There have been few sightings of Orange-crowned Warbler (OCWA) in New Jersey this season with scattered reports from Cape May, Sandy Hook and less than a handful from the rest of the state. eBird data shows that in 2011 there were 56 reports of Orange-crowned Warbler in New Jersey from October 1-25. Using the same time parameter there are only 14 in 2012. These reports could represent different birders listing the same OCWA but in examining the data, this may be more true for 2012 than 2011. In other words, the 4:1 ratio in individual OCWAs from 2011:2012 may actually be greater!
Jeff Ellerbusch found an OCWA this afternoon by the pond below the Van Veghten House at Finderne Wetlands. This represents the first of this species recorded at Finderne. One would think this a cause for birding celebration especially considering the dearth of OCWA in New Jersey this autumn. However, a funny thing happened on the way to the database.
Jeff texted me about the OCWA so I drove to Finderne. Paula Williams happened to be there when I arrived so the three of us began the hunt for the OCWA. Sparrows are abundant at Finderne this time of year. At one point, Paula spotted a bird on the southwest bank of the pond. What would become one of many Swamp Sparrows also revealed, to Jeff, a larger bird with cinnamonish coloration lurking among the vegetation of the bank. Excitement grew, Jeff stalked the alleged Rail sp. and eventually the large rail flushed and flew about 75 feet to another field. King Rail – what a surprise! We were not able to locate it again, nor was the OCWA relocated but the memory of this sighting will not be forgotten anytime soon. According to the eBird database, there is only one other record (Forsythe N.W.R.) of King Rail in the entire state of New Jersey since July, 2012.
Other species at Finderne today were 12 Green-winged Teal, Palm and Yellow-rumped Warblers, 4 Vesper Sparrows, White-crowned Sparrow and the usual multitude of Savannah, Song and Swamp Sparrows.