I met Tom Burke and Gail Benson on Long Island this morning to seek out the birds that I haven’t seen yet this year and conduct a “Sea Watch” from Cupsogue. We started out in Calverton just off the Grumman Airport where Tom and Gail already found the BLUE GROSBEAKS! (above) These beautiful birds showed very well! From there, we headed to Cupsogue to try for more birds and conduct a “Sea Watch” for pelagic type birds. We started in the marsh and almost immediately heard at least three CLAPPER RAILS! Though they vocalized most of our time there, we never caught a glimpse. Tom heard a SEASIDE SPARROW sing and it didn’t take long before we spotted it. We would see a couple and hear yet another this morning. The next nice find was a group of at least five RED KNOTS! We think there were actually more, but they were mixed in a tremendous flock of shorebirds including many Ruddy Turnstones, Black-bellied Plovers and Semipalmated Sandpipers. We then went to the beach to do the sea watch. Tom almost immediately spotted a SOOTY SHEARWATER! He would spot several more during the day! They were almost immediately followed by two PARASITIC JAEGERS! Both of these birds can be tough from land and I was really glad to get them! We also had many Common Loons, Common Terns, Gulls and Northern Gannets. Once things quieted down a bit on the Ocean, we headed back to the marsh. Tom had heard SALTMARSH SPARROWS earlier, (below) but we failed to spot any. This time around we managed to track one down and it perched up nicely for some photos. It was a great morning with Tom and Gail and I managed to get seven new year birds, some of them quite special!
With migration over for all practical purposes, I have changed my focus to the New York State Breeding Bird Atlas. I have committed to six blocks and have the intentions of covering much more. I have already submitted data for many blocks. Today I checked for the last reasonable migrant I might get locally, Olive-sided Flycatcher, without success. I then headed up to the Apollo Plaza and then along the Neversink River to work on those areas. My first surprise find of the day was just outside of Apollo, in the form of a beautiful singing first summer Orchard Oriole! (above) I knew it the minute I heard it, though it was my first singing Orchard of the year. My next surprise came in the form of a Black Vulture (below) soaring around the ridges and rock ledges along the Neversink River. I haven’t had them there before and its perfect habitat for them to breed. My last and perhaps biggest surprise came in the form of a previously unknow Osprey pair on their nest (second below) along the Neversink River! This brings to six (6) the number of pairs of breeding Osprey that I have confirmed this spring! A new record number for the county! This nest appears quite large and I can’t help but wonder if it had been overlooked in previous years. This area has had some trees removed recently and I can’t help but wonder if thats what exposed the location of the nest. At any rate, my first official day of Atlasing got off to a great start!
With just a few species I can still get locally before migration is over, I had to decide what was best to do today. I still need three likely candidates, Olive-sided Flycatcher and Yellow-billed Cuckoo that should still be coming since there have been few reports thus far. I decided on the third, White-eyed Vireo. This bird, actually several, has been being seen at Peach Hill Park just north of Poughkeepsie in Dutchess County for some time now. This bird is rare for our region and has even become scarce on Long Island where I would normally see it. I tried for it the other day at Jamaica Bay without any luck. I had pointers from Tom and Gail and additional info from Carena Pooth as well as a young man named Sean who I met earlier. This was my first visit to PHP and it was a nice experience! There were lots of birds! I walked the trails following the directions I had been given and eventually happened upon on of the vireos. The reason I say this is that I can usually zero in on them because they are singing and or calling and I know where to look. This time I was having no luck and I hadn’t heard them at all. While watching some activity in a densely vegetated gully, one just popped up in front of me! I was just about to get a photo when it dropped down, not to be seen again. Thats when I called Carena and asked for additional suggestions. It turns out I had gone farther than one of the good spots where Carena had had them singing away earlier this morning. When I hung up, just about to head back, I heard “beer check” coming from a little further up the trail. I walked up, immediately spotting one and then two WEVI! They were quite cooperative this time around and I got some decent shots. As I stood along the trail, I was checking out my shots on the camera. I said, “thats not bad” out loud and right over my head by about ten feet a Barred Owl called out “who cooks for you” I was startled and jumped back, thinking I had been alone! The bird just checked me out and posed for a few shots before it flew off deeper into the woods. Other birds of interest included many Eastern Towhees, Blue-winged Warblers, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Baltimore Orioles and much more! If you’re in the area, definitely check out Peach Hill Park! Thanks to everyone who helped me out!
Any of you who have read my blog over the years may have noticed I have some birds that I have a particular interest in. One of those birds has been Spotted Sandpiper. I’m not sure why, but I find them fascinating. I have posted many photos of their behavior in the past and especially their chicks when I am fortunate enough to find them. Today was a bit different. I have seen these birds during their courtship many times, but usually from a distance and they usually depart from their activities once they realize someone is around. Today, I happened to be checking the Neversink River for breeding birds and Spotted Sandpipers breed there every year. It was no surprise when I spotted one flying in to a small gravel bar on the near edge of the river. What happened next was an amazing display of courtship. For whatever reason, even though I was only about thirty feet away in my car, the bird started its mating dance and it went on for several minutes. The birds whistles, toots, calls and dance were just captivating! I hadn’t realized that a second bird was actually on the opposite end of the gravel spit and just sat there observing the show. The second bird never reacted at all and when the first was finally done, it sat a minute and then flew off. The second bird continued to pick along the spit. I’ve attached just a few of the many shots I was able to get of the beautiful birds activities! I hope you find them as enjoyable as I did!
