Basha Kill by Kayak 6/23/13

x
It’s still nice to get a good shot of one of our more common birds. Red-winged Blackbird at Basha Kill WMA 6/23/13.

I was feeling a bit uninspired when trying to figure out where to bird this morning. With migration long over and the summer kicking in, I was looking to do something a little bit different. It was right about this time last year that I started birding by kayak out at the Basha Kill, so I figured I would give it a shot. I put my kayak in the water at the route 209 boat launch just before 7 am. I paddled to Haven Road without seeing very much at all – a huge difference from last year when I had Wood Ducks and duckling at just about every turn, Pied-billed Grebes, and no shortage of Great Blue Herons. I was hearing plenty of birds on the perimeter of the kill, and I also was enjoying watching the Tree Swallows hunt and then perform an apparent mid-air food exchange. I tried to get a photo of this behavior, but I was unsuccessful.

At Haven Road I could see an adult Bald Eagle perched on the other side of the bridge. The water level is still very high, so I had to walk my kayak over Haven Road to continue. I moved very slowly and eventually got in good position to take some photos. This was clearly the highlight of my outing, I snapped away until the Red-winged Blackbirds and Eastern Kingbirds became too bothersome for the eagle and it flew.

x
Bald Eagle perched near Haven Road, as seen from my kayak 6/23/13.

 

x
Here the eagle is starting to get bothered by the small birds buzzing around…
x
I believe that is a female Red-winged Black bird right behind the eagle as it took off. 
x
An here, it appears that an Eastern Kingbird is hitching a ride! It always amazes me that these small birds are willing to tangle with an adult Bald Eagle. 

 

I took a quick cruise over to the Nature Trail when I finished my paddle, and picked up my best bird of the day by far: a pair of NORTHERN WATERTHRUSHES. This was a life bird for me, giving me two life birds this weekend – not too bad! They were splashing around in a puddle in the parking lot when I arrived, pumping their tails repeatedly. I tried to move closer for a photo and flushed them; I never did see them again. I had a nice photo opportunity at the end of the trail, where I stumbled upon about 10 Wood Duck ducklings. I think they are so sweet.

x
Pure sweetness – a Wood Duck duckling at Basha Kill WMA 6/23/13.
x
Here’s a couple more…

It ended up being a great morning for birding and for bird photography. Here’s my species list for the day:

Canada Goose  10
Wood Duck  25
Mallard  6
Great Blue Heron  5
Turkey Vulture  1
Bald Eagle  1
Virginia Rail  1
Common Gallinule  2
Mourning Dove  1
Red-bellied Woodpecker  1
Downy Woodpecker  1
Northern Flicker  2
Eastern Wood-Pewee  3
Eastern Phoebe  2
Eastern Kingbird  10
Yellow-throated Vireo  4
Warbling Vireo  3
Red-eyed Vireo  1
Blue Jay  2
American Crow  1
Northern Rough-winged Swallow  1
Tree Swallow  25
Barn Swallow  6
White-breasted Nuthatch  2
Veery  2
Wood Thrush  3
American Robin  X
Gray Catbird  X
Ovenbird  2
Northern Waterthrush  2
Common Yellowthroat  2
American Redstart  6
Yellow Warbler  10
Song Sparrow  3
Northern Cardinal  1
Red-winged Blackbird  X
Common Grackle  8

 

 

 

The Generosity of Birders

I ran into John Haas and Scotty Baldinger out at the Basha Kill this morning. They were on the trail of a suspected King Rail, which turned out to be this very accommodating Virginia Rail. I'm sure John and Scotty were disappointed but I sure wasn't - it was a life bird for both myself and Joyce D. who had joined us along with Mary B. in the search.
I ran into John Haas and Scotty Baldinger out at the Basha Kill this morning. I joined them in search of  a suspected King Rail. We were joined shortly after by fellow Mearns Bird Club members Joyce D and Mary B. The King Rail turned out to be this very accommodating Virginia Rail. I’m sure John and Scotty were disappointed but I sure wasn’t – it was a life bird for both myself and Joyce D.
Here's one more of the Virginia Rail, Basha Kill 6/22/13.
Here’s one more of the Virginia Rail, Basha Kill 6/22/13.

