This morning I headed to Morningside Park once again. The radar last night actually showed decent migration in our area for the second night in a row. Since it was a north northeast flow, I wasn’t expecting shorebirds. I was paddling out when I heard a Killdeer. Believe it or not, I haven’t had a Killdeer here in some time. I kept my fingers crossed. As I got closer to the mud flat islands, I heard a Least Sandpiper. Yes! There were at least some shorebirds present. I haven’t had shorebirds at all since before tropical storm Isaias. The closer I got to the flats the better I felt. Three Least Sandpipers (below) flew by me and landed out on one of the flats. I continued. As I neared the first island, a Semipalmated Sandpiper (above) flew up, circled and landed again. Soon I was seeing more Least Sandpipers and eventually a Spotted Sandpiper as well. In all I had 11 Least, 1 Semipalmated and 1 Spotted Sandpiper! There were also 3 Killdeer. I finally had a great paddle! Other birds of note included Bald Eagle, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron and Green Heron. If things go as they should, now that there are some shorebirds there should be a constant influx and outflow of shorebirds for the remainder of the season. I hope something great shows up!
I covered my usual spots today after seeing that the radar showed some decent movement in our area last night. At Morningside the only evidence was my FOS Green-winged Teal. No shorebirds. At the Bashakill, there was a bit more evidence of movement. I ran into a nice mixed species flock of passerines which included Yellow Warbler, American Redstart, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Red-eyed and Yellow-throated Vireos and at least one definite migrant, an already molted to basic plumage Magnolia Warbler. I had a Northern Harrier and Pied-billed Grebe yesterday afternoon off Haven Road, the harrier migrant as well. The most visible birds were the ongoing GREAT EGRETS, now numbering 10 birds off Haven Road. They are of course not migrants, but their post breeding dispersal is a distinct indication of the season. The forecast isn’t great for the next ten days, no rain and light to no wind, so it is likely to be quiet a while longer. One last thing, Morningside Park is again open to the public with social distancing regulations in effect. Scanning the islands with a scope from the pavilion area is again possible.
I birded a number of spots around the county today with no real change noted. The water level at Morningside is still at least four inches above normal a full week after Isaias. Some new islands have begun to rise, but those that sank, are still nowhere to be seen. No shorebirds at all. I finally reached the Bashakill just about noon. I just wanted to check for Great Egrets as they are now nearly a month late arriving. I looked up and down Haven Road and from the Main Boat Launch without success. I was making one last pass over Haven Road when I spotted five Great Egrets lifting off from the back bay by the Pine Boat Launch Tower. They flew around and ultimately landed well out into the kill on the west side of the road. I spent quite a bit of time trying for photos, but was only really able to get a few flight shots. Nothing special. Later, Scott Baldinger, whom I had alerted along with the rest of our text group, arrived to find several of the birds right near the bridge. He was able to get some decent shots. I returned this afternoon, but couldn’t find the birds. They are probably still there, the vegetation is five feet tall and they are tough to see. Its a start.
Today I headed to Hamlin, New York to try for the pair of SWALLOW-TAILED KITES that were reported yesterday. I left shortly after 4 am for the roughly four and a half hour trip. Upon my arrival I was informed by Rich Guthrie that the birds had been seen first thing this morning perched in a Cottonwood Tree not far from the Church, but they took off just wafting around the area. They hadn’t been seen for some time. A while later, Bob Spahn and I spotted what we were sure was one of the birds, but it dropped behind some trees before we could get an absolute confirmation. No worries, a few minutes later it was up again and everyone got looks this time. The second bird joined the first briefly, and disappeared. It too would return a short time later. All of our views were across the road from the church and quite distant, but still pretty great. Eventually, one of the birds returned, and this time soared directly over the church parking lot. It was up there, but allowed for better photos than the other side of the street. I got some so so shots, missing the bird entirely in most of my attempts. Either way, I was pretty happy in the end. I then started the long trip home. The birds have reportedly actually been present for some time now, the word just was gotten out about them. Hopefully they will continue for a while for many others to see. New York State bird # 416 for all time and #290 for my big year to date.
