Saturday, December 22, 2012

If Its Thursday I Must Be Birding #6

So I’m checking Facebook, and see that friend and fellow birder Carlos Sanchez was pining for the opportunity to come up to NY and get a few lifers from the rare ducks we have been blessed with of late.

He's looking to do a quick weekend hit and run pass through the area, and his hitlist has a lot of birds that happen to be around now. So what else could I do but offer him a place to stay and take him out birding in search of a few lifers.

We met Carlos on a trip to Ecuador back in November 2010. He showed up at a hotspot and helped us all get more birds while helping us to ID them as well. He casually inquired if he could hitch a ride with us to our next destination, and as we all enjoyed birding with him there, we unanimously told our leader Renato that it was fine with us.

Amusingly enough, it turns out that Carlos is also quite taken with aquatic plants, and he and I had an interesting discussion that elicited a "oh no, there are two of them" from the peanut gallery.

In preparation for his visit, I decided to do some scouting for the purpose of locating these goodies. I began the day with a stop at Belmont Lake stpk. Got there around 7:30, and it seems that most of the roosting geese had already left for the day. Darn. First miss. No matter, I’ll check the cemeteries later in the day.

I then beat a hasty retreat to Huntington harbor. The rout was frustratingly full of morning commuters and traffic lights. Getting to the harbor, there was construction with detours! Finally, I got to my destination, a parking lot facing the water. No other birders; never a good sign, but it was a weekday after all. I scanned up and down, and no bird. Then I checked my email, and Brent Bomkamp had reported seeing the duck at Knuson’s Marina. I made my way over there and scanned north and voila! The boatyard was active, and I was scanning from outside it, in a pagoda of sorts, though I was able to find the bird between the boats.

One of the workers was curious about what was doing, so I spoke with him, and secured permission to view and photograph the bird from the north side of the property.   

Tufted Duck
Yes! Looking south, I saw some other birders and tried waving my arms to get their attention. No dice. Having gotten a few pics and satisfying looks, I did my civic duty and went over there to let them know. Later in the day there was but one post, and that one was negative, so I don’t know if they ever found the bird. The trouble is there is limited vantage points. That and this bird also likes to leave its roost location in the semi early morning.

Next I headed for Seatauket, taking local streets again. It has been a while since I cruised 25A, it still is a wonderfully scenic route. But all those traffic lights and morning traffic made the going slower than preferred.

I found the park where the Black-headed Gull had been reported, and walked around. Beautiful. But no gull. With so much water around, I went exploring the shore roads. Two small Gulls were on the water, and my hopes were piqued a bit. They turned out to be Bonaparte’s Gulls as it would have been too crazy to have located two Black-headed Gulls, but hey, why not? Not the droid, er boid I was looking for, but with their scarcity in recent years, a pleasant find nonetheless.

I next stopped at a marina on Little Bay, and scanned. There, out in the farthest corner I spotted a Red-necked Grebe. I went to get te scope out and could not relocate it. I scanned around for a while, and then it reappeared. Of course it reprised  its disappearing act when I reached for my camera. Doh!

This area was quite picturesque, New England like even. I had never been to this little out of the way gem; birding sure brings you to nice places! So I explored even more, stopping here and there as stopping permitted. The whereabouts of the Grebe then became understood. There were flotillas of Red-breasted Mergansers hunting fish in packs; diving here, and surfacing en masse way over there. The Grebe was hunting with and without them, and it was crazy how a large bunch of birds would appear and then just as soon be gone for a long long time.

Heading back the way I came, and approaching the marina again, there was a teaming flock of Mergansers and Ring-billed Gulls feeding in what could best be described as a frenzy. Shortly they were joined by no less than six Bonaparte’s Gulls, and I dutifully scanned them, but there was not a Black-headed Gull amongst them. At first.

Yes! There it was in all it’s bright red bill and footed glory. Flying side by side, it afforded a nice size comparison as well as the dark underwings. 

Black-headed Gull flanked by Bonaparte's Gulls

Sated, I drove off to my next location, Heckscher STPK.  I spent a good time looking and walking around, but all I was rewarded with for my efforts was a lone Snow Goose. Oh well, it was a good time to go over to Wellwood Avenue and try to locate the Barnacle Goose.

Wellwood is a very busy road without a shoulder. When a driveway availed itself, I pulled in and scanned the field to the west which held copious Canada Geese. At the third driveway, I pulled into the lot of an odd little eatery called "Lets Do Lunch". It was full of tchotchkes, posters, toys and the like; out of place as this would seem appropriate for an eatery that served children but this was in an industrial area. Glaringly missing were seats and tables. Really? A restaurant without seats?

No matter. The burger was quit good, and from the steps of the establishment I got an elevated view of the field across the street and located the Barnacle Goose. We were separated by a chain-link and snow fence, so a photo was not worth it.

Even though I was risking getting stuck in rush hour traffic on the parkway, I decided to scout Hempstead Lake STPK. for possible Common Mergs. No luck, but found another lone Snow Goose.

I ended the day at Jones Beach, where like Heckscher, it was very quiet. A great day of birding though!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

What's the Point of Birding? Montauk, but of Course...

The weather reports and the birding reports were both looking really good, so much anticipation was built on the Montauk trip of 12-2-12.

A nice group of us participated. Bob and Helen met at my house, and together with Jean we made our way out east. Our first stop was at East Moriches, where heavy fog that was not forecast when I last checked the reports was a bit frustrating. We met Rich Fried {Former NYS big year champion of ~350 birds } on site, and exchanged phone numbers in the event the bird resurfaced. We also did our best to creatively morph a Common Loon or Red-throated Loon into our desired species: a Pacific Loon; present through the prior day. Sadly my transformative powers are on par with my alchemy skills, and the  loons persisted as do my lumps of plumbum. 

Moving on we stopped briefly at Hook Pond, it too covered in fog, and could not locate anything of note beyond Green-winged Teal, despite reports of Red-necked Grebe and Snow Goose. Two fellows using their noisy RC boats may have had a bit to do with it as well...

Next we stopped at the farm on Further Lane where we were not disappointed by the reports of 5 Greater White-fronted Geese in the immense Canada Goose Flock. Bob was scored a lifer by Helen picking them out, but we could not pick out anything else interesting, and we moved on.

A brief stop at Kirk Park Beach parking lot {aka the lot by the IGA supermarket} in Montauk was immediately rewarded by the location of White-winged Crossbills cavorting in the pines. Numerous Red-breasted Nuthatches were present continuing the trend of a banner year for this species, as were a few Junco and Goldfinch. A single Red Crossbill was amongst the White-winged Crossbills, and Helen scored a lifer. We then scrambled to meet the others at the point.

We joined the others behind the snack bar overlooking the ocean, and started raking up the birds. At first it seemed a bit sparse, but the birds were there minus the frigid temps, blustery winds, and shivering usually accompanying this trip. Pleasantly, the fog producing low pressure also meant that there were virtually no waves; those liquid things that make a lot of goodies so hard to find in the first place.

Some Scoters of one flavor here, another flavor there, and the last one out there was good to find. Rafts of Common Eider were about in suitable numbers, as were Oldsquaw. Both loons and Red-breasted Merganser were represented well too. Scanning the water, up to four Razorbills at a time were seen, but frequent diving made getting others on them a bit challenging.

But by far the best find of the day was by Bob who pointed out a Dovekie as it flew right in front of us, and allowed all of us to get on the bird and get terrific views. As he pointed out, sometimes it pays to look with your eyes rather than have an eyeball glued to the scope.

Moving on to Camp Hero, we found much the same seabirds and then searched for land birds in the pathetically quiet woods, then consumed comestibles. Moving on to other locations we found it relatively quiet as well.

Moving on to the east jetty of Montauk Lake, we scanned for birds. Though not absent, again, not in great concentrations either. Ian found Purple Sandpipers on the jetty, and Bob found a Great Cormorant on a buoy. Helen spied the reported Brown Pelican as it flew into the back of the ‘lake’ but before the rest of us could get on it.

