Although the cold, wintry weather continued over this past weekend there are still birds that are beginning their spring returns and rituals. Today I spent a few hours in Bergen County and had fine results.
My first target bird was the Rusty Blackbird. This rapidly-declining species still appears quite regularly at the Celery Farm each spring. Almost immediately I flushed one from the brush as I walked by. The bird perched briefly for me although it was backlit and hard to see all of the field marks. Later in the morning I saw a flock of 5-6 birds, and these were seen in much better light.
The next bird I found was another specialty of "The Farm". I spotted the silhouette of a Virgina Rail, and then had some brief looks at it prior to it's retreat to the thick underbrush. Later I returned to the area with some friends and we saw the bird once again. This time the bird stayed out for quite long. It was enjoyable to see the brightly orange-colored features (eyes, legs, and base of bill) on this bird. While enjoying this spectacle my friend noticed other movement close-by, and it was yet another Virginia Rail. This bird was much duller, and just a small portion of the bill was orange, while the eyes and legs were devoid of any coloration.
Perhaps this one was a female ? or just an immature male ?
At one point the rails did call to each other, and respond, with the low-grunting call of this species.
A bit later on I watched a small Rabbit run through the brush, and to my surprise a Wilson's Snipe was flushed, and I saw the bird fly briefly. Later that morning I was able to see another Snipe with very nice views through a spotting scope.
Finally, we went through the wooded-area in the back of the Celery Farm. While hearing the singing of a Winter Wren, I spotted my "first of the spring" Palm Warbler. And it was also the first for all 3 of the birders in our group! The yellow and rust colors on this bird were a welcome sight. This bird was another fine treat today, on this otherwise un-seasonably cold morning.