The last several days.

Virginia Rail on the Birch Trail.

Its been a busy week thus far. Though birds haven’t arrived in any significant numbers, I’ve still managed to add a few new ones for the year. On Monday, I traveled around the upper parts of the county hoping for some new arrivals. I wasn’t disappointed. First, I found several Osprey, which were my FOS birds. They have really come in around the county, and anyone looking for them should be able to find them in most of their usual spots. Next, a bit of a surprise, I found a VESPER SPARROW on the grounds of Sullivan County Community College. This spot is often good for them, but it wasn’t on my radar that morning. Moving on to the grasslands portion of the county I was able to find my FOS EASTERN MEADOWLARKS. That would be it for new birds, nothing new having come in by today for me at least. Today was pretty decent at the Bashakill. I found 8 American Coot off the Pine Boat Launch, my highest count so far this season. On the Birch Trail, I spotted one of the Virginia Rails and was able to get a few shots of the bird through the bushes. I always enjoy watching this bird and this morning it was quite entertaining. A single Rusty Blackbird was a highlight and surprisingly, two Great Blue Herons were seen. These birds have been scarce this spring and we have yet to have a decent influx of the species. Warblers around the kill have been limited this week to Pine, Palm and Yellow-rumped. We should get some new ones with the next southerly front. Also to my surprise, we have yet to see Barn and Rough-winged Swallows, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher or any new shorebirds. They are all just a day or two away. Tomorrow is supposed to be nice, so hopefully some new arrivals will come in, see you out there!

Vesper Sparrow at the college.

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Progne Martin at Prospect Park, Brooklyn

Probable Gray-breasted Martin at Prospect Park

On Thursday April 1 2021 Doug Gochfeld found an unusual swallow among the Tree Swallow flock over Prospect Lake in the park. He got the word out and along with many other observers over the next two days concluded that the swallow was actually one of the Caribbean Martin complex known as the Snowy Bellied Martins. These include Caribbean Martin, Cuban Martin, Sinaloa Martin and Gray-breasted Martin. The question is, which species is it? This morning, Karen Miller and I traveled to Prospect Park hoping to get a look at the bird. Unfortunately, a last minute emergency kept Renee Davis from joining us. Another friend, Patrick Dechon texted us in route that he had already arrived and gotten to see the bird! We arrived just about 11:30 am and proceeded around the lake. Unfortunately from where we had parked we actually took the long route. If you park on Prospect Park Southwest and enter the gate there, make sure you go to the left around the lake, it is a much shorter distance to the peninsula where the bird has been hanging out. We initially viewed the bird from the area near the skating rink. It flew around the lake several times, ultimately landing in a willow tree on the opposite shore. At that time we, and many others headed there. This is where the distance came in. It is a long walk around the back bay and out to the peninsula, so make sure you take the route I suggested first. It will save you a lot of time later. After the long walk, we arrived just as the bird took off. Though disappointing, the views of the bird in flight were better here too. Following a half hour of foraging among the swallows, the Martin suddenly returned to the willow tree almost right over our heads. Fortunately it was just enough to our left to give great views and photo ops. We saw many old friends there this morning and it was a great experience to see this bird. Thanks to Tom Burke for helping us out with directions etc. At this time, the bird has been photographed extensively and recordings have been made of its calls. The trend is currently leaning toward the bird being a GRAY-BREASTED MARTIN and will be the first confirmed record of the species for North America, if accepted! Oddly enough, of that entire complex in the Caribbean and Central America, Gray-breasted Martin is the only one that is not a lifer for me. I’ve seen them before at Chacchoben Ruins in Costa Maya Mexico. I anxiously await a conclusive ID on this fabulous bird! Congrats to Doug Gochfeld on a great find!

Another view of the Martin. Note the bird is smaller than a Purple Martin, only slightly larger than a Tree Swallow, and the coloring is different, brownish with blue highlights. Note the collar around the neck and the smaller bill.

ADDENDUM: no sooner did I finish this post when I found out the bird has been tentatively identified as a GRAY-BREASTED MARTIN!

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Tremendous movement………………..OUT!

Scott Baldinger and I birded the Bashakill at most of the main locations this morning and were amazed to see how many birds had moved on overnight. We don’t often see this kind of movement in as when many birds move on, more birds move in and some of the originals continue. That wasn’t the case last night. The tremendous numbers of birds we’ve been seeing over the last three days most likely took off shortly after dark last night. Numbers of everything were drastically reduced today. I never saw a warbler of any kind after reporting at least twenty over the last few days. I understand that late this afternoon both Scotty and Scott found a small group far back behind the bay to the north of the Duck Blind. I never got that far back today. Also, after reporting over fifty Kinglets (both kinds) yesterday, I never saw one today. Duck numbers continue to decrease as well and only American Wigeon and Bufflehead were seen besides the big four species. An Osprey was actually well seen by at least four people throughout the day today, but Scotty and I were never able to connect with it. Though swallows were almost non-existent this morning their numbers increased this afternoon. Though I searched through them, I found only Tree Swallows. Lance Verderame came by a bit later and found the first Barn Swallow among them. Looking forward to another burst of migration soon!

