This morning I got up early to head to Ulster County to try for the FORK-TAILED FLYCATCHER that was found at the Ashokan Reservoir yesterday. I arrived just after 7 am and was just a short way out the Bike Path near the “Frying Pan” when Lance Verderame called me to say he had just relocated the bird at the far end of the trail closer to Reservoir Road. I sped down the trail as fast as I could, only to have the flycatcher fly toward me. Peter Schoenburger joined us and the bird again came closer. It disappeared momentarily, only to fly up from the face of the dam right where I was standing on the far side of the bike path. Only 12 feet away, I enjoyed this great new state bird. I got some decent photos as well! The bird was seen off and on for the next hour and forty five minutes until it suddenly disappeared. Not sure where it went and I think it may still be there somewhere, but it wasn’t relocated by noon, when I left. Many people were fortunate enough to see it before it did, and I hope it returns later in the day for those who missed it. Thanks Lance for your diligence! Thanks also to those who found it yesterday and submitted reports.
Today I participated in Cornell’s Global “Big Day”. This event was created to replace the “Big Sit” that would normally take place in October. All of this of course due to the Corona Virus. All one had to do to participate was bird and submit your records to ebird and your data would count. I enjoy these challenges, mostly of oneself, to see just how well you can do at different times of the year. Todays event came on the heals of a pretty decent week of birding here in Sullivan County. I had hoped to perhaps reach a total of 70 species for the day, but many of the birds I’ve been seeing moved on in the last couple of days. I had no real stand out birds, but it was a beautiful day and I was able to tally 56 species. Most of my birding was at the Apollo Plaza, Morningside Park, Rondout Reservoir, Swan Lake and the Bashakill. I actually hit some more of my common hot spots, but there were no birds present at all. If I were to list highlights, I guess it would be the following: Pine Siskins, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Greater Yellowlegs, Ruddy Ducks, Double-crested Cormorants, Common Loon, Purple Finch and Northern Harrier. Most notable due their absence were the following, all seen in the last few days: American Pipit, Killdeer, Bonaparte’s Gull, Hermit Thrush and Vesper Sparrow. Perhaps the strangest misses of all were Pileated Woodpecker and Hairy Woodpecker. As we all know, I could do it again tomorrow and get many of these birds and miss some that I had today. Thats the ongoing challenge of birding!
Its been an interesting few days in the county. Migration is definitely winding down and we are seeing mostly late species like Palm and Yellow-rumped Warblers, Ruby-crowned and Gold-crowned Kinglets. Pine Siskins continue in somewhat lower numbers than last week, many having continued further south. Ducks and Geese are beginning to pick up with Green-winged Teal, Mallard, Black Duck and Wood Duck numbers all increasing. Ruddy Duck is starting to pick up and Common Loons are on the reservoirs. One of my most interesting (and exciting for me) was finding a nice mix of shorebirds at the back end of Swan Lake. I hadn’t seen shorebirds in some time and had checked the recently exposed mud flats at Swan Lake last week without any success. On Tuesday, I found a neat mix of birds. I first spotted two GREATER YELLOWLEGS. As I was watching them, I noticed a flock of shorebirds fly around and land. Once I was on them, I initially thought they were all PECTORAL SANDPIPERS! As I looked closer, there was a similar sized bird that was much grayer and very pale below with just a hint of demarcation between the breast and belly. When the bird came into full view, I could see the slightly longer black, decurved toward the tip, bill. Almost immediately, the bird walked into the water and began the typical “sewing machine” feeding method of a STILT SANDPIPER! I got better and better views as the bird moved around. This is a late date for this species in the county and a pleasant surprise for me. Other species present included a Semipalmated Plover, a Least Sandpiper, a Solitary Sandpiper and a couple of Killdeer. Seven species is not at all bad for mid October. In the mean time, Red Crossbills continue to be seen sporadically and Siskins are still in good number. Add to that the fact that some very early Common Redpolls and Evening Grosbeaks are being seen up state and we might be in for a real “Winter Finch Irruption”. Lets keep our fingers crossed!
PS: A Snowy Owl and a Northern Shrike have both been seen up state as well!
