Hooded Mergansers!

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A rather dapper Hooded Merganser chick on the pond just before the Mongaup Reservoir Wednesday.

Its hot today, 93 degrees at the moment. Its humid, 98 %! All that along with my ongoing nightmare with my Email hacking (maybe finally resolved this morning), had me get a very late start today. Well on this type of day a late start is pretty much a no starter, and that’s what it amounted to. I didn’t find anything, anywhere. When I got back home, I checked out the ABA blog. The RBA wasn’t up, but an interesting article on Hooded Mergansers was. You may have noticed I keep close track of one of my favorite breeding waterfowl species in the county.  I’ve recorded breeding on a couple of dozen occasions through the years. One thing I’ve always wondered about is, where do the males disappear to?  We have exactly zero records that I am aware of, of male Hooded Mergansers after May and before October. The article by Ted Floyd helps explain their habits and lifestyle, much of it new to him, and clears up that unanswered query. The fact is, almost no one sees Hooded Mergansers in summer. Ted explains it, and it turns out that even the few who do, probably don’t’ recognize them. I found the article fascinating and I hope it is of interest to some of you. Please check it out at  blog.aba.org  I hope you enjoy it. I know I’m going to try even harder now to spot a male Hooded Merganser in summer!

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Things are picking up!

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The last couple of days, with some nice storms to replenish our water supply and put down some birds have been a bit more productive.  Yesterday morning I headed to Apollo Plaza to see if the first shorebirds of the fall season had shown up yet. They had!  Two Least Sandpipers (above) were new for the month and what I hope will be just the beginning of a good shorebird season.  I also birded the Rio Reservoir area and it was very active. Many warblers still singing, and a pair of Magnolia Warblers on a nest were nice finds. Also nice was my fourth confirmed breeding of Hooded Mergansers in the county this year!  Two hatch year chicks on the pond on the way to Mongaup Reservoir were a surprise!  Common Mergansers with chicks on the Rio were much more expected.  Later in the afternoon, I stopped by the Bashakill, hoping to find Great Egrets. That didn’t happen, but my biggest surprise of the day was a Least Bittern calling just off the Main Boat Launch. We seldom hear them this late in the season and seeing them is even more difficult. Today, following last nights torrential downpours, I headed again to the Apollo Plaza. This time five Killdeer and three Least Sandpipers were joined by my FOS SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER! (below)  Later in the morning, I again spotted the Hooded Merganser family at Hurleyville Swamp. Looks like this is our best year ever for breeding Hooded Mergansers! July 125

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Locked in the doldrums!

Try as I might to keep the momentum going this month, the doldrums have me in a choke hold.  I can’t find the remaining breeding birds I still need ie things like Cooper’s Hawk and Brown Creeper. Along with that, post breeding dispersal and early shorebird migration has missed Sullivan County completely thus far. I usually always have my first returning shorebirds by now, but not one. All that said, I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the next couple of days. A series of small fronts will be coming  through bringing some significant thunderstorms. Now you know how that goes. This could be something really good (ie. one year ago this week Roseate Spoonbill, Anhinga) or it could just fizzle out completely.  Lets hope it at least puts down some new shorebirds too bring to our attention. If not, the forecast is for more heat and humidity and the wind just keeps blowing! Hope I get to see you out there for something good!!

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More Hooded Merganser Chicks!

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Birding was a bit of a disappointment this morning. I was hearing of some good post-breeding dispersal birds occurring both north and south of Sullivan County, but nothing could be found here, at least by me.  I was finally giving up and going home when I passed by Hurleyville Swamp.  I immediately noticed some  waterfowl in a small cove. I turned around to check them out, thinking they were probably Wood Ducks. I was glad I did as they turned out to be a hen Hooded Merganser with three well grown chicks!  I watched them for a while, taking many photos. As often as I have seen Hooded Mergansers at this spot, this is the first I’ve confirmed breeding here. This is the third location I’ve confirmed breeding in the county this year. I always manage to find a hen with chicks somewhere in the county, but this is the first time finding multiple hens in multiple locations in one season. I can only hope that when we start the new Breeding Bird Atlas next year that I will be as fortunate with breeding birds as I have been this year.