This post includes three birds that I enjoyed watching an photographing this week. They are also birds that I would not have been nearly as likely to find without the generosity of my fellow birders. I have wanted to write a post about this for a while now, when I think back on all the posts I have made over the last year or so, how often am I thanking another birder? Very often! I am continually impressed by how kind and giving birders are; my experiences with other birders here in Orange County and the surrounding areas have been overwhelmingly positive. I have yet to come across a birder that is secretive or keeping any sort of “birding hotspot” to themselves. Rather, it is much more common to run into other birders out in the field, where they will give me the most detailed directions to get a good look or photograph of the latest bird that I am seeking.

Additionally, birders will  take the time and energy to share their observations by texting, emailing or posting online. Again, this usually includes accurate and very detailed descriptions of where and when the bird had been seen.

The birding community is an extremely nice group of people, one that I feel I have slowly become a part of over the past couple of years. I want to take this opportunity to thank all the generous birders out there – I hope I can repay you all at one time or another.

Karen Miller and I ran into Curt McDermott out at Stewart Forest on Wednesday evening. On Thursday evening I was taking photos of Bank Swallow in Wallkill thanks to a hot tip and perfect directions from Curt.
Karen Miller and I ran into Curt McDermott out at Stewart Forest on Wednesday evening. On Thursday evening I was taking photos of Bank Swallows in Wallkill thanks to a hot tip and perfect directions from Curt. Btw, this is a difficult bird to photograph. I realize this is not a great photo but it was the best I could do! I plan give it another go sometime soon…
Ken McDermott and Ajit both posted on the Mearns Bird Club that there were Purple Martins out at the Shawangunk Grasslands. I got out there this morning and managed to get some flight photos.
Earlier this week, I received an email from Ken McDermott and Ajit Antony posted on the Mearns Bird Club that there were Purple Martins out at the Shawangunk Grasslands. I got out there this morning and managed to get some flight photos.

 

Shawangunk Grasslands 6/16/13

I finally managed to get some decent Killdeer flight photos this morning. Shawangunk Grasslands NWR 6/16/13.
I finally managed to get some decent Killdeer flight photos this morning. Shawangunk Grasslands NWR 6/16/13.

This morning at the Shawangunk Grasslands, I saw one Grasshopper Sparrow, but had no luck with photos. I took a nice long walk, saw many birds, and took a lot of photos. The trails at the grasslands are really starting to take shape. They were, of course, a little muddy and wet with all the rain we have had lately, but they are MUCH improved from when they were first developed. The mud doesn’t stick in your boots and the walk is much more even and smooth. Thanks Ralph for all the work you do out there – it was nice to see you and catch up a little this morning.

The grasslands have grown in pretty well, so there are many kinds of vegetation and wild flowers which really create a nice backgrounds for taking photos. I did not have any out of the ordinary birds this morning; all birds you would expect for this time of the year. My highlight would have to be the large number of Bobolinks present, which allowed for many photo opportunities.

x
Bobolinks are certainly messy eaters. Shawangunk Grasslands NWR 6/16/13.
x
I was hoping to get a good shot of the beautiful markings on the back of the male Bobolink. Shawangunk Grasslands NWR 6/16/13.

 

x
I like the blurred flowers in the background of this one. Bobolink at Shawangunk Grasslands NWR 6/16/13.

 

 

x
A fluffed up male Bobolink, Shawangunk Grasslands NWR 6/16/13.

 

x
This Killdeer made several passes, allowing me to get a few good shots.
x
Pretty shot of a Killdeer in flight. Shawangunk Grasslands NWR 6/16/13.
x
There were many Eastern Meadowlarks present but I never got very close. 
I focused more of my attention on the more dramatic looking male Bobolinks, but here is a nice look at a female.
I focused more of my attention on the more dramatic looking male Bobolinks, but here is a nice look at a female.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday 6/15/13

x
Right before the rain on Friday evening, a Cedar Waxwing posed nicely. Appalachian Trail near Route 94, Vernon NJ. 

After a long week of rainy weather and being sick, I woke up early this morning raring to go. My main objective was to get a good photo of a Grasshopper Sparrow.I did not achieve this objective because I never saw any! I went back to the Appalachian Trail near Route 94 in Vernon, NJ where we had a least four last weekend, but I had no luck. I heard one Grasshopper Sparrow, but I never did locate it.  I had also tried yesterday evening – I heard and saw at least two Grasshopper Sparrows but the light was not very good with the rain coming in. This morning, the light was much better for photos, so I went to work on my second objective which was to bring home some decent photos. I feel like I haven’t done well lately with the camera, so I wanted to work on it. While I was at it, I ended up with 22 species of bird:

x
A singing Field Sparrow out at the AT,  6/15/13.

