Bashakill

One of three American Woodcock I found around the Bashakill yesterday.


Tremendous numbers of waterfowl continue. I was able to do another meticulous count yesterday, totaling 572 Ring-necked Ducks. This species is always found in big numbers, but I think the ongoing frozen water in most areas is concentrating the birds at the Bashakill which continues to open further daily. Another species that has been affected by the recent deep snow and unusually cold temps are Woodcock. These birds showed up in mid February. Since then, habitat for them has almost completely disappeared. Deep snow is not favorable for this bird that gets its food from open mucky areas with grubs and worms in them. With that in mind I sought out Woodcock yesterday. I checked about a dozen “seeps” around the Bashakill. A “Seep” is a spot where warm water oozes out of the ground, keeping the surrounding area open and unfrozen. I was sure that I would find some Woodcock in these areas since most of the spots they normally are can no longer support them at this time. I was rewarded by finding a total of three Woodcock yesterday afternoon. All three were single birds in separate locations around the Bashakill. They were actively boring in the muck where I found them, though I never saw them actually consume any prey, hopefully they were successful. Great Blue Herons are also showing up, I had three of them along the Birch Trail yesterday too. All of the ducks I’ve previously mentioned can still be seen. Hopefully some more new migrants will be arriving.

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The Bashakill and Beechwoods

My First of season Eastern Meadowlark on Gabel Road in Beechwoods.


This morning I birded the Bashakill, focusing again on the waterfowl. I wanted to get the most accurate count of Wood Ducks that I could. They have been in extreme numbers this winter due to the fact that they arrive, and there is no other open water for them to go to. More and more continue to arrive and they are really piling up. This morning I did a meticulous count, starting from Haven Road and working my way to Westbrookville. The area near the Main Boat Launch out the Birch Trail is still inaccessible and no count could take place there. I still managed to come up with 426 Wood Ducks! Ring-necked Ducks are in similar number, but I estimated them today. Its too difficult to count both species when they are in such big numbers as this. Black and Mallard Ducks, Bufflehead, Common and Hooded Mergansers, American Wigeon and Northern Pintail rounded out the list. No Green-winged Teal seen today, but they are there. Along South Road near the winery, just past the Main Boat Launch a single Snow Bunting was feeding throughout the morning. Kevin Kriesher informs me that Thursday, 15 Snow Bunting spent the morning on Haven Road, but I missed them. Thanks to new member Richard L., the parking lot on Haven Road has been plowed. Hopefully we can get more snow removed (Main Boat Launch) before my Winter/Spring Waterfowl Walk next Saturday. From the Bashakill, I headed to Beechwoods in Delaware Township. This is our grasslands area and I wanted to see if there were any new arrivals. Most prominent among them were American Kestrels. I had a male here several times earlier in the year, but today, there were three Kestrels present. All of them were in known breeding territories and will probably remain for the summer. Also present was my FOS EASTERN MEADOWLARK! This is just about the date they normally arrive, but I wasn’t sure with the two feet of snow still present if there would be any there. The wind swept hillsides had bare spots, and this is where it was feeding, between the snow drifts. Bald Eagles, Turkey Vultures and Red-tailed Hawks were the other main characters there this morning. Can’t wait for the melt!

One of the American Kestrels present this morning. This area always has multiple breeding pairs.

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The Bashakill after the storm

A rather distant view of the abundance of birds at the southwest end of the kill.


Having had two feet of snow on Tuesday, and with cold temps and high winds continuing, its been tough to bird the Bashakill. Today, with mild temps and lower winds I sought out more vantages to bird and get a better feeling of what was left of the abundant waterfowl that was present just prior to the storm. The trails are covered with deep snow and basically impassible except with skis or snow shoes. Today I used snow shoes to cover some areas and get a jist of things. An abundance of waterfowl continues. Most of the birds are contained in pockets of open water in areas along the main channel in several spots along the length of the Bashakill. Some are in small ponds along south road. Currently, the most abundant birds are at the south end of the kill, west of the Nature Trail. The channel is open there all the way to Co. rt. 63 and perhaps a thousand birds are present. There is also a good spot out from the Main Boat Launch, but it has not been plowed out. From Haven Road, two spots are viewable, one on each side of the road. Closer to the Pine Boat Launch, an abundance of waterfowl are present, but viewing them is nearly impossible. We know they are there from limited vantage points and the fact that they flush periodically and the sky is clouded with them. All of that out of the way, here are the birds. Ring-necked Ducks and Wood Ducks number in excess of 300 each! Black Ducks number at least a couple of hundred and Mallard somewhat fewer. Also present are Hooded Mergansers, American Wigeon, Bufflehead and Green-winged Teal (and of course Canada Geese). Not seen today were Common Mergansers or Northern Pintail, though both were there yesterday and most certainly continue among the birds that can’t be seen. The two pair of eagles are on their nests, apparently unscathed by the storm. The channel opens a bit more each day, and hopefully next weeks warmer temps will spread the birds out, open the trails and make everything more accessible.

