Tricia and I met Karen Miller out at Linear Park this evening. We were having a tough night of birding – we were hearing plenty of birds but not seeing much of anything. To make matters worse the mosquitoes were positively vicious. We were getting eaten alive in spite of putting on plenty of repellent. It was all worth it when Tricia spotted a GREAT HORNED OWL while looking at some Black-capped Chickadees across a field. The owl flew seconds later deep into the woods. We looked desperately through binoculars into the woods for the bird but with no luck. Eventually I saw a large bird fly across the path a couple hundred yards in front of us and I actually ran to try and see where it would end up. Tricia found it again perched in a tree in the field on the other side of the path. We got decent looks in our binoculars and I managed to get some photos. What an exciting experience! What an incredible bird!
I made it out to the Basha Kill yesterday to do some birding, which of course includes stopping by the main boat launch to check on the Bald Eagle and Osprey nests that can be seen from there. It is good to get out there on the weekend because on Saturdays and Sundays from late April until the end of June, the Basha Kill Area Association (in cooperation with The Eagle Institute & The NYS Department of Environ. Conservation) runs their Nature Watch Program. Volunteers are on site from 10 am until 4 pm with spotting scopes aimed at both the Bald eagle nest and the Osprey nest. According to the Nature Watch Volunteer Handbook, the goals and objectives of this program are:
To provide education and heighten awareness of Bald Eagles, while encouraging the need to protect these birds, as well as the other resources of the Basha Kill.
To ensure that visitors practice “eagle etiquette,” or the safest and least intrusive viewing of Bald Eagles, while viewing eagles at the Basha Kill and elsewhere.
To provide data and anecdotal information to the DEC about the eagle and other wildlife activity and visitation.
I love to go out there while the program is running because you can get a fantastic view of the Bald Eagles and the nest in the spotting scopes, and I love interacting with the volunteers who will answer any questions about the Bald Eagles, the Basha Kill and the local businesses. I particularly like getting out there on Saturdays because Ed is there with his own spotting scope. Ed knows EVERYTHING about the Basha Kill, he monitors the eagles very closely and talking with Ed is always interesting and entertaining, and informative.
When I arrived at boat launch yesterday, Ed immediately informed me that the Eastern Bluebirds were once again active in the nesting box located there. He also told me that the eaglet was out of the nest – it had moved down onto a branch maybe 15 feet from the nest. The eaglet is now almost 12 weeks old and should fly any day now. I looked in one of the scopes and I could see both adults up by the nest and the eaglet down below, flapping its wings like mad, getting ready for that first flight. I stayed at the boat launch for over an hour in hopes to see the eaglet fly but it was not to be. Once the eaglet flies, it will stay close to the nest and its parents for one to two months, which will make for some exciting viewing at the Nature Watch for sure. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Maryallison Farley and Patricia Diness who do everything to keep the Nature Watch Program vibrant and running smoothly – they both do such an amazing job. I would also like to thank Linda Lou Bartle for her great photos of the Basha Kill eagles.
Aside from the main boat launch, I spent some time at Haven Road, the stop sign trail, and the deli fields. It was a productive day – I identified 33 species and got a few photos:
I spent some time yesterday at the Franklin Lakes Nature Preserve in Bergen County, New Jersey (see link). The Tufted Titmice put on a show for me. Many thanks to Ken McDermott for helping me figure out who is who in these photos:
During the week, I frequently leave work and go straight to the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge. I planned on doing just that today, but the route I take to get there passes by the Appalachian Trail in Vernon Township, New Jersey. I later found out that this area is called the Pochuck Creek Section of the Appalachian Trail. I have often thought about stopping there and taking a walk to see if it is any good for birding. Well, today I finally stopped to try it out. The trail is primarily a narrow boardwalk that snakes through the Pochuck Creek Marsh and eventually crosses the Pochuck Creek.
I knew the trail had possibilities when heard a Willow Flycatcher just about thirty paces in, and then right after that I was able to take pictures of a new sparrow for me which I later identified as a Swamp Sparrow:
I continued slowly on the trail, enjoying being outside and appreciating the cool breezes. As I made my way towards the bridge that crossed Pochuck Creek I heard and saw a good number of birds.
I arrived at the bridge and as I crossed it I was looking left and then right. When I looked right I saw my highlight of the day: a female merganser with 8 chicks swimming down the creek and quickly around the bend! I was not sure if it was a Common Merganser or a Hooded Merganser – I did not get a great look at her, and also I think because I was so surprised to see a merganser – I haven’t seen one in this area since mid March. After considering for a while and looking in some bird guides I am leaning towards Common Merganser with chicks, but I need to go back to (hopefully!) get a second look to make a positive identification.
I had my second highlight as I made my way back to my car. A female Wood Duck with several ducklings were hidden under the boardwalk, and as I approached I inadvertently flushed them out. I managed to get this photo before this duckling disappeared into the grasses: