Thursday 22 September 2011

Merrill Park, New Jersey, Sept 2011

My target species for a visit to Newark was taking the long way round and migrating from New Jersey via Ohio. I didn’t see it, but I did hear its cursing call. I’ll get you Corey Finger!
A beautiful warm morning dawned and found me on a bicycle heading north-west along Gill Lane from Woodbridge. The road passes under a railway bridge and then through the cemeteries of Mount Lebanon and Forest Lawns. In keeping with most cemeteries, they find themselves with some left over soil which is stored near the maintenance sheds on the left (Google Earth ref; 40 33 50 N 74 19 15W). Rank vegetation has grown up here and this morning had attracted American Robins, Palm Warblers and Song Sparrows.
I would have loved to get a better view of an odd looking Common Yellowthroat that was doing a very good impression of a Kentucky Warbler, but it was gone before I could get a second glance.

Merrill Park is characterised by a river that runs along the base of a wooded embankment. The river has been carrying a lot of water recently. I assume that the lines of debris and the soft ground were as a result of the rain brought by the recent storm ‘Irene’. Trees along the bank were undermined and some had fallen. I followed the river downstream, north-east, hoping to meet some warblers moving along the tree line towards me.

Soon I came across a Downy Woodpecker, and a Tufted Titmouse moving quickly along with some Magnolia Warblers. The trees still carried a lot of leaf so it was difficult to get a really good look. More Magnolia Warblers were seen as I continued on Chain O’ Links Road, also a Blackburnian Warbler and an American Redstart.
I stopped for a while at a likely looking spot where the high bank sloped steeply down to the river and gave me a good vantage point. A gap in the greenery also gave me a sight line for anything working its way south-west through the trees. Blue Jays were being very noisy to my left as I waited and after 20 minutes of seeing nothing but an American Robin and a Grey Catbird, I gave in to their incessant alarm calling and went to see what was the matter.

Downy feathers floated down from a large tree and helped me to pinpoint the Cooper’s Hawk that had caught something and was being mobbed by the jays as it tried to feed.

It had been very warm when we landed yesterday and I was hoping to indulge myself in some fine New Jersey odonata spotting by the river. As midday approached though, there was very little action. It was cooler today with rain later, but the lack of odes was very obvious as the third week of September began. I wonder if the floods caused by Irene had flushed a lot of dragonflies downstream? Butterflies were also scarce this morning and I suspect that the paucity may be due to a sudden drop in temperature overnight and the progression of the season.

Head north-east on Gill Lane from the junction with Highway 1 at Woodbridge Mall, Iselin.  After  500m pass under the railway bridge and soon you will find the cemeteries on either side of the road. It is possible to walk up alongside the railway (Google Earth ref; 40 33 41N 74 18 48W)  with hawks, sparrows and wrens often found. Shortly after crossing the river, you will come to the end of Gill Lane. Turn right and follow Middlesex/Essex Turnpike for 500m. Turn right onto Oak Tree Road and you will cross the river again. Chain O’ Links road is on your left (Google Earth ref; 40 34 20N 74 18 52W) and access to the park will be found along here. It is a 3km ride altogether.
Species seen; 23
Mallard 10, Cooper’s Hawk 2, Ring-billed Gull 2, Mourning Dove 25, Chimney Swift 1, Belted Kingfisher 1, Red-headed Woodpecker 4, Hairy Woodpecker 1, Downy Woodpecker 4, Grey Catbird 2, American Catbird 40, Tufted Titmouse 1, Blue Jay 15, Common Starling 40, House Sparrow 150, House Finch 4, American Goldfinch 4, Magnolia Warbler 6, Palm Warbler 8, Blackpoll Warbler 1, American Redstart 1, Common Yellowthroat 2, Northern Cardinal 2.

Other posts from Newark and New Jersey can be found at the links below;

Visit the dedicated USA and Canada page for more posts from North America.
EWR, Newark, Merrill Park

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