I will be away for the next couple of weeks. Tune it around that time to see where I’ve been birding and what great things I hope I’ve found!
This morning, Deb Kral, Aimee LaBarr, Maha Katnani, Arlene Borko and I searched the conifer forests surrounding the Rondout Reservoir for the Red Crossbills I had found yesterday. We had no luck in the area where I had seen them. We went to several nearby areas. On Muhlig Road, near a large stand of Red Pine, Deb initially heard the crossbills. She alerted us to the birds coming in. Two large green finches flew directly overhead, cross the road and flew off into a dense and vast expanse of forest. I only heard chip calls as the birds flew over, but Deb was sure they had been calling on their way in, which is what alerted her to their presence. That was the only sighting today. This is a vast area, and these birds could be present and go undetected. If anyone is interested, continue to check these stands of pines and hopefully you will come across these birds.
Male Red Crossbill
This morning, Bill Fiero and I met to do some county birding to spruce up his list. It was a cold start (10 degrees) but it began to warm up at least a little. The Bashakill was mostly frozen yet again, reducing numbers of birds. Wood Duck, Mallard, Ring-necked Duck, Common and Hooded Mergansers, Canada Geese and Black Ducks were all we could find. Only a couple of Bald Eagles were present, but it was earlier than I usually go. We then headed up the Neversink River. Both Common and Hooded Mergansers, Mallards and Canada Geese were all present. The best bird along the stretch was a nice BELTED KINGFISHER. My first in a long time due to the harsh winter. From there we went to the Rondout Reservoir. One of the REDHEAD DRAKES continues among an assortment of common species. One Killdeer was still present as well. From there we headed through the mountains, looking for winter finches. We had lots of continuing Pine Siskins and one Common Redpoll. As we were heading back down county, I asked if Bill had had a RED BREASTED NUTHATCH yet this year. We were off to find a pair that are very regular on Huson Road at the Neversink Reservoir. When we pulled over I didn’t hear anything at first. As I listened I thought I heard a RBNH. I spished to bring it in and immediately heard a familiar call. I exclaimed “CROSSBILL”!! It took a minute for me to locate it, but I then pointed out a female RED CROSSBILL to Bill! I began to search the trees and spotted a total of four Red Crossbills, one male and three females! This is only the second time I’ve ever had them in the county, the last being just last fall. I made several calls, but was only able to reach Scott Baldinger. Though we had to leave, I explained to Scott exactly where to find them. He called a short time later to say he had found the same birds we had seen. Great birding!
Female Red Crossbill – click on photos for best viewing size.
male Red Crossbill
A beautiful Ruffed Grouse at the Rio Reservoir.
This morning, Arlene Borko and I set out to see what was happening with the drop in temperatures overnight. We went to the Bashakill, where things were quieter this morning. The eagle spectacle continues, with 11 seen this morning. I think its fair to say that the pair of Bald Eagles at the Main Boat Launch have lost their eggs. For the third day in a row, the nest is unattended and the pair could be seen soaring high overhead. Most unfortunate! That said, the second pair continue on their nest, and will hopefully be successful for the first time. We had a total of 14 Bald Eagles there this morning, and one juvenile with a gorgeous white band in the tail gave us a start for a moment thinking it was a Golden, but no such luck. Waterfowl numbers were down again today, but the usual suspects were present. From there, we headed to the Rio Reservoir. As we neared the area, we spotted one of Arlene’s most sought after year birds. A beautiful RUFFED GROUSE!!! Fabulous bird and quite cooperative for photos. Once he flew off we continued to the reservoir, but there was little happening on the water. A mixed species flock of winter passerines included two BROWN CREEPERS! This species has been scarce during our harsh winter. We then headed up to the Mongaup Eagle Blind. We found Common and Hooded Mergansers and a few passerines, but little else. As we went to turn around, two eagles flew in from the south. I quipped to Arlene to “look for a Golden”. I immediately lamented that “they are both juvie balds”. I had only just finished the sentence when a beautiful GOLDEN EAGLE flew past us! The birds glowing golden nape shown in the sun. We jumped out, quite excited. I grabbed the camera and was able to snap a shot before he got away. The shot is really poor, but I’m still thrilled to have photographed all four Golden Eagles I’ve had in the last month! We then headed back to the Bashakill where we viewed the many eagles once again. Great morning!!
While the shot was terribly back lit, I was still happy to have caught the bird before it got away.
The feathers of a Ruffed Grouse are amazingly intricate.
A Common Goldeneye along Haven Road.
