Breeding birds on the Neversink River

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.

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