Today continued about the same as recent days. I kayaked Morningside again this morning with no expectations. I wasn’t disappointed. I did have an enjoyable paddle around the lake with a cool breeze and sunny skies. No shorebirds at all. The most enjoyment of the morning was a group of Green Herons (3). Always one of my favorites, they were quite entertaining this morning. When you can calmly approach them, their behaviors are very interesting and they make great subjects for photos. I still hope something good is coming our way soon.
I have just gotten my phone and internet back after four days of being out due to tropical storm Isaias. The last week has been an interesting time. It has been exciting for some and depressing for others. Considerable damage from the storm was felt far and wide in Region 9, The region of New York in which I live (for those who may not know). It was also a time of great exhilaration for others. I spent the day Tuesday out checking all our local hotspots for birds that might have been blown in by the storm. There were heavy downpours and some wind just about everywhere I went in Sullivan County. I arrived back home, with no birds of note seen, just in time for things to get bad. The rain let up, but the wind was daunting. Before I knew it, we had no power, phone nor internet. Once again one of our trees came down and took out the power for the immediate neighborhood. We would later learn many more trees had come down in the area and we didn’t have to feel solely responsible for the outages. Shortly after 7 pm, my phone began to give alerts. Birds were being seen throughout the region. It was too late and circumstances were too dire in our area for me to venture out. Here are some of the positive results of the storm. Rob Stone spotted two SOOTY TERNS flying south off the Newburgh Waterfront! Matt Zeitler found a juvenile LAUGHING GULL on the docks at the Newburgh Waterfront as well. Bruce Nott found a FORSTER’S TERN on Washington Lake in Newburgh! These species and others were seen up and down the Hudson River that evening. In the following days, the already nice showing of LITTLE BLUE HERONS was added to by several additional birds, giving nearly all the counties in the region at least one of these beautiful birds for the year. Shorebirds were also put down in the area. Linda Scrima initially found a nice group of shorebirds on Turtle Bay Road in Orange County. Pectoral, Least, Semipalmated, Solitary and Spotted Sandpipers as well as Killdeer and Semipalmated Plovers were all seen. A Short-billed Dowitcher was a nice find. For those in the right place at the right time, it was a windfall of great birds! Unfortunately for us here in Sullivan County, as well as the damage, all the birds in the county were blown out. All the hot spots were flooded and all the shorebirds moved on. No good birds were found and we can now only wait for the water to recede. We are keeping our fingers crossed that the water will come down enough, especially at Morningside Park, to allow shorebirds to put down. For anyone reading this post, I hope you were on the exciting, productive side of the storm. We are grateful it wasn’t worse than it was. There were some really great birds out there! Congratulations to all who got to see them!
I set out to Kayak the park again this morning. I was hoping some of the shorebirds would continue to start August off well. I had a great morning and really enjoyed the relaxing paddle around the lake. All of the shorebirds that I’ve been seeing continue, Killdeer, Spotted and Least Sandpipers and the Semipalmated Plover. The two Bald Eagle chicks continue to entertain. I had two Great Blue Herons, but the Green Heron eluded me today. Still no Great Egrets either. One of the Osprey from the nearby nest paid a visit and it was just a nice morning overall. As I paddled around the islands, I once again looked for Virginia Rails. I had a family of them here two years ago and they were so confiding that I was really hoping to get them during the Breeding Bird Atlas. I never found them last year and had just convinced myself that not finding them for the last week probably meant they weren’t there. I was just thinking that there are still four years to get them for the site when I heard an interesting call from in the emergent vegetation. I knew that I knew the call, but couldn’t quite place it. I listened closely for a moment and it hit me! Virginia Rail talking with chicks! It took quite some time and some strategic positioning, but I finally spotted an adult rail. There were clearly two of them and I could hear a chick calling peeee in the background. I spent the rest of my time watching and hoping for them to come out when I suddenly heard peeee coming from behind me. The adult rail reacted immediately, calling its chick. Finally, a chick emerged from the vegetation and worked its way across the Lily Pads. When it finally reached the family, it ducked into the dense vegetation to join them. Just then a second chick called behind me. I waited a short time to see it cross, but it was stubborn and I decided that over two hours in the hot sun was enough for me. It was a great morning and amazing how quickly the Virginia Rails went from maybe next year, to right this minute!