Closer approach shows just how many ducks there are among the Canada Geese.


In some of the smaller ponds on South Road, American Wigeon can be found among the Mallard, Black and Wood Ducks.

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Snowy Day on the Bashakill

The Bashakill just after the snow stopped. Though we had five inches, the water was too warm for it to freeze over the surface.


The snow started to abate around 11 am, so I headed to the Bashakill to see if the storm had put anything new down. It was beautiful scene this morning. It was hard to tell if any new birds had actually come in, but some things were easier to see, while other not so much. The huge Ring-necked Duck flock continues, but were too distant to get any kind of a count. I wasn’t able to find the wigeon, gadwall or pintails, but they were in the area of the Ring-necks yesterday. Right off of Haven Road, a duo of PIED-BILLED GREBE were actively diving. One caught a fish, but I just missed getting a shot before it swallowed it. Three Bufflehead continue there as well. Wood Ducks were abundant! Every open patch of water had ten or twelve and one huge flock took off from in front of the Pine Boat Launch. Black Ducks are also abundant. I only saw two Green-winged Teal this morning. The snow made for one of those surreal, quiet times at the Bashakill that is just so peaceful! Great morning!

One of the Pied-billed Grebes on Haven Road.


Just a few of the many Wood Ducks at the Bashakill today.

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Bashakill

Rusty Blackbirds on the Birch Trail.


In spite of the high winds today, I spent a considerable amount of time birding. Though the winds had birds hunkered down, If you know where to look, they are there. Haven Road was practically devoid of avian life, but the Birch Trail out of the Main Boat Launch heading toward Haven Road had an abundance of birds. I first came across a couple of Rusty Blackbirds, many Robins and a few sparrows. Once I reached the tower, I found an abundance of waterfowl. Well over 200 Ring-necked Ducks (actually more) continue. Among them were many Hooded Mergansers, Mallard and Black Ducks, Bufflehead and an abundance of Wood Ducks that numbered near 100! Also seen were eight American Wigeon! The surprise for me happened when I was nearly to Haven Road and came to a small opening to find three GADWALL! These were my FOS birds. I stopped around lunch time and then came back out late in the afternoon. I added Northern Pintails, Green-winged Teal and Common Mergansers for the day. This gave me a dozen species of waterfowl for the day. I then stayed late, went to the Deli Fields where I quickly heard both Great Horned Owls! Nice day.
Addendum: A scope helps when out at the tower as birds are quite distant.

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Deep Freeze at the Bashakill

The deep freeze and extreme winds the last several days prevented me from even venturing outside, let alone bird. Today with the winds finally abating, though the temperature was only 4 degrees at sunup, I headed out to the Bashakill. Its amazing how the lack of wind can make the extreme temperatures bearable. Most of the waterfowl was concentrated in the little open water that remained in the channel at some spots. American Wigeon, Northern Pintail, Hooded Merganser and Ring-necked Duck were the most abundant species beyond the ubiquitous Mallards, Black Ducks and Canada Geese. As I scanned the birds, I found my FOS PIED-BILLED GREBE! While it was still cold, it was an enjoyable morning of birding. Hopefully, with the winds turning around overnight, we’ll get some more new birds this week.

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Bashakill continues to please.

Red phase Eastern Screech-owl at the Bashakill.

Red phase Eastern Screech-owl at the Bashakill.

This morning I headed to the Bashakill a little earlier than usual for me. I was hoping to beat the rain storms that were heading our way. I covered many areas of the Bashakill and then finally got poured on coming in from the Birch Trail. Some birds were down in number today, while others continue to increase. Lots of sparrows again, highlighted by Song and Fox. Robins have begun to increase again as well with 20 of them seen on the Birch Trail in the company of 6 CEDAR WAXWINGS! These were the first have had in a while. Duck numbers really fluctuated. Both Common and Hooded Mergansers must have moved out. I had only 12 Hooded today, and no Commons at all. Also gone were the Green-winged Teal, at least I couldn’t find any. On the increase, there were now 6 Northern Pintail off Haven Road and an amazing 172 RING-NECKED DUCKS! The find of the day however was a red-phase EASTERN SCREECH-OWL! I have attached a highly cropped photo of the bird. If you go looking for this bird, please remember how sensitive owls are and keep your distance if you find it. I would like to see it stick around a while. All in all a pretty good day for what was predicted to be a washout!

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