I spent yesterday on Long Island visiting with my family; it had been a while, so it was really great to make up for lost time. But, that meant no birding. So, I woke up early this morning, hoping that the weather would bring in some good birds. I was at the Newburgh Waterfront just after sunrise, but unfortunately there was nothing going on. It was hight tide, as I knew it would be, so that may have had something to do with it.
I also checked a couple of lakes in the Newburgh area and came up empty. Then John Haas put out an alert that he had several CASPIAN TERNS at the Bashakill. It took me what seemed like ages to get there, but the birds stuck around. There ended up being a total of (7) Caspian Terns in all, and they did offer a few decent photos ops as they flew back and forth over Haven Road. It was very enjoyable birding, and CATE was my 207th species in Sullivan County, so that is exciting.
After leaving the Bash, I just cruised around southern Orange County to see what I could find. The birding was just the usuals (American Pipits in the black dirt was the highlight), but by a stroke of luck I found a litter of Red Fox kits. They were just awesome – inquisitive to a certain extent, but mostly just very cautious and of course, cute as can be. As much as I enjoyed the terns, these little beasts made my day.
I headed to Sullivan County this snowy morning. I covered a decent amount of ground in the Parksville area, hoping for Evening Grosbeaks or maybe get lucky with Ruffed Grouse. Neither came to fruition, so I headed to the Neversink Reservoir, where I had a little more luck. I found 5 very confiding Snow Buntings feeding on the roadside. I enjoyed watching and photographing the birds; cursing the poor light as I did so.
I wanted to check Rondout Reservoir next, but the snow was falling at a decent clip and the road I wanted to take hadn’t been treated at all, so I bailed. I headed to the Bashakill instead. Haven Road was productive, with 8 species of waterfowl, 3 Bald Eagles, and a handful of Rusty Blackbirds. I was thwarted by the snow again, when I went to the Main Boat Launch to try for the multitude of waterfowl that has been reported there. No cars had entered the parking area and the snow looked just a little too substantial to risk it.
I’ve been wanting to see a Porcupine for ages, but for some reason or other, I never crossed paths with one since I’ve been in the area (11+ years now!). Well, this weekend I saw three, lol. The first one was on a seasonably cold and windy hike at High Point State Park with my brother-in-law Bill on Saturday morning. We hiked for just over 9 miles; the views from High Point were impressive, the number of birds, not so much with just 18 species tallied. The Porcupine was far and away the highlight.
On Sunday morning I headed out to the Bashakill to try my luck there. It’s been ages since I’d been there and it did not disappoint. I immediately ran into John Haas and Scotty Baldinger with a couple other birders when I parked at the front of the Stop Sign Trail. I figured the smart money was on sticking with them – they attract warblers and birds in general like nobody’s business. I wasn’t wrong, the place was hopping with birds, but the first thing that got my attention was not one, but two Porcupines sleeping up in trees! What a weird coincidence! As for the birds, I covered some good territory and counted just under 60 species for the morning, eleven of which were warblers. There were also many birders out and about – too many to mention by name. It was good to catch up with some folks I haven’t seen in a while. Birding highlights for me included excellent looks at Blue-winged and Black-throated Blue Warblers at the Stop Sign Trail, decent looks at a high, singing Cerulean Warbler and a Yellow-throated Vireo at the Horseshoe Trail, and a calling Virginia Rail at the Deli Fields.
Well, it was another enjoyable weekend of winter birding. Yesterday was a home run gulling at the Hudson River, then this morning I did a quick cruise around the black dirt where I located a remarkable 8 LAPLAND LONGSPURS. I found 2 off of Route 12 in New Hampton, and an additional 6 on Ridgebury Road in Slate Hill. From there I headed over to the Bashakill to check to see if the large flock of Snow Buntings were still present. They were, and they were quite accommodating. I ran into Karen Miller while I was there and we located a distant Rough-legged Hawk, off of Haven Road; I don’t think they get them there very often. From there I called it a day a little on the early side, but it was a good morning.
You may remember that I asked some of the more active birders in our area to contribute to the blog – I’m happy to say that Karen Miller is the latest to take me up on it.
By KAREN MILLER
We love birding! It’s a huge part of our lives, but we need young birders to get in the game also and advocate for birds so future generations will have these wonderful creatures in THEIR world too.
I met a young birder with his parents at the Basha Kill recently. Joseph is 5 1/2 years old (and DON’T forget the the 1/2 year or he will quickly correct you!). Joseph is a very smart little guy with lots of energy and he was constantly running around looking for new birds. As I chatted with his parents, Joseph would run up to me and say “Excuse me, excuse me. What bird is this?” He would hand me his little point-and-shoot camera and I tried to identify the bird from a small picture on the display screen. When a Great Blue Heron flew over, he nearly flipped out at the size of the bird! (It surprises me every time, too). Joseph was certain that an Eastern Phoebe on his mother’s camera was instead a picture of a Kingfisher : ) I could barely keep up with his questions.
At one point Joseph ran up to us, announced that he had found a yellow bird and dragged me off to identify the bird. He quickly relocated the bird in a small bush… and he was right! It WAS a yellow bird! Above is a picture of his great finding… a Palm Warbler! Not bad for a 5 1/2 year old! Feeding the birds at home gives Joseph a good start on observing and learning the birds.
I hope that I see Joseph at the Bash again soon. We need young birders!
