In an effort to beat the heat and catch the good light, Kyle picked me up at my house at 5:30 this morning. We loaded up the kayaks and headed for Morningside Park, which is undoubtedly the best local spot to photograph shorebirds. We arrived just after 6:30 and the air was relatively cool and the light was perfect. We paddled out to the islands where throughout the morning we had 5 species of shorebird:
As usual, the peeps were super cooperative for photos. The other birds not so much, although I was able to get one shot of the snipe. We spent some time shooting the peeps and also just paddling around the lake to see what other birds might be around – we totaled 27 species on the lake for the morning.
On our way back we stopped at the Bashakill; I had to meet up with Linda Lou Bartle and we figured we’d do some quick birding while we were there. Surprisingly, it was a great morning for raptors there, we had:
This morning, I joined forces with John Haas and we birded the Bashakill Wildlife Management Area by kayak. We had a very enjoyable paddle with a decent number of birds (32 species), but we had no luck finding our target bird, the Least Bittern. I’m not sure at what point a bird becomes a nemesis bird, but I am certainly starting to think Least Bittern is officially a nemesis bird for me.
In spite of dipping on the LEBI, it was a fun morning of birding. It is awesome to bird with John, he is really great company and an absolute wealth of birding knowledge; every time I bird with him, I learn so much. Plus we did alright with some of the more expected birds: Eastern Kingbirds were numerous and seemed to be at every bend in the channel, we heard at least 10 Common Gallinules, saw 2 Belted Kingfishers, and we got really great looks at one adult and two young Bald Eagles.
In the afternoon, I received a call from Ken McDermott; he had a SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER at the viewing platform at Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge. I jumped into the car and made my way out there, but unfortunately the bird had flown north shortly before my arrival. Ken also had a Lesser Yellowlegs a little earlier, which had also moved on. So, I joined Ken and Maria Loukeris (who had also run for and missed the SBDO) for a while and we had an interesting afternoon/evening of birding. Shorebird highlights included Spotted Sandpiper (2), Solitary Sandpiper (2), Least Sandpiper (4), and many Killdeer, including 4 chicks. Other than shorebirds, we had many Great Blue Herons, several Green Herons, Cedar Waxwings, and one of the last birds of the day was an adult Bald Eagle that flew directly over the platform. The 2 Great Egrets that I had there earlier in the week were nowhere to be seen. All in all, a good day of birding, with the promise that shorebird migration is already underway! Huge thanks to Ken for the call.
I broke out the kayak for the first time of the year this morning. I put in at the Bashakill’s Deli Fields boat launch just before 7:00 am and headed northeast, thus starting what ended up being a six hour paddle. I was hoping for some decent photographs, and I had three target birds for the morning: Pied-billed Grebe, Common Gallinule, and Least Bittern. Actually, the Least Bittern was my main goal, and I would have been happy just to catch a glimpse since I have never even seen this bird yet. Pied-billed Grebes, unfortunately were a no-show. Common Gallinules were vocal and I eventually caught a glimpse of one bird, but I was unable to get any photos. I had an interesting brush with a Least Bittern; early on in my paddle, I heard one calling. I followed the sound and eventually pinpointed where it was coming from. Unfortunately, the bird was in very thick vegetation with almost no visibility. I tried to see if I could approach it from the other side, but again the vegetation was too dense. It was both exciting and frustrating; the bird was so close but as I tried to wait it out, I started to realize how unlikely it would be for the bird to come out into the channel. After a while the bird went quiet and I decided to continue with my paddle (I eventually heard a second Least Bittern, but this one was distant and deep into the vegetation).
I ended up paddling all the way to Haven Road; I had many birds along the way but most of them were heard and not seen. I passed underneath the Bald Eagles’ nest and heard the young calling. Further on, I saw an adult Osprey perched just off the nest. At one point, I watched a Cooper’s Hawk fly clear across the Bash with Red-winged Blackbirds on its tail. The hawk never flew more than a foot above the vegetation as it bobbed and weaved trying to ditch the blackbirds. At Haven Road I paddled to the east side of the Bash, hoping to hear the Hooded Warbler that has been in that area, which I did, and then, to my surprise I also heard a Barred Owl calling in the distance. And then right after that, I had a pair of Red-shouldered hawks flying above the trees.
I turned around and meandered my way back to the Deli Fields boat launch. I figure that I probably paddled nearly 10 miles in 6 hours and I was sore, mostly in my back. I ended up with 54 species for the day, which didn’t seem too bad to me.
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.
Kyle Dudgeon and I got an early start and spent the morning and early afternoon birding at the Bashakill Wildlife Management Area. I was sort of stumped on where to bird for the day, and when Kyle suggested the Bash, I jumped at the opportunity – it had been ages since I’d been there. We had a really fun and productive outing as we checked out several of the Bashakill’s hotspots. Our best stop of the morning was definitely the Nature Trail, where from the viewing platform saw the two adult Bald Eagles share a brief flight and then watched a single Red-shouldered Hawk flyover. It got really good on our walk back to the car when we had a nice flurry of activity that included several Purple Finches and at least five Fox Sparrows! Photos were backlit and tough, but it was really exciting to see both species.
Another good stop was at the Deli Fields. The birding was a little slow (although we did see an additional 3 Fox Sparrows), but we ran into Scotty Baldinger, who I hadn’t seen in a while. I introduce him to Kyle and it was really good to shoot the breeze and catch up with Scotty.
It was a great day, it was awesome to get back out to the Bash, and we ended the day with a total of 37 species. I’ve included our species list below.
