Sunday, April 25, 2010

New Jersey Marsh Sounds

My friend Sean just sent me an email describing a recent trip to southern New Jersey. He and a friend went in search of the elusive Yellow Rail. I really enjoyed his description of the night noises that they encountered and he graciously allowed me to post it here. I've added buttons that allow you to play the various bird's vocalizations:

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Hey guys,

So Joe and I headed down to Turkey Point last night to try our luck for Yellow Rail again. We weren't super optimistic considering they hadn't been reported yet, but it was the only day I could steal away.

We arrived at the intersection of Turkey Point Road and Maple Street just after 11pm. Upon opening the door of the car, [Whip-poor-wills] and Great Horned Owl were calling. Joe was listening and I was changing out of my suit (left straight from work) and two [Chuck-wills-widow] started calling as well. The sound of these three species was just about a constant the entire night.

We headed out to the infamous 0.7 mile point and parked. The wind was calm at this point and the moon was very bright. Last year, there were probably a hundred or more Clapper Rails in the marsh that would at times rise to a deafening crescendo. What a difference. It was silent. We walked the entire length of the road and not a single rail called. Did hear a Barn Owl , which was nice. After walking back to the car we decided to play a tape for Clapper Rail. No response. Yellow Rail..no response. We waited and walked a bit more. We did see two giant meteors blazing through the sky, but no birds.

It was nearing 1am and we tried a Yellow Rail tape again. We got some ticking response, but single notes and not the full "song", if you could call it that. The wind started to pick up a bit and the moon seemed even brighter - enough that Seaside Sparrows were singing all around the marsh. We decided to catch a brief nap and get up when the moon set at 3:30am.

Fast forward to 3:30am. I roll down the window and immediately hear two Clapper Rails . We get out and hear them again. I thought I was hearing a distant Virginia Rail so we played a tape and two birds answered. We walked the length of road again occasionally playing the tape for Yellow Rail with no response. At this point we decided to walk back from the car towards Maple Street. About 200 yards from the car we stopped because we both though we were hearing ticking. We played the tape at 4:05am. The [Yellow Rail] answered .

As the three of you know I've never been a fan of "playing out" something to death, and thankfully this trip didn't push those boundaries. That said, there is absolutely no way we would have heard the Yellow Rail without attempting to play the recording.

We stopped for [Eastern Screech Owl] on the way out and listened to it's whinny in between the chorus of [Whip-poor-wills]!

Arrived home at 7:30 to a newly arrived House Wren and [Blue-gray Gnatcatcher] in my yard. All in all a great trip.

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