Monday, June 25, 2007

June 23 - Clinton Road

Without much time to travel for birds today, I visited the local spot of Clinton Road. This area is known as the Pequannock Watershed, and is owned by the City of Newark. It is a fantastic place for breeding birds and at least 22-species of warbler are known to nest in this region.

Today my target was Barred Owl. I have not seen this bird in a few seasons, and the Watershed is home to several breeding pairs. Before the birds, I did find a medium-sized Black Bear in a tree about 15 feet off the ground. I was still in my car, so I stopped to give him a look. The bear was not happy with my presence and gave a loud grunt that voiced his displeasure. Soon after he scrambled down out of the tree and ran off into the woods.

I started at my favorite place, which is the area of P5. Right away I had Northern Waterthrush, Yellow Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Blue-Winged Warbler and Acadian Flycatcher. Down the trail a bit I picked up Black-Throated Green and Blackburnian Warblers, and I heard a Red-Breasted Nuthatch. Soon after American Redstart made an appearance, and so did Hooded Warbler and Ovenbird. Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher and Swamp Sparrow were singing, and I then saw a pair of Black-and-White warblers.

Later along the trail I flushed a Woodcock from a small wet area. This was a surprise to see this bird so far into the forest. A Wild Turkey and her young were seen as well. Overhead I could hear the call of Red-Shouldered Hawk, and later I got a glimpse of the bird.

A bit later, near the open pond, I came across another Black Bear. This one too ran away pretty quickly after we made eye-contact. On this day I saw more bears than people.

Later at P4, I got nice looks at Louisiana Waterthrush and Yellow-Throated Vireo. Common Ravens called overhead , and a male Scarlet Tanager put in a quick show. A Ruby-Throated Hummingbird hovered overhead, and the calls of Veery and Wood Thrush echoed nearly everywhere. The 'chink' call of Rose=Breasted Grosbeak was heard as well.
I then tried the north side of Clinton Road by the P4 parking area. This trail goes straight up the hillside, and once I got to the top I flushed a barrel-shaped, brownish-gray bird with a short tail and long, blunt shaped wings - a Barred Owl !

Saturday, June 16, 2007

June 16 - Dune Road, Suffolk County

This morning I took the drive to look for Shearwaters. Unfortunately I did not see any.
Evidently, I was there at the right time but in the wrong spot !
Some other birders reported Cory's, Greater, and Manx Shearwaters, and I missed Arctic Tern as well :(
This was because I started on the easternmost section of Dune Road, and all the fine birds were seen on the western end in Cupsogue State Park. I was a few miles and a couple of hours too late, and missed the big show.
Oh well, that's birding. I'll try again some other time...

But I was lucky enough to meet Andy M., Shai M., & Patricia L.
These local birders were very friendly and helped me by providing some detailed info on where, when, and how to visit this section of the Island in the future.

What I did see was Black Tern, Piping Plover, Least & Common Terns, Willet, Oystercatcher, an early Least Sandpiper, some over-summering Black Scoters and Common Loons and a distant Wilson's Storm-Petrel. I also added Purple Martins, the first I have seen in New York State.

Friday, June 15, 2007

June 14 - Vernon, NJ and Wallkill NWR

Today I had some free time and visited the Appalachian Trail off Route 94 in Vernon.
It's a very nice spot to bird and hosts quite a few species. Of note, is the Grasshopper Sparrow. This bird does nest throughout the state, but in very localized areas.
Fortunately for me one of these areas is close to home.
Also seen here was Prairie, Yellow & Common Yellowthroat warblers, Field Sparrow, Yellow-Billed Cuckoo, Towhee, Baltimore Oriole, Raven, Indigo Bunting, and the swallows of Barn, Cliff and Bank.

Later in the day in the New Jersey section of the Wallkill NWR.
This lowland valley hosts a plethora of breeding species, and is a beautiful place to visit.
While here I found some more Bank Swallows. These birds nest is sandy banks almost anywhere in the state. However these sites are also limited, especially in the north.

photo :Lu Giddings

I found a Bank Swallow colony with over 250 burrows.
photo: Lou Noll

Also seen in Wallkill today was Pileated Woodpecker, Northern Rough-Winged Swallow, Pewee, Phoebe, Great-Crested and Willow Flycatchers, plus Eastern Kingbird.
Others included Eastern Bluebird, Bobolink, Wild Turkey, Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher, and Cedar Waxwing.

