This morning I spent the morning birding with Lance Verderame in Delaware County. Lance knows the county well and he was helping me increase my county list. We had a great time! I managed to add a dozen new birds for that county, including my FOS MOURNING WARBLER, and a nice assortment of other warblers including Hooded, Cerulean and Prairie. It was nice to see that Delaware has the same booming population of Common Mergansers that Sullivan County does. We had five adult female COME on the river and two clutches of chicks, one numbering 30 birds and the other 8. Another first for me there came in the form of a half grown RUFFED GROUSE! Lance also showed me a section of hillside along the river where CANADA WARBLER were abundant. I had never seen Canada Warbler in this type of habitat before. There was a steep rock face with mixed firs and deciduous trees uphill and some kind of dense roses along the road. Across the road, along the river were sumac. The birds were plentiful on both sides of the road here. All in all we had great morning and some nice looks at the breeding birds of Delaware County! Thanks Lance!
Can you guess how many Common Merganser chicks are on that rock? For the answer, scroll to the bottom of the post!
This morning I headed back to the Neversink River to try to confirm as many breeding species as possible. It was a very productive, enjoyable morning with almost all birds now feeding young or having recently fledged young. As usual my targets for the area were the Mergansers, Kingfisher and Spotted Sandpiper. My first discovery this morning was along a forested stretch just east of the Bridge near Holiday Mountain. I stopped to peer through an opening in the dense foliage along the river to see if I could spot anything. At first I saw nothing, but just as I was about to go on, something popped up onto a raft of floating debris stuck on some branches. I was quite pleased to find it was a HOODED MERGANSER chick! It rested on the debris while I took a few photos. I moved down the river a bit to try to get a better view of the area and see if there were additional birds, but couldn’t see well so I returned to the spot, but the chick was gone. I continued along, making my way to the next good stretch, from Gray’s Road Bridge north along the river. Here there were many birds! First I found a pair of BELTED KINGFISHER’S with a recently fledged chick. The chick (a female) sat on the wires near the bridge, but then moved to a nearby branch. This one was a real show stealer! Moving on, I found a pair of Eastern Kingbirds on a nest. Further up, I came to a group of Common Mergansers. There was a large group of chicks on a rock and a total of four adult females nearby. Only one female associated with the chicks and the others moved on. I don’t think the chicks were all really hers, but probably a combination of hers and others that she has assumed ownership of. It was a really fun morning with lots of good birds to see!
This female Belted Kingfisher chick was the show stopper of the day. So neat!
This adorable Hooded Merganser chick seemed to be all by itself, but I had such a narrow window to the river here, I’m sure mom and sibs had to be nearby.
And the answer is……TWENTY FIVE!
A beautiful view, the channel looking west through the islands.
This morning I kayaked the Bashakill. It was a beautiful, cool morning, just right to be out on the water. There was a lot of bird activity this morning and I really enjoyed getting a sense of what is happening out there. I started from the Main Boat Launch and paddled about three quarters of a mile east. In the first really long stretch of straight channel you come to, I found my first LEAST BITTERN on the north side of the channel. It called continually, but was deep in the Pickerel Weed and I couldn’t get a glimpse. From there I headed west, past the Eagle Island and on to the far end of the kill. The eagles were active in the area of the nest, I could hear the chicks calling and could see an adult on the top of the tree.
One of the adult Bald Eagles on the nest tree.
I was counting Common Gallinules as I went, many were vocalizing all along the channel. Once I reached the south end of the kill, I almost immediately heard a Least Bittern calling right along the channel. It only took a minute before his calls were answered, and a presumed pair vocalized back and forth for the next half hour. One was on the left side of the channel, the other on the right. Needless to say, even though it seemed like I could reach out and touch them, not a glimpse! Great Blue Herons were feeding here and there as I went along as well. I was getting more land birds as I went along too. I finally headed back to the boat launch with a nice tally of birds. Once I reached the launch, I ran into Les Hallock. He informed me that there is a Common Gallinule near the bridge with six chicks, and showed me a photo of them. I headed right down there. Upon arriving, a couple of fisherman I know informed me of where they were. By now however they were deep in the weeds. I could hear them, and get an occasional glimpse, but no photo. Still its nice to know they are out and I will surely get lots more opportunities for photos.
One of the Common Gallinules I was able to photograph this morning.
I ended the morning with 54 species, most notably 20 Common Gallinules, 3 Least Bittern and 2 Great Blue Herons. No American Bittern or Green Herons this morning, but they are out there!
The Black Bear near the cabin at the Pine Boat Launch.
This afternoon I had a great visit to the Bashakill! Not only did I have some great birds, but I finally got to see my first BLACK BEAR of the year! I drove into the drive to the Pine Boat Launch around 3:30 this afternoon. I always stop on the hill by the cabin to see what might be there. I stepped away from my car and immediately heard something in the gully (the cabin sits on a steep ridge) on the left of the ridge. I looked up the gully to see something black just out of view, but moving my way. I stepped right back to my car, got out my camera and waited. The bear worked its way through the gully right in my direction. Unfortunately, just before coming into view, it moved behind a row of trees and bushes. I got a number of photos from my spot, but none really good. When the bear moved behind a couple of large trees, I moved a few steps to my left. The bear came out from behind the trees and I got a couple of shots. They aren’t great, but they’ll do. I estimate this bear to be about 300 lbs.! I usually see younger bears in the 100 to 150 lb. range, but this one was larger by far. At that point, the bear realized I was there and took off back in the direction it came. This was a great experience of me! I met Karen Miller on Haven Road shortly after that and I had some good birds, 5 Common Gallinule, 2 American Bittern and an American Woodcock I flushed from the trail, but nothing as exciting as the bear!
