Mariton: A Worthwhile Road Trip for Birds

May 21, 2022

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager.  Photos by Marilyn Hessinger.

A female American Redstart perched on a lichen covered twig.

Female American Redstart. Photo by Marilyn Hessinger.

Our weekly bird walks went to northern New Jersey to a special place that I always love to visit.  We weren’t disappointed this time.  As soon as we got on the trail, we saw American Redstarts.  In fact, we got to see a female collecting spider webs and building her nest.  Talk about a special treat.  I could have left right then, after an hour’s drive to get there, completely contented.  I lost count of all the Redstarts that we saw on our walk.

A group of birders walking down a forest trail.

Photo by Marilyn Hessinger.

That wasn’t even the highlight!  Down the trail I heard a thrush singing.  I knew it wasn’t something I was used to hearing.  A quick check of the recordings and we knew it was a Swainson’s Thrush.  About the time that was determined, someone asked me to identify a bird standing on a rock a dozen feet from the trail.  It was a Swainson’s Thrush! It stood there and turned to give us a look from all angles.  Everyone got to see it clearly and everyone agreed it was indeed a Swainson’s.  It was thrilling to get such a good look at this species, but we saw more during the day.

An Ovenbird.

Ovenbird. Photo by Marilyn Hessinger.

With all the Redstarts and Red-eyed Vireos our pace was about 100 yards an hour.  The slow pace and checking every movement allowed us to sight a Hooded Warbler and a Bay-breasted Warbler.  I was able to get a good look at both species.  Then I helped everyone find the birds.  And I still had time to focus back and watch them.  It was the longest look I have ever had of a Bay-breasted Warbler.

A Least Flycatcher.

Least Flycatcher. Photo by Marilyn Hessinger.

Of course, there were Least Flycatchers.  This is one of the Empidonax Flycatchers that are virtually indistinguishable, except for their distinct songs.  The Least Flycatcher says “che-BEK”.  Sharp eyes even found them on the nest.  Other notable sightings were a Blue-headed Vireo and a Five-lined Skink that sunned itself while we were eating lunch.

A Five-lined Skink with a blue tail.

Five-lined Skink. Photo by Marilyn Hessinger.