This morning I headed out early to bird a number of locations on Long Island. I had been holding off birding there for three months waiting for the Corona Virus to wane. Though it hasn’t gotten to the point I had planned on waiting for, I thought I could pretty much manage my circumstances to prevent any concern. It all worked like a charm. I started off at Jamaica Bay NWR. I was hoping for quite a few new year birds there, but it wasn’t quite as productive as I’d hoped. I did add my FOS LAUGHING GULLS and SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPERS there. Everything else was pretty much expected and I had gotten them on earlier trips back in January and February. I then headed to Nickerson Beach. This is one of my favorite destinations on Long Island as it is always good for terns. The beach access is currently closed, but all you have to do is go to Hempstead Beach just down the street and walk to the tern colonies from there. Its a bit early for many of the terns, but I had a great morning there. FOS COMMON (above), LEAST and GULL-BILLED TERNS as well as BLACK SKIMMERS were all seen! I also had great looks at at least 8 Piping Plovers there (below). Across the street at Lido Beach Conservation Area I had my FOS SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHERS! I spent most of the morning there and was about to leave at 1 pm when I got a call from Tom Burke informing me that there were at least four LEAST TERNS on Playland Lake today. I took a detour as I headed home and Tom and Gail (thanks!) were able to get me on the terns as well as several species of shorebirds all of which were new to my Westchester County list! I finally pulled myself away and got home around 4:30 pm, pretty much exhausted! A great day!
Tuesday was pretty productive at the Bashakill again. I had my FOS LINCOLN’S SPARROW at the Horseshoe Parking Area and my FOS YELLOW-BELLIED FLYCATCHER on the Stop Sign Trail by the rock cut. I had been waiting for these two for some time. I still haven’t found a Yellow-billed Cuckoo and there have been no reports yet locally. Otherewise, things were about the same. Migrants have decreased over the last few days, but a few of just about everything can be found if one searches. There was a report of a Kentucky Warbler today on the entrance road to the Pine Boat Launch, but we were unable to relocate the bird. I found an interesting bird at Moosehead Cove yesterday. A male White-winged Scoter! (below) This isn’t a rare bird in May, but it is a rare bird in the Bashakill. This is only my second ever there and only the third ever reported in all my years of birding. Today, I headed back to Sterling Forest to try again for GOLDEN-WINGED WARBLER! (above) I wasn’t disappointed! I had at least three and possibly four of these beautiful birds. I’m not sure if one of the birds is a female, or a Brewster’s Warbler. It doesn’t match any photos I’ve found of a Brewster’s and doesn’t match the ones we’ve had here in the county so far this year, but it seems to have a particularly yellow cap. Someone is likely to check out my ebird report and set the record staight. There were also lots of Blue-winged, Hooded, Black and White, Yellow, Chestnut-sided and Prairie Warblers there as well. A pair of Ceruleans was new for me at this spot. Nice birding!
This morning I headed to the Bashakill hoping that I might pick up something new in spite of the fact that the migration forecast overnight was for little to none. I started at the Pine Boat Launch hoping I might find a GRAY-CHEEKED THRUSH, but came up with only Swainson’s Thrush. While I was looking, Scott Baldinger texted me that there was a Gray-cheeked on the Nature Trail, so I headed right over. There I met Scott and Gary Zylkuski and after a bit of a search, found the Gray-cheeked! (above) As I had worked my way into the trail, I had great looks at my second Mourning Warbler of the year. I also heard that at least two others were seen at additional locations at the Bash. Once I left the Nature Trail, I worked my way to the Horseshoe Parking Area and Trail. As I neared there, I first heard and then saw my FOS ACADIAN FLYCATCHER! A bit later I would find a second one just before the county line. I then worked my way out the Horseshoe Trail and came upon my second Gray-cheeked Thrush of the day! As I followed it along taking photos, my FOS LEAST BITTERN began calling in the marsh just off the trail. I texted our group and Scott was able to come over and hear the Bittern as well! After a break for lunch I joined Tom Burke and Gail Benson at the Nature Trail. They had come up for some target birds and were able to get both the flycatcher and thrush! While birding with them, I got a text from Bruce Nott that he had found a BLACK TERN (below) at the platform at Liberty Loop on Oil City Road Orange County. I zoomed down and was able to get great looks at this beautiful bird! Once again, thanks Bruce! A pretty great day for not too much expected. I’m hoping that with east winds and a forecast for no migration tonight that some of the things that have come in, but I haven’t connected with yet, will be seen tomorrow. Keeping my fingers crossed!