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.