Right now, the Bashakill is officially the hottest hotspot in the area. When John Haas reported a TUNDRA SWAN at Haven Road early this morning, I knew that if the bird stuck around, I would run for it after work. I got word as I left work that the bird was still present, so I headed towards the Bash. When I arrived, Ken McDermott was on the bird, which was out quite a ways foraging in the vegetation on the northeast side of Haven Road. Lance Verderame and Matt Price joined us shortly after and we enjoyed good scope views as the bird was in perfect light. Ken and I decided to drive out to the Stop Sign Trail to try to get a better look; we were successful and we got a much closer look at the bird, which looked amazing in Ken’s scope (but was unfortunately backlit for photos). It’s a great time of year – things are happening in the birding world and I’m totally loving the time change and the longer days which are allowing me to finally do some quality birding after work again.
Well, as we all know, timing is crucial when it comes to birding. This week my timing went from poor to excellent. It initially looked to me like I might miss out on seeing the EURASIAN WIGEON that John Haas located on Thursday. Instead, the bird stuck around and when I arrived first thing this morning, it was relatively close to the road and the light was beautiful! I was very excited about this. Wilma Amthor joined me shortly after my arrival, and shortly after that we had a small crowd of birders on the bird, including Diane Bliss, Karen Miller, Scotty Baldinger, Kevin Kreischer, and of course, John. It’s been several years since I’ve seen a Eurasian Wigeon (2014), and I’d forgotten what an absolutely gorgeous bird it is. Additionally, this is my first time seeing the bird in New York State.
I spent the remainder of the morning and the early afternoon at the Bashakill and every bird was a year bird for the county since it was my first birding foray into Sullivan County for 2018. I was happy that John offered for me to join him to check out the Pine Boat Launch; my car never would have made it down that treacherous pothole-filled road. John also gave a tip to go to the Horseshoe Pulloff for a Winter Wren. The bird was exactly where he said it would be; it was singing but never made an appearance. I managed to get 2 Orange County nemeses birds today: Winter Wren and Fox Sparrow, and I totaled 40 species for the day, which I felt was pretty good. Huge thanks to John for finding and reporting the wigeon, and also for his help and company today.
Since my shift at the Bashakill Area Association’s Nature Watch didn’t start until 10, I decided to kayak the Bash beforehand. Nature Watch is a great program that I have participated in for years now – basically, trained volunteers such as myself set up viewing scopes at the main boat launch to help educate visitors about the nesting Bald Eagles and Osprey at the Bashakill. Click here to read more about it.
It was a gray, slightly foggy morning at the Bash. I paddled from 6:30 t0 9:30 and it was quite birdy, mostly with the usuals. My main target was LEAST BITTERN, which I heard very well, but never did get to see. The bird was calling in the vegetation just feet from my kayak, but was too well hidden, which was simultaneously exciting and frustrating. Also exciting was a BARRED OWL, which called several times in the distance, and an ACADIAN FLYCATCHER with its excellent call of “peet-sah!”. Photo ops were few and far between for some reason, and the poor lighting meant I had the ISO cranked up so I wasn’t really happy with most of what I took. An adult Bald Eagle did fly in and perch nearby, allowing for a halfway decent shot (see above).
I joined Karen Miller and Lara Sheikh as volunteers for Nature Watch, which was slower than usual as far as visitors go, but pretty exciting as far as the birding. A GREAT EGRET, was first seen by a visitor and then we got our scopes on it. A pair of Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers came and went from the main boat launch the entire time; apparently feeding on the willow tree they were visiting. The two young eaglets were on and around the nest, flapping like mad to get ready to fledge. Karen located a Yellow-throated Vireo that provided great looks. Towards the end of our shift we had a Broad-winged Hawk calling from the woods up near the road. Eventually the hawk flew out of the woods with some sort of large prey in its grasp. After the shift was over, on my way out, I relocated the BWHA and managed to get a photo. Overall it was a good morning of birding for me with plenty of good birds to keep it interesting. I had 50 species of bird in the 6 1/2 hours I spent at the Bash.
ALSO: While I was at the Bash, I was notified by Rob Stone that he had a DICKCISSEL in the black dirt, so I ran for that bird in the afternoon. I managed only a brief, distant look, but what a great bird for OC! Huge thanks to Rob, as usual. Documentary photo below.
My birding time was a little bit limited this weekend, but I did manage to do some early morning birding today at the Bashakill Wildlife Management Area. I had plans to meet up at the Bash with Linda Louise to do water-testing a little later in the morning, so I got up early to fit some birding in before that. I stopped at Haven Road, I walked the Birch Trail briefly, and I spent most of my time at the Nature Trail. The Bash was birdy with plenty of the usuals but nothing unexpected. Highlights for me included getting excellent binocular looks at a Common Gallinule from the Birch Trail and also of a rather bedraggled looking Broad-winged Hawk that flew over while Linda and I were water-testing at the fishing dock at the southern end of the Bash. In the end, between birding and water-testing, I had a total of 44 species.
QUICK POST: Yesterday John Haas texted me that there was a Tundra Swan at the Main Boat Launch at the Bashakill. I was going to run for it after work, but instead I went to the Celery Farm in Bergen County to try for the Yellow-throated Warbler that has been seen there (the YTWA would have been a lifer, but I dipped on it in a frustrating afternoon). Meanwhile, yesterday evening they got better looks at the swan; Linda Scrima and Bruce Nott both got photos that seemed to indicate TRUMPETER instead. The bird cooperated this morning and John Haas and Karen Miller got good looks and good photos and it ends up the bird is a Trumpeter – the first ever record in Sullivan County! I ran for the bird this afternoon and I joined John at the boat launch; the bird was a little distant but we still got really good scope looks of the bird. The large straight bill, the heavy connection of the bill to the eye, and the forehead that closely matches the slope of the bill were all very evident. It was harder to see that where the bill meets the head it is pointed (as opposed to rounded in Tundra), but I could see hints of it in John’s photos. Back in 2012 I did a post comparing the two swans – check it out here.
For the complete story on this bird, check out John’s blog.