This morning I led the BKAA Annual Early Spring Migrant Bird Walk. We met at Haven Road at 8 am. 17 intrepid birders followed me along the road and eventually the Birch Trail at the Main Boat Launch on a very brisk first full day of spring. Waterfowl numbers were down somewhat from the past week, but we had a great walk none the less. We managed to see Canada Geese, Mallard, Black Duck, Wood Duck, Common and Hooded Mergansers, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye and a female Lesser Scaup! At Haven Road, it was surreal watching four TREE SWALLOWS darting among the weeds in the ice and snow flurries searching for insects over the small patches of open water. Soon thereafter, a Killdeer flew over announcing his name as he went by. As is often the case in the early spring, the Bald Eagles were the show stealers. We had a total of 13 this morning, including two adult pairs and nine immatures. You could hardly look in any direction without seeing an eagle. An unexpected surprise was when we flushed an AMERICAN WOODCOCK from a wet warm water seep right along the Birch Trail! Karen Miller spotted it first, a lifer for her! I’d like to thank Karen for her help in directing participants to so many of the great birds with her scope! After over two hours of hiking around on a brisk morning, most participants departed after the Birch Trail hike. A few really gung ho birders continued on with the reward of an Eastern Screech Owl and eventually great looks at the Common Goldeneye and Lesser Scaup that had now moved closer to the road back at Haven Road. I’d also like to thank Gordon and Lori Lamb for being the participants that have attended more of these walks than anyone else. They are always eager participants and come the farthest, from Queens, Long Island every year! A great morning with great people, that’s what birding is all about!
My FOS Barred Owl near the Neversink River.
This morning I headed out a bit early so I would have the morning to bird before it snowed. That didn’t happen. I had only been at the Rondout Reservoir a few minutes when it began to snow. With the warmer weather we’ve been having, I was surprised to see that most of the open water was frozen over once again. The best birds there this morning were two Drake REDHEADS. The long staying drake has been joined by a second drake since my last visit. I left there and headed to the Bashakill. As I was headed there, just uphill from the Neversink River in Bridgeville, a BARRED OWL flew across the road in front of my jeep. This was my first Barred of the year! He cooperated for some pictures, and the snow let up so they didn’t turn out to bad. On to the Bashakill. Upon arriving, most of the waterfowl that have been present were still around. I didn’t find any Ring-necked Ducks though. The Bald Eagles continue, with 11 seen this morning. I checked the pair on the nest near the Main Boat Launch. I’m not sure what might be happening there. Both birds were off the nest on a limb about twenty feet away. They were huddled together, as it was snowing quite hard and only 28 degrees. Not sure what that means for the eggs….? I returned over an hour later, and they were still perched together. Highlights at the Bashkill were 5 TREE SWALLOWS! They spent their time feeding and foraging over the ice and snow right near the road, and perching periodically on the wires. It was strange to see these birds swooping through the falling snow, picking insects from over the water. I went into the Stop Sign Trail parking lot to check the deer carcass. I was again surprised to find another insectivore flycatching over the pond off the parking lot. This time it was my FOS EASTERN PHOEBE! Not my usual birding in a snow storm, but a good morning none the less.
Three of the five Tree Swallows on Haven Road today.
My FOS Eastern Phoebe flycatching over the snow at the Stop Sign Trail parking area.
Pair of Tundra Swans at Warren Sod Farm today.
The bird that I believed to be a Blue Morph Ross’ Goose on Onion Avenue continued to be present today. It was seen by nearly two dozen birders throughout the course of the day. Yesterday, it was suggested that this bird might not be a pure Ross’ Goose, but rather a hybrid. Last night I sent the photos of the bird to Tom Burke hoping his expertise would lead to a conclusive answer to that question. Tom responded to me today, explaining that there is a good chance the bird is indeed a hybrid. Tom referred to the curvature of the feather line at the base of the bill (should be straight in a Ross’) combined with less than complete roundness of the head and a hint of a grin patch, as the factors that lead to that conclusion. For me, Tom is always the go to source for the right answer and while I am indeed disappointed, I know he is correct. (Thanks for your help Tom!) That said, this is a beautiful bird and was a pleasure for many to see over the last two days. I apologize if my misidentification of this bird caused anyone any inconvenience. The white morph Ross’ was seen again briefly today, but again it disappeared into the masses before a photo could be obtained. The bird is just so hard to discern in the numbers of birds present. All of this is most likely now moot. After I left this afternoon, I was notified that at 3pm, the geese took off and gained extreme altitude and ultimately headed north. There are still many great birds in the area. At least a pair of TUNDRA SWANS continue, seen throughout the afternoon on the Warren Sod Farm off rt. 12. Also, thousands of Canada Geese continue and the Greater White-fronted Goose (while not seen by me today) is most likely still present. Blackbirds still number in the thousands and EASTERN MEADOWLARKS were seen in two locations today. Hopefully, more Snow Geese will drop in in the coming days.
Two of three Eastern Meadowlarks found on Onion Avenue today by Bruce Nott.