The only other half way decent shot of the bear.
One of the Prairie Warblers enters the nest with some insects. One of the chicks heads can be seen in the opening in the Laurel flowers.
This morning I took my annual June walk through Wolf Brook and into the Neversink Gorge as far as the falls on Mullet Brook. As always, this was a great walk and a perfect morning with cool temps and no humidity. There were a number of highlights this morning. Fourteen species of warbler put on the best show. Other birds of interest included Indigo Bunting, American Goldfinch, Veery, Wood Thrush, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and Scarlet Tanager. One of the nicest highlights was finding a PRAIRIE WARBLER nest! The pair of birds came and went from the nest all morning, as evidenced each time I passed. Liz Martens was able to join me to view it for a time. I got some half way decent shots of the activity. Also nice to see was the Osprey at its nest feeding at least one chick. We know we have three active nests this year, the fourth’s location is unknown. The falls on Mullet Brook were flowing beautifully and Canada Warblers singing all around it made it even nicer! Also, the Mountain Laurel is in full bloom right now! Great morning!
A beautiful, tranquil spot, the falls at Mullet Brook.
One of half a dozen male Canada Warblers seen this morning.
If you look closely, (enlarge it) you’ll see one of the Prairie Warbler chicks in this shot.
This afternoon we finished painting the house and I cleaned up and headed to the Bashakill. You never know when a birding trip can turn into one of those special outings. That’s what happened today. As I pulled up on Haven Road, I saw a woman setting up her scope with a Sibley’s in her hand. I asked if she were birding and how she was making out. She said she had just arrived. She explained that her name is Anna and that she is visiting New York from Sweden. She had traveled north today to see Montezuma NWR and then south to Sapsucker Woods. She had had a great day and was now stopping at the Bashakill for a couple of hours of birding. She said she had researched it on the internet and it looked like it would be a productive mid-way stop heading back to New York. She informed me she had checked out a Blog…..The Bashakill Birder! I told her I was the Bashakill Birder and she was quite surprised. She asked, Do people check out your blog and you just magically appear? Well yes, sometimes that happens. We started talking about what she was interested in seeing and I offered to escort her around. At Haven Road her luck couldn’t have been better. Common Gallinules were calling all around us. At least six could be heard. Just as I explained they are tough to see, one swam right out around the bridge just twenty feet from us! We continued walking down Haven when an American Bittern began calling off to the right. I explained again that seeing them is tough, but that yesterday one flew from the east side of the road right in front of me and landed about where the one is calling now. With that a Bittern flew right in front of us, again from the east side and flew right over to where the first was calling. She was quite excited and exclaimed “How lucky can I get!” She was very interested in seeing warblers so we continued on to the Orchard. Here we found many species of birds, including six species of warbler. She had good looks at Yellow, Common Yellowthroat and American Redstart. She particularly wanted to see a Chestnut-sided Warbler, a number of which were singing. Just when I thought we might not actually see one in the dense brush, one popped up right along side us! She had to put her bins down to see it! It hopped around in full view for several minutes and she was delighted! Further on we had Eastern Phoebe, Eastern Pewee, Ovenbird and Black and White Warblers. We didn’t hear any Virginia Rails on the Stop Sign Trail but that was about all we missed. We eventually headed back to her car where her daughter was resting. I showed them both the two Bald Eagle chicks sitting well up in the nest, another thrilling moment. They finally headed off after we had seen about thirty species of birds. Anna informed me at least ten were lifers for her, maybe more. It was so nice to once again see my usual haunts through the eyes of someone who’s never been there before and see just how much they can enjoy it. Before she left Anna told me that I had “Really made her day”, but I kind of think she had really made mine!
The female Common Mergaser with seven chicks near Woodbourne.
Since I’ve been home, I’ve spent most of my time catching up on some much needed home improvement and yard work. Each year at this time I set out to see how our breeding birds are doing and a call from Curt McDermott jump started my engines last night. He called to say he had seen a Hooded Merganser and chick on the Neversink River near Bridgeville. I decided to take the day off from being a handyman and bird. I headed to the Neversink River this morning already knowing that the second week of June is when the first offspring of the year are coming out. I had four species of special interest on the river and was able to find all four today, confirming breeding of one of them. I started at Bridgeville and worked my way north, eventually ending on the river just below the Neversink Reservoir. As I have mentioned before, there are some beautiful stretches of the river throughout that area and they are all good for birds. My four target species were Common and Hooded Mergansers, Spotted Sandpiper and Belted Kingfisher. I immediately found Common Mergansers, but it wasn’t until I reached the bridge on Gray’s Road that I found my first clutch of chicks. A Common Merg hen here had 12 chicks! Also at this spot, I found my first Hooded Mergansers, two adult females, no chicks. Further up river, I found a second Common Merg hen with 7 chicks. All along I was finding adult females who had no chicks with them at the time. I ended with 29 Common Mergansers! I found a third Hooded Merganser, also a female, but not chicks. As I had been traveling along, I found two Spotted Sandpipers. Each was in a different section of the river and I saw no young with them. Spotting their chicks is really tough. Also I found two Belted Kingfishers, each in different locations. I was unable to see what sex they were as they simply rattled and flew off down the river from me. At any rate, the river is a stronghold for breeding of all four species and it looks as though things are going well this year. I will check on the birds weekly to see what I find next.