Addendum: We spent the afternoon at the lake. It was a beautiful day, with a stiff northwest wind. It paid off. At around 4pm we had a flock of 33 Ring-billed Gulls fly in, mull around a bit and then take off southward. July 122

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Mourning Warbler update

I am pleased to say that Scott Baldinger was able to see the Mourning Warbler family on Hunter Road this morning! Scott was able to do what I wasn’t, namely spot and get a photo of one of the fledglings!  I am so glad someone else got to see these special birds in the county!  Thanks Scott for following up on my report and getting further evidence of their successful breeding!

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They continue!!

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This morning I spent a great deal of time up county searching for some of the breeding species I’m missing for the month.  I covered several new locations that I don’t think I’ve birded before.  Anderson Road and Hunter Lake Road were new to me and offered some great habitat. I was really hoping to find a Grouse here, but no luck. When I was finally done, I decided to head home via Hunter Road.  I decided to stop to see if by some miracle the MOURNING WARBLERS might still be there. I was amazed to find them immediately! The second I got out of my car I could hear them chipping. This time they were on the downhill side of the road almost directly across from where I initially found them. The moment I spished, the male popped right up. Two chicks were vocalizing chip notes almost continually. Unlike the other day when they were only a few feet apart, today they were between 20 and 25 feet apart. The male went back and forth between them, at one point popping up with a little green worm and dropping down to the chick on the right. He came right back up, minus the worm. The male was bouncing around on branches of a fallen tree when the female came from the undergrowth and joined him. I got right on her with my bins because she was partially hidden and I wanted to make sure it wasn’t a chick, but it was indeed the female. She dropped back down before I could get any pics of her today. I got a few more shots of the male and then left them to tend their young! Great birding!

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A fun morning!

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In keeping with my quest, I wanted to bird somewhere this morning that I might get some of the remaining breeding birds I need for the month. I thought the Cold Spring Access to the Neversink Unique Area was my best bet, so that’s where I headed.  It was already warm by the time I arrived at 10:20.  It would only get warmer. That said, the birds were quite active. This would prove to be my best day for HOODED WARBLER that I’ve ever experienced in the county! I hiked in a mile and a half. As soon as I got in the trail, Hooded Warblers were first heard and then seen.  I had a total of six adult males! All were singing and easily spished in. The fourth male wasn’t actually singing at all, but rather bouncing along the trail with a mouth full of bugs.  It only took a moment when he flew into some nearby Mountain Laurel that chicks were calling frantically, begging to be fed. I watched for some time, this being my first time ever actually seeing the chicks. One chick (above) chased after the male and sat up on a small branch for some time. I got to see it fed three times over the next several minutes. In between, the male came back with more food, but fed a second chick I found in the Mountain Laurel. I was able to get good looks at it, but too much vegetation for photos. There was also a fourth Hooded Warbler with this group. I got glimpses of it several times. I believe it was an adult female, as it never begged nor was fed by the male, but it skulked well enough to avoid definite identification. That’s nine Hooded Warblers, and represents many more if each male had a family. I’m so glad this species is doing so well in the county. For those who aren’t aware, this bird was absent from the last breeding bird atlas until it was extended one year. At that time, I found a single male on territory.  Within the next five years, they had become wide spread, especially in the Neversink Unique Area and Wolf Brook. Besides these birds, I also had Common Yellowthroat, Black-throated Blue and Black-throated Green Warblers, Ovenbird and American Redstart. I finally located a single CANADA WARBLER, which was one of my targets! I also had many Veery, including a recently fledged chick and a couple of singing Hermit Thrush among the 27 species seen this morning! July: 120

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