Monday, June 11, 2007

June 10 - Wallkill & Shawangunk Grasslands

Today I joined a few friends in pursuing some more specialty breeding birds. These birds are classified this way by me only because they are a bit tougher to find, and often times breed in very localized areas -- many times outside of New Jersey's borders.

The first specialty bird we looked for today is actually on some private farms in Wallkill, New York, which is within Orange County. This large horse farm has been a traditional nesting site for Upland Sandpiper.
This sandpiper does have a few nesting pair in New Jersey, although nearly all of them are on an active naval-military base in Lakehurst, site of the infamous 1930s "Hindenburg" airship disaster. As the naval base requires special authorities and permission it is much easier to travel to areas where the birds is more common and occurs on more accessible lands.

To see this bird you must view the large fields of the farm, and be respectful of staying off the private land. So most of this birding is done from the road with a spotting scope.

Today we were very lucky indeed. Almost immediately we were able to locate a bird perched on a fence post that was not too far away. Later we found at least 2 more individuals, and most surprising was that we were able briefly see a pair of Upland Sandpiper young foraging in the grass beneath the post-peering adults. Another treat was hearing the "wolf-whistle" like call of the adults.

Following this treat we moved onto our next spot to visit today.
The Shawangunk Grasslands are located in Galeville, New York which is within Ulster County.
This area is a former military air-field that had laid fallow for many decades prior to becoming part of the Wallkill River NWR in the late 1990s.

Here too one is able to see nesting birds that are getting harder to come by anywhere in the Northeast, particularly in New Jersey. The last vestige for the birds in my home-state is the Wantage Grasslands, yet this area is getting smaller each passing year.

Specialty birds here are Boboling, Eastern Meadowlark, Savannah Sparrow, and on occasion Grasshopper Sparrow. We did not locate a Grasshopper sparrow today, but did see the others.
Additionally Kestrel, Eastern Kingbird, Least & Willow Flycatchers, Orchard Oriole, Field Sparrow and others.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

June 2 - Specialty Warblers, part deux

After missing some warblers last week, I tried for them again. This time I was with a few friends, ans the driver John W. had some very good info on their recent whereabouts.

First up was a stop in Sterling Forest, near Tuxedo, NY. I had never previously birded here before and I was excited to see a new area. We began at the powerline cut off Ironwood Road. Almost immediately we had Prairie Warbler, then Blue-winged and Chestnut-Sided warblers as well. However we were here for the Golden-Winged.
We walked up the cut to the top of the ridge without success, and were headed back down when Rob F. heard the song of the Golden-Winged. We tried in vain to locate the vocalist, and the group seemed to accept the fact that it would go down as a "heard-only" today. Walking down the powerline cut, Rob again heard the song and this time John and I were able to get on a flying bird and follow it. Once it perched we were able to determine that it was in fact a male Golden-Winged.
We walked a bit closer so everyone could see the bird.
Walking back down the cut again, I noticed some movement near some dead tress. This time we were able to see the male and a female Golden-Winged !!

Our next stop was at Doodletown Road, just south of the Bear Mountain bridge.
Here we we searching for the beautiful Cerulean Warbler. While hiking up the trail we heard this bird several times, and then Jennifer was able to locate one just over the trail. We all got nice looks at this male, albeit high up in the trees.

We proceeded toward Herbert Cemetery where some Ceruleans had been recently reported. Again we heard the birds but could not locate them. We were about to leave when Rob and Jennifer found a Cerulean in sight. To their surprise the bird was a female. And shortly thereafter the bird actually landed on it's nest ! We enjoyed views of this female on the nest for quite a bit, when the male returned with a meal for her, and trhe chicks. We could see the female leave the nest and let the male in to feed the young. Amazing !
The male quickly flew off, but returned about 15 minutes later. Again he fed the young, but this time the female took off. She returned a few minutes later with another meal, and the male then left to go foraging once again.
A truly remarkable event to not only see the female (my first time doing so) then to also see the nest, but finally to see the feeding of young and the family interaction..

There were lots of other beautiful birds seen today including Scarlet Tanagers, Indigo buntings, Baltimore Orioles, Wild Turkey with several very small young, Hooded Warblers, Ruby-Throated Hummingbird, and finally we also heard the call of Pileated Woodpecker.