This afternoon I joined Karen Miller as we took our first shift of the season volunteering for the Bashakill Area Association sponsored Nature Watch Program. I believe it is my fourth year volunteering for the program, which monitors the Bald Eagle and Osprey nests at the Bashakill. On Saturdays and Sundays from late April until the end of June, spotting scopes are set up to view both of the nests and volunteers are on hand to answer questions. You can click here to read more about the program which I featured in a blog post a few years back.
When we arrived, there was an adult Bald Eagle near the nest with the two very large eaglets. And, we learned from the morning shift that the adult Osprey appeared to have been feeding young in the nest before we arrived. While we were there, the young eagles were hopping around and really giving their wings a workout, flapping like mad!
It was a pair of Common Gallinules, however, that stole the show for me. We got absolutely fantastic looks at the birds out in front of the boat launch. Typically (in my experience) much more secretive, we enjoyed good looks of the birds throughout our 3 hour shift. I had my scope out and kept it on one of the birds for folks to get a look, and I also shot some video through it using my iPhone, which I’ll include at the bottom of this post. What a super bird and so great to get such amazing looks.
Early this morning, Kyle, Linda, Maria, and I went to Laurel Grove Cemetery, hoping that some new birds had moved in. Last night, the radar looked good and the winds were favorable, but this morning, the cemetery was very quiet. If we hadn’t run into Rob Stone while we were out there, it would have been pretty much a total bust. Rob had located a roosting Common Nighthawk, which is something I’ve never seen and that I’ve been dying to see. I think it was probably a first for everyone in the group. Photos were tough as the nighthawk’s great camouflage didn’t seem to allow my autofocus differentiate the bird from tree. At Kyle’s suggestion, I got my scope from the car and we all got really incredible looks. The only other notable bird was a trio of Blackpoll Warblers very high in a tree.
We decided to move on and try our luck at Pochuck Mountain State Forest. It was a little bit more birdy there, but really, nothing amazing. Highlights included really good looks at several Worm-eating Warblers and Scarlet Tanagers, and hearing and seeing several Yellow-billed Cuckoos. We had a modest 32 species at Pochuck; I’ve included my list of birds at the bottom of this post.
I’m also playing a little catch up with this post – I’ve included a shot of a Black-billed Cuckoo that Linda and I had at Wickham Lake on Thursday, as well as 3 shots from early in May that I somehow never posted. They were from Wickham Lake as well.
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Other notable birds included super looks at 2 Yellow-billed Cuckoos (unfortunately, I blew the pics!), a Swainson’s Thrush, and several Scarlet Tanagers all of which were seen at Pochuck Mountain. The Golden-winged Warbler was a lifer for Linda, so congrats to her on that.
It’s really a great time of the year for birding, and I’m embracing warblers for the first time really, so it’s been very enjoyable. I’ve included photos from earlier this week, when I made visits to Sterling Forest and the Liberty Loop.
QUICK POST: I’m totally exhausted tonight, but if I don’t post this now, I’m not sure when I will get to it. This Friday and Saturday, I participated in my first Edgar A. Mearns Club Orange County Break 100, a friendly competition where teams of birders spend 24 hours trying to see or hear 100 species of bird. I was finally persuaded to do the ‘Break’ because John Haas could not make it this year, and Jeff Goulding, Lisa O’Gorman and Karen Miller were looking for a fourth member of their team. The break starts at 4:00 pm on Friday and goes until 4:00pm Saturday. In that time we visited many birding spots in Orange County, nearly 20 by my count. We finally broke 100 at Knapp’s View in Chester New York, where we got our 100th bird (Bobolink) and 101st bird (Eastern Meadowlark) at around 1:35 on Saturday afternoon. We didn’t do much good after that (it wasn’t from a lack of trying!), only adding an additional 4 birds to finish with 105 species on the day, but I think everyone on the team was happy with the total (though the winning team finished with 124 species). We had way too many laughs and saw some really great birds, including hearing my first Whip-poor-will and getting my lifer GRAY-CHEEKED THRUSH. Huge thanks to everyone on my team, I think we all did a pretty great job to “Break 100”.
