What is “warbler neck?”
The answer to this question and many others will be revealed when the Monmouth County Audubon Society hosts their annual field trip to Allaire State Park, 4265 Atlantic Ave, Wall Township, on Saturday, May 4.
“At this time of year, bird plumage is at its brightest and songs are loudest,” says Dena Temple, trip leader. “To hear birdsong echoing through the woods is a delight. Anyone interesting in learning how to identify spring migrants by song is in for a real treat. We are never disappointed at Allaire.” She adds, “And yes, you’ll definitely find out what ‘warbler neck’ is.”
While most of a bird’s year is spent trying to be invisible to predators, things change in the spring. The priority for birds in the spring is breeding, and birds have a variety of ways to attract a mate. For one, most birds molt into their beautiful, colorful breeding plumage, to make them more attractive to the opposite sex. In addition, birds sing – loudly and often – in an effort to establish a territory and attract a mate. Once summer is underway, a bird’s priorities shift to nesting and raising young. Their feathers revert to the duller “basic plumage,” and they sing much less.
The migration season brings a great variety of birds through our area, and Allaire State Park is what birders refer to as a “migrant trap,” an oasis of woodland habitat surrounded by suburbs. This acts as a magnet for birds passing through, which are drawn to the plentiful food (mostly insects) and native plant cover. The diversity of the habitat and the rich feeding grounds are especially attractive to wood-warblers. “We may see and hear 15 species of warblers, several species of flycatchers, Scarlet Tanagers, and maybe Rose-breasted Grosbeak,” adds Michael Casper, co-leader and past president of the organization.
Anyone interested in participating in the event can meet at 8:15 a.m. in the main parking lot by the historic village. Follow the Garden State Parkway to Exit 98, then follow the brown signs for Allaire State Park. The walk through the park will end before noon.
The trip is open to both members and non-members of the Monmouth County Audubon Society, and participation is free. Advance registration is not required. Participants should bring binoculars and field guides and should dress appropriately for the weather, including clothing suitable for rain if the forecast is questionable. The walk will take place light rain or shine. If the weather is doubtful participants can check the organization’s website for any last-minute changes. Pets are not permitted.