We walked back to look for it and found it on a sand bar near the docks. After finishing perusing the beach which yielded no unusual gulls, we drove down the road to relocate the Pelican. I snapped a few photos, and Stu commented it was “his kind of birding” as he did not have to get out of the car to see the bird.

We stopped back at the Crossbill site for Stu and Ronnie, but as we approached I saw a flock of finch type devices wafting westward. As feared, the x-bills were not in the lot, but were in a patch of pines a bit west of there. Helen and I relocated them, but it was unfortunately too far for Stu to walk.

Back at the lot we walked across the street to the lake and found lots of coots and scored Ring-necked Duck. On our earlier visit Jean and Helen had seen a Towhee there.

With daylight fading we decided for a penultimate try at Moritches for the Loon. At mid-day, a report had come through that it had been seen. I was a bit concerned as I presumed that Rich would have located this bird and called me...

With more inauspiciousness, the fog suddenly began to appear again! WTF!! Helen and Bob tried to assuage my concern by saying that it would most probably not be at our destination, and was most probably only a local phenomenon.

Thankfully they were correct. But arriving on site and conferring with the still present Rich Fried, we learned that the earlier report was spurious; many people were looking all day and no one else has seen it either before or afterwards.

We ended the day at the end of Atlantic avenue, where our disappointment was not relieved by finding the loon in the waters around us. But the Water’s Edge restaurant opened for dinner and Ian suggested we try it as it was that time of day. We availed ourselves of their selections and all were pleased. Tasty! 

Cave Swallow Redemption, and 'Close but no Banana' Denial

Saturday Jean, Bob and I went to Staten Island for the reported 80+ Cave Swallows. All we got was cold.

It was a harsh blustery day, and our well laid plans were the topic of amusement to small rodents. But we gave it a good try, saw Turkeys on the way, as well as witnessing the aftereffect of the trouncing that unfortunate S.I. residents took at the hands of hurricane Sandy.

Birding a bit on the way back east, we stopped in at Prospect hoping to get Jean the Evening Grosbeak. Strike two. So we went for lunch. 

After lunch, we were all too dis-enthused to continue, what with the poor weather and all, we called it a day, not venturing forth to Alley for the Virginia's as planned. Mind you Jean and I had already seen it, and were very lucky at that, but Bob was still without it.

Bob and I made plans to chase the Barnacle and Greater White-fronted Goose out in Mattituck, in the morrow and we all parted company.

The next morning I awoke and discovered that an eBird report had Cave Swallows roosting on a house in Point Lookout!! After a bit of early morning, 'the coffee has not taken effect yet' discussion, it was eventually decided that I would meet Bob at Point Lookout.

He was a wee delayed so rather that meet on Lido and drive down in one car, I drove down to take a look. On an awning facing the ocean sat three Swallows!

On arrival I told him to drive right down and meet me. When he pulled up, he was busy trying to maneuver into a parking position, but I insisted that he stop and simply look out the passenger window. Too easy. With our experience the previous day, no wonder he thought it would be more of an effort.

We also got  nice looks at Harlequin ducks and numerous Oystercatchers, and then decided to try for geese out east. There were Cackling, Barnacle and Greater White-fronted all on one small lake on the north fork.

Finding the lake was easy, and we pulled up and started to scan. Several sweeps and it was clear that the birds sought were elsewhere. After a spell, we cruised down the road and checked a few other places for lounging geese. A few here and there, but a lot of inaccessible areas. 

We headed back and scanned again. Nope. a few geese flew in, a few flew out. that's how it went for quite some time. Another exploration and when we returned met up with a couple who told us about an Eurasian Wigeon  just down the road. 

Scanning the little harbor, a 'red headed' duck came into view. Bob was excited, as he wanted Redhead for the year, and was ironically disappointed at it being the much rarer Eurasian Wigeon. Ah, the vagaries of birders...

Another stop back at Maratooka lake, and still no targets. We headed off for a lunch. On the way we saw an immense blackbird flock, and stopped in an anachronistic diner for a tasty repast.

And back to the lake. Nope yet again. Next we tried the very end of the road and the bay. Beautiful scenery, Scoters and Oldsquaw, Horned Grebe. A pit stop and a cup of coffee, and then finishing scanning, back to the lake.

No geese. There were even less geese than had come in to rest before. We gave it til 4:30, when the sun set, and then decided to check the surrounding farm fields and their flocks. 

At first we discovered a flock obscured by a berm and it appeared promising. But no luck. And so it went, as did the remaining sun light, and we headed home. 

Later that night I got a 'Don Henley' email.

I got the email today, 
I didn't wanna read 
But I knew that it would come  
An old friend of ours had posted on facebook
She said you found some birds...

It appears that shortly after Bob and I had departed, some folks who had been there earlier returned at last light to watch 1000+ Canada Geese come in to roost replete with Barnacle, Greater White-fronted, and Cackling. 


{ Bob, doh is the opposite of sweet }

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Tuesday Prospects

Sometimes, it seems like Brooklyn gets all the good birds. Of course, sometimes the good birds they get are actually in Queens, but hey, its all good.

Now that the Red and White-winged Crossbills and even Common Redpoll had been seen, how good is an Evening Grosbeak coming to a feeder station in Prospect Park? I had to find out. And it would be a lifer for Bob too.

The plan was to find this bird and then try for the elusive Virginia's Warbler in Alley. Arriving at the bridge overlooking the Audubon house, we ran into Rob Bate, wo pointed out an immature White-crowned Sparrow below us in the 'falls'.

Rob also told us that he had not seen the Grosbeak there, though had seen it at the feeders, which he obligingly led us to. It was rife with Goldfinch and Siskins, as well as a lot of the more expected species.

But we had to wait a while, and it was worth it. The female / imm Grosbeak arrived and we were happy to see it, even if it meant a way too rapid drive to try to get to work on time, and no time to even consider Alley...

Will we ever find that warbler?

The Finches That Stole Away to Visit us!

Crossbills!!  Who doesn't pine for crossbills? Unfortunately for them, the pine crop was not suitable and they hit Kingbird Region 10 hard! Reports started showing up for White-winged Crossbills here and there, and then finally Red Crossbills started being reported as well.

Some of the first reports of reliable flocks were taking place at Hecksher STPK. Sunday morning 11-18 on the way to take care of some errands, Bob called to inquire about going out and seeing these beasts. We agreed to touch base later in the day.

After completing our tasks, a quick check of the 'internet tubes' revealed that both crossbills were currently being seen at Jones Beach west end 2. A quick call to Bob and plans were changed to facilitate a much shorter trip.

Jean and I arrived ahead of Bob and viewed the birds at the Coast Guard station. Impressive numbers of Oystercatchers were present, but we learned that the birds we sought were actually at the west end 2 median turnaround pines. This info was gathered from Ian and Donna, who were concluding a QCBC trip with Lou, that was lack luster so they came here and had a brilliant finish with both x-bills.

Jean and I moved to the other location and told Bob to meet us there. We ran into Lloyd S. and David S. { but different S's} who repeated what everyone else had been saying: the birds were repeatedly returning to the same pines; wait a bit and they'll return....

Bob eventually arrived with Lisa L. momentarily delayed by looking for the car I was not in. We all took off to the median, and did not see any birds. After a while I suggested that we head towards the Coast Guard station and look for them, and along the way we had Harrier and at least two Coopers Hawks that were probably as good an excuse as to why the birds were scarce as any.

Being with three people of limited bladderial ability, we headed back to W/E 2 in hopes that the restrooms were open. A short perusal of the swale and I was itching to get back to the median. Bob, who had lagged behind, called me to let me know that a few crossbills had landed in the trees right in front of him; pretty much where we parked our cars!

We went over, but our arrival made the birds depart. no matter, we walked back into the median and to the other side where I spied a flock of birds at the top of some denuded deciduous trees. Crossbills!

When we got closer, we were able to discern mostly White-winged, and then a flock of Reds. A few birders commented that this was the first time that they had seen a mixed flock like this, and to me it was a delight.

