Friday, May 27, 2016

Doodle-ing Bash!

Doodle-ing Bash. If that doesn’t sound like a party I don’t know what does. I led this trip on May 21 &22 where weather reports unfortunately adversely influenced some folks. 11 of the 17 people who were supposed to go showed up not where it was not so bright, but we met good and early at the trail head. A 12th showed up late.

It seems that the weather forecasters do a good job of casting doubt into the minds of some people. Oh well, their loss; it didn’t rain! Over the course of the two days we were hit by a literally countable number of droplets.

The first goody we had was on the very steep initial section of the trail. There were Tennessee Warblers for the hearing, but none deigned show themselves. All through the day as we crossed paths with other birders where we got the same report: Tennessee heard, but not seen.

Of course Redstarts were in abundance, and it was not too long before we heard and saw our first Ceruleans and Hooded Warblers. It got better the further in we went as the trees were not so tall and the birds not so far away.

Of course we also got Olive-sided Flycatchers, and Yellow-billed Cuckoos. A surprise was a Green Heron in the reservoir. I have never had one there as far as I can remember, but to balance things out, we did not get a Spotted Sandpiper here as we usually do. Feeling remorseful, the Spotted Sandpiper ultimately revealed itself to us at Iona Island later on.

Of late, as in the past few years, Doodletown has become a reliable location for Kentucky Warbler. This Oproronid, ( or at least it ~used~ to be in the Oporornis family. ) ( Can those dam ornithologists stop messing with us birders? Jeez, go get your jollies elsewhere...) Ahem. I was saying, this Oporornid, oh hell..., this Geothlypis is a much sought after bird. And we made tracks to the location where Mike Z. and Michele Z. had seen it the day before.

We were not disappointed. As we walked to the location, we heard a Worm-eating Warbler on the hillside it has favored for years, and on the other side sang the Kentucky. We came upon some fellow birders who were pointing cameras at it, and thus we quickly were able to get everyone on it. The overcast hampered any efforts at a decent photo, but birders can’t be choosers.

We birded our way to the “lunch rock”, and planned on an enjoyable lunch. All was going well until Ian “innocently” noticed a seemingly out of place rock. What was secreted beneath it? A note. I thought it said: “Arie Gilbert is a big winner” but the raucous laughter at my expense said otherwise.

After lunch we explored a bit more then birded our way back down. We stopped at the reservoir again, and exchanged info with fellow birders. There were lots of Orioles calling all over. This year was a good one for them. And one of the calling birds was distinctly different. I called others attention to it and posited that it was a Orchard Oriole. Ian at first dismissed this, but it turned out that I was correct! I am truly not sure what crease in my brain I pulled that out of, but sometimes we know more than we know we know. I am certainly not one of those folks who recognize things I hear in the same way that most of us recognize things we see. And it pays to have had my hearing aids set to stun.

We checked Iona Island. The tide was high and as stated before we had Spotted Sandpiper, but not much else. We continued on to Sterling Forest.

The Golden-winged Warblers did not disappoint, and we got Blue-winged, Prairie, and more Chestnut-sided as well. No Field Sparrow though. Huh? We missed Broad-winged Hawk too.

With the day drawing to a close and hunger calling, we headed off to eat and we were once again very pleased by the food and selection at Mr. Sushi. When we left the restaurant, we discovered that it had rained while we were inside. At most a few drops hit us on the way to the cars, and we went the rest of the distance to the hotel.

It was suggested that we could go out in search of Whip-poor-wills and Nighthawks, but I thought the rain and overcast would preclude that. Good thing - no sooner had my head hit the pillow than I was out cold...

We set to meet the next morning at 7am. I awoke at 6am, and was so wiped out that I headed to get coffee first. There I met up with most of the group already up! Oh well, miscalculated that one.  But I was in need of a large infusion of caffeine just so I could muster a shower!

We set off at the appointed time to the bridge on Haven Road. The sign for it is now missing, and the Moose Lodge has changed ownership, but I found the correct turn off.  A shot distance down the road was our first goody. John G. spotted a Pileated working on a fallen tree. Unfortunately most of us did not see it.

At the marsh we saw lots of Wood Duck flying around, and a few other species such as Black, Mallard, and Blue-winged Teal. Other birders who were there earlier had Bittern calling, but we missed that one. We did hear and see Common Gallinules, and this visit had by far the most we have had here.

Eagle eyed Pat spotted an Eagle { what else } sitting in a tree off in the distance. It is remarkable how prevalent this bird has become.

At the road to the stop sign trail, we had Chestnut-sided Warbler. This trip was one of the best for this species, on other occasions we had but one. Redstarts on the other hand were in their usual abundance and ubiquitousness. And now they had a new trick; a lot of song variations to confuse and confound us. It’s a good thing they are a great looking bird or we might get upset or something.

The usual birds were present, but it seemed that the overcast depressed their desire to sing for us a bit. We made the usual stops, and at one point Ian said: “ this looks like a good place for a Virginia Rail”. Well he was off by 50 feet. No sooner had he said it than John G spotted one.

We all gathered around and as luck would have it a major reason it was spotted is that it was intent on getting to the other side of the road. Killer views were had by all.

On the way back we heard a strange cal that none of us could ID though we all agreed that it was most probably a frog. I recorded the calls and upon returning home my suspicion that it was an American Toad was confirmed.

We stopped for lunch at the deli fields, and then moved on to Port Orange Road. We heard a few Louisiana Waterthrush, but I never got to see one. At the power line cut we again dipped on Field Sparrow. What happened? This and Sterling used to be very reliable; perhaps it was due to clearing that looked like it may have used herbicides.

We did get BT Green and Prairie, but our streak with Bay-breasted seems to have run out. At this point Coco and Benny, as well as Mike & Michelle decided to take an early departure and forgo the rest of the trip.

The rest of us  went to Mcdonald Road for Alder Flycatcher, and to be barked at by very large dogs. At Gumear Falls Road we got Blackburnian right off the bat. But try as we might we could not connect with an Acadian Flycatcher. We did get a very nice look at Magnolia in consolation.

After a pit-stop at Stewart's, we confused Ian R. by taking a short cut to Blue Chip Farms. It was shorter and far more picturesque. Arriving at the fields, I was initially dismayed to see they had been mowed. The concern was for naught.

Within a few minutes and with bins I spotted Bobolinks, and then found an Uppie walking a few fields back. I got everyone on it before we even had scopes! And to think of all the times we spend very long times searching almost to the point of giving up.

On the way to Shawangunk we stopped when we heard a call and it was a Pileated. This time we all got to see the bird. At Shawangunk we were delighted by Kestrels and Harriers flying around. Meadowlarks, Bobolinks, and Grasshopper Sparrows delighted us by voguing. Such great views! But we were surprised that we had not gotten Savannah Sparrow. At the direction of a local birder we found them on one of the paths. Phew! Would be odd to miss that one!

We went to ‘the bridge’, our traditional last stop before acquiring dinner. It is an unassuming place but it has produced a lot of nice things over the years. I was reminiscing with Ian about the Nighthawks we had seen there and shortly thereafter he looked up and found one then a few more! We had at least 5, some very high up in the air. 

I also told the others about how I had spotted a River Otter from the bridge some years back. So it came as a surprise when Steve S noticed tracks and scat and a slide on the bank. It was evidence of Otters!

We ended the day with a fine meal and a final stop at the thruway toll plaza for Martins. This was the first time we missed them.

And that’s been the theme of the trip: a lot of some things we usually struggle for, and difficulty with things we usually expect. Mother Nature always keeps us guessing!

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