Bashakill – CONNECTICUT WARBLER!!

A great day at the Bashakill today resulted in 50 species seen by me. I was out birding, and joined Scott Baldinger, Gene McGary, Mary Busky and Kathy Ashman. Highlights included 12 species of warblers, a juvenile Black-billed Cuckoo, an influx of Red-breasted Nuthatches, several Great Egrets the best of all for me, an adult CONNECTICUT WARBLER!!! The bird was found by me at the back of the Nature Trail. Head toward the sand pit and make the right just before it. Go to the “T” and bear left. This area has many Birch and Pine Trees. The bird was initially seen walking on a horizontal birch stem. The bird had yellow-green underparts and darker olive upper parts. The tail appeared short in comparison with the birds length and the primaries long. It had a gray hood. I didn’t realize it was actually a Connecticut until it turned toward me and I saw the bright, bold white eye rings! The bird flew about thirty feet away where we found it again, only to have it fly off. We spent quite a bit of time trying to locate it unsuccessfully. I will be out tomorrow morning looking in the same general area as these birds tend to hang around a while when they show up. There is no front or winds overnight that would be conducive to the birds departure. Lets hope it can be relocated.

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ABA Lifer #675 WHISKERED TERN!

Whiskered Tern on Cape May State Park Beach.

Whiskered Tern on Cape May State Park Beach.


This morning, Ken McDermott and I headed to Cape May, New Jersey to try for the “Mega Rarity” Whiskered Tern. We were not disappointed. The bird has been present since Friday and continues with the same behaviors today. The bird rests on the beach just west of the bunker. It then takes off and goes to the pond in front of the Hawk Watch Stand. It feeds by dipping its bill into the water, picking small items from the surface. It feeds like this for 15 minutes or so and then returns to the beach. The bird was seen in the company of a Black Tern today as well. Other terns present included Commons, Forster’s and at least one Royal. Many Laughing Gulls and some Herring Gulls were also present. Many people had traveled to the cape for this bird. Among the people we knew were Carena Pooth and John Mueger. Dave LaPuma of Cape May Observatory actually came over and introduced himself, congratulating me on finding the tern among the large flock. Fantastic bird! Click on the photos to enlarge them, they are better at that size.

Note the dark smudging on the belly and upper breast.

Note the dark smudging on the belly and upper breast.

Here the bird stands directly behind the primaries of a Laughing Gull.  It still shows the dark belly and white cheek characteristic of the species.

Here the bird stands directly behind the primaries of a Laughing Gull. It still shows the dark belly and white cheek characteristic of the species.

The Whiskered Tern flies back and forth over the Bunker Pond, picking insects off the water as it goes.

The Whiskered Tern flies back and forth over the Bunker Pond, picking insects off the water as it goes.

Ken McDermott looks out over Bunker Pond as the Whiskered Tern feeds.

Ken McDermott looks out over Bunker Pond as the Whiskered Tern feeds.

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A Busy Day

I have been trying for years to get a good Philadelphia Vireo shot.  As you can see from this one, I will still be trying.  At least I got him to hold still long enough to get a shot.

I have been trying for years to get a good Philadelphia Vireo shot. As you can see from this one, I will still be trying. At least I got him to hold still long enough to get a shot.


This morning I spent time at Morningside Park. There was a nice assortment of Shore birds there. Three Killdeer, two Least Sandpipers, two Semipalmated Plovers, One Semipalmated Sandpiper, One Pectoral Sandpiper and one Spotted Sandpiper. Also present, two Kingfishers, one Double-crested Cormorant and a Great Blue Heron. From there I went to the Hawk Watch for a few hours. It was the first day of the season and movement was expectedly slow. I had Ten Broad-winged Hawks, one Bald Eagle and one Cooper’s Hawk. Late in the day I went to the Bashakill where things were really jumping. I birded the Stop Sign Trail, Orchard and Haven Road parking area on 209 side. I had all five expected Vireos, Philadelphia and Blue-headed the highlights, six species of warblers and many resident birds. A Great Crested Flycatcher was my first in some time. Great day!