Other prevalent birds were Red-hatch, and Goldfinch. We followed the flocks around for some time, and were able to be quite close at times. And then moving with but stopping alone, and at the top of a nearby pine, perched a Common Redpoll! In my excitement I tried to get the other three on the bird, and succeeded! The bird's patience had been tested though; and while everyone got a great look, i could not swing my camera up in time to get off a shot. Oh well, everyone saw it and Bob and Lisa scored a lifer! And for Bob that was lifer three for the day, in addition to the two crossbills.

Saturday @ Kissena...

With reports of Grasshopper Sparrow at Prospect and now Kissena, I went looking after work on Saturday 11-17. The 'Corridor' was over run with Sparrows!! Of course this makes picking through them a bit of a challenge, but it was interesting to see so many junkies. 

In the mix were a few chippies, and then a bird that was not quite right: a Clay-colored! Nice! And even nicer was a plethora of Fox Sparrows; easily 40 or so. I tried to see if I could make one into a Slaty Fox Sparrow, seeing how there were so many, but could not. 

Clay-colored Sparrow -- Note: eye-stripe does NOT go from eye to bill, only from eye back
While walking the trails the sunlight was just perfect hitting the family of Bluebirds, making for a delightful sight.

Finally, had a Tree Sparrow, adding this bird to my year list before heading home.

On the way stopped in at Caumsett STPK. Neither of the goodies previously reported there were in evidence, but had a nice flock of Pipets .

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Calm After the Storm

Hurricane Sandy: not calmative.

Chasing a rarity and getting added bonuses: a welcome respite.

Ambivalence, fatigue, and more important responsibilities get in the way of forthright planning. An earlier in the evening call from Bob Haze was left open ended as gas shortages and long trips don’t mix that well. But after 10:30 pm Saturday night Jean LeconteSparrow decided that she really wanted to chase the Northern Lapwings [2!] that were in Montauk, so it was set that she would meet me at my house at 7am or so,  such that we could get out there at a reasonable time and then high tail it back into Queens for the Virginia’s Warbler.

I was beat after spending all day and into dark sawing trunks and piling wood from the tree that fell and hit my house in hurricane Sandy. I fared relatively well; the tree hit the roof, damaged windows, and removed the siding from [ where else?] the side of my house. It also destroyed my fence. I’m thankful compared to what befell others.

Being a large old oak, it took quite a bit to cut up, stack up, and clean up. And I’ve still have a ways to go. But after a long day of doing that, birding seemed like a nice change of pace. Hooking up with Earic Miller and Jeff Critter was one of the other options Jean discussed, but by this time it was too late to call all the others and we decided to journey on our own.

We made good time getting to Montauk, and when we got near town Jean touched base with Earic & Jeff to see where they were. They were a short distance ahead of us, having stopped at a bathroom facility for a break, and found it closed but with a consolation prize of pine trees full of White-winged Crossbills!

In the excitement of the birds, Jeff could not decide which shoes to don, so he put on one of each.

After getting nice looks and photos, we continued on to Deep Hollow for the Lapwings. Earic got a call saying they had the birds, and where they were exactly. It was in a field way in the back of Deep Hollow ranch, as viewed from Theodore Roosevelt county park.

We walked the trail on the oddly hilly section of Montauk, doing our best to dodge the omnipresent piles of horse poo. Arriving on location, we were told they were spooked and just left [!] but that they would be back. Then shortly thereafter we got a call they were a short ways away in the south horse pasture, so we trudged all the way back and drove the short distance over. Of course, the birds chose the far end of the field. We got scope views, then closer scope views when we got to the other end, and then the birds took off again. This was repeated all day - they being particularly skittish.

I needed a bathroom break, so we headed to Montauk STPK, where they have stopped collecting the off-season parking fee, probably finally figuring out that they were paying the attendant more than they were taking in. Pleasantly, the old though perfectly serviceable bathroom facility has been replaced with a nice new one, and more important, it was open.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, we scanned the flock of Canada Geese and located a Cackling Goose! Wow, I said to myself, three great birds. Then Seth O'phaga-Ausable announced that he found a “Dusky” Canada Goose in the flock! It was noticeably darker than the other birds, but most prominent was the uniform dark brown on the upper belly where it joins the black of the neck as distinguished from the nominate Canada Geese where this section is noticeably lighter than the sides and belly. Cool!

Shortly, Earic called and said the birds returned to the original location and Jean and I trudged back to get better views. There they were in the field, but a group of horse riders came by and they were up again. I got some shots, mostly bad, and in flight.

On the way back to the car, a call came in that a Brewers Blackbird had been found by wunderkind Michael McBrien at Rita’s horse farm. We headed over there. Assembled at the fence was a group of birders, and the bird was pointed out but it proved to be quite distinct and easy to spot. At first glance my initial impression was female cowbird due to it’s coloration. Behaviorally, this bird walked about with a unique posture; it’s wing tips held dipped down below it’s back and with the tail slightly cocked up. The latter was also somewhat similar to how cowbirds can present, but the bill was wrong, as was it’s walking behavior.

Wow, can it get better than this? We made a brief foray to try to relocate some Evening Grosbeaks that had been seen the day before, but Jean reminded me that time was a wasting and we had to go if we wanted to get the Virginia’s Warbler. Now wouldn’t that make for a heck of a day....

On the way we stopped at the Clam Shack for a quick bite for lunch. Jean had been lamenting not having had a lobster roll in some time so we indulged. Yummy! As was the Toasted Lager that accompanied this savory repast - a well deserved celebratory beer. We then high-tailed it back to Queens.

Reports indicated that the bird had been seen throughout the day, but we struck out. And no, with the morning we had, I was not disappointed. We also dipped on the Saw-Whet owl seen the day before, but that’s the way the karma crumbles.

We headed back out to the island - on the way discussing options. I posited that Tuesday am would be best for me, after an appointment for an estimate on the home repair, while Jean insisted that we leave early Monday to get the bird.

I am glad to have observed Jean's suggestion. Arriving about 8:30am, we found a small group of birders on the path parallel to 73rd Avenue. They reported that the bird had been seen earlier, and was making its way west, though as skulkers are want to do, not easy to follow or keep track of. 

About 15 minutes later or so, a small flock came about and Michael McBrien came through again; I had previously told Jean we should stick close to him, as he will probably be the one to spot the bird. He did not disappoint. I inquired of Micheal’s dad  and chauffeur: “ what do you feed that kid? And can you feed me some?”

A few poor looks and finally a brief but adequate look at this desired bird, both Jean and I were sated. I got a quick post off to the ‘NY list’ and a resultant inquiry from Shane Blodgett who was on his way. Finally after a bit of lingering I tore myself away and headed off to the office.

     Two state birds: Brewers Blackbird, Virginia's Warbler.

     Three year birds: Northern Lapwing, White-winged Crossbill, Cackling Goose.

     One life subspecies: Dusky Canada Goose  Branta canadensis occidentalis


Friday, October 26, 2012

If its Thursday, I Must be Birding #5

Well, it would be great if it were as easy as: "Its Thursday. Lets bird!" But life and responsibilities have a way of getting in the way of things we would rather do. 

So I had planned to take care of the fallen leaves on Tuesday morning, but my mower had other plans. It died. Couldn't restart it, and coupled with the cracked housing decided it was time for a new one. 

Did a bit of research, picked a candidate, and on the way home Wednesday stopped at the store to pick it up. They had already put the mowers away, and put out the snow blowers. I said to the clerk: "You're kidding me! there's no snow, and there is plenty of leaves on the ground still." We checked the shelves where they had been stashed, but the model I wanted was nowhere to be found. 

He checked the store computer, which said it was not in stock, so I checked their website that said it was. At that point we were joined by a manager, who took over. She was very pleasant and apologetic, and offered to order the non in-stock item, and give me a 10% discount to boot. I thanked her, and said that I already had a 10% coupon I was planning on using for the purchase - so she made it 20% and that I could keep the coupon for something else. Nice!

But the leaves don't pick themselves up... So the next day I got up early to use the leaf blower that takes a lot longer, and the leaves are left on the ground. Eventually, I herded the huge mound into the backyard by my compost pile, and set upon my other overdue tasks.