American Black Duck
POST UPDATE: Thanks to Ken McDermott’s report and Bruce Nott’s subsequent review of his photos, it has come to light that we actually had 3 Buff-breasted Sandpipers and a single Baird’s Sandpiper, rather than the 4 BBSAs I initially reported. Sorry for the missed ID, it’s not a great feeling, but I’m glad to be able to get the accurate report out.
There I was, peacefully paddling my kayak around the lake at Morningside Park a little after Sunrise this morning. I had made three laps around the islands that form out in the lake, searching for the Short-billed Dowitcher that John Haas reported on his blog yesterday, but without any luck. I was in the middle of making lemonade out of lemons by trying for some good Spotted Sandpiper photos; I’ve never done any good with them before since they are so flighty. That’s when the phone rang, it was Bruce Nott who was on 3 BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPERS in the black dirt. I started to head back to shore, I stopped only briefly to photograph a couple of Least Sandpipers that had just flown in. I strapped my kayak to the roof and headed out to the black dirt, wondering if I would get the Buffies, since I was 0ver 45 minutes away.
Luckily, I made in time. Bruce had been joined by a number of other birders and I joined them to get pretty good scope looks at the birds. On two occasions, someone fired a gun off in the distance which luckily moved the birds temporarily closer to us. Photos are distant and of course heavily cropped, but what a thrill to see one of my favorite birds. Thanks to Bruce for putting in the time and having a great eye.
After seeing the Buff-breasted Sandpipers, Linda Scrima and I headed over to 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary, Citgo Pond, to see if the Stilt Sandpiper was still around. It was and although the light was harsh, we got relatively close looks at the bird, which looked really great in the scope but photos were not good at all. Congrats to Linda, this was her lifer Stilt Sandpiper.
I spent a little more time searching the black dirt for shorebirds, but I really didn’t come across many. I got lucky when a pair of American Kestrels landed not to far from my car and I was able to get my first kestrel shot in a LONG time.
My final stop of the day was Turtle bay to see if the Baird’s Sandpipers were still around, and they were! Bruce showed up and then I called Marianne O. and Karen Miller who both got scope views of the three birds. By that time, I was overheated and it was time to go home.
Oh, and back to first thing this morning. The light was nice and the Spotted Sandpiper was cooperative – I think I got some interesting shots of the bird, and I’ve also thrown in one Least Sandpiper shot just because it’s a cute bird.
Kyle Dudgeon and I headed to Morningside Park early this morning and arrived just as the sun was rising. We unloaded the kayaks and hit the water hoping to do well with shorebirds. It was a gorgeous morning with a little bit of cool breeze; it was supposed to be a hot day, so it was good to be out ahead of the heat. We paddled out to the small islands that form in the west end of the lake at this time each summer, which attract migrating shorebirds. On this day, unfortunately, shorebird numbers were down, we had 1 Killdeer, 5 Least Sandpipers, 2 Spotted Sandpipers, and a single Lesser Yellowlegs which made a brief appearance before moving on. Kyle and I were not deterred and we made the best of it by taking many photos of the Least Sandpipers which were very accommodating. I’ve written about this before, but it bears repeating – seeing the shorebirds at Morningside Park by kayak is quite a treat. You can get SO close to the birds who simply go about their business as if you were not there at all. We also paddled a good portion of the rest of the lake; we had good looks at Great Blue Herons, a couple of Green Herons, and we finally got Kyle his lifer Belted Kingfisher – he was surprised at how big they are! We got great looks at a kingfisher, unfortunately it was in poor light so no photos to share. What a great morning of birding!
I was pretty darn happy this morning when I received a text from John Haas, alerting me that he had located a WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER at Morningside Park in Sullivan County (click here to read John’s account of locating the bird).
I finished what I was doing and then headed home. Yes home… to get my kayak. Morningside Park offers a rare opportunity in our area to see shorebirds up close, and the key is to bird by kayak. I followed John’s directions and located the bird almost immediately and enjoyed taking many photos. It was pretty exciting for me to get such a good shorebird, hopefully it is the first of many for this season. And, what a good looking bird; it was super to get such good looks at it. There were also several Least Sandpipers present, so I got some shots of them as well.
I’ve also included some photos from the week, most are from the Liberty Loop, where I have been spending most of my birding time lately.
I have to say that it felt great to get out after several days of not feeling well and being stuck inside recuperating. Kyle Dudgeon joined me this afternoon and we headed out to the Bashakill Wildlife Management Area to try for the Common Gallinules that John Haas had posted about in his blog earlier in the week. We went directly to Haven Road, which is still flooded. We walked slowly through the water and over the bridge before we saw our first family of Common Gallinules, which consisted of one adult and 3 chicks. Fortunately, they were not too far out for photos, although the vegetation did make focusing on the birds a little bit difficult. It was super to get such a good look and photos of these birds, which are typically much tougher than this to locate. And, it was Kyle’s lifer COGA, so that was exciting too. There was an additional 6 Common Gallinules in open water out in the distance, and I could hear other COGAs in at least two other locations. Huge thanks to John for posting – what a great birding opportunity.
This afternoon, Tricia and I took a drive to Apollo Plaza to see and take photos of the Killdeer chicks. What a joy to see these little fuzzballs with their over-sized legs and feet. I think I missed out on photographing any Killdeer last year, so when I saw one in the distance at 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary this morning, it got me thinking that I should not miss out again this year. Just because they’re cute.