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Morningside Park and Bashakill

Juvenile Pectoral Sandpiper at Morningside Park.

Juvenile Pectoral Sandpiper at Morningside Park.

Hoping that last nights storms and northwest winds brought in some fall migrants, I headed up to Morningside Park this morning. There was nice diversity, but only a few shore birds. As I scanned the birds, a medium sized shore bird began flying around the lake. I was able to get on it, but couldn’t put an ID to it. It finally was joined by a couple of Least and Semipalmated Sandpipers and I could see that it was quite a bit larger than they were. Eventually everything came back to the island I was sitting next to and landed. I was quite pleased to see a nice juvenile PECTORAL SANDPIPER! This is our first of the year here in the county. I was able to get some good shots. As I watched the other shorebirds, Killdeer, Semipalmated Plover and Spotted Sandpiper, my first of the year AMERICAN PIPIT flew over several times, eventually landing only 15 feet from me. Holding still in a kayak in the wind isn’t really possible, and before I could get a shot it was startled by the moving kayak and took off, not to return. I called Scott Baldinger to fill him in on the birds and he informed me he had found a beautiful PHILADELPHIA VIREO on the Nature Trail at the Bashakill. An hour later, I was there searching for the bird. I found it to be quite birdy there this morning. I had Red-eyed, Yellow-throated and Warbling Vireos. American Redstart, Northern Waterthrush, Common Yellowthroat, Black and White, Magnolia, Chestnut-sided, Blackburnian and a surprise BLUE-WINGED WARBLER! Rose-breasted Grosbeak and Scarlet Tanager and at least four Wood Thrush. An hour later, still no Philly. Working my way back to the boardwalk area from the sandpit, a bird flew out as if flycatching from a small maple right along the kill. I saw some yellow and thought it was probably a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher. When I got on the bird I was thrilled to see it was the Philadelphia Vireo! It gave me several great looks, but would not cooperate for a photo. Three new county year birds in one morning, great birding!

A non-avian highlight of the day was this Porcupine feeding in a Poplar.  He suddenly shimmied out on a branch, hung all four legs in the air, lying on his belly and went to sleep.

A non-avian highlight of the day was this Porcupine feeding in a Poplar. He suddenly shimmied out on a branch, hung all four legs in the air, lying on his belly and went to sleep.

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Interesting Day

Juvenile Osprey in the pool at the Apollo Plaza

Juvenile Osprey in the pool at the Apollo Plaza


I was out birding the county this morning with mixed results. I had some unusually good photo opportunities, but not the best birds. Shore birds at Morningside were down to just three birds (1 Least, 2 Semipalmated Sandpipers). At the Apollo Plaza, an unusual photo op occurred. A juvenile Osprey was playing in the water, not bathing, just exploring. It made for some interesting shots. At Morningside, the skittish Double-crested Cormorant finally held still for some shots. I’ve attached one of each. On the more exciting side, Rob Stone (he’s done it again!) found a LARK SPARROW on the Winding Waters Trail in the Wallkill National Wildlife Refuge. I zoomed down to try for the bird, but it was a no show at first. Rob finally had to leave, but Scott Baldinger showed up shortly thereafter. We watched for the bird in a drainage ditch for nearly and hour and a half when Scott suddenly said he had a bird as far back as it was possible to see. Sure enough, it was the Lark Sparrow. We didn’t have the greatest looks, only the head was showing as it picked seeds. The very distinct head pattern of black, white and chestnut was easily seen. Even so, I wanted to see more. Both Scott and I were thrilled when the bird finally jumped up on the grasses, showing its gleaming white breast and belly! It quickly ducked back into the undergrowth, but we had seen enough to know for sure it was the bird in question. Thanks to Rob for finding the bird and Scott for spotting it again. Great birding!
Double-crested Cormorant at Morningside Park

Double-crested Cormorant at Morningside Park

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Jamaica Bay

Bill photographs a flock of peeps on the east shore of the East Pond.