The phone rings, its Bob Haze gloating about his standing in front of a Barnacle Goose in Prospect Park. Groan. I thank him, but with miles to go, cannot join him for a desired bird.  

Back to work, I remove the gunked up fertilizer in my drop-spreader, and finally apply my feed, put down seed, and set up a sprinkler. Phew. Time for lunch. The phone rings again. this time it is Earic Miller setting out for Kissena Park with Bobby Veltree. Groan. I still have a task or two to complete, and it will take some time to get from home to Queens. 

Finally done, I decide to stop in at Alley Pond Park for the Vesper Sparrow reported by Steve Walnut. It was on the way, and probably as likely a find as the one reported by Dr. Pinky in Kissena. Touching base with Earic, it had not been located, so I firmed my plan.

Of course I was overly optimistic, hoping to be able to score the VESP and then head off to Brooklyn. {traffic, what traffic??} Arriving at the intersection Steve described, I exited my car to walk in the park as I observed a jogger running up the road in my direction.

He proceeded to jog past me, up the same path I was headed to, and then went out into 'the field' stopping pretty much where Steve said he had had the bird, and commenced doing jumping jacks! 

Bluebird on post to right
Man doing jumping jacks on a Vesper Sparrow to left

{expletives removed to protect your sensibilities} What are the chances? Really! So I began to walk about, looking for this and any other birds about. On the back-stop, Bluebirds alighted and one by one found pretty much the same mix of birds as Steve had the day before. 

Coming upon a large Junco flock, I scanned them for anything non Junco, and only found some Chipping Sparrows. In the hedge rows were numerous White-throated Sparrows, with one Swamp Sparrow mixed in.

Having circles the field a few times, I was vesperless. And then I noticed Steve Walnut had shown up again to see if he could himself relocate the bird. He was gratified to see that the post was of value; not sure if folks wanted to know about Vesper sightings. 

We walked the fields again, hoping that we would kick it up. At one point, we had a good candidate that had been sulking in the short grass. we followed it to the large oak it had sought refuge in, and locating a Savannah Sparrow, Steve commented that trees were not the likely place to find this, or Vespers for that matter.

We found a Swainson's Thrush, and not much else so we returned to the original area of the sighting, the jumping-jacks dude having called it a day. Looking up in the tree, Steve calls out: "there it is!"  and I said: " I thought you said Vespers don't like trees" Go figure.

Good looks at the bird were obtained, and then it resumed feeding in the spot in the field where Steve had found it the day before, now that it was unoccupied.

Steve wasn't sure if people would be interested in this species being reported. For my part I can say that they occur every year but in such low numbers that they are more desired; at least by me.

Birds that you have to work harder for are more desirable, no? Its not like you see a flock of 50 or so like with White-throats or Juncos.

I like Vespers so much that I finally tracked one down this past May where they are known to breed on long island.  Having been there numerous times in the past but dipping, a report had me try again, since it gave landmarks. Yes, same place I had always tried.

Parked the car, and walked up the road, then down the road. Back and forth a few times, but if they were there, they sure were hiding well. The other birds were obvious and about, but Vespers?  Finally I headed back to the car. And wouldn't you know it, there, on the fence, adjacent to the car, was a Vesper. Doh!


1. A bell that summons worshipers to evening prayer.
2. The evening star, especially Venus.
3. Archaic Evening.
4. a most desired sparrow

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

How Much Wood Would a Wood Sandpiper Pipe...

It was a busy day for me on Saturday the 13th. After work in the morning I had several errands to run. After a quick stop to fill up the tank it was food shopping and the all important beer run.  After putting away all the items, I had only a few minutes left to run to the store where sunflower seeds were on sale before they closed. Arriving as they were putting away display items, I caught the manager as he wheeled the bags back to the store room. When I asked if I could get some, he looked at the pile on the cart and asked: “how many do you want, six?” “Yes...”, I said. “...If that’s okay with you”. His eyes widened a bit. “We have more if you need” he offered, but took only the six for now.

At home, I went about prepping the back yard for a long overdue set up of my feeders. First step, mow the grass. Un-mowed grass requires much less water, but it makes it that much harder to see my ‘dinner guests’. I put out sunflower and mixed seed and suet, and then began to prepare dinner for myself. Fortunately I didn’t need to sit on a perch to eat!

Tasks completed, food prepared, I turned on the TV,  grasped my fork, and started my email app to catch up. It’s now 7pm, and I can say ahhh.... the comfort of my dining room chair. Scanning the email headers, my eye caught a header from one of the NJ lists with the header mentioning an extralimital bird. My interest piqued, I clicked it presuming that the bird was going to be in Pennsylvania. To my surprise it was in Rhode Island - and what a bird! It was the report of a Wood Sandpiper - a potential lifer!!

For the uninitiated, this is an Eurasian species with only 5 previous lower 48 sightings.

Very Cooperative Wood Sandpiper In Jamestown RI 10-14-12
The report pointed to the RI lists, where there was some postings but precious few. They did offer a few pictures a map and a video! And as I am reading this eyes growing wider, the phone rings. Jean was calling to see if I had seen the post, literally just after I had opened it. She had already discussed it with Earic Miller but seemed to think he might have trouble getting away for the day. I got a call from Gary Strauss who was also thinking of chasing, and we decided to coordinate to best car pool. Calling Jeff Critter next, I was surprised that he was on the fence about chasing this bird. So I called Avian Resnick and surprise surprise, all he wanted to know was what time were we leaving.

It shaped up that it would probably be the three of us going, though another call from Jean suggested Earic might try harder to get away. And then he called to let me know that he, Jeff, and Gary were going to go, but curiously, thought leaving early like I planned was ~too~ early. Well I was stumped by that one, as they are often out birding very early and I am the one preferring a later start. But be that as it may, we couldn’t all fit in one car anyway.

My next task was to contact a few people who had contacted me about the trip I was leading to Hempstead Lake STPK, for QCBC. One expressed the opinion that if we had a trip, that it should be adhered to, because some people just show up anyway. I pointed out that we have announced at every meeting that those who are participating will be out of the loop if plans change so contact leaders, and one of the reasons plans change besides weather is if something really good shows up. We are a birding club after all. In most cases we may change the location from one venue to another, have an earlier or later starting time, move the meeting location, or substitute leaders. In this case it was patently obvious that most if not all the participants would be headed to RI rather than to this trip. This also meant no one to substitute for me as leader. Oh well, thats the way the birding gods crumble cookies.

All that was left now was to contact Bob Hayes. All his calls went to voicemail, and even a call to his home # was routed to his cell, that went to voicemail. I also knew that he rarely if ever checks his email, so the email I sent out to let anyone else who was secretly planning on showing up, would not be a reliable way to contact him. Several calls, no answer. I sure hoped he would check his phone, presuming he had not misplaced it again.

Got a few final confirmatory calls, it was going to be Jean, Avian, and I. So I decided that perhaps we could move departure time up to 5:30 and neither Jean nor Avian complained - go figure.

Plans set, I consulted field guides, maps, and left everything needed by the front door. I have always found that thinking is more difficult in the morning, so rather than do so and risk forgetting something, I typically do so the night before while I am more awake.

Before it got too late, I got into bed, only to be startled by the phone; Bob had seen I had called. He was at a wedding reception, he could not hear the phone ring, but he was interested in joining us... until he heard when we were leaving. His plan to be at the reception until at least 1:30 meant meeting us was for all intents and purposes out of the question. But at least he didn’t find out about the change of plans upon his arrival at Hempstead lake.

The three of us met as planned the next morning and got off to a good start. Along the way it was raining, and I felt this did not bode well. We arrived on location and despite the monumental rarity, I was perplexed that there were not throngs of folks around. What is worse, no group was intently looking in one direction...

Parking, we inquired of those there if there was any word on the bird. Nope. But one fellow looked at my car and exclaimed QCBC!? He and his mom had been members years ago when they lived in Queens. It was nice catching up.