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Many new migrants at the Bashakill!

Between the dark skies and the rapidly moving birds, it wasn’t a great photo morning. I did catch the Eastern Towhee though.

There was once again considerable movement overnight and it brought many new birds to the Bashakill! I covered most of the best areas this morning and all locations were jumping with birds. At the Pine Boat Launch among the Pine Warblers and Red-breasted Nuthatches were many Golden-crowned Kinglets that included one RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET! Though there had been a single bird there earlier in the winter, I was sure this one was a new arrival. At the Duck Blind Trail I had more Pine Warblers and 5 Palm Warblers. As I came out the trail back to the parking lot I heard some familiar singing from just up the road. I walked up to find 2 more Ruby-crowned Kinglets and 3 YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLERS! From there I went to the Birch Trail. Ducks were in pretty good number with the usual high numbers of Mallard, Black, Wood and Ring-necked Ducks. There were also 8 American Wigeon. 2 Palm Warblers were nice and I accidentally flushed my FOS VIRGINIA RAIL right off the trail. I had several good looks at the bird, but getting photos was just too tough. I actually thought there might be two since one sighting seemed too far from the last one. I eventually moved on to the Nature Trail. It was alive with birds! I had at least 2 dozen Golden-crowned Kinglets and 8 Ruby-crowned Kinglets! They have really moved in. Right past the first boardwalk, I found my FOS EASTERN TOWHEE! There were lots of sparrows too, including many Song, Swamp and a few Fox Sparrows. Moving on to the Deli Fields, I had many more Northern Flickers (seen at every stop) and lots of Song Sparrows. 3 Fox Sparrows were present too. As I worked my way around, I came upon two more Palm Warblers, bringing my total for the day to 10! Oddly enough, I never saw another birder the entire morning. As I was about to head out, I ran into Patrick Dechon and filled him in on some of my finds. He got back to me later that he was able to find and video two Virginia Rails!

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Excellent Morning at the Bashakill

Another great morning at the Bashakill! I started off at the Pine Boat Launch where it was clear some more birds had come in. Pine Warblers and Red-breasted Nuthatches the most notable. On the water there I had many Wood Ducks, two American Coot and five Green-winged Teal. From there I headed to Haven Road. The Duck Blind Trail was hopping first thing this morning. This spot is especially good early in the morning when the sun is hitting the bank between the Duck Blind and the back bay. Just the opposite of the afternoon when the sun hits the parking area and that side is good. Here I had at least 20 Golden-crowned Kinglets, 7 Brown Creepers, 4 Red-breasted Nuthatches, 6 Eastern Phoebes and 2 Pine Warblers and 4 Palm Warblers! A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker was an FOS for me. I would have two more before the morning was over. At the Nature Trail I head many Song Sparrows and a Fox Sparrow. The big surprise here was a singing LOUISANNA WATERTHRUSH! According to the county bar charts, this bird is about two days too early, not usually showing up until April 1st. The Deli Fields weren’t too active, but Eastern Bluebirds, Northern Flickers, Song, Fox and Field Sparrows were all seen. I ended the morning with a decent 44 species. It was a beautiful morning with little wind and relatively warm.

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And so it begins!

Pine Warbler!

Even as waterfowl migration is just beginning to wind down, passerine movement has already begun. Conditions were terrible this morning with temps just above freezing and winds 35-40 mph. Today I birded most of the Bashakill. Ducks were surprisingly plentiful with Ring-necked Duck, Mallard and Black Duck and of course Wood Ducks in good numbers. Also seen, American Wigeon, Northern Pintail and Bufflehead. Mute Swans and Canada Geese also continue. I saw no Grebe nor Mergansers this morning, but they may have been riding out the rough water in sheltered areas. I decided to head back out this afternoon. The temp had creeped up to the upper forties and eventually fifty degrees and the wind diminished to 10 -15 mph. Back to the Passerines! I headed directly to the Duck Blind Trail to see if the usual conditions for late afternoon would be in place, they were. Every afternoon on a sunny day, the sun hits directly into the woods behind the DEC parking lot. This brings out an abundance of insects and draws in many birds to feast on them. That was indeed the case this afternoon. As I walked the trail it was quickly apparent there were many Chickadees, Nuthatches, Golden-crowned Kinglets, Eastern Phoebes and Brown Creepers. With this mix I knew my chances were good for some early warblers. I had completed the trail and was just passing the vernal pool when I spotted a warbler fly up. I got on it and it was a beautiful FOS PINE WARBLER! I followed it as it worked its way to the parking lot then suddenly disappeared. I headed back around the trail counterclockwise but didn’t initially find the bird. I made my way to the Duck Blind where I found what I was quite certain was a second Pine Warbler. This bird was much more vibrant than the first bird. Working my way around, I found my FOS PALM WARBLER! When things finally quieted down, I went to the Nature Trail which wasn’t quite as birdy as the previous spot. I spent some time there before returning to the Duck Blind Trail. At first it seemed still quiet, but I eventually worked my way around the second loop of the trail where I found many birds. Though I didn’t see the Palm Warbler again, this time I had three singing male Pine Warblers. What a great start to the next six weeks of warbler migration which will hopefully bring us 30 species to the Bashakill.

