Bashakill flooding

A muskrat and her three kits.  Their mound has been almost completely submerged.

A muskrat and her three kits. Their mound has been almost completely submerged.

a Gallinule at a spot where a nest has now sunken below the water level.

a Gallinule at a spot where a nest has now sunken below the water level.

a Common Gallinule in one of the areas where the water wasn't as deep.

a Common Gallinule in one of the areas where the water wasn’t as deep.

Making the best of a bad situation, I headed out to the Bashakill this morning to survey the damage from the flood waters and census the marsh birds. Following a flood, the marsh birds are much easier to see, enabling a more accurate count. On the flip side, this means most if not all of their nests have been lost due to the flood. It was a mixed bag this morning with a few nests still safe and others lost. I concentrated my efforts in the three areas where most of the birds are found. From Haven Road, I found five Common Gallinule and heard another two. This represents five pair that I know to be present in that area. I spotted only one nest from the bridge. It contained three eggs and the adults were working furiously to raise the level of the nest. They would swim out fifty feet or so and snip off some pickerel weed, bringing it back and tucking it under the eggs, raising them higher out of the water. When I left there, they seemed to be succeeding in their efforts. From the Main Boat Launch, I kayaked out, mostly sticking to the channel, but huge expanses of vegetation were completely under water. I first went east for nearly a mile, then I returned and went west. I had a total of nineteen Common Gallinule seen and another three heard. I also spotted three nests in this area which may be safe. This represents thirteen pairs in this area. Also of note was the continuing American Coot, that appears to be a single bird. From there I kayaked further west to the south end of the Bashakill. There I saw six Common Gallinule and heard another two. This represents the five pair I already know to be in that area. I saw no nests in this area, but the water is not as deep there, so the vegetation is always higher out of the water than some other locations. This usually means the nests are more protected from flooding and this may have been the case today. I never found Pied-billed Grebe nor Least Bittern this morning which were known to be present in the last couple of weeks. On Haven Road I failed to see or hear any American Bittern, also known to be present recently. In summary, of the target marsh birds, I found only Common Gallinule and American Coot today. I saw 31 Common Gallinule and heard another 8. I believe this represents 23 pairs or 46 Gallinule in total (some spots only one bird was seen or heard and a pair is known to be present). The lone American Coot is apparently present for the second year with no mate evidenced. This census covers only a fraction of the Bashakill and many more birds, including the species missed, may be present.

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