This afternoon, in spite of the heat, I returned to the Bashakill with high hopes. I was pleasantly surprised at how productive an afternoon it was. I only birded Haven Road, the Orchard and the Stop Sign Trail, but birds were active everywhere. My first nice find was a visual of a Pied-billed Grebe off the bridge on Haven Road. I’ve been hearing them call recently, but his was the first I’ve seen. I then walked the Stop Sign Trail where I heard two Virginia Rails! As I headed back, the AMERICAN BITTERN began to call. I had been concerned about these birds because I’m there a lot, and I hadn’t had one in two weeks. I was really happy to hear it this afternoon. I birded the Orchard and then went to the new Duck Blind Trail. Things were active, but about the same. I headed back to my car which was parked near the Orchard. As I reached it, I heard a welcome song churry churry churry! My FOS MOURNING WARBLER! It was just about twenty feet from me in the dense roses. The bird cooperated by singing at least ten times, but no matter how I tried, I couldn’t get sight of the bird. I finally decided to head home, happy with what I had found!
I birded the Bashakill again this morning, hoping to run into something new. I had no migrants at for about the third day in a row. I did have some nice birds and some fun viewing them. At least one Least Bittern continues, this time right in the bushes along the Main Boat Launch. Still couldn’t see him though. The other ongoing birds of interest for me were the growing group of ORCHARD ORIOLES at the Deli Fields. This morning when I got out of my car, their songs could be heard all around. I immediately noted it was more than two male Orchard Orioles singing, and quickly found an adult male. He was singing from the Sycamore Stand off to the left as you enter the fields. The other two males, both first summer birds continue as well, from their previously noted locations. There was a lot of dueling song and several chases over the next hour, offering some photo opportunities. It was fun to watch and they were really emphatic about their singing with the arrival of the adult male. Orchard Orioles are likely in their highest numbers that I can recall at the Bashakill. A first summer male has been seen a couple of times on Haven Road, an adult pair numerous times at the Horseshoe Parking Area, and now four birds at the Deli Fields. It should be interesting to see how many young fledge from all these goings on.
This morning I birded the Sullivan County Grasslands. This is a wide swath of agricultural area consisting of many farms in Delaware Township. It is in no way managed for birds, but rather the actions taken by the farmers keep it a good area for them to breed. It was a good morning with many species seen, I’ll include the highlights. EASTERN MEADOWLARK (5) I think they weren’t too active today due to a light rain and breeze. BOBOLINK (100’s) very active and abundant in all locations. SAVANNAH SPARROWS (5) seen and heard singing, mostly in the Reum Road area. ORCHARD ORIOLES (2) both singing males on the Radio Tower Road. AMERICAN KESTREL (2) adult males, numbers will increase soon as young fledge and both parents are tending them. BROWN THRASHER (6) most likely representing that number of pairs. Some additional species seen and heard included Red-winged Blackbirds, Eastern Bluebird, Eastern Towhee, Song and Field Sparrows, Killdeer, Turkeys, Willow and Alder Flycatchers and Eastern Kingbirds. A single Cock Pheasant was a nice surprise. This is of course not the only area of grasslands in the county, but this is the easiest accessed and the most concentrated and productive area.
Gordon and Lori Lam came up for the day to do some birding with our local group of friends. We birded the above areas. Migration has slowed to a stop here, but there were still some good birds to be found. Before I arrived, Scott and Gordon and Lori had an adult male MOURNING WARBLER. I’ve been looking for one for some time, but it was gone before I arrived. Though many people had the Least Bitterns again this morning, they didn’t perform for us when we walked the Birch Trail. Tom and Gail came up as well, and were fortunate enough to have a Least Bittern fly across Haven Road for them! A while later the whole group, including Matt Goldowitz , Steve Altman and Karen Miller, headed to the Deli Fields where the ORCHARD ORIOLES were easily found again. There were actually two first summer males today, as well as the female. It was a nice, but warm morning. Following a nice lunch at the Wurtsboro Dinner, Gordon, Lori and I went to Linear Park to try for a Black-billed Cuckoo. Still no luck, but the birds were good. The highlight for me was finding a hen HOODED MERGANSER with six chicks on the Beaver Pond half way along the trail. This was my first record of having them breed here. A good day with good friends!
