Date: 5/16/18 7:44 am
From: CHELEMER, MARC J <mc2496...>
Subject: [JERSEYBI] Nice morning at Hilltop Reservation, Verona

Believing that Garret would be mostly closed today due to ongoing destruction, er, improvements at the south end (an incorrect belief), I opted to visit, for the first time, this wooded hill a bit further west. The location was the site of the Essex County tuberculosis sanitarium for decades (the interpretive plaque noted that the last patient was released in 1977!), and was saved from real estate development by concerned citizens. Now, it's a mature deciduous woodland around the edges with a scrubby field on top. The trees are very tall, and the deer browse seems to be less than in other locations. A terrain view on Google maps shows it to be, like Garret, along a southwest to northeast ridge, where migrants would be expected to be moving along that wooded slope, heading north.

Today fulfilled those expectations: from the moment I got out of the car until when I had to go, all the expected warblers were singing. The air fairly rang with insistent Tennessees, while the sibilant Blackpolls kept up a quieter sound beneath. Canadas added to the din. Black-throated Greens, Black-throated Blues, Parulas, and Black-and-Whites were numerous. A 2-1/2 mile round trip walk up to the top and back yielded 19 species of warblers, including a Mourning, which sang exactly twice and then went silent (Sorry, Jay, I could not whip out my phone fast enough to record it). There were also more than a dozen Baltimore Orioles, almost as many Rose-breasted Grosbeaks (all singing), Scarlet Tanagers and Indigo Buntings, a few tyrannids (no empidonax). In fact, as I was heading out, the activity had actually picked up! All in all, I tallied 61 species in about two hours.

Hilltop's main drawback is the lack of any water feature, though wet areas did provide enough attractiveness for Northern Waterthrush. All in all, however, for Spring days when I feel like enjoying a different area than the eastern edge of the Watchung Ridge, this will be a good alternative.

Good birding!

Marc Chelemer

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