A red-headed woodpecker was spotted in recent days near the Boy Scout Camp at Sandy Hook. (Bill Dix)
By Pete Bacinski | For Inside Jersey
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on May 01, 2016 at 8:00 AM, updated May 01, 2016 at 8:06 AM
TO THE DELIGHT of Jersey's birders, May is here. Spring migration is now in high gear — and what better place is there to go and enjoy newly arriving migrants than Sandy Hook?
The Sandy Hook peninsula points due north, funneling birds to the trip on southwest winds. They pause before moving toward New York City, which is several miles beyond the tip of the Hook, and a large body of water to traverse to get there. That pause is what makes for great birding in spring at the Hook. After Cape May, Sandy Hook is the best year-round birding location in the state.
The park (properly named Gateway National Recreation Area) offers a combination of great spring migrants, waterfowl migration, a variety of shorebirds — including the endangered piping plover and American oystercatchers — an excellent hawk flight and, if you are really lucky, a great rarity.
This week, a gorgeous red-headed woodpecker was observed near the Boy Scout Camp. This woodpecker is not often seen at the Hook and the sight of it made this writer say, "Wow!"
Raptor rarities to be looked for in the next few weeks at Sandy Hook are Mississippi and swallow-tailed kites, spectacular aerial artists that are most often seen from the parking at the north end of the Hook.
Over the next month, more than 25 species of warbler will pass through the Hook on their journey north, including: ovenbird, worm-eating warbler, Northern waterthrush, blue-winged warbler, black-and-white warbler, and the Tennessee and Nashville warblers. Also winging their way will be the common yellowthroat, hooded warbler, American redstart, Cape May warbler, Magnolia warbler, bay-breasted warbler, blackpoll warbler, black-throated blue and black-throated green warblers, and Canada warbler to name a few.
Other favorites passing through will be the Swainson's and wood thrush, scarlet and summer tanagers, and rose-breasted grosbeak. This is the time to go out and enjoy our avian friends in their best attire.
This column is compiled and written by Pete Bacinski, longtime New Jersey birder and retired NJ Audubon All Things Birds program director. Questions or comments should be directed to him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.