Neversink River Surprise!

Adult female Red-breasted Merganser on the Neversink River at Bridgeville.

With periodic downpours throughout the morning, I decided my best bet to get out birding this morning was to take the route along the Neversink River covering the area from Bridgeville to the Neversink Reservoir. The reason I like to do this at this time of year is that migration is over. Add to that the fact that the area has been neglected due to our migration hot spots getting all the attention throughout the month of May. I like to check on our breeding species that are most easily found along this river. I was not only not disappointed, but rather pleasantly surprised. The very first Merganser I found, I saw from a distance in the pouring rain. It seemed small and drab and my only thought was that it was an immature Common Merganser. The only problem with that is the fact that it would have had to of hatched weeks ago to be that size. Before I could make a complete assessment, the bird got away down river. I went on to cover the river at all accessible spots. I was pleased to find three Common Mergansers, a male and two females. It won’t be too long before additional females will come out with large clutches of young. I then found the first of two female Hooded Mergansers not far from the Gray’s Road Bridge. I’m always glad to confirm the birds are still here for breeding season, and most years I can confirm young. I then decided to return to Bridgeville to see if I could find the first merganser again. I found it immediately! It was just up river from where I found it earlier and this time in a very open spot. I was really surprised to find that it was an adult RED-BREASTED MERGANSER!! This is by far the latest date we have had this species in recent times. There is one very old report of the species breeding in the county, but there no photos, just a well described account. What is this bird doing here? Why is it in breeding habitat rather than on one of our big bodies of water as they usually are in migration? It will be interesting to see if this bird continues. I got to see it catch a crustacean, likely a Crayfish, that it swallowed before I could be certain. I will check to see if I can find it throughout this week. I probably won’t find it again, but how neat would it be if it persisted. I will keep you posted!

Female Hooded Merganser on the Neversink River near Gray’s Road Bridge.

Another shot of the Red-breasted Merganser.

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