This morning it was clear immediately that the tremendous numbers of Pine Siskins of the last week had moved out. For most of the morning I had only one or two passing overhead and the flocks from the Pine Stands were gone. This afternoon, a few more were noted, but still only a dozen or so. Purple Finches however are continuing in good number. Scotty has quite a few at his feeders and a few can be seen here and there. For me, the best numbers are at the Pine Boat Launch. I had a few this morning, but this afternoon at least 30 were feeding on the ground on the hillside between the Ranger Cabin and the main parking lot. Red-breasted Nuthatches continue to be plentiful as well. This morning, it was a bit tough for sparrows on Haven Road. It isn’t that they weren’t there, it was the high winds and abundance of pedestrians that kept them down. This afternoon was much better.
The following species were seen in good numbers Swamp, Song and White-throated. White-crowned was plentiful with double digits seen between several spots. Chipping, Savannah and Lincoln’s Sparrows, Eastern Towhee and Dark-eyed Junco were in lower numbers. The best for me was a beautiful a VESPER SPARROW I found near the Bridge this afternoon! Always one of my favorites, I was pleased to see my FOS of the fall. Scotty was able to come see it as well. It was a great weekend, now we have to see what the remnants of the hurricane will bring in over the next couple of days!
Today, I birded only the Bashakill. I couldn’t even pull myself away from Haven Road, and this was after a fallout at the Pine Boat Launch! Sparrows really came in overnight, feeding at both of the above locations in excellent number. Song, Swamp, White-throated, White-crowned, Savannah, Chipping sparrows were all abundant. Dark-eyed Juncos came in for the first time this fall for me. Both Golden-crowned and Ruby-crowned Kinglets were abundant. For me, only Yellow-rumped and Palm Warblers as well as Common Yellowthroats were seen. American Pipits were easily seen off Haven Road and one bird perched continually on the wires on Haven Road. I have never seen a pipit perch on wires before! The Pine Siskin irruption is off the charts!!! Today I had at least 30 at the Pine Boat Launch, followed by nearly as many on Haven Road. Later, I had 60 at the Deli Fields, only to be alerted by Scotty that he had 40 at his feeders. Its impossible to say just how many of these birds are actually at the Bashakill. Today was one of the most active days of the fall thus far. Hopefully, much more is to come!
Birding around the county today it was clear that for the last four or five days the Pine Siskin Irruption is the latest in the trend that we hope will mean a winter full of finches for all of us. Purple Finches, Goldfinches, House Finches and yes, even Red Crossbills are currently the others in the group. With any luck, our future will hold Evening Grosbeaks and Common and Hoary Redpolls as well. Its quite a few years since we’ve had a good winter finch winter (though Evening Grosbeaks have put on a nice show for a couple of years). At any rate, for now, Pine Siskins can be found just about any and everywhere. Some of these flocks number forty and fifty birds! Lets hope they continue through the winter!
This morning I started off in Forestburg. A couple of people have been reporting RED CROSSBILLS there for a while, and I just hadn’t gotten a chance to get over there. What I found was almost surprising! I almost immediately came upon three flocks of PINE SISKINS! each flock numbered approximately 15 birds, and all could be seen feeding in the same general area. They were constantly calling and it was a real treat to see. As I watched them, I suddenly heard the jip jip jip call of Red Crossbills. Initially, I came upon a pair in tops of really huge Pine Trees. I got a couple of barely identifiable photos of the pair, but that was it. A short time later, five more Red Crossbills flew in calling as they came. They briefly sat atop one of the high trees, but dropped into it to feed. I had to use my scope to get on them. Photos, though tried, didn’t work at all. It was great to see these two winter finches side by side like this. You can look for these birds in the area of Forestburgh, including Cross Road, Valley Road and Black Brook road. Actually, anywhere in Forestburgh is probably good, there is an abundant cone crop that should last for quite some time. I’d like to thank Nick Hawvermale for keeping us updated on these birds movement in the Forestburgh area. Eventually I worked my way to the Bashakill. Actually, I visited there twice today, going again late this afternoon. Both trips were productive and I had some nice birds. The Deli Fields this afternoon was extremely busy. One of my biggest surprises there were 14 PINE SISKINS! I had had a few there prior to todays find, but this was by far the highest number. They are clearly coming through in really good numbers, lets hope it lasts! Other birds of interest included eleven PURPLE FINCHES! All females, they were mostly at the Pine Boat Launch, with a single bird at the Deli Fields. There were also American Goldfinches and House Finches to make for a nice Finch list. Always one of my favorites, I found an extremely cooperative LINCOLN’S SPARROW at the Deli Fields. Of course, there were many more birds including Yellow-rumped and Palm Warblers, Chipping Sparrows and Eastern Bluebirds, Eastern Phoebe and much more. I can’t wait to head back tomorrow! A word of caution, the Deli Fields have been hunted heavily the last week jwith the release of Pheasants. They seem to be hunted out at the moment, and no hunters were there this afternoon. This can change at any minute as there are regularly scheduled releases throughout the season. Caution is advised!