I started a bit late this morning after taking care of some business. I went to the Apollo hoping for some shorebirds resulting from last nights west-northwest winds and some decent rainfall. It didn’t happen. Once again, the Apollo was so dry that it soaked up every bit of rain, leaving just a few concrete based puddles. What I did find was a recently fledged Eastern Meadowlark! This bird was most likely displaced this week when they mowed the mounds at the landfill directly behind the Apollo. Moving on to Morningside, I kayaked the lake. The Semipalmated Plover continued as did one Killdeer. Also present was the ongoing Least Sandpiper joined by a newly arrived juvenile Least. There were also two Spotted Sandpipers present today. All the other usual suspects. I cut my trip short when I heard that Bruce Nott had found an adult LITTLE BLUE HERON at the Beaver Pond on Pine Hill Road in Chester. Upon my arrival, it took quite some time to find the bird, which had obviously moved since being seen earlier. I was just about to give up when it flew in from somewhere far off to the distant right. It landed not far away, giving great views and catching a fish in the diminishing water. Thanks Bruce for another great find. I have seen many Little Blue Herons in Orange County, but never an adult. I don’t personally know of any other records of adults, but Ken McDermott will be able to answer that question. Congratulations Bruce!
As you may have noticed, the summer doldrums have a tight grip on the area. There has been little to report, hence my silence on the blog. On Sunday, I kayaked Morningside Park for the first time this season. It was my latest date to start ever. I had been monitoring the islands from the boat launch. BTW, Morningside Park is closed due to the Corona Virus with the exception of fishing from shore at the boat launch only, or boating/kayaking the lake. All entrants are expected to practice social distancing. All other areas of the park remain closed until further notice. That said, its easy to kayak the lake and almost no one has been around on most of the occasions I’ve been there. There is no reason to have contact with anyone. I’ve had a nice list of species on my trips and they include Green and Great Blue Heron, Double-crested Cormorant, Bald Eagle and many passerines. My main reason for kayaking has always been for shorebirds. On Sunday I found Killdeer, Spotted and Least Sandpipers. Not a great start, but a start no less. Today, I had a bit better luck. I noted that for the first time last night we were going to have light winds out of the northwest the entire night. This gave me hope for some movement and I am pleased to say we had some. Again not the greatest, but I did add the first SEMIPALMATED PLOVER of the year to our county list! As usual, the birds at Morningside allow close approach and this bird was no exception. From Morningside, I headed to the Apollo. I had little hope for the Apollo, it is completely dried up at this time, but you never know when a grasspiper might show up. I found none, but did have six Killdeer and the long staying Solitary Sandpiper. A five shorebird day to start the season!
The Bald Eagle chicks are now well flighted and quite confiding. A Least Sandpiper below.
I enjoyed yesterday morning so much that I decided to return to the Bashakill this morning to see if I could find more gallinules and see what else interesting might turn up. Today was the experience that I was actually hoping for with the gallinules. I came upon a family in a relatively small pool just a hundred feet or so from the Horseshoe Parking area. They were quite confiding, though I’m not sure they realized I was there the entire time. Once the adult realized it, she made a bit of commotion, but settled back to the business at hand. It was really fun watching all the interactions between the adult (presumed female) and the chicks. This family was much younger than the birds I saw yesterday (and eventually saw again today). It was a pair with four chicks. I was able to observe the adult feed the chicks from time to time and caught a shot of what it was feeding them, though I’m not exactly sure what it was. I had a tough time getting all four chicks into one shot, but I succeeded a couple of times. When I finally moved on, I found the second family, and probably three more. I observed the second family at length and when the adult startled by a kayak in the channel behind the one the birds were in, she flew across the channel giving alarm calls. I thought that these chicks, three quarters grown, might fly after her. That didn’t happen. They ran across the lily pads flapping their still featherless (but down covered) wings until they plopped into the water. This was the first time I realized that even at this more advanced age, they still can’t fly. I also had at least three more pairs vocalizing and I’m sure they had families as well. A good breeding season for our gallinules! It was hotter and more humid today with relentless Deer Flies, but still a great morning! You might note that the little red “Z” looking appendage on the sides of the chicks is actually their wings! There isn’t even down on them at this time. All very interesting!