By Thom Almendinger, Director, Stewardship and Agroecology
Yesterday morning, I received a text from a colleague at work that a friend was looking at a Townsend’s warbler (Setophaga townsendi) moving about in the bioswales and rain gardens in the parking lot. I abruptly ended the meeting. I was in to rush outside to see it for myself.
Why would I be so excited over a 5-inch diminutive bird? Because it is an extremely rare visitor to the east coast. In fact, as of 2015, the NJ Bird Records Committee stated there are only 14 accepted records of the species ever recorded in the state.
The Townsend’s warbler breeds in coniferous forests of the Pacific Northwest from Alaska to Oregon and in the high Sierra Nevada Mountains of California and usually winters along the coast of California south through montane forests in Mexico and Central America.
Our little visitor to Duke Farms, which appears to be a hatch-year female, is the first of its kind documented in Somerset County.
The real message to me wasn’t necessarily that this wayward bird found his way to Duke Farms but that when she did, the habitat value of our parking area was high value enough that she chose to utilize the area for the past few days along with a very late Northern oriole and orange-crowned warbler. Habitat can exist in even the most unlikely areas and if done correctly can add to a properties wildlife value.