The day before the bird had been seen in a wet spot adjacent to the busy road, and also later in the day deeper in the marsh. Seeing that no one had the bird by the road, we took a shot out in the marsh. Bad idea. It was windier out there, and the trails were thick with briar. After a short spell, we headed back. The fierce wind was keeping most birds down, though we saw a few struggling Goldfinch, Bluejays, and Herons. 

AvIan walking past the shallow pools where the bird had been first found
I conversed with a few folks; many of whom lived in the area and were only stopping by for a short time - other responsibilities dictating their presence elsewhere. I also caught up with some folks from Massachusetts, and members of the Brookline Bird Club. While we were conversing one of the fellows phone rang, and he turned to look at the people standing at the “first” location, one of whom was wildly waving his arms. YES!

I ran over as fast as I could and there was the bobbing beastie! Like a Solitary Sandpiper it was shaking its money-maker. But obvious was the cappedness, lack of obvious eye-ring, and the yellow legs. No bout a doubt it, here was the bird we sought!

With great looks at close range ca 25', and even better scope views, I ran back to the car to get my camera, and ran back hoping to get a few shots. Though walking relatively quickly, the bird was for the most part cooperative. Jean called the others still on their way  to let them know that the bird showed up. 

Elated with my success in scoring a lifer after a long sabbatical, now I suffer from tringa disco phobia: the fear that someone saw me do the 'happy dance' when I got the life bird. 

 And then a short time later the bird up and flew away, being carried east by the gusting wind. I set off to find the Tri-colored Heron that was in the same marsh; a needed year bird for me. No luck. 

On the way back, we met up with the others. They were noticeably in less than our jubilant spirits, perhaps pondering the “YSHBH constant.” I inquired of Seth Ausubel, why they thought departing later was better than earlier [ as is most often the case ] and he said that he had been given ‘sage advice...’ I offered that thyme would have been a much better spice to use.

As we were departing Earic announced and pointed out the Tri-colored Heron, and I was able to see it before it disappeared into the tall marsh grass. We then made a hasty retreat. Partially disappointed that we did not have more time to explore and bird, I had an appointment at APEC to present to their board a short presentation on QCBC.

On the way back, Avian checked his email, and saw that Donna Queensgirl Schulman had actually emailed him last night about chasing this bird, but he had not checked it that night or before departure. Oh well, there would have been room for one more...

All things considered, we made good time, heading back towards NY by 11am. Arriving at 2:30 we heard the end of the APEC Board presentation, and then they introduced me. I go first? I asked. No, you go last, every one else made their presentations earlier! Well, better late than never, and my ad lib was well received. We then saw a presentation by a rehaber with Owls, Hawks, Turtles and Possums, had a refreshment, and beat a hasty retreat home. A long day for sure!

The first thing I wanted to do was check out my photos, and retrieved my email too. Zoinks! Donna had sent both Avian and I that same email, and neither he nor I had checked it before turning in for the night. Oh well, the moral of the story is the next time a good bird shows up call, email and text people!

From the RI RBA:    A WOOD SANDPIPER was found at Marsh Meadows in Jamestown on the 13th, seen all day, and relocated on the 14th, in the same area. This is a MEGA rarity, as  it is just the 5th record for the lower 48 states. It was found on the east side  of the marsh, visible from North Road. It moved around a bit, going behind  Zeke's bait shop on the west side of the road. (thanks to Carlos Pedro for this  fantastic find)

more of my pix here

Monday, September 24, 2012

Sunday in the Park with Rob, {and George was there too.}

Brooklyn birding is quite different than birding in Queens. Truly an urban location, unlike Queens where a car is more de rigueur, a whole cadre of birders makes extensive use of all that Prospect Park has to offer; bird and otherwise.

But Brooklyn birding is different in other ways: for example when you hear an American Crow call out “cah cah”, much like a Bostonian, is it actually saying ‘car car’  - perhaps mocking the Brooklynites who for better or worse don't have cars.  It is rumored that the occasional Raven visitor even says "never more" in reference to the use of public transportation. Not sure if a tree grows in Brooklyn, but Green Birding sure does.

True, Prospect Park has so much to offer and with Brooklyn's proximity to Manhattan a car is often superfluous, the result is that it has taken the Brooklyn birder and made them into a special breed.

A semi-annual QCBC trip was held Sunday September 16th and CityBirder Rob Jett generously offered to lead the trip for us. We had quite the turnout. 21 people in fact! It began as a beautiful day; though we were waylaid by coin operated toilets!

Several participants of the female persuasion tried to avail themselves of the fancy coin operated ‘out-house’ but just about got trapped inside. While waiting we had the first good birds of the day, Chimney Swifts!

The park was hopping! Swainson's Thrushes were abundant in the undergrowth, and it was heartwarming to see the trees swarming with warblers and vireos. Entering the Rose Garden, we spied numerous birds in the surrounding trees such as Redstarts, Revios, Magnolia Warblers, Black & Whites.

Continuing onto the Vale of Cashmere, we also had a lot of  Parula and Chestnut-sided. Of course Rob was spotting Pairyuluz, which confused some of our participants. But as I explained, they pronounce things differently out west

We went to the Aralia Grove, and though it was past peak, we still had some nice sightings. On the way to the Ravine, I spotted an imm. BC Night Heron, but not much else in the duck-weed coated ponds. We were hoping to see Wood Duck and Blue-winged Teal, but the reports of their presence were not all they were quacked up to be.

Watch Hill and the butterfly garden was nice, with BG Gnatcatchers and Goldfinches. Of course one might have said that Red-breasted Nuthatches were the most desired bird of the day, but this was because they were all over the place and a few of our participants had a bit of difficulty getting on them. Fortunately, as stated they were abundant that day, and all over, so everyone got a look. Better late than never!

Taking the steep trail down the hill, we looked for and missed Purple Finch; that is until most of us were already down the hill. I ran back up, and was treated to two gorgeous males devouring the seed heads of Wild Lettuce. Sure, you call it a vile weed to be picked from your garden, but the birds were silent on the issue, perhaps because they don’t speak with their mouths full!

Rob ended his tour by taking us to the berm, where we hoped to get Olive sided Flycatcher. What we did get were killer views of a Bay-breasted Warbler replete with bay coloration, a trio of Palm Warblers, and quite the show from a Red-tailed hawk.

The hawk cued up in a pine in front of us, and totally ignoring the person walking down the path, flew right past him on the way to pounce on something in the grass. The passerby hardly seemed to notice, but we were all wowed. The Red-tailed missed though.

At this point the trip concluded. A few of us stopped for a snack at the Boathouse / Audubon Center. On the way down the narrow path we spied a Wilson’s {Orthodox} Warbler and watched as it made it’s way down the trail. With confusion over how much yarmulke the bird was sporting we discovered that there were actually two birds; an adult and a young bird with only partial black on the head.

Sitting by the waters side, a Kestrel flew by as we enjoyed our snacks. Sated, we headed towards our cars at the north end. Along the way we spotted much the same mix, and Jean and I decided to hang out a bit at the Vale of Cashmere.

We were joined again by Monica, and we had a nice bit of additional birds. Tennessee Warbler was my favorite. We also had a lot more Vireos; mostly Red-eyed but also a few Blue-headed and Warbling, and one Philadelphia.

The trees also sported a number of flycatchers. Some were those pesky Empids, and a few Pewees, but Jean picked out a Olive-sided as well. It had dark flanks, but was as flittery as warblers usually are, and while I saw the dark vest well, was hoping to see the white spots which I missed, not to mention having it sitting cued up at the top of a snag the way they usually do!

Beginning birder Lili wanted confirmation on the Olive-sided, and I hemmed and hawed a bit too much for her Jean later informed me. She asked because it would have been a lifer for her.  As no one had the most perfect look, I did not want to make that decision for her and told her as much. Sorry Lili. Yes It was a OSFL, but if it were me I would have termed it a BVD { better view desired} had I even decided to count it as a lifer for myself.

Getting hungry, we headed out of the park. It turned out that this Sunday was “Food Trucks at the Arch” and Jean and I decided to partake. It was a really pleasant ‘city’ experience, particularly the people watching. We later made one more foray into the park, but much of the birds were the same as seen earlier.

