Trip Reports

Ecuador. ...But the Birding Was Great!

posted Jul 6, 2011, 2:54 PM by Arie Gilbert

Chapter 7: The Pitta and the Oropendula

    We began the next day at Cabanas San Isidro. We walked the paths and went to the rooftop platform where we were surrounded by many more birds. Finally it was here that I was able to get good looks at the Cinnamon Flycatcher, and once this happened, in keeping with the “universal laws” they were everywhere. Not everywhere, but certainly standing out, were the Rufous-crowned Tody-Tyrants. The Hummingbirds also put on a show with Green Violet-ear,
Sparkling Violet-ear, Speckled Hummingbird ,Fawn-breasted Brilliant, Chestnut-breasted Coronet, Bronzy Inca, and Long-tailed Sylph. But the highlight was certainly being treated to a pair of White-bellied Antpittas coaxed out onto a clearing by a caretaker who provided them with worms. He even turned around at one point to give us a nice toothless grin for a photo.

    Later in the day we walked up the road, where we had Smoke-colored Pewee, Black Phoebe, Pale-edged Flycatcher, Golden-crowned Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, Blue-and-white Swallow, Rufous Wren, Mountain Wren, and Glossy-black Thrush. Much to our delight the road was also strewn with butterflies, and it was hard to tear Alison away from photographing them.

    Back at the cabanas, we saw Inca Jay, Brown-capped Vireo, Red-eyed Vireo, Blackburnian Warbler {everywhere~!}, Canada Warbler, Black-eared Hemispingus, Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager, Blue-necked Tanager, Beryl-spangled Tanager, Blue-and-black Tanager, White-sided Flowerpiercer, Bluish Flowerpiercer, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Scarlet-rumped Cacique, and Russet-backed Oropendola .

    We then tried to go to Guacamayo Ridge, but this was another mountain facing the wrong way and the weather here was cold and rainy. Yuck, been there, done that. We hiked a while in the rain, then gave up and went back to Cabanas San Isidro. Later on though, we swung back again, and this time it was only foggy, but not raining. But oh the birds! Streaked Tuftedcheek, Collared Inca  Long-tailed Sylph Pearled Treerunner Montane Woodcreeper Green-and-black Fruiteater Cinnamon Flycatcher  Blue-and-white Swallow, Rufous Wren { big!}, Mountain Wren, Hooded Mountain-Tanager, Lacrimose Mountain-Tanager { is that a great name or what?} Saffron-crowned Tanager,  Beryl-spangled Tanager { stunning}  Blue-and-black Tanager, Bluish Flowerpiercer,  Mountain Cacique, and that’s just the stuff I saw,  the others saw even more! Sometimes standing a few feet one way or the other makes all the difference in a dense forest.

Sterling Forest 5-29-11

posted Jun 3, 2011, 1:54 PM by Arie Gilbert   [ updated Jun 3, 2011, 2:03 PM ]

Spring and fall share the attribute of variable weather. What appeared to be bad weather was not that bad at all, and the overcast certainly helped keep the temperatures down. It was either the weather or reports of “bear attacks” that kept some at home.

But for those of us who attended it was another excellent day. Warbling and Yellow-throated Vireos greeted us at Indian Lake as well as our first Rough-winged Swallows. Moving on down the road we chanced upon a Turkey who posed obligingly in the middle of the road.

The birding really picked up at Ironwood road. At the lake we found the usual suspects such as Phoebe and Kingbird, as well as Oriole, Yellow Warbler, and Canada Geese. With some movement that caught my eye, we spied a tree with a whole lot of activity. Cedar Waxwings, Indigo Bunting, Robins, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, and Goldfinch. All in the same tree. Phew!

Walking up Ironwood, we heard Cerulean and Hooded Warblers in numerous locations. It was interesting that we would hear them together, rather than one here and the other over there. Water was everywhere, and the beavers up the road have two dams across the stream, but neither it nor the Louisiana Waterthrush we had last year made an appearance. We spied a Broad-winged Hawk fly overhead, and then returned to the cars to go to the end of the road and hike the power line cut.