This morning I ran into Wilma Amthor on McDonald Road. She told me she had been to the Bashakill and heard an unusual call off the Birch Trail in the area where the Virginia Rails are. She imitated the sound and I knew immediately she had heard a Least Bittern. A number of people have had Least Bitterns calling at the Bashakill this spring, but I hadn’t run into them yet. I headed there when I was done and met Karen Miller. We set out along the trail and as soon as we came to open marsh on the inland side, began hearing a Least Bittern calling. We recorded it on our phones, but don’t know how to download it from the phone. We’ll figure it out. We walked a couple hundred feet farther, and had a second Least Bittern calling much closer to the trail than the first. We were quite certain it was a different bird, and it was confirmed when the first was calling in its same spot on our return walk. Three Virginia Rails and quite a few Common Gallinule were all calling in the same general vicinity as well.
The first summer male Orchard Oriole feeding in a Honeysuckle Bush.
I birded both the above locations this morning. The Bashakill was unusually quiet. I only had four birds that I could call migrants. Two Blackpoll Warblers, a Canada Warbler and a Black-throated Green Warbler. That said it was very birdy and quite active throughout the kill. The recent rains have the Bashakill filled to capacity. With the late growing emergent vegetation just above water due to the ongoing cold we’ve experienced this spring, nothing is nesting yet. This is a good thing, since nests would have been lost. With that in mind, if anyone wants to see Common Gallinules now, they can be seen just about anywhere. They are especially numerous at the south end of the kill just off the Horseshoe Parking Area. Another nice find was a second pair of ORCHARD ORIOLES! This pair consists of a first summer male and female. They were exhibiting courtship and visiting a presumed nest site. Flycatchers are in everywhere and all eight species of breeders can be found easily. Late this afternoon, I returned to the Bash to see if any Marsh Wrens had come in. I was very pleased to find my FOS YELLOW-BELLIED FLYCATCHER along the Stop Sign Trail just in from the Stop Sign. It was striking for a flycatcher and its yellow belly and throat were easily recognizable.
This morning I was headed out to the Bashakill when I got a text from Scotty Baldinger that the Orchard was jumping with warblers. I arrived to find an abundance of these birds from the Haven Road intersection all the way to the Stop Sign Parking area. I stayed here for an hour and fifteen minutes the activity was so good. I had great views of 5 Bay-breasted Warblers, 3 Tennessee Warblers, 8 Blackpolls, Canada, Magnolia and Northern Parula. There were also many vireos, especially Red-eyed. I finally pulled myself away and covered much more of the Bash. I didn’t find as much activity elsewhere, but there were still warblers around. Also seen were many thrush. I had two Swainson’s at the Nature Trail and later four thrush on the Stop Sign Trail, at least two of which were Swainson’s. The other two got into the woods before I could confirm the ID, but they were either Swainson’s or Gray-cheeked. I hiked the Stone Fields Trail later in hopes of my FOS Worm-eating Warbler, but found none. I did find Prairie Warblers on territory in the field near Stone Field Lane. I returned to the Bashakill late this afternoon still hoping for more new warblers. Instead, I found a group of roosting Common Nighthawk in the huge pines off the trail behind the ranger cabin. They were calling continually, but I couldn’t not see them. Finally, they began to take off at 4:30 pm, five of them lifting of and then circling directly about the opening in the woods just behind the cabin. Altogether I had 19 species of warbler today and a really great time!
Addendum: Scott’s group also had Nashville and Black-throated Green Warblers, which I never ran into. That brings the total of warbler species at the Bashakill today to at least 21!