   Black-crowned Night-Heron
   Sharp-shinned Hawk
   American Kestrel
   Herring Gull
   Rock Dove
   Mourning Dove
   Chimney Swift
   Downy Woodpecker
   Northern Flicker
   Olive-sided Flycatcher
   Eastern Wood-Pewee
   Eastern Phoebe
   Great Crested Flycatcher
   Carolina Wren
   House Wren
   Gray Catbird
   Northern Mockingbird
   Swainson's Thrush
   Wood Thrush
   American Robin
   Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
   Black-capped Chickadee
   Red-breasted Nuthatch
   White-breasted Nuthatch
   Blue Jay
   American Crow
   European Starling
   Blue-headed Vireo
   Warbling Vireo
   Philadelphia Vireo
   Red-eyed Vireo
   Tennessee Warbler
   Northern Parula
   Chestnut-sided Warbler
   Magnolia Warbler
   Black-throated Blue Warbler
   Black-throated Green Warbler
   Blackburnian Warbler
   Pine Warbler
   Palm Warbler
   Bay-breasted Warbler
   Blackpoll Warbler
   Black-and-white Warbler
   American Redstart
   Northern Waterthrush
   Common Yellowthroat
   Wilson's Warbler
   Scarlet Tanager
   Northern Cardinal
   Rose-breasted Grosbeak
   Purple Finch
   American Goldfinch
   House Sparrow

Friday, September 14, 2012

If its Thursday, I Must be Birding #4

After a whole slew of more responsibilities than time could accommodate, the dust has been starting to clear. With reports of some great birds in New Jersey, and a conveniently placed Thursday, I tried in vain to assemble a posse. Gosh darn work and doctor's appointments...

Almost as good as a co-conspiritor, Donna Schulman provided me with information and updates both before and during the day. Most important, one of her contacts confirmed that the Tern had been seen...

Setting off bright and early at 5 am, I made my way to my first target: a Crested Caracara that had been haunting a farm field in Windsor, Mercer County. Normally found in Texas or Florida, a few have been wandering lately. The current thinking is that this is a 'countable' bird, not and escapee or other undesirable.

The only nice thing to be said for leaving so early, is missing all the %#@^!^) traffic. Which is not to say that I missed it all, but satisfyingly less people who were not quite sure where they were going.

see map: 

Arriving on location, I spied two other birders set up just across from the dirt road into the abandoned farm, neither of whom had their glasses up. 1st bad sign. Upon joining them, one birder, a local, said that he had seen the bird at 6:30 am, but that it took off too parts unknown shortly thereafter. The other birder was from Bucks County PA, and he was here having missed it a few times already...

So we scanned the fields for some time and chatted hoping that the bird would fly back in, sooner than on other days, which was in the evening.  As time passed, more birders arrived. Amongst them were two college students from Princeton, who said their professor had told them about the bird.

More time passed, more birders arrived. Looking at 'Loretta' I was able to see that there was other favorable habitat not too distant as the Caracara flies. Some folks walked south towards the Beth Chaim Synogogue, while I exchanged cell #'s with others. The bird had also been seen on nearby Old Trenton Road, and it was worth a shot, as was Mercer County Park which was in the direction the first birder had said the bird flew off in.

Before I left, the two college students came back, asking for scopes as they had a candidate on a chimney a ways away, but could not resolve it through their glasses. A group of us walked back with them, set up scopes, only to find that the bird in question was an Americrow. The student looked at us sheepishly for his well intensioned but ultimately hope-dashing effort. So I smirked as I inquired: "That Princeton, is it one of those Ivy-league schools..."

Exchanging phone numbers with Fred, I was going to try some other places and was about to leave when with ultimate redemption, the same young fellow saw a bird off in the distance that this time ~was~ the Caracara! Amusingly, had we stayed where we were we would have had it right in front of us, so we all walked all the way back to where we started from. Timing is everything!  Of course, this was another example of one of the "Universal Birding Laws": The Coast Is Clear Law.

As is distance and sun position. No one wanted to enter the presumed private property, nor worse, scare off the bird,  so we photographed from Village Road East. Nice! But the photos were distant and poorly lit. Oh well, I am happy just to have seen the bird.

Crested Caracara on a stick
As the crowd contemplated what to do next, having succeeded in getting this highly prized target, I mentioned the Elegant Tern of Sandy Hook. Sandra Keller, having not seen that bird decided to meet me there and take me up on my offer to share my telescope.

Loretta guided me via route this and route that while Sandra took the highways, and longer trip. We met up within a few minutes of each other, I having just started down the trail to the beach. While walking I was treated to Field Sparrow and Magnolia Warbler, and a Commonthroat that I tried to bend into a Connecticut Warbler but could not.

Sandra caught up to me as I approached the beach, and togeteher we slowly approached the group of resting Common Terns, Sanderlings, and Skimmers resting by a 'tidal cut'. This was an area where water was slowly flowing out of the high tide's flooding of a low area in the dunes. Fortunately, it was mere inches deep; but at high tide may have to be waded across. This spot is the western of the 2 sighting markers.

see Sam Galick's map:

We scanned the birds to no avail. Shortly, two fisherman approached from the other side and as anticipated they put the birds up. They were helpful though, telling us where they had heard that the bird was most frequently. Encouraged, we walked on.

We picked up a few Black-bellied Plovers on the way, and also crossed paths with two other birders who had not had any luck.  The four of us walked down the beach, and I picked out a juvenile Bonaparts Gull with the Juvenile Laughing Gulls. But no Tern. That is no Elegant Tern, but we did manage to find a few imm. Black Terns.

Walking further on we made our way to the eastern of the 2 sighting markers, where we watched Bluefish in a feeding frenzy no more than 25' from shore, as well as Gulls and Terns taking advantage of all the concentrated bait fish. What a sight!

We decided to head back after a time, and found the two other birders checking the birds at the 'first' spot. No luck. There was one odd bird there though, a young Common Tern I had initially mistaken for a Black Tern, but was in fact coated with Ulva - Sea Lettuce. After getting a look in my book at what the target bird was supposed to look like, the two of them departed.

Unfortunately for them, shortly after their departure I picked the bird out of the crowd eliciting an exhuberant if not a wee bit embarrasing exclaimation from Sandra. I told her it was a perfectly okay response after having had an eyegasm.

Feeling a tad guilty that the others had just missed the bird, I informed Sandra that this was an example of another of the "Universal Birding Laws": The Sacrificial Lamb Law. We owe them a jar of mint jelly.

We enjoyed the bird as it hung out on the shore near the rest of the mixed flock, and watched as it caught small fish. What a great day of birding.

Elegant Tern with snack

Friday, June 15, 2012

DoodleBash 2012

DoodleBash is a trip I look forward to every year. I suggested it a few years back and it has proven a great way to enjoy two fantastic upstate locations. I arrived at Av-Ian Resnick’s place on time, but he must not have thought so because he and Helen ‘Hemlock’ Wheelock who he had just picked up from the train station appeared to be trying to get a bit of birding in at Oakland Lake until I ‘arrived’.

Said Farewell To My Last Bobolink, It Never Made Much Of A Kerplink
Doodle Town Never Brought Me Down When I Was Heading Out On The Road
Middletown City Never Looked So Pretty And The Future 86 Freeway's Fast
Slowdown Ian, I Want To Stay Alive, I Want To Make This Journey Last.
Helen, Helen Wheelock, Ain't Nobody Else Gonna show you peenting Woodcocks
Helen, Helen Wheelock, And They Never Gonna Take Her Birding Again

Alerted to my presence, Av-Ian drove over and I got into his car the “Grey Ghost”. So named because it seems that when he flies down the highway the vermin scurry out of his way. We made our way to Bear Mountain for the traditional “pit stop”, and got our first few birds of the day.

Driving down to the meeting location, we found the area full of other birders, and prepared ourselves for our day of birding. We met up with George Form-anifera, and waited a bit to see if anyone else was going to show up. I was there looking at a wasp some others pointed out, who had a very long ovipositor, and posing nicely I deigned to take the horrid creature’s photo. Wasps, really? Had I sunk that low?