Bill photographs a flock of peeps on the east shore of the East Pond.


Bill Fiero and I headed to Jamaica Bay on Long Island this morning. It had been hard to choose a good time this year due to fluctuating water levels and numbers of birds. Following this weekends good reports, we headed down. It was hot, a high of 91. The water levels were actually very good and we didn’t have to muck it at all. We started at the south end. We immediately found two WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPERS among the many Least and Semipalmated Sandpipers. As we moved up the east side, we found a large flock of peeps. As we scanned the birds, Bill asked, what is this right next to me, looks like a WESTERN SANDPIPER! Sure enough the bird closest to Bill (less than twenty feet) was indeed a Western Sandpiper. As we scanned a bit further, we found a second one. We continued up the east side, seeing many Short-billed Dowitchers and Semipalmated Plovers. Waders included many Snowy Egrets and a couple of Great Egrets as well as one Little Blue Heron. Waterfowl included Mute Swans, Mallards, Black Ducks, Green-winged Teal and Northern Shovelers. We had now made it well north, almost to the island. As we scanned the far side, we spotted two HUDSONIAN GODWITS that we had heard were present. We spent quite some time trying to gets some shots, but they are distant. We scanned a large flock of larids. Herring, Ring-billed, Great Black-backed and Laughing Gulls were all present. Among them were two Forster’s Terns, the only terns of the day. By now it was well after noon and quite hot. We decided to head back. We came upon two more White-rumped Sandpipers near the island. We later found out we missed a few birds by not going all the way to the north end, but we were quite happy with what we did find. We had 11 species of shorebirds. The number was down from the weekend, but I managed to get three of my four target birds. A total of 40 species were seen. Great day!
One of two Western Sandpipers we found today.

One of two Western Sandpipers we found today.


One of four White-rumped Sandpipers we saw, with a few Semipalmated Sandpipers.

One of four White-rumped Sandpipers we saw, with a few Semipalmated Sandpipers.


A distant shot of the two Hudsonian Godwits on the west shore of East Pond.

A distant shot of the two Hudsonian Godwits on the west shore of East Pond.

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Buff-breasted Sandpiper

Buff-breasted Sandpiper on Skinner Lane found by Jim Schlickenreider this morning.

Buff-breasted Sandpiper on Skinner Lane found by Jim Schlickenreider this morning.

This morning I got a call from birding friend Jim Schlickenrieder informing me he had found a Buff-breasted Sandpiper on Turtle Bay Road in the Black Dirt Region. Upon our arrival, the bird had temporarily disappeared. Jim informed Karen Miller and I that he had originally found it on Skinner Lane, just across the river from Turtle Bay. A short time later, I spotted the Buffie at the far end of the field. We walked part way to the bird, which was walking in our direction. We decided to go back to the cars and get our scopes. As we turned around to return to the bird, two Northern Harriers flew into the field. We couldn’t relocate the bird after that. We then drove through the Warren Sod Farm looking for the bird. Once we reached Skinner Lane, Jim spotted the bird again in a field near where he had found it originally this morning. Matt Zeitler and friend Maria arrived, but the bird had stepped into the thick vegetation in the middle of the field. Eventually, the bird came out and great views were had by all! Thanks Jim for finding and alerting us to this great bird! If looking for the bird, check both Turtle Bay and Skinner Lane as it definitely seems to prefer these two locations. We later got a call from Jim that he had found an American Golden-plover on Missionlands Road at the intersection with Sunnyside Lane.  Another amazing scene at the Warren Sod Farm ws the tremendous flight of Swallows being pursued by two Peregrine Falcons.  Both falcons eventually caught a swallow, both flying high with the bird then dropping it and swooping down to catch it again in mid air.  A Northern Harrier caught what appeared to be a sparrow and ate it in the same field with the Buffie.  Great birding!

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