Confirmed: Kentucky Warblers nesting at Lewis Morris Park, Morris County
(Clicking on the image brings you to the Macaulay Library listing of the photo.)
On May 16, 2018, a Kentucky Warbler was found at Lewis Morris County Park. It was observed by a few people through at least May 18 and then either forgotten about or simply not found again.
Fast forward to May 17, 2019. This writer visits Lewis Morris Park to see what if on a similar date one year later, a Kentucky Warbler would again visit the park. Nothing.
On a whim ten days later on May 27, another visit was made to Lewis Morris Park. The Kentucky Warbler was loudly singing at the same location as in 2018, near the end of Doe Meadow Road, close to the driveway of the Delbarton School’s property. It was reported almost daily through June 17 with more than seventy eBird checklists recorded. Easily one hundred or more people came to pay a visit.
During that period reports of two Kentucky Warblers being sighted were described and possibly two being heard. These were tantalizing records. Breeding was a possibility but nothing was confirmed…until July 2.
June 17 was the last record of Kentucky Warbler even though people had looked after that date. On July 2, Ryan Doherty of Massachusettes came to Doe Meadow Rd. and reported a Kentucky Warbler, possibly a juvenile. The photos of his sighting arrived on his checklist three days later and very interesting photos they are (see the eBird checklist, here).
Veteran bander and researcher, Tom Brown, reviewed the photos and concluded it was a hatchling year Kentucky Warbler. The esteemed Paul Buckley concurred with Tom’s assessment.
Kentucky Warblers bred sporadically and very locally in the Morris and Somerset County areas throughout the 1990s. During that period, it was not unusual to find Kentucky Warblers somewhere between Jockey Hollow in Morris County (Morristown National Historical Park) and Scherman Hoffman Sanctuary in Bernardsville. Kentucky Warblers were present in suitable time periods to suggest breeding, even if visible confirmation was not available.
A few blocks of the New Jersey Breeding Bird Atlas in Morris and Somerset Counties had breeding confirmations in the 1990s. There are no known records since. Kentucky Warblers are reported for many years in the Middle Valley area of Washington Twp. near the Hunterdon County border, but breeding there is in the possible/probable category and not confirmed as far as is known.
Lewis Morris Park was not known as a birding destination before the arrival of the Kentucky Warbler in 2018. The possibility exists that this species has been present at this location longer than we know. Yet another reason to check locations other than the typical, trendy, glamour spots.
Confirmed: Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers breeding in Morris County
From Bill Boyle’s The Birds of New Jersey, Status and Distribution:
“Prior to 1998, there was only one confirmed nesting record for Yellow-bellied Sapsucker in New Jersey. In June 1998, a pair was found feeding young along the Kittatinny Ridge in High Point SP.”
Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers have expanded their breeding range since that time but most reports are from Sussex County and recently from Passaic County. Louis Bizzarro reported the species on the Morris side of Holland Mtn. Road earlier in June. It seems inevitable that they will breed in northern Morris County at some point in time. That time is now.
Matt Skalla visits Mount Paul in Jefferson Twp. and has seen Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers throughout the spring and into summer. Mount Paul is a former Paulist monastery purchased by the state in 2009. Much of it is administered by Kittatinny Valley State Park. Read about the state’s purchase of the property, here.
This morning, July 7, Matt photographed a nestling and a parent at the nest. Interestingly, Matt says: “These must be a different pair than I have been seeing over the last few weeks, they are about a half mile from where I have previously been seeing them.”
Congratulations to Matt for locating the first confirmed nesting of Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers in Morris County.
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