All three species of waders continue. Merlin continues. NO shorebirds!
This morning I headed to Morningside Park with my usual high hopes. There has been nearly nothing there since the arrival of the Merlin last week. As I put my kayak in , I noticed a Great Egret on one of the mud flats. Further, as I launched I could here the familiar chirps of Least Sandpipers. Now excited, I headed out quickly. I checked the stand of dead pines on my way out to see if the Merlin was still there, but there was no sign of it. As I neared the islands, two Great Blue Herons began chasing the Great Egret around. This always seems to happen here for some reason. This immediately flushed some shorebirds. A small flock of mixed sizes flew around, eventually landing on an island near me. As they landed I could see a beautiful juvenile SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER among them. This was our FOS SESP! The heron group flushed them again, so I paddled over to the island they were on. I pulled up onto the island, viewing the group of sandpipers that were only fifteen feet away. I raised my camera and was focusing when suddenly, something WOOOSHED right past me. Instinctively I yelled “NO!”, but it was too late. The Merlin had flown right past me and killed the Semipalmated Sandpiper instantly! It dangled upside down motionless in the Merlin’s talons as it flew back past me again. EEEEEEESH!! I have seen many Merlins and Peregrines chase countless shorebirds at Morningside, but this falcon is the first I’ve ever seen succeed here, and now twice in four days! I am extending a formal invitation for it to LEAVE!! All the shorebirds flew out, so I concentrated on other birds. A juvenile HOODED MERGANSER is unusual at this site and had to have flown in from elsewhere. Belted Kingfisher, an Osprey, Green Herons, Wood Ducks rounded out the bigger birds, but passerines were few today. A single hummingbird fed on the Jewel Weed. About a half hour later, the shorebirds returned. This time there was a LESSER YELLOWLEGS with them, as well as a couple of Spotted Sandpipers. I’m not sure, with all the excitement whether or not the yellowlegs had been there earlier, but the Spotties had. We are back to never a dull moment at Morningside!
This juvenile Hooded Merganser is unusual here and must have flown in. This is our first August record of this species since starting ebird.
Presumably the same Osprey that has been frequenting Morningside recently.
Our FOS Lesser Yellowlegs at this site.
A very quiet morning at Morningside Park today. This is the first time I have ever experienced no migratory shorebirds there in August. The only shorebird was the remaining juvenile Spotted Sandpiper that has been present all summer. The Merlin is now in its third day and has become very complacent about my kayak. It let me pull up to within thirty feet of it and take a couple of dozen photos. You can see in the shot that he actually picked up his right foot and has it held in his breast feathers, resting on his left foot. This is a sure sign that he is comfortable. A couple of Green Herons and a Great Blue was all that was present otherwise.
This morning I headed to Apollo Plaza and Morningside Park again. Very early morning rains prompted me to try again. This time, a SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER was present in the main pool at Apollo. This might be the same bird from Tuesday, as birds move between the landfill settling ponds and Apollo. If it isn’t, I sure can’t tell from my photos. Scott Baldinger was able to come see the bird this morning. From there I went to Morningside. It is always an interesting visit. I kayaked the lake, almost immediately spotting the Merlin first seen yesterday by Matt Zeitler. It was resting and preening when I first saw it and I took some distant shots. After checking the islands for shorebirds (only 5 Least Sandpipers) I began searching the rest of the lake. I got a couple more shots of the Merlin as I went. At the back of the lake I again found the WHITE-WINGED PHOEBE! I had first found this bird a couple of weeks back. It is luesitic and has three white primaries on each wing, half white secondaries and some scapulars edged in white. I was only able to get perched shots, but this bird is spectacular in flight! I wish someone with a faster camera and better skills than I could photograph this bird. Once I was done there, I tried to get closer to the Merlin for better shots. I immediately noticed it had moved. As I approached its new location, I noticed it had caught a shorebird. The perch is in the middle of an island, so I can only get so close. I got a lot of shots, eventually concluding that the shorebird was a Spotted Sandpiper. The Merlin eventually began feeding on the bird, which by the time I left was only shrapnel. Never a dull moment at Morningside!
The Merlin begins to feed on the Spotted Sandpiper.
A very poor shot of what in flight is a beautiful bird!
This morning I went out hoping for more shorebirds. I had already heard from Matt Zeitler that there were few at Morningside Park (thanks Matt), so I headed to Apollo Plaza. Among the dozen or so Killdeer were my FOS LESSER YELLOWLEGS. They remained for some photos and views, but shortly thereafter one of the juvie Osprey flew into the pool, flushing them. They flew up to the settling ponds at the landfill, and that was the last I saw them. From there I headed to the Bashakill where I had a decent mixed species flock at the corner of the Orchard and Haven Road. I missed some of the birds, the vegetation is quite dense, but saw quite a few. Catbirds, Towhees (6), Ovenbirds (2), Canada Warbler, Cardinals, Vireos etc were all quite active. This was my first flock that held definite migrant passerines. With the forecast of thunderstorms overnight, I’m hoping for shorebirds tomorrow. We’ll see what happens.
The rather strong northwest winds we experienced over the weekend seem to set things in motion. Following the small fallout of shorebirds on Sunday, even though the winds stopped, Monday wasn’t half bad. On Haven Road, we had a number of Least Sandpipers fly through, as well as a couple of Solitary Sandpipers. Also present was our first fall Northern Harrier as well as our FOS Common Nighthawks. Not a bad day. This morning, following some decent rainfall overnight, I headed out with high hopes. I wasn’t disappointed. My first stop was Apollo Plaza, where I found an immature SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER! This bird is uncommon in the county. We can go several years without seeing them. This year, we’ve had them on both spring and fall migration! From there, I went to Morningside Park. There had been a modest influx of waders overnight. Instead of my usual three or four Great Blue Herons, there were seven of them! The usual Green Herons were still present and for the first time in a couple of years, I had a Great Egret here as well! Once done at Morningside, I headed to the Bashakill, where I met Karen Miller. I filled her in on the details of the Short-billed Dowitcher, and she was able to head to Apollo and see it, a new county bird for her! The Bashakill wasn’t to busy, but some Gallinules and a Virginia Rail were both just off Haven Road. Not a bad morning of birding!
In a season that has thus far produced no shorebirds to speak of here in Sullivan County, this morning there were a few shorebirds at Morningside Park. Winds had changed to northwest overnight, and it brought a few birds into the area. Twenty Least Sandpipers, two Spotted Sandpipers, two Solitary Sandpipers and a single Semipalmated Plover were all seen this morning! While only twenty five individuals, that is by far the most we have seen this fall. Hopefully this means that many more good shorebirds are still to come. The habitat at Morningside is excellent and the islands are increasing in size and number each day. I’ll keep you posted!