On the trail birds were singing everywhere. The Prairie Warblers were very obliging and sung from obvious perches all along the trail, while the Hooded warblers remained more elusive. A Chestnut-sided protected it’s favorite Dogwood, and Golden-wing Warblers sang from the base of other Dogwoods. Field Sparrows called from near the top, and Indigo Buntings cris-crossed our path.


Back down at the lot we met up with Carol who stayed behind due to the high water level in the stream. She was not disappointed as several Golden-winged Warblers were chasing each other about, and perching most accommodatingly affording nice photographic opportunities. 

After a lunch stop at the visitors center where the ranger on duty showed us all the carpenter bees he has caught for release elsewhere, { they eat the beautiful wooden structure } we made a few more stops and heard Wood Thrush { very scarce this year for some reason } and Pileated Woodpecker.

Departing from the usual plans, we instead headed to Wallkill NWR in hopes of seeing the reported Black-bellied Whistling Ducks. The midday heat made walking about less than desirable for some, but those that did walk added a bunch of nice species including Orchard Oriole, Semipalmated Plovers, and an immature Bald Eagle. No ducks though. Oh well, I guess the refuge isn’t all it’s quacked-up to be.

DoodleBash 2011

posted May 27, 2011, 10:13 AM by Arie Gilbert   [ updated May 27, 2011, 10:59 AM ]

When I came up with the idea I thought it was a good one but with each passing year I am more and more astounded at how great it is. This year 14 participants partook. Two did only one day, and two went up and back rather than stay overnight [ must love to drive ]. All of us had a great experience.

Thankfully this year there was no construction or other delays, and the weather looked promising as we set off from Queens. In fact it was clearing and partly sunny on the way up, until we crossed from the Palisades to route 9, where we were promptly covered by fog coming off the Hudson. Arriving at  Doodletown we were greeted by a throng of other birders and birding groups. And a panel truck covered in graphics and quotations alerting us all to the impending end of the world, scheduled for later in the day no less. And yet the birds continued to sing.

Walking up the hill we heard lots of birds singing, though as usual some were in the very tops of the trees. Fortunately, Ian and Jeff have darn good hearing, and were instrumental in getting the group a number of birds that us deaf folks would have walked right by.

To our delight, our target birds the breeding Cerulean Warblers and Hooded Warblers, were heard and seen right away. Veery were everywhere, singing their song and making their weird call too. We turned up Lemon Road, and searched unsuccessfully for a Kentucky, but did have Scarlet Tanager and Yellow-throated Vireo. We entered the water tank area, where Ian and others of auditory prowess detected a Tennessee, while on location birders pointed out the general location to those withe less hearing ability. Most of us were able to hear and see it. Back-tracking down to the main road, another birder put us onto a most amenable Chestnut-sided Warbler, who posed low and long and sang his heart out while all of us were able to get exceptional views.

Next we stopped into the cemetery behind the reservoir, being serenaded by Common Yellow-throats and Redstarts, and enjoying the ample varieties of ferns. B’Orioles and Indigo Buntings were around the old orchard, and we continued up towards “the lunch rock.” Here we were welcomed “back” by the nesting Yellow-throated Vireos, Ceruleans, and Worm-eating all seen up close as the rocks put us much closer to the tops of the trees. The Worm-eating was especially interesting as we were able to observe how it puts it’s whole body into blasting out it’s song: both it’s head and tail vibrating in unison. These tidbits of behavior are what keeps me surprised.

After lunch we birded our way back to our cars, and made a quick pit stop in Iona Island. Chuck called our attention to a bird he saw land in a tree, and in trying to find it we instead located our target Orchard Orioles.

Moving on to Mine Torne Road, we had Blue-winged, Yellow, and Redstart as expected. At one stop about half way along, I spotted a bird with a bright yellow cap and white throat and belly. I thought to myself: “what a weird Chestnut-sided, it has no chestnut sides” and then the bird turned revealing the golden wing bars: a female Golden-winged. Most of us saw it before it flew across the road and landed where the lighting was even better. Other birders stopped and we got them on the bird too. We got lucky: other birders we passed earlier said they were unable to find any. Heck, luck counts!

