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DVOC Field Trip Report
by Steve Kacir

June 28, 2008 Wharton State Forest Nightjar Field Trip

In total, 13 birders joined me at Wharton State Forest for an evening’s birding. Tom Bailey deserves specific mention, as he ought to be considered co-leader on this trip for his suggestions about birding the Friendship Bogs area before sunset. I arrived at the Carranza Memorial, and, as usual, some of the field trip participants were already there. I knew three people were going, so when field trip participants started popping up all over the place it was a mild shock.

On Tom’s suggestion, we visited the area around Friendship Bogs first, enjoying a number of breeding birds. Some participants were surprised to see a few of the species of warbler and we eventually had Common Yellowthroat, Northern Parula, Ovenbird, Pine, Prairie and Black-and-white Warblers. One adult Black-and-white Warbler was in an advanced stage of molt, and a Pine Warbler was feeding its fledgling. Laughing Gulls were heading back from the Tullytown Landfill, and as they flew overhead a few of us noted the strange disparity of seeing this species in the middle of a forest. Flycatchers were in abundance, including Great Crested Flycatcher, Eastern Phoebe and Eastern Wood-pewee. Wood Thrushes added to the ambience.

At the bogs, we had a few flyby Wood Ducks, and Carpenter Frogs began calling. Hearing those Carpenter Frogs making tiny hammer sounds was certainly one of my favorite experiences of the day. Green frogs also called, and a hummingbird shot past us.

As sunset approached, we headed to the circle by the railroad tracks to await the big show. Unfortunately, the Common Nighthawks were doing their “booming” display a little farther away from us than I’d have preferred. On the plus side, though, they started displaying before sunset, so everyone had the chance to see the Nighthawks as well as listen to them. When I took a small contingent of the group out to try to get underneath a displaying male nighthawk, a female flew in and landed near the remaining field trip members, so most who stayed behind got nice looks at it. That female also set off another male who displayed a little closer. An Ovenbird also performed its display flights near the circle.

We watched the Nighthawks until everyone was satisfied. After the participants started to disperse, a few of us tried to call in a Barred Owl near Friendship Bogs. Unfortunately, all we heard were the Carpenter Frogs. Another notable absent voice was Pine Barrens Tree Frog. I made a few stops to listen for them on the way out, but never heard one that evening. Again, thanks to everyone who came out, and especially to Tom Bailey, whose knowledge of Wharton State Forest definitely added a lot to the experience. I know I learned a lot, and I think everyone had a good time out there.