May 3 2014 . Belleplain N.J. My last day in the Cape May area. I joined a group to see the best of the best in the Belleplain State Forest, this was birding in car convoy, not high on my list of pleasures but in such a large and varied area it’s unavoidable; worse would be by chartered bus I should think. I remember several years ago, being at a birding destination near home when one of those large 40 seater buses showed up, the birders tumbled out gathering their wits, equipment and lunches leaving the bus driver snoozing in his seat with the engine running! Operators of large equipment vehemently maintain that leaving an engine running is more efficient, less wearing, easier (choose any one) than turning it off; anyway in the end he was persuaded to, but not until he’d quite poisoned the morning for most of us. I digress.
Our morning turned up plenty of interesting birds some of which would be commonplace to many of us but novel to others, I’d include Eastern Meadowlark and Eastern Bluebird in that. On the other hand my chance to see a Summer Tanager and a Yellow-throated Warbler were landmarks for me, the first time in my life that I’d knowingly seen either. I don’t usually gush about so called lifers simply because of that transitory status, but I have to say that the Yellow-throated Warbler was a beauty and was in retrospect my Bird of the Day. There are some indications that their population is expanding northwards and at least one individual has been seen at the same site in southwestern Ontario for the past two years. From an aesthetic point of view I would welcome its inclusion in our avifauna.
The trip ended as temperatures climbed and attention wandered, but we had enjoyed plenty of good stuff: Orchard Oriole, Worm-eating, Black-throated Green and Prairie Warblers among them. It was not a photographic bonanza (nor was it intended to be) but I managed to obtain the above rather bland shot of a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher’s nest. You’ll appreciate its exquisitely tidy construction I’m sure, a task managed entirely by a couple of tiny birds using beaks as their only tools. That’s mother bird nestled inside it.
With my head cold tightening its grip I parted company with a handful of friendly birder types and started on my eleven-hour drive home, leaving exuberant Flowering Dogwoods behind and watched spring in reverse as I passed north through Pennsylvania and New York to the distinctly cooler shores of Lake Ontario and home where daffodils are just breaking bud.