Ichneumon Wasp Megarhyssa atrata

 I consoled myself by walking to the Iona Island side of the stream and looked at Black-nosed Dace and a Crayfish in the clear waters. Fish at least are respectable...

Black-nosed Dace Rhinichthys atrarulus

Crawfish sp.

Av-Ian and Hemlock then headed  in one direction, while I walked up the falls. Sure as sheep, I spotted a Louisiana Waterthrush. I went back to get the others, but upon our return we could not locate the bobbing beastie. Oh well, it would be the only one for the trip.

We headed back to the Doodletown trail, and we started hearing birds right away. Or I should say Av-Ian did. But when we got closer, I as well as the others heard a Cerulean and we tracked it down to the demolished house right at the first curve in the trail. A nice accommodating bird.

Cerulean Warbler
Continuing up the trail, there were numerous Redstarts, doing their best to get our attention, but then again what would one expect from a bird colored like that; like mini Baltimore Oriole wannabees. 

Overall though, it was somewhat ‘quiet’, and the consensus became that the migrants had moved on, and we were only being serenaded by the local breeders. We pulled a Gnatcher out here, and a Scarlenger there, and Hooded and Cerulean everywhere.

Hooded Warbler aka Hasidic Warbler
Walking up Lemon road, we stopped at the ‘tanks’, but here too it was more quiet than usual. Perhaps that is why the Black Vulture found it a good place to rest.

Black Vulture
Continuing on, we had more of the expected birds at the first and the second cemetery, and heard from other birders that the Kentucky was singing by the Pease house, just shy of the brook. This bird had been reported for weeks! I was curious though, because this birder said it was singing “the alternate song”. What alternate song, I cannot find any reference to such? As we made our way there, we passed two over dressed lads with very long guns. They were in the midst of a war re-enactment.

We're not hunting wabbits
That explained the loud canon fire we had been hearing, the canon report traveling up the sides of the mountains in a peculiar way that demonstrates the speed and propagation of sound. As we birded around the Pease house and the brook, the two actors took to hiding in the woods; a Brit was supposed to be heading down the path at us. 

I suggested that we eat at the bridge, hopeful the Kentucky would show up or at least make a sound. Av-Ian however, was afraid of having his ears hurt by the gunfire noise, and retreated to the traditional “lunch rock”. Hemlock, Form-anifera, and I stayed. Av-Ian just can’t handle the whole “no taxation without representation” issue, being an accountant and all. I tried to tell him the issue had been resolved long ago, but he just sardonically pointed out that Jean LeConte Sparrow is still sore over all the tea wasted in the Boston harbor. Nice way to change the subject buddy, but he headed off alone to the lunch rock anyway. 

A nice wildflower

After lunch, we headed back and met up with Av-Ian, and made our way back to the car. We made a stop at Iona Island, but could not find Orchard Oriole. Darn - a miss. Just then we got a call saying that Jeff Critter had found a Kentucky at the end of mine road. Yay!

On Mine road, we found Ronnie & Stu waiting for us as they always do. Experiencing the same general quietness as we had up in Doodle town, Ian decided to make a bee line for the end of the road, and see if we could locate the Kentucky Warbler. 

There’s a crew, called Ronnie & Stu
They bird together - they’re stuck like glue
She’s Ronnie, and he’s called Stu h’ who?
She finds him birds and he finds her birdies too

On the way we crossed paths with other birders, and they had either seen or heard the KEWA. Encouraged, we arrived at the proper location, and began to hear the bird. Try as we might, we could not locate the bird, and it appears that once again we had a KEWA that wanted to sing it’s heart {as well as several other internal organs} out, but not show itself. 

Not a KEWA, but some very interesting flies? moths?
For some time both Hemlock and I tried to locate the lil’ yellow bugger, but it wasn’t happening. She gave up, as did Ian some time before, but I was determined to ~see~ the bird. I circled it, and was fairly certain which tree it was in. But it could not be found.

Emboldened, the bird began taunting us, and when it called Ian a “wiper of other people’s bottoms” and “a hamster”, he yelled out to me that it was time to move on. I tried to convince him and the others that we should keep trying, but Ian was terrified that the KEWA might next hurl a cow at us, and, you know... safety first.  

Going down Mine road in reverse, we stopped at a few places where we got Prairie Warbler, and ubiquitous Bluntings. Bling Warblers were here and there, but no Golden-winged, or hybrids. Sadly, at the dam we did not get the Cliff Swallows. There were a few mud nests, but a group from Orange County doing a big day had been there a while and had not seen any come in.  

Prairie Warbler
 A few YB Cuckoos were heard, but as far as I know no one saw one. It would seem that it was unfair, these birds not gracing us with a view. On the other hand, we have had occasion where the birds did all but a “Michigan J Frog” dance. Just goes to show you that each birding experience is unique.

When we ended up at the end of mine road, we tried for KEWA and GOWA again to no avail, and even dipped on Kingfisher that we usually have on the lake below. ‘Finishing’ a bit earlier than usual, we decided to explore a bit, and drove north up 293 instead of south, and birded up to Long Pond.

On the way to Middletown, we stopped at the scenic overlook, and had Blunting again. They are everywhere this year! We then got to the hotel and checked in.

 I don’t think I was the only one, but for my part I couldn’t wait to have a shower! At check-in we set a dinner meeting time and I bolted for some well needed refreshment. I mention this because by the time Ian showed up at the room he was disproportionately amused that I had already completed my shower.

At the Bavarian Garden restaurant, I made a few unfortunate discoveries. The first - they had no decent beer on tap! Horrors! I subsequently found out that Harold, the owner had decided to give up his lease, and another restauranteur would be in charge next year.I guess the novelty of German bee... er, cuisine had worn off in the area. Oh well, the only thing constant is change.

I defaulted to a bottled beer, a Beck’s. They were pleasingly cold and quite refreshing. On a tangentially pleasing note, upon presentation of our dinner tab I discovered they were ‘on special’  practically being given away. !

Capping off a great day, the breakfast special accommodation I had arranged on previous visits was honored, and we all got egg sandwiches made for us with our vouchers before we retired for the night, and we had them available to heat up in the am. Planning and execution - perfect together. 

The next morning we assembled bright and early and in contrast to years past made our way to ‘the bash’ without the long drive first. An excellent idea.

That is for most of us. We met Jeff Critter there, who prefers to doodle, go home, and then bash. Go figure. We met him on Haven road, and right away alerted us to a good bird: Common Moorhen. It was visible, then obscured by the vegetation, and then came out again so that we were all able to get decent looks.

Wood Ducks seemed to be particularly plentiful, and who doesn’t like to see a WODU? Out in the marsh we saw numerous Eastern Kingbirds and Yellow Warblers were not trying to hide. 

Moving to the ‘Stop Sign trail’ lot were bombarded by boisterous Baltimorioles. Not to be outdone, their ‘mini-me’ Redstarts were also very evident, though we were hoping for more variety. We ran into a few other club members who decided to do the bash on their own; departing about the time we were arriving. Sadly for them the earliness did not pay off, and they reported mostly breeders and very few migrants, something that would come to be the way the trip would manifest. 

Which is not to say we didn’t have good birds! We made our way a ways down the trail and had Virginia Rail! Stu and Ronnie were still back at the parking lot, so we beckoned them on and they were able to join us and get a good view. Those two, always lagging behind to be alone like  teenagers... sheesh, when will they grow up...

Continuing down the trail, Jeff, then Ian, then the rest of us of normo-acusis heard Willow Flycatcher. They were around in good numbers and visible, tough lot of good that does for ID. We also had Pewee, Phoebe, and Brown Freeper* one who was sitting on the trail - a not so common sighting location for this species, Flycatchers were good to us. 

Brown Freeper,, Great Crested Flycatcher
On the trail a Yelio showed well, and a weird Warblio song turned out to in fact be an Orchard Oriole. This bird was a young male with the throat patch, and a nice save since it was missed at Iona.

