Common Yellowthroat

I have been lucky enough to photograph this warbler twice in Mercer Meadows.

This Common Yellowthroat is another bird I photographed in Mercer Meadows thsmpast Spring. I have been lucky enough to photograph this warbler twice in Mercer Meadows.

The Common Yellowthroat, a small and lively warbler, is a common sight in New Jersey during the season. I like their bright yellow throat and the black mask across their eyes. I sometimes confuse them for American Goldfinch.

Common Yellowthroat are often found in wetlands, thickets, and marshy areas, where they forage for insects and spiders. These agile birds are elusive, preferring to stay hidden in dense vegetation. Their "wichity-wichity" song adds a delightful touch to the wetland and marshland.

American Goldfinch

The state bird of New Jersey.

I was about to leave Mercer Meadows when out of the corner of my eye I saw something hopping around in the grass just a few metres from my feet. Without knowing what it was, I snapped a few photographs. I later learned that this bird is the American Goldfinch, the state bird of New Jersey.

The American Goldfinch is a small bird native to North America. Adult males sport striking yellow feathers with black caps and wings, while females and juveniles have more subdued olive-brown plumage. They are granivorous (seed-eating), particularly liking thistle seeds. Unlike many birds, they breed in late summer to coincide with the abundance of seeds in their environment. Their melodious songs add a distinctive soundtrack to woodlands and gardens across their range.

Grey Catbird Curiosity

While on the hunt for migratory warblers to photograph, I stumbled upon Mercer Meadows in Lawrence Township.

I stumbled upon Mercer Meadows last Spring when I was Google hunting for some good spots to photograph migrating warblers. Located in Lawrence Township and part of the Mercer County Park system, the place is massive—about 1,600 acres of open space. It's got everything from meadows and forests to wetlands. The draw for me was the Pole Farm area, a well-known bird-watcher haven. Since I'm into hiking and photography, I thought, "Why not take a morning walk with my XF150-600mmF5.6-8 R LM OIS WR (229-914mm FFE) lens?"

I was at Pole Farm for the first time. I started by wandering through the meadow before diving into a shaded trail surrounded by tall trees. I walked quite a distance without spotting birds, so I considered returning. Just then, I heard this distinctive call. I had never heard it before, but thanks to the Merlin ID app, I discovered it was a Grey Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis).

The Grey Catbird, known for its cat-like calls, is a common resident of New Jersey. These slate-grey birds have a dark cap atop their heads and a rufous (reddish brown) undertail. Their melodious "mew" calls are reminiscent of a cat's meow, giving them their unique name.

Gray Catbird
Gray Catbird · Monday 15 May 2023 · FujiFilm X-T3 at 1/1000 sec, · XF150-600mmF5.6-8 R LM OIS WR at 600 mm at f/8.0

Grey Catbirds are skilled mimics, often incorporating the sounds of other birds into their songs. They are primarily insectivorous, feasting on a diet of insects, berries, and fruits, making them valuable for pest control and seed dispersal.

These birds are frequently spotted in dense thickets and shrubby habitats, where they prefer to stay hidden. What caught my attention was how curious this bird seemed, sitting on a tree branch, with its dark plumage contrasting against the background of green leaves. It's like she was watching me, almost as interested in what I was doing as I was in her—pretty cool first experience.