With south winds in the forecast for the first time in many days, it was looking like migration might be on. I was hoping that my good birding luck would continue today. I got out pretty early and it did not seem like a lucky day; it rained steadily for my entire trip out to Laurel Grove Cemetery in Port Jervis, NY. I donned my rain gear and left the camera in the car. The good news is that the cemetery was very birdy. The bad news is that I was, of course struggling with wet binoculars and finding tiny birds in the shadows. Then the good luck kicked in. The rain stopped. I went back for my camera. The birds continued, now in ever improving light. And then I turned around and saw Curt McDermott, bins to his eyes, looking up at a large evergreen. I birded the remainder of my time at the cemetery with Curt and he found me many birds, most notably, a BAY-BREASTED WARBLER which gave us great looks for over a half hour. This was my 3rd life bird of the weekend, now that’s something I never expected to happen! It was a great morning of birding and likely my best warbler outing ever. I left the cemetery with 15 species of warbler:
Common Yellowthroat (FOY – Orange County)
Northern Parula (FOY)
Magnolia Warbler (FOY)
BAY-BREASTED WARBLER (LIFER!)
Chestnut-sided Warbler (FOY)
Blackpoll Warbler (FOY)
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler (FOY)
I also had two additional first of year birds while at the cemetery – Least Flycatcher and Great-crested Flycatcher. Huge thanks to Curt for all his help this morning, I don’t even want to think about how many birds I would have missed without him.
Later in the morning, Tricia and I went to Pochuck Mountain State Forest and although it was a little bit late and not overwhelmingly birdy, we still got some good birds. I added my 16th warbler of the day with Ovenbird, and we got decent looks at two male Scarlet Tanagers. I added two more year birds too – Yellow-throated Vireo and Rose-breasted Grosbeak (of which we saw many). What a great weekend of birding for me, it was very satisfying for sure.
Linda Scrima, Maria Loukeris, and I decided last minute to forego birding locally for migrating warblers to run for the FORK-TAILED FLYCATCHER which had been reported at Assunpink Wildlife Management Area in Trenton, NJ. What a great decision it was! Some days are luckier than others, and today was a lucky day. After a long drive, we found Assunpink WMA easily enough, and then took the trail to the dam where the bird had been reported. At the dam, we saw approximately 20 birders, and we knew the bird was present. We watched and photographed the bird as it fed just below the dam, giving us great looks. I was blown away by this bird, what an incredible creature, whose normal range is from Mexico to South America. I am thinking that this bird is likely a juvenile or a female bird because the adult male has a tail that is much longer. I am leaning towards juvenile because its yellow crown stripe seems to be undeveloped. This has to rank as the easiest/best bird I’ve ever run any distance for, what a super bird! The FTFL was a life bird for all three of us, and it brought my life list total to 360. That number would increase again momentarily as we explored Assunpink WMA…
… and heard an unfamiliar call. It took a little while, but we eventually tracked down the bird, it was a WHITE-EYED VIREO! And my 361st life bird! What a day, but it wasn’t over yet…
…we had one more pleasant surprise when we stopped by The Great Swamp on our way home and had a SANDHILL CRANE fly over! Great day of birding!
I got a fairly early start this morning; I was headed out to hike the Sterling Valley Loop Trail at Sterling Forest State Park. It was raining when I arrived, and it pretty much rained for the entire 7.7 mile hike. While it never came down very hard, it was just enough to make birding a little bit difficult. I wore good rain gear, so I stayed dry and so did my camera (by the way my gear included wearing a day glow vest since turkey hunting season started this morning). And I had a cover for the eyepiece of my binoculars, so I was doing my best to keep the rain off of the ocular lenses. But, I didn’t take into account a couple of things: First, I spent much of my birding time looking straight up into the tops of trees, so the objective lenses of my bins were getting soaked. Second, whenever I brought my binoculars to my eyes, the ocular lenses would fog over. Next time around, I will be sure to bring a soft absorbent towel for drying the objective lenses and clearing the condensation off the ocular lenses. I was also holding my bins away from my eyes so they wouldn’t fog over, at that worked to a certain extent.