 

 

Mallard  2
Great Blue Heron  2
Mourning Dove  6
Northern Flicker  2
Great Crested Flycatcher  1
Yellow-throated Vireo  1
American Crow  4
Common Raven  2
Barn Swallow  6
American Robin  1
Northern Mockingbird  2
European Starling  10
Cedar Waxwing  5
Yellow Warbler  1
Field Sparrow  4
Grasshopper Sparrow  1
Northern Cardinal  1
Indigo Bunting  2
Red-winged Blackbird  8
Common Grackle  2
Brown-headed Cowbird  1

 

 

A Great Crested Flycatcher as I was leaving the Appalachian Trail near Route 94, 6/15/13.
A Great Crested Flycatcher as I was leaving the Appalachian Trail near Route 94, 6/15/13.

After about an hour, I headed over to Wallkill River NWR to walk the Liberty Loop. It was quite birdy as I walked the loop and I ended up with 36 species and I took a LOT of photos. The results were mixed, but here is my species list as well as some of my better shots.

x
Red-winged Blackbird at Wallkill River NWR 6/15/13.

Canada Goose  15
Mallard  14
Great Blue Heron  8
Turkey Vulture  4
Rock Pigeon  1
Chimney Swift  1
Willow Flycatcher  3
Great Crested Flycatcher  2
Eastern Kingbird  4
Yellow-throated Vireo  1
Warbling Vireo  1
American Crow  4
Tree Swallow  2
Barn Swallow  1
Tufted Titmouse  2
White-breasted Nuthatch  1
Eastern Bluebird  3
Wood Thrush  2
American Robin  12
Gray Catbird  6
Brown Thrasher  3
Cedar Waxwing  6
Common Yellowthroat  2
Yellow Warbler  6
Song Sparrow  16
Swamp Sparrow  10
Northern Cardinal  1
Rose-breasted Grosbeak  1
Indigo Bunting  2
Bobolink  3
Red-winged Blackbird  X
Common Grackle  8
Brown-headed Cowbird  2
Orchard Oriole  1
Baltimore Oriole  2
American Goldfinch  3

 

Easily the highlight of my morning, one of three Brown Thrashers out at Wallkill River NWR 6/15/13.
Easily the highlight of my morning, one of three Brown Thrashers out at Wallkill River NWR 6/15/13.
My favorite photo of the day - Willow Flycatcher at Wallkill River NWR 6/15/13.
My favorite photo of the day – Willow Flycatcher at Wallkill River NWR 6/15/13.
This Rose-breasted Grosbeak was really enjoying some mulberries. Wallkill River NWR 6/15/13.
This Rose-breasted Grosbeak was really enjoying some mulberries. Wallkill River NWR 6/15/13.
Indigo Bunting at Wallkill River NWR 6/15/13.
Indigo Bunting at Wallkill River NWR 6/15/13.
I was at first glance confused by this young Eastern Bluebird. Wallkill River NWR 6/15/13.
I was at first glance confused by this young Eastern Bluebird. Wallkill River NWR 6/15/13.

Tomorrow morning I will head out to the Shawangunk Grasslands. I am following a hot tip from Scotty Baldinger who reported to the Mearns Bird Club that he had FIVE Grasshopper Sparrows out there this morning…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weekend Wrap Up – 6/9/13

x
A Marsh Wren builds its nest at the Appalachian Trail Pochuck Creek Section, 6/9/13.

I was out of town for work this week, so I did not have the opportunity to do much birding (actually the hotel we stayed at had a nice swampy area surrounding it and I walked the perimeter a number of times). I made up for it by doing quite a bit of birding this weekend, hittting five spots in two days.

Saturday Morning – Sterling Forest State Park, Sterling Lake Loop.

Highlights: Although I had 31 species for the walk, I did not see anything extraordinary. I was lucky enough to get a decent photo of my first of season Red-eyed Vireo:

I spent some time with this bird, waiting for it to get into some sunlight. Red-eyed Vireo at Sterling Forest SP 6/8/13.
I spent some time with this bird, waiting for it to get into some sunlight. Red-eyed Vireo at Sterling Forest SP 6/8/13.

