Sunday, May 06, 2012

Birding Heathcote Meadows

Trail through swampy woods at Heathcote Meadows
Yesterday morning I visited Heathcote Meadows Preserve near Kingston. I had never been there before and wanted to find out what the preserve looked like and what the birding was like. The preserve is actually part of a complex of five natural areas that form a greenbelt along tributaries of the Millstone River.

Apparently it was the right day to go because the volume of birdsong was overwhelming. Most of the volume was from fairly common birds – I counted 33 Gray Catbirds along a two-mile route. There were some gems, though. Northern Waterthrush can be hard to find in Middlesex County, but I saw two of them yesterday. I heard and then saw a Blue-winged Warbler, and I heard a Blackburnian Warbler – my second in three days. In addition, I had some nice looks at some favorites like Swamp Sparrow and Black-throated Blue Warbler and some other flashy birds like Scarlet Tanager and Common Yellowthroat. All told, I saw 13 species of warbler as well as many other birds. Unfortunately I missed a Pileated Woodpecker that lives in the preserve.

The portion of the preserve was mostly a narrow strip of swampy woods that border a stream. There was also a large field with an old barn. I expected to see and hear more meadow species than I did. Perhaps that was because it was late morning by the time I walked through the meadow portion.  It would be great if the county turned the meadow area into a native grassland, but so far that does not seem to be the case.

Old barn in the meadow portion of the preserve
This park seems like a spot worth visiting again in the future.