Archive for the ‘Spring’ Category

Sunrise on the Bashakill

This morning, the NYS Young Birders Club went to Sullivan County, NY for our May field trip. Our destination, the Bashakill, is probably the best birding spot in the county and can be terrific for migrants during the spring and fall. I and two particularly intrepid young birders camped (with a parent) nearby so we could start early.

So, my alarm went off at 3:30 am, and we were on Haven Rd listening for birds by 4:10. The frogs were deafening, making it hard to hear anything in the marsh, but we soon picked out Swamp Sparrow, Eastern Kingbird and Tree Swallow from the din. Soon after, an American Bittern began its characteristic deep “oong-KA-chunk” call. Because the frogs were so loud, there was some discussion with our trip leader, Lance (a superb leader, by the way), about trying a certain road nearby known for Whip-poor-wills. We decided it might be worth it. We started back toward the cars, only to stop halfway because, you guessed it, a Whip-poor-will was calling somewhere in the valley. How convenient.

It was getting light now. Wood Ducks flew by in small groups, and a small flock of Bobolinks passed over our heads. A Common Moorhen called to the north (we luckily got to see it too), and Northern Rough-winged Swallows joined the Tree Swallows already in the air.

The rest of our group arrived by 6, and we headed off to a nearby trail, the “Stop Sign Trail”, to look for migrant warblers and other songbirds. Blackpoll, Black-and-white and Yellow Warblers, plus Northern Waterthrush, were all around, but nothing compared to the loads of migrants present in the days before. It seemed as though nearly  all the migrants had left the night before we arrived. A flyby Pileated Woodpecker did lift the mood a bit.

The club looks for migrants

Lance told us not to worry, and we moved on to another area, the Nature Trail section of the Bashakill. Though there were not as many migrants here as well, there were some — Veerys and a Gray-cheeked Thrush sang as we walked in, and Canada and Wilson’s Warblers each made an appearance, among others.

Cuckoos can be hard to see, but this Yellow-billed Cuckoo was relatively cooperative

Rumors of an Acadian Flycatcher nearby prompted us to walk along the road outside the entrance to the nature trail. (more…)


Read Full Post »

A Northern Parula, one of the dozens of warblers I saw today in Central Park.

First, I must apologize for my one-month hiatus from posting. It’s not that I didn’t bird, but that the birding I did was pretty normal, and I didn’t get any good photos.

Now that it’s May, though, well, the migrant floodgates have opened! Today I spent no less than six hours birding in New York City’s famed Central Park, probably the best spot to view warblers in the northeast. Why, you ask? Well, at dawn, all the migrants flying that are caught out over the city (i.e. no habitat) head toward the only green in town – Central Park. Because of this, during May the park is often saturated with migrants.

Today I started birding at 7 with a group from Hudson River Audubon, and, though the group got off to a slow start, we finished the day with some really good birds.

A male Cape May drying itself off after taking a bath.

We had 18 warbler species:

Yellow – One
Magnolia – A few, but all too high for good photos
CAPE MAY – One stunning male bathing at the Point
Black-throated Blue – Only a couple seen, lots more singing
CERULEAN – One drab female
Black-throated Green – Many singing all around
Yellow-rumped – Abundant, more than all the others combined
Palm – One; it’s getting late for these
Prairie – A few, some viewed well. I love their song.
Blackpoll – Lots, heard everywhere we went. They’re surprisingly early, not usually seen in large numbers until mid-May.
BAY-BREASTED – One male, a bird I hadn’t gotten a satisfying look at until today
Nashville – Several, a great bird to see
Northern Parula – Abundant, the most common warbler heard
Black-and-white – Many around, next to Yellow-rump probably the warbler we saw the most of
American Redstart – Two, both females
Common Yellowthroat – A few
Northern Waterthrush – Two seen, one heard-only
Ovenbird – Several, some even walked by us on the paths

And that wasn’t even the end!

A Black-and-white Warbler


Read Full Post »

Marshlands, after the fog rolled in...

Marshlands Conservancy is the largest saltwater marsh in Westchester county and one of the only in New York open to the public — therefore it should come as no surprise that it is one of the best birding spots in the county. It’s the beginning of April, and there were some interesting birds around despite the early date. Some migrants that had just arrived in the past week or so included Eastern Towhee, Pine Warbler, and Palm Warbler, a year bird for me. Field Sparrows were singing, and American Robins were absolutely everywhere.  I checked all the sparrows that popped into view by the marsh, but all of them were Song Sparrows. Down at the water not many waterfowl came into view besides Red-breasted Mergansers and two Bufflehead.

Hiking back into the woods, I heard a strange noise. When we reached it, the source turned out to be none other than a stray cat. I worried for the Palm Warbler…

Passing an area where Great Horned Owls are known to nest, I started scanning the branches close to the trunks, trying to find the adult or two that I expected would be around. Then I noticed a dark blob in the middle of a long horizontal branch, out in the open it seemed. When I put my binoculars up, I realized it was actually a very large, dark owlet. Adult-sized, but a scruffy, dark-colored bird.owl. Turns out it was probably an adult that had just taken a bath, and not a young one…

We then reached Parson’s Island on the southeast side of the sanctuary. One of the best spots in the preserve, the marsh surrounding the island supports rails, marsh sparrows, and Marsh Wrens in the spring/summer/fall months, and views of the channel that leads to the Long Island sound often produce shorebirds, gulls, terns, and waterfowl. I was hoping to pick something good out; indeed, as soon as I stepped foot onto the island I heard a Clapper Rail calling from within the marsh. Red-winged Blackbirds displayed above the wet grasses, Killdeer called overhead, and an American Oystercatcher called from a large rock in the water. I then started scanning the flats for shorebirds. It was 10:30 am, exactly low tide, and two groups of 3 Greater Yellowlegs were visible searching for food. But then the fog rolled in. After a couple minutes it became hard to make out the birds on the other side of the channel, and not too long after it became impossible to see more than 50 feet toward the water. We waited around to see if the fog would lift, but after 20 minutes we decided to call it a day.  The birding wasn’t bad for the first few days of April.

Trying to see birds on the mudflats proved futile...

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »