Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Road trip: Morris County, NJ

Sunday, some friends brought us out to Morris County, NJ. They started with a gesneriad show at the Frelinghausen Arboretum; I walked around the grounds. I had been surprised that there were very few eBird reports from the arboretum, which seemed to have a nice location with a brook that was once attached to the Whippany River. But it turned out not to be very birdy.

My highlight was an assortment of sparrows in the scrubby plants at the end of a dry gully near a wildflower meadow. I thought at the time they were mostly Song Sparrows, but my photos turned out to be mainly Savannah Sparrows.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Savannah Sparrow, Frelinghausen Arboretum

I think there may have been one Vesper Sparrow in the bunch as well, but that one only popped out very briefly, so I don't know. A couple of the Savannahs had very strong eye-rings, so maybe that's all I saw.

One of my friends saw two Red-Headed Woodpeckers chasing each other near the arboretum's visitor center. I missed that, unfortunately.

Next stop was the Raptor Trust. This excellent organization is a rehab center for injured hawks, eagles, falcons, owls, and vultures. They treat and release the ones who can make it in the wild, and keep the ones who can't.

We toured the area with the permanent residents' cages. The cages are mesh, so photography is difficult. Sometimes one can get a good shot--get up right close to the cage when the bird is in the back of the cage, use the longest focal length you have, shoot it wide-open.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Eastern Screech-Owl, Raptor Trust
"Winky" the Eastern Screech-Owl

Finally, we went to the observation area of the Great Swamp NWR. As we got out of the car, a vulture soared over--flat wings, whitish wingtips, grey head--a Black Vulture, and a life bird for me.

The swamp was pretty quiet. There were one or two Palm Warblers; at a blind overlooking a wet meadow a Great Blue Heron flew low through the golden late afternoon light.

As dusk came down, a Tufted Titmouse family crossed the path I was on, complaining all the way into the underbrush.

An excellent day.

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