Things continue to happen around the county today. Shorebird numbers were down with only four species seen. One of the highlights was a very cooperative Semipalmated Plover at Apollo Plaza. He actually followed my car around. A Double-crested Cormorant at Morningside flew into the Anhinga’s spot. I wonder if I will ever again not pause when I see a similar species there. The best show of the day however, took place late this afternoon after our now daily monsoon. The rain finally abated and fourteen Great Egrets put down off Haven Road at the Bashakill! I was hoping for a pink or blue ribbon among them, but alas, none today. Another nice sighting as I watched the egrets was an adult Peregrine Falcon that flew through, raising a bit of havoc among the blackbirds as it went.
The above shot shows most of the Great Egrets as they were landing off Haven Road. Below, a poor shot of the Peregrine Falcon as it flew past.
I birded many locations today between the heavy downpours and heat and humidity. Shorebird numbers were down today. I finally ended my morning at the Bashakill where some friends (non-birders) told me they had just seen big white birds in the marsh. I easily located two GREAT EGRETS out from the Pine Boat Launch with several Great Blue Herons. I posted the birds and then moved to Haven Road. While there, I noticed another white heron fly from the Duck Blind out into the marsh. Scott Baldinger joined me shortly thereafter and I informed him of the third bird which I hadn’t been able to relocate. We spent some time, but never found it. Heavy rain continued in the afternoon, but I decided to head back down to try to find the birds again. I met Karen Miller there and we began our search under an umbrella. Soon there after, I spotted the bird in the same general area I had seen it earlier in the day. As we watched from Haven Road I told Karen the bird didn’t look right and was feeding differently. I suggested we move to the Duck Blind for a closer look. Eventually, the bird came into view after disappearing briefly and I was able to see the long thin pale bill with a dark tip. I knew the bird was actually an immature LITTLE BLUE HERON!!! I posted the bird and made a few phone calls. Scott Baldinger and Arlene Borko were able to come to see the bird. The bird remained in the same general area until 5:45 pm when it suddenly lifted off and headed high and over the Shawangunk Ridge seemingly in the direction of Ulster County. This is only the second Little Blue Heron in the county in my 26 years of birding. The last was found by Scott Baldinger and Bruce Nott in September of 2016. Have I mentioned that the last twelve days have been off the charts!! Great Birding!!
Above are a male and female Pectoral Sandpiper. Note how much larger the male (on right) is than the female. Also much more robust.
The torrential rains that continued throughout the morning dampened my birding plans for the day. I went out, but it didn’t matter where I went, the rains continued. I headed home at lunch time and once again, in short order, the sun came out. I headed back out again to see if the rain had put anything down and was not disappointed. I had 7 Killdeer at Apollo Plaza and then a Great Yellowlegs and Spotted Sandpiper at the Rondout Reservoir. I then Kayaked Morningside Park and there was a modest fallout of shorebirds there. 3 Least Sandpiper, 3 Semipalmated Sandpiper, 2 Pectoral Sandpiper, 1 Semipalmated Plover, 1 Spotted Sandpiper and 1 Solitary Sandpiper were feeding on the mud flats of the strip islands throughout the lake. It was nice sifting through them and trying for some good photos which were easily achieved. A soaker of a day that really paid off in the end.
I spent most of my morning birding Morningside Park by Kayak. It was another memorable morning, I’m just enjoying it so much this year. No Anhinga this morning. The highlight of the morning is shared. I again got to spend time with the Virginia Rail family which is just a lot of fun! I also had my FOS (actually FOY) SEMIPALMATED PLOVER in the county this morning as well. Shorebirds were in short supply, with only one each of Semipalmated Plover, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Spotted Sandpiper and Killdeer. Only Great Blue Herons, no Greens today. The rails were really the best. I think everyone will enjoy these shots!
One of the rail chicks was really cooperative this morning! Below, the mother fluffs and preens a bit.
You can almost miss the chick in the above shot!
Bashakill – I had another family of six Virginia Rails right along Haven Road, six Great Blue Heron and two Belted Kingfishers.
Many birders spent the day at Morningside with the hope that the Anhinga would return. As of nightfall, the bird never returned today. This brings up so many questions as to what is going on with this bird. Prior to today, it was last seen on 7/23. It would seem reasonable to presume that the bird hasn’t traveled too far since then considering its return to the same tree today. Unfortunately, there are so many ponds, lakes and marshes in the area that are completely inaccessible to the public, that the bird could be just about anywhere. Since my daily routine at this time of year includes kayaking Morningside, I will keep you posted should the bird return (again).
This morning I followed my usual routine and kayaked Morningside Lake. I was already there about 45 minutes when I checked out the dead spruce on the big island. I hadn’t really given a thought to the Anhinga, since I hadn’t seen it since last Monday. When I looked over, once again I was amazed to see the Anhinga sitting in its usual spot! I quickly took some photos which was very difficult due to the intense winds (10-15 mph). I then quickly posted to “Whats App” and called many people who hadn’t gotten to see it the other day. The bird remained perched for twenty minutes, then took off, circling the lake at least eight times. It then gained altitude and soared much higher for the next 15 minutes. I stayed with the bird, losing it a couple of times due to wind spinning my kayak. Finally a big gust spun me around and by the time I righted my position, I couldn’t pick the bird out in the blue sky. Hopefully it will return as many people are going to try for it again. It has to be somewhere not to far in order to show up here again. I can’t help but wonder if it might roost here at night….?
This morning I birded Apollo Plaza and Morningside Park again. The shorebird activity has changed little, a few up here and a few down there. Spending some additional time kayaking paid off this morning! I was just about to wrap things up when I spotted a juvenile Eastern Kingbird on a small stump. I figured I would approach it and get a few shots. As I neared it, a Red-winged Blackbird flew in and landed in the grass not far from it. Out of no where came a ferocious VIRGINIA RAIL!! The bird chased the blackbird all around, driving entirely out of the area. A moment later, a female Virginia Rail emerged from the dense vegetation with six chicks!! I have birded Morningside for 19 years, and kayaked it regularly for the last 8 years. I have never had a Virginia Rail here. I have often thought they should be there, but never saw nor heard them. The little family put on quite a show. I stayed with them for an amazing half hour as they foraged through the Lily Pad flat. They were mostly under the leaves which were about three inches above the ground. Photos were tough since the chicks are no larger than a ping-pong ball and they were hidden much of the time. I kept thinking I could get shots as they moved around (and did get a few) but it was tough. The parents were slightly easier. At one point, the male, who was running back and forth catching insects for the chicks became agitated once again. He flapped his wings and charged around making grunting noises. Fortunately for me, the small snake that he was upset over decided to jump out of the fern it was hiding in and right into the water. It was small, dark and very thin, only about 18 inches long. The rail was teed! He chased it through the water, it disappearing quickly before I could get a better look. Finally after some time, they disappeared into the dense ferns, not to be seen again. I was really please with what for me was a lot of fun to watch! I’ve attached a few of the shots that aren’t too bad.
The adult female above was tough to see in the Lily Pads, the chicks were nearly impossible.
Two tiny chicks cross an opening, trying to catch up to their parents on the Lily Pad flats.
When the parents finally retreated to the ferns, the first two chicks crossed to join them.
The last four chicks rush to join the family. You might note the top chick on the left has no problem using its sibling as a stepping stone to get ahead in life!