Palm Warbler!

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Today looked really promising for new arrivals. The winds and the rain in the night seemed to be a good combination to bring us some new species. Well it did, and didn’t happen. I started out right here on Yankee Lake this morning and was pleased to find that a total of 15 Horned Grebe had come in overnight. I posted it to our local text group and Patrick Dechon immediately answered that he had one and a couple of Pied-billed Grebe at the Bashakill. It ended up that there were at least four PIGR at the Bash and probably more. I headed up county from there and found that Swan Lake was open. Scott Graber, whom I ran into, and I had Bufflehead, Ring-necked Duck, Lesser Scaup and Common Mergansers there. Scott Baldinger let us know that he went to Kiamesha Lake and the Rondout Reservoir where he had several more Horned Grebe. Did I forget to mention that at the Bashakill, many birds had moved out overnight. I could only find ten of the 125 Green-winged Teal I had seen yesterday. Many others departed as well. So, many birds came in, especially Grebes. Others moved out. Can’t wait to see what the unsettled weather tomorrow will bring!

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Tremendous fallout of waterfowl at the Bashakill.

A super distant Blue-winged Teal.

Last nights brisk southwest winds combined with a decent rainfall in the middle of the night resulted in a nice fallout of waterfowl at the Bashakill this morning. Mallard, Black Duck, Wood Duck and Ring-necked Duck were all in high numbers. Green-winged Teal were in their highest number so far this spring with at least 125 seen! Bufflehead, Lesser Scaup, American Wigeon and Gadwall were in lower numbers but still had a decent showing. Common and Hooded Mergansers were in low number, having thinned out over the last several days. I coulnd’t find any American Coot this morning, but they may still be around. BLUE-WINGED TEAL finally made an appearance with three seen off Haven Road. Once again, a single drake Northern Shoveler was off Haven Road as well. As for Grebe, there were at least 4 Pied-billed Grebe and 6 Horned Grebe present this morning. On the passerine side of things, Golden-crowned Kinglet was the most numerous new arrival with total of 13 seen by me. The Red-breasted Nuthatches have really thinned out, I haven’t found one in several days, though others say they have. Overall it was a great morning!

A pair of Lesser Scaup off Haven Road.

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American Coots

American Coot

Late yesterday Scott Graber and then Scott Baldinger had a group of American Coots out from the Birch Trail Tower at the Bashakill. For some reason, Coots are less common in the county in spring than in the fall. This morning I headed out to the tower to try to find the birds. I spent quite a bit of time searching that location and didn’t find them. I headed further out to another good spot where I had lots of birds, but still no Coots. Just then Renee Davis called to say that she and Karen Miller were on the tower looking at the birds. I returned and in just a couple of minutes the Coots came out. I had been looking in the right spot, they were just deep into the Cattails at the time. Later I learned that Diane Bliss had found two Coots in another good area for them off the Pine Boat Launch. I guess we’ve got them for the spring this year! Other good birds this morning included the ongoing Canvasback, Gadwall, Pied-billed Grebe (3) and 11 American Wigeon. Of course hundreds of Ring-necked Ducks continue as well as all the more common species.

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Annual Bashakill Spring Waterfowl Walk.

Drake Gadwall on Haven Road.

On Saturday March 20th I led the BKAA’s annual Spring Waterfowl Walk. We had a nice turnout of people, 21, who socially distanced and wore masks when appropriate. It was a beautiful, cold (25 degrees) morning with bright sunshine. There was almost no wind. The birds were pretty cooperative. On Haven Road, where we began, we had many species of ducks. Bufflehead, Ring-necked Duck, Mallard, Black Duck, Common and Hooded Mergansers, and a drake Gadwall. Other waterfowl included Canada Geese, Mute Swan and a nice Horned Grebe! The nesting pair of Bald Eagles put on a nice show with the male coming and going, visiting the female on the nest. When we pulled ourselves away from Haven, we made a quick visit to the Mamakating Environmental Education Center at the top of the hill off Haven Road. Jackie Broder gave us a quick tour and it was nice to get to use the warm restrooms after an hour and a half in the cold. We then moved on to the Main Boat Launch where we had many more ducks. Species seen here included Ring-necked Duck, Mallard and Black Duck, both Mergansers and the ongoing female Canvasback! The Bald Eagles here also entertained with the male swooping in on the duck flocks and sending them flying all around the kill. It was a great morning and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. I’d like to thank Karen Miller for helping out and all the attendees for their active participation!

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