Saturday Afternoon: Basha Kill WMA

Highlights: My latest favorite bird, the Yellow-billed Cuckoo made an appearance at the Nature Trail again. I also had a brief but good look at a male Scarlett Tanager there as well.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo at Basha Kill WMA, 6/8/13.
Yellow-billed Cuckoo at Basha Kill WMA, 6/8/13.
I had to include this shot of an Eastern Kingbird snagging a dragonfly from its perch. Deli Fields at Basha Kill WMA 6/8/13.
I had to include this shot of an Eastern Kingbird snagging a dragonfly from its perch. Deli Fields at Basha Kill WMA 6/8/13.

Sunday Early Morning: Appalachian Trail near Route 94 in Sussex County NJ

Highlights: I was fortunate enough to be invited to join Judy Cinquina, Tom Millard, B.A. McGrath and Gene for a day of birding. It was certainly good company and I felt like I learned quite a bit. My best bird for the morning (for the whole day really) was the GRASSHOPPER SPARROW!  This was a life bird for me, and although we got several very good looks, I was not satisfied with any of my photos. The light was on the harsh side for some reason and most of my photos where overexposed. Here is my best effort:

x
Grasshopper Sparrow at the Appalachian Trail near Route 94, 6/9/13.

Sunday Late Morning: Appalachian Trail Pochuck Creek Section

Highlights: Watching a Marsh Wren build its nest was amazing I was really happy to get the photo at the top of this post. I also really enjoyed the Swamp Sparrows perching on cattails and singing.

x
Swamp Sparrow at the Appalachian Trail Pochuk Creek Section, 6/9/13.
x
Willow Flycatcher at the Appalachian Trail Pochuck Creek Section, 6/9/13.

Sunday Afternoon: Wallkill River NWR

Highlights: For the heat of the day, we saw many birds while we walked the east side of the Liberty Loop.  I really enjoyed the distant but good looks at four male Bobolinks, and I managed to get a photo of a male Orchard Oriole that I like:

Orchard Oriole at Wallkill River NWR 6/9/13.
Orchard Oriole at Wallkill River NWR 6/9/13.
Cedar Waxwing at Wallkill River NWR, 6/9/13.
Cedar Waxwing at Wallkill River NWR, 6/9/13.
I finally got a shot of a Common Yellowthroat - for some reason I have not gotten good looks this year. Wallkill River NWR, 6/9/13.
I finally got a shot of a Common Yellowthroat – for some reason I have not gotten good looks this year. Wallkill River NWR, 6/9/13.

 

 

 

Early Saturday Morning Birding

x
House Wren out at Denning’s Point State Park, 6/1/13.

I got up early to try to beat the heat this morning and headed out to Denning’s Point State Park. I had not been out there since last year, so I was hoping to have some luck with Green Herons and Black-crowned Night Herons. As it turned out, the park was not extremely birdy on this day and I did not see any herons at all.  All told I had 22 species, many of which were only heard. On my way back to the car I enjoyed the highlight  of the visit, an amazing Red-tail Hawk with beautiful markings.

I love the markings on this bird, particularly the very light head and the
I love the markings on this bird, particularly the very light head and the very dark area at the base of the bill – I’m not sure if that would be considered the Mustachial stripe or the Malar (or both?). Red-tailed Hawk on a light post at Denning’s Point State Park, 6/1/13.
I sat on a rock and watched this bird for a good while. Periodically a Red-winged Blackbird would dive-bomb the hawk...
I sat on a rock and watched this bird for a good while. Periodically a Red-winged Blackbird would dive-bomb the hawk…
...eventually the hawk had had enough and took off, giving me a great look at its gorgeous red tail.
…eventually the hawk had had enough and took off, giving me a great look at its gorgeous red tail.

I left Denning’s Point and then headed to Kenridge Farm. I walked the extensive trails there for close to two hours and although I did not see or hear anything our of the ordinary, I did pretty well, identifying 28 species of birds. My “best birds” where: Brown Thrasher, four Killdeer (two of which I believe were immatures), a female Mallard with ducklings, and a pair of Green Herons.

I finally got a good enough look at a Green Heron for a photo. Kenridge Farm 6/1/13.
I finally got a good enough look at a Green Heron for a photo. Kenridge Farm 6/1/13.
Three of four Killdeer out at Kenridge Farm, 6/1/13.
Three of four Killdeer out at Kenridge Farm, 6/1/13.

The heat was getting pretty unbearable and the harsh sun was making for difficult photography when I wrapped it up at 11:30 am. It was a morning of enjoyable, but not amazing, birding.