And so it begins!

One of four Hooded Warblers singing on the Cold Spring Trail this morning.

Things have started to happen, Fall migration has begun! Yesterday while sitting on the dock at the lake, two adult Herring Gulls flew past, spiraled upward and headed south over the ridge toward the Bashakill. I don’t think we have any records for Herring Gull in July, but there they were. This morning, I stopped at Apollo Plaza on my way to the landfill. I was thinking I might yet get a photo of the Spotted Sandpiper chicks that have eluded me all season, but no luck. What I did find was another fall migrant. A worn adult LEAST SANDPIPER was among the Killdeer at the pond. We do get them as early as the first week of July, but not too often. Also, I don’t know if anyone has noticed, but Baltimore Orioles have vanished in the night. I haven’t had one in nearly ten days, and if you review the reports, there is one here and there. They will increase again as the season progresses and more northerly birds move south. Besides that, I hiked into the Neversink Gorge this morning from the Cold Spring Road Access. It was a beautiful hike with lots of birds. Most of them are feeding young, perhaps their second clutch. I was pleased to find four singing male HOODED WARBLERS here. This has always been a good spot for them, and it continues to be. It is going to be interesting to see how migration progresses this fall. It seems to me that the birds have once again had an excellent breeding season and many species are done already. If that is the case, I wonder if we’ll see some species, like shorebirds, earlier than normal. We’ll have to just wait and see.

The first southbound migrant shorebird in the county this fall, a Least Sandpiper.

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The Giant Moths of Sullivan County (and New York)

The Polyphemus Moth on my door step last night. I think the eyes and face the pattern make is absolutely striking.

With bird activity at a minimum recently, as is always the case at this time of year, we have the chance to focus our interests elsewhere. For me, that is often in the direction of Butterflies. There has been a real increase over the last few weeks in Butterfly activity and some of them are really neat to observe. If you spend any time right now, you can find Great Spangled Fritillary, White Admiral, Red Admiral, Orange and Clouded Sulphurs, Mourning Cloak, Painted and American Ladies, Bronze and American Coppers, to name a few. Not quite as easy to find however are some of the giant moths that are actually quite common in our area. There are two reasons they are tough to find. First, they are strictly nocturnal. There is only one reason you ever see them during the day, they’ve died. Second, they have a life expectancy of SEVEN days! perhaps due to my location in a mature mixed deciduous/conifer forest right on a lake, I probably get more than my share of these beautiful moths. Through the years, I’ve been visited, nearly annually, by at least one of he species in our area. I’ve had three species visit. Cecropia, Polyphemus and Luna Moths! Last night, as a friend was leaving, one of the giants flew in as he opened my door. After the brief startle, we watched the moth, identified it (Polyphemus) and got a couple of photos. What a beautiful moth! The eyes, and I say face, that its markings form are striking! The other striking feature is the size. This moth is six inches wide. I placed it on my had a couple of times to show that it stretched from my wrist to my finger tips, but it didn’t stay put even a second for a photo. I had to settle for photographing it on my stoop. Because these moths are so attracted to light, the only way to save it from flying into my house was to shut off all our front lights. Fifteen minutes late, it was gone. One of the characteristics of all the large moths is that the males all have large “feathered” antennae. They use these sensors to locate the females by the fermones they emit. This moth, is obviously a male. Hopefully, he went on his way, producing the next generation of these fascinating moths! I’ve attached a photo of one of the Luna Moths I had in my yard a couple of years ago. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any old photos of Cecropia Moths, so I’ll have to wait for another to show up.

A beautiful Luna Moth!

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Orange County Forster’s Tern

Just yesterday Arlene Borko and I were discussing our first Forster’s Tern in Sullivan County. It was found on the Fourth of July by Lance Verderame a number of years back. We have had others since then. Coincidentally, I was just getting home last evening when I heard from Linda Scrima that she had found a Forster’s Tern at Liberty Loop in the Wallkill NWR. Unfortunately, I was able to make it down, but a number of others were. Matt Zeitler and Rob Stone among them! Great find for Linda and a great new county bird for all who got to see it! Summer is the best time for vagrant Forster’s Terns in our area and hopefully there are more to come! You can see a photo of the bird on Matt’s blog at

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Sullivan County Grasslands

Eastern Meadowlark on Gabel Road.

As you can tell from my recent silence, there has just been nothing happening. The Summer Doldrums are in full swing. That said, I decided to head to the grasslands up county this morning to once again try to find a Dickcissel. There has been a major influx of this species to the northeast this year and I was hopeful of finding one today. It didn’t happen. I did have a great morning with an abundance of birds. Here is a list of the highlights:

Red-tailed Hawk – 2
American Kestrel – 9
Killdeer – 7
Eastern Kingbird – 8
Eastern Bluebird – 4
Brown Thrasher- 4
Field Sparrow – 5
Savannah Sparrow – 17
Bobolink – 60
Red-winged Blackbird – 100
Eastern Meadowlark – 9

It was a great morning. The non-avian highlight of the morning was a beautiful GRAY FOX hunting the fields!

A beautiful Gray Fox on Bauernfeind Road.

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Delaware County

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!

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Another great morning on the Neversink River!

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!

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A great day on the Bashakill!

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!

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