This morning I started out at the Bashakill and never left. There was a surprising influx of birds overnight in spite of the Birdcast forecast that there would be little or no migration in our area. Both the Orchard and Nature Trail were extremely busy and it was warblers that stole the show. Later this afternoon I returned to bird the Deli Fields as I never made it there this morning. Warblers that numbered over a dozen to as many as twenty included, Magnolia, Palm, Yellow-rumped and Common Yellowthroat. Warblers in lower numbers were Black-throated Blue (1), Blackpoll (3), Black and White (1) and Chestnut-sided (1). That isn’t a lot of species, but the numbers were really impressive for many. Other birds seen included Scarlet Tanager, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Swainson’s Thrush, Ruby-crowned and Gold-crowned Kinglet and more. It was a really great day!
I started out the day hoping that the AMERICAN AVOCET that had been seen yesterday afternoon at Jamaica Bay would continue and I would run for it. There was no word early, so I headed to the Bashakill. I birded there, much of the time with Scotty and some of it with Karen. At 11:00 am I heard from Tom and Gail that the bird had been found again. I headed right down. I only just got started, and it began to pour! It rained the entire way down, stopping just as I arrived at Jamaica Bay. Right after I arrived, I met Pat Lindsay and Shai Mitra. They were already on the bird! We had decent looks, but the bird was quite distant. No worries, it soon flew in quite a bit closer, enabling me to get some distant photos. We began to check out the other shorebirds and I mentioned to Shai that I still needed Stilt Sandpiper, having missed it several times this year. He said it shouldn’t be a problem and began scouring. He said “this might be one, oh sorry, its a LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER!! I said I need that too and we had good looks at this bird as well. Almost immediately thereafter, Shai said, “here are some STILT SANDPIPERS” and indeed, there were three! Unbelievable, three new year birds in about 15 minutes! I can’t thank Shai and Pat enough for their help! I informed them I was moving on, as I had one more target for my trip. I headed over to Plumb Beach to try for the NELSON’S SPARROW that had been being seen there. I searched for well over an hour and was about to give up, when I went back to where I had started in the first place, and up popped the Nelson’s Sparrow. Beautiful bird. Orange face and breast with grayish cheek patch and blurry gray streaks in its breast. I got on the bird twice, but he was just too quick for me to get a photo. I headed home, and it started to pour again, raining my entire way home! Great day!!
This morning I was still a bit tired from my long day yesterday so I was thinking of staying local to see if anything new had come in. Just as I had decided on that, a timely post by Larry Trachtenberg came in saying the LAPLAND LONGSPUR had just been seen for the third day in a row now at Croton Point Park in Westchester. I had completely missed this bird earlier in the year and was not expecting one this early. I hopped right in the car and drove the hour to try for it. I was only there a short time when I inadvertently flushed the bird from along the path. It took off with about half a dozen American Pipits, calling as it went. I was able to get on the bird as they all circled around, eventually going down way out on the mound. At that time, I ran into Sandy Morrisey, a very nice birder from Westchester County. Together we searched for the bird as I awaited the arrival of Tom and Gail. They eventually arrived and we all searched for some time. We split up, Sandy and I going along the bottom of the mound on the train station side and Tom and Gail working the top. After some time and distance, Sandy decided to head home and I worked my way back to Tom and Gail. Before I reached them, Tom called to say that a flock of Pipits had just flown by with the calling Longspur among them. We searched for a bit when Tom said he had spotted the bird along one of the paths. He was able to get us on it and I was able to get a few photos as well. There were lots of birds there today. Hawks included Red-tailed, Broad-winged, Cooper’s, as well as five Kestels and two Osprey. Passerines included American Pipit, Palm Warblers and Song and Savannah Sparrows. It was a busy beautiful morning at the park and I was glad I decided to head south!