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.
On this cold, windy Saturday morning, I left the house without much of a game plan. I wandered around, hitting several spots in southern Orange County before ending up at the Bashakill Wildlife Management Area.
GLENMERE LAKE: Highlights included 42 Ring-necked Ducks and 4 Common Mergansers.
SCHERVIER PAVILLION, WARWICK: 10 Hooded Mergansers, 2 Common Mergansers, Canada Geese, and Mallards.
WARWICK TOWN HALL PONDS: Ring-necked Ducks too spread out and numerous to count (maybe 60+?), Gadwall, American Wigeon, Canada Geese, and a single American Coot
SANFORDVILLE ROAD, WARWICK NY: 1 American Kestrel and 2 Red-tailed Hawks (including the one pictured below with some super markings).
LAUREL GROVE CEMETERY, PORT JERVIS NY: Highlights included 4 Red-breasted Mergansers, 2 Common Goldeneyes, and over 40 Tree Swallows, my first ones of the year!
BASHAKILL WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT AREA, SULLIVAN COUNTY NY: I got my best bird of the day here – a pair of FOX SPARROWS located at the Deli Fields. I tried desperately for photos because I haven’t had a Fox Sparrow since sometime in 2013! The birds would not cooperate and in the end this was my best shot:
Other highlights included 9 (!) Bald Eagles including one cooperative one that seemed to be playing while flying above Haven Road. And I also had 4 Tree Swallows and I able to get a decent photo of an Eastern Bluebird.
After work today, I decided to go for the the Red Crossbills that John Haas had located at the Neversink Reservoir earlier in the day (see John’s post HERE). Karen Miller and Lance Verderame were also out looking for the crossbills, but unfortunately the three of us came up empty-handed. Fortunately for me, I had quite a sweet consolation prize. On my way out to the reservoir, not long after getting off Route 17, I found a Barred Owl perched on the side of the road! So lucky!
Later, after trying for the crossbills I took Karen back to the spot where I had seen the owl – it would be a life bird for her. The bird was no longer present; we scanned the surrounding area for a little while and then I got back in the car to head home. A few minutes later, Karen called – she had the bird! It was perched on a wire just up the road from where I had seen it; I must have driven right under it! Thinking back, I realized that once I started for home, I had immediately begun scanning the radio for the Pittsburgh Penguins game, so I wasn’t looking up! I went back to see the bird for a second time, but unfortunately a Good Samaritan with a bad muffler on his car had stopped to see if Karen needed help and doing so flushed the bird.
Oh, and I also had an additional consolation prize – my first Red-breasted Nuthatch in over a year!
Since we have not been getting many ducks in southern Orange County, Karen Miller and I decided to head up to Sullivan County and get our fix. It was a very cold and windy day, probably not the best day for going for waterfowl. We went to Swan Lake, the Neversink Reservoir, Morningside Park, and Kiamesha Lake. We did pretty well, but honestly the cold an the wind made it difficult to bird. At the Neversink Reservoir, it was so windy that we could barely see through our scopes – our eyes were constantly tearing and the scopes were shaking in the wind terribly. Bufflehead were the bird of the day with many being seen at all locations except for Morningside Park. In the end we got our fix with 10 types of swimming waterbirds seen and even had some cooperative Ruddy Ducks in sunny weather at our finals stop – Kiamesha Lake for some photo ops. Here’s my list:
American Black Duck