The latter were actively flying around as if they could not settle on a spot to fish.

At the edge of the pine woods, a pair of Carolina Chickadees were setting up a nest inside a dead tree. It looked like they were still excavating the hole to meet their needs. Further in, I heard and then saw my first Pine Warblers of the year. There were at least five singing males along the trail. A few Tree Swallows appeared to be laying claim to nesting boxes; these boxes resemble Purple Martin houses, but so far I have not seen any Purple Martins at them.

A second stop at Morgan Avenue flats in South Amboy did not turn up most of the unusual birds reported the day before. However, there were some Northern Gannets – a new county bird for me – visible out over Raritan Bay. A crowd of gulls on the sand spit were mostly Bonaparte's Gulls, with a few dozen each of Laughing Gulls, Ring-billed Gulls, and Herring Gulls. Farther out on the bay there was a raft of Greater Scaup, with handfuls of Red-breasted Mergansers and Black Ducks. Just as I was leaving, a Snowy Egret (my first for the year) flew out of the marsh and down along the beach.

* Update: The construction equipment is actually in the process of remediating the former Global Sanitary Landfill, a very toxic site.