We continued to the dam, where we usually cross the stream to hike the other side but the water was very high and far too deep to cross. So we walked up the hill and quickly got Prairie Warbler, as well as Cliff Swallows who are once again nesting on the Dam structure. The latter were missed last year. At the end of the road, which has been largely destroyed for a transformer and parking lot for the military, we tried for GWWA again without success, but did get a pair of Kingfishers. Satisfied by a great day of birding, we headed off to dinner. 

At the Bavarian Garden everyone enjoyed the meal as usual, relaxed with a nice beer or glass of wine, and discovered a pleasant new benefit to staying at this Holiday Inn.  We were given complimentary breakfast coupons and had the kitchen make us ham and egg sandwiches that night.  We refrigerated them and  heated them in the room’s nukes. The in-room coffee left much to be desired however... oh well, can’t have everything.

The next morning we met bright and early, or should I say overcast and early, on Haven Road. The road was flooded, and the water was 6-8" deep. We were able to make it across though by going slowly. We met Jeff who drove up and back early, and he reported having heard American Bittern and Virginia Rail before our arrival. We did the “stop sign trail” where Jeff also found us Canada Warbler and Louisiana Waterthrush. Least and Willow FC were calling all along the trail to the observation tower, as were the Veerys. New member Helen scored a slam dunk by finding us a Wilson’s Warbler. On the way back, Ian found us a Blackburnian. Back at the parking lot, we decided to try for the Virginia Rail we all missed, but added Goldfinch and Flicker for the day, and we were alerted to the Bank Swallows that Stu found. Once onto Haven road by the flooded marsh, we saw a small bird dive into the brush, and we hoped it was the rail. When we got closer, it flushed and flew to the other side, but this time I was able to ID it as a Least Bittern! This bird was a lifer for a few, and a very pleasant surprise for all. I personally have only seen it a hand-full of times.

From here we went to the boat launch where we saw the nesting Eagles and Osprey through the volunteer’s scopes, as well as flying about the marsh. It is so neat to see a bunch of Eagles flying by as opposed to “OMG! An Eagle!” of the not too distant past. We also found a Moorhen here, ate lunch, and exchanged sightings with friends Joe & Ann D. We told them about the rails and bitterns, they told us about a field with more Golden-winged Warblers and Field Sparrows that we had heretofore not explored.

First we went to Port Orange Road, or more precisely I should say first we turned the wrong way, then went back, and went to Port Orange Road. Oh well, a GPS we’re not. The river was too deep and murky to see any lampreys, so we went on to the power cut. Prairie and Chestnut-sided did not disappoint, and we heard Field Sparrows. It was getting late, so we decided to try the aforementioned field before heading off to Blue Chip. We parked in the lot of an abandoned antiques shop, and walked about discovering a trail that consisted of a wide swath mowed through the grass and weeds. We listened for GWWA or as advised, ones that were singing a perfect Blue-winged song, but they were quiet. We didn’t hear the Field Sparrows either, but I spotted a Broad-winged Hawk, and Jeff found an Olive-sided Flycatcher.

Then newbie Helen called our attention to a raptor that was approaching. Naked eye it looked like an accipiter, but when we got it in our bins and as it came closer, we resolved it into a Mississippi Kite! I started yelling at Ian and Bernie: “Take pictures! Take pictures!” But neither were able to move fast enough and the bird continued past. I was able to see the “fingers” and bade the others to get on and see it, and Jeff made note of it’s flight characteristics. We all were able to see a pointy winged, long tailed bird that was not a peregrine and not an Accipiter. I was beside myself with disbelief. We have had a MIKI on a QCBC Basherkill trip 3 times!