As far as the birding went, the trail was only moderately birdy. I spent 5 hours hiking and had a modest (for this time of year) 39 species. I added 2 species to my Orange County year list: American Redstart(of which I had several), and Eastern Kingbird. I thought I was going to have to do a post with no photos (which I am always reluctant to do), but luckily when the rain let up a little bit, I had a decent opportunity with a Black-and-white Warbler. I also had a chance to photograph an Eastern Kingbird, but I was shooting through the brush and never got a clean focus on the bird.
When I had gotten home and stripped off all my wet gear, I received a call from Rob Stone. He was on a WHITE-WINGED SCOTER at Wickham Lake. Back on with the gear! I ran for the bird and it was still present when I arrived. I walked the trail on the southeast of the lake to get a little closer to the bird. I got better scope views from there and a post-able photo. WWSC is definitely what I consider a good bird for the county. Thanks once again to Rob, who never ceases to amaze.
It’s that time of year when new birds are not very hard to come by. Migration is getting into full swing, and many new birds are moving into and through the area. I spent the morning and into the early afternoon birding at the above locations, and added 14 new species to my Orange County year list.
First thing this morning, I met Linda Scrima and Maria Loukeris at Pochuck Mountain State Forest, which was quite birdy. We had a nice long walk with 33 species and I added 8 personal first of year (FOY) birds:
Ovenbird was the bird of the day for sure; we heard them calling all along the trail as we walked. It was a nice outing, although at the end we had to cut it short and hustle back to our cars as both Linda and Maria had other obligations.
Afterwards, I headed over to 6 1/2 Station Road with the main goal of trying for some shorebirds. I started at the Citgo Pond, and although it was not a great success, I did see a several Killdeer, 2 Lesser Yellowlegs (FOY in Orange County), and 2 Spotted Sandpipers (FOY). The habitat looks good there right now for shorebirds, so I will be checking in for sure. I also walked a portion of the Heritage Trail, and ultimately I had 32 species. Other new year birds for me included: Green Heron, several Chimney Swifts, 2 Warbling Vireos, and a House Wren. I was bummed out about the Warbling Vireos because they were down low and in good light, but for some reason I was never able to get a good focus while I was trying to photograph them.
While I wouldn’t categorize it as amazing, it was certainly a good and enjoyable day of birding.
QUICK POST: I got an early start this morning and hiked Indian Hill Loop at Sterling Forest State Park. It was a nice hike with some scenic overlooks and it was just birdy enough to keep it interesting. I had Blue-gray Gnatcatchers throughout the walk, heard two Louisiana Waterthrushes, and I was happy to find Black-and-White Warblers at two different high points in the walk. However, the definite highlight of the day was when a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker came in and landed in a tree less than 20 feet from me. I froze as the bird went about its business; I watched as the bird carefully created a hole and then fed on the sap. The bird did this two times while I stood only yards away, and I just relaxed and enjoyed every minute of it, not knowing when I would ever get another opportunity like this.
I met Linda Scrima out at Pochuck Mountain State Forest early on this cloudy morning. In the beginning of the trail, it was not very birdy, but we continued further up the mountain until we got to a small pond and that’s where things got interesting. Our first good bird was my FOY BLUE-HEADED VIREO. Shortly afterwards, we located another personal FOY, a BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER. As we worked our way around the pond, I heard a call that sort of sounded familiar but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Linda, however knew it immediately – it was a LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH. We followed the call, located the bird, and got fabulous looks and pretty decent photos, especially considering the poor lighting. We ended up having a good morning at Pochuck; we hiked probably about 4 miles and had 28 species.
Afterwards, we walked the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge’s Liberty Loop. Highlights included our second Louisiana Waterthrush of the day, which was located by Linda on the west side of the loop, just off the trail. We also did pretty well with shorebirds with several Killdeer, 2 Greater Yellowlegs (FOY), 1 Lesser Yellowlegs (FOY), and a pair of Wilson’s Snipe. All in all, a good day with some good year birds for both of us.