This is a quick update to let you know I’m out west once again. My friends Mark Spina, June Fisher and I left at 5 am Sunday heading for South Dakota. It was a stormy trip out, but we arrived late Monday evening. For updates, I will be posting under “South Dakota 18”. Just click on that title in the above index to see whats happening. Hope you enjoy the posts. I should be getting it up and running shortly.
Wednesday I hiked into the Neversink Gorge via the Cold Spring Access Trail. This is about a two mile hike, mostly down hill on the way in and uphill on the way out. I didn’t access the river, rather continuing along the ridge to see what I might find there. It was a nice walk with many good birds. One of the highlights of this area are the HOODED WARBLERS. They can be difficult to see, but with a little effort, you will see them. Yesterday I had five singing males with nice looks at a couple of them. I wasn’t able to get photos due to the density of the old growth forest combined with the dark overcast skies. You find many of the same species as you do in Wolf Brook, but the species swing toward more coniferous woodland species. Black-throated Green, Blackburnian and Magnolia Warblers more numerous in this area. Ovenbirds and American Redstart are the most numerous species. Eastern Wood Pewees abound and I had an Acadian Flycatcher in its usual spot in a wet hemlock stand. Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers abound. It was a nice morning in a beautiful forest. Always be cautious of bears in this area. They are present, though I didn’t see any yesterday, I almost always do on this hike.
This morning I had another great bird walk through the above areas. I started at Wolf Brook, hiking both forks of the power lines. I then took the “Yellow Trail” down the ridge into the Neversink Unique Area. I took it to the “Red Trail” and headed further downhill to the river on that. There I hooked up with the “Blue Trail” which I took uphill to Katrina Falls Road. I walked that to Wolf Lake Road and back to the Wolf Brook MUA. That is a hike of about five miles. It is a bit strenuous as it goes up and down steep ridges at certain times. I had forty species for the day, including 11 species of Wood Warblers. I bypassed the trail to the waterfall this morning to try something different. It was quite productive doing the “Red Trail”, but I did miss a few species of warbler I normally get continuing on to the falls. (Blackburnian, Magnolia, Pine and occasionally Louisiana Waterthrush) Yellow, Chestnut-sided, Common Yellowthroat and Ovenbird are all abundant here. Prairie, Black and White, Black-throated Blue, American Redstart are all very common. Canada, Hooded and Black-throated Green Warblers numbered three to five individuals of each. Eastern Towhee is abundant throughout the area, probably the most numerous species there. Osprey continue to nest on the power lines and Common Ravens can be seen soaring overhead. It seems each trip into this area offers something special every time I go. Today, a Black Bear Cub filled that particular niche. Shortly after arriving, I was walking the upper plateau on the left fork when I began hearing a bear cub “balling” loudly. I was a bit concerned as you are in the middle of nowhere and the vegetation is dense. This makes it impossible to get an accurate sense of where things are. Since I couldn’t see the cub and didn’t know where its mother might be, I headed back down and then up the right fork. I completed my hike over the next three and a half hours when I reached the lower plateau right along the power lines. The bear cub immediately started “balling” again, now having relocated nearly half a mile down hill from where I initially found it. I still couldn’t see it and didn’t want to take any chances so I hastened up the right fork and back to my car. I returned to the spot a few minutes later to find it quiet. As I pulled up to the fork, about to turn left, I noticed the bear cub in a small tree at the edge of the woods. It had climbed up and fallen fast asleep in the time it took me to walk up the hill. I was about fifty feet from the cub and wanted to see if it was ok. I decided to try to wake it with some noise, but that didn’t work. After watching it motionless for ten minutes I moved a little closer, making more noise (clapping hands and yelling) ….nothing. I was beginning to wonder if it had died. Suddenly, it raised its head, scratched it nose and fell promptly back to sleep. I can only hope this cute little guy can find its mother. Four hours is a long time to cry and she never showed. I watched a bit longer and left him still sleeping in the tree.
