Sunday, July 17, 2011

Muckshaw Ponds Preserve

New Jersey's northwestern counties are part of gives the state such incredible biodiversity for its size. While the southeastern end of the state has more in common with the Delmarva Peninsula or the Carolinas, the northwestern end is more like upstate New York. Though I grew up in New Jersey, and have now spent several years in the state as a birder, I have not explored a lot of the state's northwestern corner. So I spent yesterday morning at Muckshaw Ponds Preserve near Springdale in Sussex County, a county I think I have only visited once previously.

Muckshaw Ponds Preserve is a 530-acre refuge run by the Nature Conservancy. It consists of a series of low, parallel limestone ridges. In the depressions between the ridges there are a series of ponds and a few meadows.

A lot of the birds have quieted down by now, but some were still singing. The highlight was a Hooded Warbler that I heard on the way in and the way out. I finally managed to track it down and see it on the second hearing. Other birds included Indigo Bunting, Field Sparrow, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Red-eyed Vireo, and Yellow-throated Vireo. A family of Wood Ducks (I counted 8) swam past in one of the ponds. I heard several flycatchers – mostly Eastern Phoebes and Eastern Wood-Pewees. I could tell that they must have a lot to eat there since the mosquitos were so thick in the air. I imagine that there would be a greater variety of avian songsters on a visit in May or June.

One reason I was interested in this particular preserve was to find unusual insects around the ponds. Unfortunately, I did not see as many dragonflies as I had hoped. I think that may partly be because I spent so much time in the woods instead of in meadows or around the pond edges. However, I did see a few, such as the Widow Skimmer above.

I found this Slaty Skimmer along a narrow, rocky pathway between two ponds.

This Great Blue Skimmer confused me initially, but eventually I figured out what it was.