Yelio {Yellow-throated Vireo}

By the tower trail, we had actual Warblio and Revio, and some Veerys. I still have not ~seen~ a Wood Thrush, but we heard them off in the distance.


Jeff Critter commented that we most often stop at this point and head back, but that there could be good birds further along the trail. I agreed; there is no rule that says the birds are in that first section, and even if there is,  birds can’t read. He and I walked on, and we were rewarded with a Cerulean, which we both remarked that we had rarely if ever seen at the bash. Nice!

As an aside, I am very pleased that I know several folks who enjoy the hiking aspect in and of itself. While one can construe birds as the focus of birding, enjoying a good hike, the beautiful surroundings, and the other life such as the ferns, wildflowers, bugs etc makes for a more in robust experience.

More wildflowers

We birded our way back to the car, and then drove to the end of the access road where we stopped on Haven road to bird that locale a bit. We were rewarded with a Chestnut-sided Warbler!

Chestnut-sided Warbler
John ‘Hound of the Basherkill’ Haas happened by, and we discussed the paucity of migrants and general disbirdiness. He offered his hypothesis that the mild winter coupled with an early hatch of caterpillars and subsequent frost killed off the caterpillars and gypsy moths, and left the Cuckoos to settle elsewhere, and that most of the migrants had moved on too as a result.

Continuing on South Road, we stopped at the ‘Bluebird house’. It’s always a pleasure to see the birds on has come to expect in the places we know they have been in. Singing loudly here was House Wren as well. Be advised that parking on the road here puts you near blind curves, so make sure that if you stop you are well off onto the side and out of harms way.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird
At the boat launch we were happy to see that the volunteers were present as well as their subjects, the Osprey and Bald Eagles.  The subject f the latter was seen in the clear waters at the boat ramp.

Pumpkinseed Lepomis gibbosus

From here we went to the ‘antique store’ where we got House Finch and some beverages across the street at the convenient deli. Because of the time of day mayhaps, the field was not as productive as last year, and we did not have the good fortune regarding either Olive-sided Flycatcher or MIKI. We blamed Hemlock.

We continued south on route 209 to Port Orange Road, where we were greeted by a ‘road closed’ sign. This gave Av-Ian paws, but a distemper shot and my insistence that it was meant to indicate that the road did not continue through, [rather than ‘do not enter’ or ‘no birding’, or ‘you’re gonna die! ] and we went on to our usual spots. Further up the road where it goes through the dense woods, the road was impassable, having been destroyed by hurricane Irene. If and when the road will be repaired is anyone’s guess.

So far we have not been lucky enough to re-locate the lampreys in the river as we had in the past, and there was no Louisiana to be found. But walking the road a ways we did near YB Cuckoo, though could not get a glimpse.

As we could not continue on, we back tracked and entered Port Orange Road from the other side. Once again Av-Ian had paws, but this I discovered was due to the sting of a recently lost and costly traffic infraction. After suitable mockery and pitiful pleading Av-Ian relented. Note to self: visit Av-Ian in prison.

Driving down to the power cut we had BT Green and Black-and-white. At the power cut we immediately heard Prairie, and a distant Field Sparrow. The later flew in and serenaded us from a very opportune vantage point. Of course Common Throat and Blunting were present, as was a Chestnut-sided up in the Hemlocks { the trees, not the birder}.

Chestnut-sided Warbler

Field Sparrow

Good birds but again it seemed less than in previous years. Due to the less than usual birdiness, we had time to explore. We headed to Linear Park, a section that we have only done a few times in the past. First we walked north, and saw newts in the water and Jeff heard Acadian FC off in the distance.

Eventually the rest of us heard them and we were delighted to see Purple Martins in a new location. This meant we did not have to depart our evening repast in time to get them at the thruway toll plaza!

Purple Martin a nice surprise find!

Hemlock then came through for us again, this time finding a Gross-breasted Rosebeak. Yippee! But really, a lone RBGR for this weekend? Rachel Carson anyone? And then Jeff heard a Pine Warbler. Personally, Chippies, Worm-eating and Pine sound too much alike, but Jeff was spot on and we nabbed another warbler for the day.

We headed back towards the cars and walked the other way on the trail, this time Hemlock scored us a Kingfisher. Yes! The birds were stashing the tequila and coming out of siesta. A short distance down the path Jeff heard an Acadian again, and this time we waved wildly at Stu and Ronnie. Of course they thought we were just acting silly, but eventually decided it was worth their while to join us. Upon their arrival we had the Acadian come in and was in the tree right above us. We all got great looks and good listens to the sounds from up close and personal. 

Satisfied with the birds seen here, and still with time to spare, we consulted the ‘Hound of the Basherkill’s’ Birding Guide to Sullivan county and went a short distance further to Gumaer road. As promised in the guide, specific breeding birds were located at stops along the road. We had Blackburnian, BT Blue, and Junco. Further along we stopped at location good for Alder FC, and who should happen by but Tom B and Gail B. They reported their lack of luck with the aforementioned, as well as apparent desperation in trying to find a Broad-winged Hawk. Shortly after their departure, we heard an Alder. Just goes to show you that luck counts. 

Its nice to explore new places, and even better when they prove fruitful! But with daylight not unlimited, we moved on to Blue Chip Farms.


Some time after our this visit some F*@%ing MORON or MORONS trespassed onto the Blue Chip farm property and apparently entered the horse field enclosures. Birding or photography does not license anyone to trespass, and is a sure way to get the rest of the non-trespassing folks banned from a location. 
The owners contacted the birding community and hopefully this error will never be repeated. For what it’s worth, the horses could have reacted with alarm and the perpetrators could have been injured. Some might say they would have gotten what
they deserved in that circumstance. 
Off soap box...

At Blue Chip we scanned the fields and Ronnie was the one who located the Uppies. It seems each time we are there the Uppies are in a different location. This time they were quite close to the road, and going around the corner we were able to get looks much closer than usual. Nice! We also had Bobolinks but curiously no Savannah Sparrows either here or at Galeville. Hmmm.


Galeville has been transformed from its previous incarnation as an airport with the runways removed. We did not even bother to enter the old entrance, instead going to the county park on the north end. At some point we will have to explore that location [ again] hoping that the grassland species will take advantage of the new habitat. Grasshopper Sparrow and even Henslow’s Sparrow had been here in the past. One can hope...

Enjoying more views of Bobolink and distant views of Meadowlarks, we headed for our last stop, the bridge over the Walkill river. Nothing unusual this time, and with stomachs grumbling we headed off for dinner. Trying to avoid the long wait we had last time, I had Lombardi’s telephone #. Ian called, but apparently even by calling ahead we would have to wait too long and we decided to head elsewhere. Don’t get me wrong, Lombardi’s is a fine restaurant and we have always had superior fare there. But they are a victim of their own success, and we bailed for other options.

I have always said that there is no shortage of choices in New Paltz, and ever the protagonist for breaking the ‘we’ve always done it this way’ creedo that pervaded the QCBC club, we arrived in New Paltz and chose the Gelded Otter for its suitable fare and on-tap possibilities. Thinking: "Gosh,  what a cruel and unusual name", I looked again and discovered it was in fact the Gilded Otter. I Thought “phew”, and then, perhaps being dipped in molten gold was a far worse fate than the former. Oh well, it was getting on in the day and I was thirsty, tired, and hungry. Get us a table!

I think the beer theme for the trip is “we’re out of that” what with no imports on tap at the Bavarian Garden yesterday, and what our server relayed to me at the table. I ordered their stout, and he brought me a glass though explained that it was the end of the keg, not as fresh as they like to serve it, and partake if I wished or discard, but either way there would be no charge for that pint. It turned out to be acceptable, and I then enjoyed another variety of their brew as well.

All of us enjoyed our comestibles and beverages, and it occurs to me that it might do for a new default location as seating is more easily obtained. Walking out to the parking lot, we scored another bird that we had missed  - remarkably we finally got Downey as the light was fading. Better late than never, and another good job spotting by Hemlock.

We ended the day with what else? A stop at the toll plaza and the Martins. Another great trip!

DoodleBash Rules!