Monday, May 21, 2012

Olive-sided Flycatcher

One of the benefits of participating in NJ Audubon's Lower Raritan Bird Survey has been the opportunity to spend time birding a new site and see new birds in the process. Raritan Center is best known as the site of a convention center and numerous industrial buildings. It once served as Raritan Arsenal, a center for storing and shipping munitions during World Wars I and II. Currently, the land not in use for industrial purposes is a mix of wetlands and early successional habitat. In fact, it may contain the largest wetland complex on the Lower Raritan and combines with the Sayreville and South River marshes to form an important wildlife corridor. My survey route takes me through a portion of the wetland complex.

During my last survey, a couple weeks ago, I happened to see an odd-looking flycatcher sitting on a wire. I initially passed it off as an Eastern Kingbird or Eastern Wood-Pewee, but then I realized something was not quite right. For one thing, the tail was short. Plus it had white patches behind the wings, but I initially assumed these were a sign of leucism. Only after I got a good look at the breast markings – striped instead smudgy – did I realize I was looking at an Olive-sided Flycatcher. The white markings were not a sign of leucism but instead most likely a sign of a first-spring bird. It was my first in New Jersey, and it has been several years since I last saw one overall.

Unfortunately, I saw the bird outside of my five-minute point counts, so it is not included in my migration survey data. It was a special bird nonetheless.