Date: 8/29/19 11:12 am
From: CHELEMER, MARC J <mc2496...>
Subject: [JERSEYBI] Rain and Shine: some "good" birds in different weather

Yesterday afternoon, despite the threat or reality of rain, I spent about 90 minutes at Halifax Road in Mahwah, my "favorite" haunt on days when I teach in the afternoons. It was lightly raining at first, then at points it was downpouring quite hard, so birding was difficult. Either my eyeglasses or binoculars would get water drops on them or, worse, they would fog up within moments of lifting them to look for a bird. The dripping of water off leaves was distracting, because the tiny movement looks like a bird's hop. Nevertheless, I came upon a lively group of small passerines. The feeding flock had numerous titmice, chickadees, and Gnatcatchers, plus several Redstarts in various plumages. There was also a Chestnut-sided and another warbler whose ID I could not make. One bird caught my eye as it flitted through deep and dripping foliage: the hint of color I saw led me true. It turned out to be a male Prothonotary Warbler! Now, seeing a Prothonotary Warbler "on territory" in a deep swamp is a thing of astounding beauty. Because the background palette of its habitat is dark-typically acid-tinged water, black tree trunks, filtered light-this brilliant yellow-orange bird perched on a stump or flying through shines like a beacon. But it's something really special to see one in a mixed flock: it's just unexpected and all the more glorious. Added to the Prothonotary was a really beautiful Philadelphia Vireo, with its delicately shaped rounded head, hooked bill, and bright lemony-yellow throat, breast, and belly. It offered a few good views out in the open before diving into deep, dripping foliage. Two really nice migrant passerines amidst the gloom and humidity.

Today, thinking that the rain in yesterday's afternoon might have brought down migrants which stayed overnight, I ventured out to the wide-open spaces of the Liberty Sod Farms on the curiously named Shades of Death Road in Warren County. It was brilliantly sunny, 55 degrees, bright blue skies, the air crisp and fresh, the total opposite of yesterday. There were at least 100 Bobolink feeding on plants gone to seed at the edge of the farm, and a Cooper's Hawk conveniently cruised over the field, scaring up all the Killdeer and Least Sandpipers, among which, unfortunately, were no "designer" grasspipers, which had been my quarry for the day. After a time, I had to head for work. As I was turning onto a dirt road to leave, a bird flew up right in front of me, showing bright white on the tail feathers. Pipit, I thought? Unlikely...months too early. It turned out to be a immature (not an adult, apologies to GroupMe readers) Lark Sparrow. If I read e-Bird correctly, this is the first-ever occurrence of this species in Warren County! Frustratingly, it took flight (after sitting on the ground unmoving for more than twenty minutes) JUST as Kevin Cronin was heading towards my location. I frantically pointed out the bird in flight, and he got the briefest of views, but it disappeared...for a time...after that. Between then and this writing, I see that others have re-found the bird in the same general area. Hooray!

That was a fine "consolation" prize to make up for there being no grasspipers. I headed for work, happy to have been out in a glorious morning with Bobolinks all around and a Lark Sparrow captured on film.

Good birding,

Marc Chelemer

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