Monday, May 14, 2012

Tickfest at Breakfanies

    Who doesn’t love spring birding? Warblers! But warblers ride in on the weather that brings us the spring showers, so sometimes available time and weather may disagree. Derek Rogers had contacted me earlier in the week, seeking to fill some holes in his life and year lists. I was happy to give him a hand by showing him around Sterling Forest, where his target lifer breeds: the Golden-winged Warbler. Last week a few lucky folks were able to see a GWWA found by Eric Miller while walking his dog in Crocheron Park. For those who are still part of the work force, can’t take off at a moment’s notice, or aren’t union, the bird was gone before we could get there.

    Derek had suggested a 5 am departure, but I negotiated him up to 6am, and invited Bob Hayes along who would get a few lifers. Watching weather reports during the week, it looked as though the weather would clear and make it a good trip. Derek showed up at my house right on time, and we left to pick up Bob. The weather was slightly rainy, and made travel slow, causing a half hour delay in getting to Queens, but Bob was understanding and we then zipped up to Sterling against the majority of traffic. Perhaps Derek was on to something with the early departure.... or maybe it was because he had to be back home by 3 pm.

On the way we mused over birds’ names, noting how certain fellows certainly got around, such as Cassin, Wilson, and especially Common, though none of us knew much about the last guy who has so many birds named after him.

    Stopping at the base of Ironwood road, we heard Golden-winged right away. Bob and I walked around the wooded patch to the left to get a better look, while Derek went to the right. Derek was able to see the bird clearly, but I decided that we would do better to continue on. Lifer for Derek, Bob likes to see a bird before he counts it.

    Up the road we heard Hooded Warblers, but could not coax them into view. And then just to challenge us we realized that one of the birds was actually a Magnolia Warbler! Continuing on to the end, we got out and immediately heard singing GWWA as expected. Blue-winged joined the chorus, as did Indigo Bunting. Loocking over the tops of the trees, A Red-shouldered Hawk was doing it's best to soar about nonchalantly, while a Red-tailed Hawk made it feel unwelcome.

    Walking down the power cut trail, we followed the calls of birds until we realized we were getting covered in ticks. Thinking that the trail up would be better, we retreated and scraped off the hitch hikers. At the pond we heard Nashville and Common throat as well as Black&white and Goldfinch. At the base of the hill, the “tree” a flowering dogwood, did not disappoint, with a GWWA flying in to greet us and singing proudly from the treetop. Now we all had exceptional views of this bird and Bob had his first lifer. I got some nice photos, and Derek noticed the band on the bird’s leg in one of his shots.

    Not to be shown up, a Blue-wing flew into a nearby branch and started singing too! I love that ‘magic’ tree, I always have great sightings in it.

    Up the hill Yellow Warbler sang to us, and we heard Prairie even further uphill where I usually have them. Approaching the location, the Prairies were not shy and we all got killer views. And as if on cue, and not to be out done, the Field Sparrows began to sing. I would have walked a bit farther to see them, but at this point we decided that we were covered in too many ticks again, and with time limited for Derek, we made our way back to the car.

   A Turkey ran up into the woods on the way out of Sterling to our next destination Doodletown road. It was great from the get go. Orchard Oriole singing from a Locust tree on route 9 greeted us, and Cerulean was at the first bend a short way up from the road. Two more lifers for Bob.  

    All around us we could hear Redstarts, and they made themselves visible. But best of all was the very cooperative Hooded Warblers!

Walking up the steep path at Doodletown is quite strenuous, even for those who are up to it. But the views of the breeding  birds is well worth it.

We continued on to Herbert Cemetery, where there had been reports of two Kentucky Warblers the day before. We did not see or hear them, and crossing paths with upstate birder Curt McDermott, learned neither he nor his friend had seen or heard them. Oh well.

Having sen the bulk of our target species, we made our way back down the trail. Along the way scads of Red Admirals flew about, as they seem to  be everywhere in large numbers this spring, but mixed in with them were Juvenal's Duskywing, and the jewelryesque Six-spotted Tigerbeetle.

An abbreviated day, but a rewarding day. I return to Doodletown this weekend; hopefully this time I'll get a Kentucky or two...