I have had no new birds at the Bashakill the last few days. There are birds of interest to be seen though. The Orchard Oriole show continues. Today, an adult male and first summer male continued at the Deli Fields. The adult was singing continually, but the first summer bird did not sing. I happened to spot him feeding in the Locust Blossoms and then eventually fly off to the area the nest is in. The female/females were not seen today and are most certainly on nests. Later in the day, the adult male Orchard Oriole from the pair at the Horseshoe Parking Area was singing there as well. Two adult Black Vultures were soaring over the Deli Fields with three Turkey Vultures. The Least Bittern finally showed himself today! I could hear him calling ceaselessly from across from the Horseshoe Trail. I was watching as it flew from across the channel to mid marsh in my direction! No time for a photo. A single Virginia Rail called from along this trail, as did at least half a dozen Common Gallinule. Cerulean Warblers continue throughout and one singing at the entrance to the Deli Fields was new for me. A Barred Owl called uphill from that area this morning too. Back on Haven Road, The American Bittern was nice enough to give one “gulp” while I was there. Finally, though it takes some time, you can hear at least one Marsh Wren singing from the tower at Moosehead Cove.
There is little new to report from the Bashakill today. Highlights of interest are continuing breeding Orchard Orioles in the Deli Fields. Unfortunately the Eastern Meadowlark wasn’t seen today, but with their secretive habits, may still be around. Least Bitterns continue throughout the Bash, and its anyone’s guess where you might find them. Today, one called continually from the trail just east of the Horseshoe Parking Area. One first for me was a singing MARSH WREN at Moosehead Cove. We’ve been waiting for them to show up and hopefully this is just the first of at least a small breeding colony that seemed to establish itself last year.
This morning I headed to the Sullivan County Transfer Station to drop off my recyclables. As I was leaving, a cuckoo flew directly in front of my car on the road out. I couldn’t see any yellow in the bill, but it was a cloudy morning and I couldn’t be sure. The bird landed in a stand of Poplar near the end of the road, so I pulled over and walked up to the trees. I could just see the bird sitting in the shadows. As I started to walk around the trees, the bird began to call. Coo Coo Coo, Coo Coo Coo! Yes, finally a BLACK-BILLED CUCKOO! I managed to get around to where I could see better and had a great but brief look before the bird dove for cover. I eventually made my way to the Bashakill, where things continue to be interesting. I heard the usual Gallinules, and heard one LEAST BITTERN near the Main Boat Launch. It sounded farther out into the marsh than it had yesterday. Eventually, I ended up at the Deli Fields. It seems there’s something new everyday there! I had the usual Field and Song Sparrows, Eastern Kingbirds and Red-winged Blackbirds. As I was watching a Field Sparrow, the female ORCHARD ORIOLE flew past me, landed in a Locust Tree, fed on some blossoms and quickly vanished. I never saw her leave and don’t know where she went. This is the first time I have seen her since Saturday. Almost immediately, the immature male flew in. As I started taking pictures of him, I heard a familiar buzz call directly behind me. EASTERN MEADOWLARK! I haven’t had one here in a couple of years, and they are usually an early spring passing migrant. This is breeding time! At first it continued to buzz in the grass unseen. Then it suddenly burst out in song and did a display flight across the field! I don’t know if this is an indication that there is another bird present or not, but it is promising. The Deli Fields, as a restored grassland by the DEC are starting to come into their own. Lets hope it continues!
My first Meadowlark at the Deli Fields in quite some time! Lets hope he finds/has a mate!
Birding friend Joe DiCostanzo came up from Manhattan with friends Anne and Joan to spend a couple of days birding in the area. They birded the Bashakill and this afternoon went to the Shawangunk Grasslands NWR. I got a call from Joe around 4pm that he had found a singing male HENSLOW’S SPARROW not far from the observation platform. I zoomed down and Joe took me right to the bird. It was sitting up in a small green bush just twenty feet or so off the trail. It sang almost continually. At one point it seemed to get into an altercation with a Grasshopper Sparrow, after which it disappeared for a while. It soon returned to the bush, resuming its show. Mary Busky arrived at the same time I did and we both enjoyed the bird. I posted it to “whats app”. Susan Ward arrived just before six and was still with the bird when I left at six pm. Great find on Joe’s part and thanks for getting the word out quickly! The bird can be found on the “red trail” to the right of the observation platform. Take the trail across the first gully. Once you crest the far side, the bird is just about fifty feet down the trail on the right.