Joe and Ann were successful at finding ‘our’ Bittern, and called John “Hound of the Basherkill” Haas to share the info. John came to the Bash and was able to get Bittern photos! But since I didn’t have John’s cell number, it was only after he returned home that he got an email sent on my behalf by Jean, {who was at home and  who didn’t have his number either} alerting him about the Kite. Well now I have John’s telephone number, but I suspect that there is a good chance that next year John may be following us around so that we can find him a Mississippi for the second time.

Leaving the Bash, we headed for Blue Chip Farms. Bobolinks were evident and eventually a distant Uppie was found by none other than Ronnie. Good thing too because they were missed on last years trip! We perused the farm and then headed to the new entrance to Shawangunk. This place is nice because the old entrance has no port-a-potty. Kestrel, and Harriers were seen very well and we saw Meadowlark too, but no Savannah! How odd that we missed that bird, it’s always all over the place! We ended by stopping at the bridge over the Wallkill, but it was pretty dead, so we called it a day.

Our final stop was Lombardi’s Italian Restaurant in Gardiner for dinner. Stu tells me the club has been going there for the past 9+ years and there is a reason we have kept going back. For one the pasta is fresh - you see them making it right when you walk through the front door - and the food is always excellent. Chef Paul made the night even sweeter by presenting us with cannoli for dessert!

After dinner we all headed home, but the birding for a few die-hards was not over. We heard Field Sparrows adjacent to the restaurant per usual, and made our annual pit stop at the thruway plaza for Purple Martins, just as the light was beginning to fade.

So if you want to have a great trip and probably see a Mississippi Kite...

Ecuador. ...But the Birding Was Great!

posted Apr 16, 2011, 2:57 PM by Arie Gilbert

Chapter 6: I’m On Top Of The World!

    The next day, our target was Andean Condor, usually looked for at the Papallacta Pass where we were scheduled to go. Our guide Renato suggested an alternative where it would also be possible, but where we might see some other high altitude specialties not found at Papallacta.

    This alternative is called the Antisana Paramo Preserve. It is above tree-line and approx 14000' + with spectacular views of the distant volcanic peaks all covered in snow.

    On the way up we were treated to Black-winged Ground-Dove
and Aplomado Falcon that we spotted as it caught a small bird, and
then alighted upon a post in plain view allowing us all to savor this rarity.  What a majestic bird, and now I can “legitimately” count it as opposed  to the ‘released’ ones seen in Texas.

    In the air above us were raptors such as Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle and Variable Hawk, while walking about on the tundra were Carunculated Caracara everywhere! And ‘carunculated’ is fun to say, as evinced by all the comments we collectively made about it. 

    Our first destination was at a mountain top lake, but on the way we were treated to a small flock of the rare and declining Black-faced Ibis made all the more sweet by getting there ahead of two other groups of birders we had passed on the way to the area. After viewing them, and in our haste to get to our next location, Renato beckoned us to leave, with the result that I left my scope behind. Panic!
 { an understatement }

    We dropped the others off, and we went back for my scope that Renato assured me would still be there. It was not there! But Renato then inquired of the other guides, and they told us that driving down the road, they spotted my scope and stopped to see why it was left there, only to discover the Ibis. Graciously, they returned the scope to me and we went on our way. Phew!

Joining the others at the lake, we saw up close Silvery Grebe {cute!} Slate-colored { aka Andean} Coot , Baird's Sandpiper { who needs Jamaica Bay?} and  Andean Teal. Off in the distance were Yellow-billed Pintail, Andean Duck { looks like a Ruddy}, and Andean Gull.  The waterfowl were wonderful, all obligingly being located on the one large lake. Though in keeping with the “universal laws” most were on the farthest shore. Scopes helped to cinch the IDs.

Along the roadway and at various stops we had Andean Lapwing {neat!} Bar-winged Cinclodes, Stout-billed Cinclodes , Paramo Ground-Tyrant ,Brown-bellied Swallow, Great Thrush , Plumbeous Sierra-Finch , and Plain-colored Seedeater  which upon getting home and entering my sightings into the computer, and figuring out which birds were seen when, turned out to be my 1000th lifer.

    Our final stop upwards was on a pullout along the road where there was patches of orange flowers. With a spectacular snow covered volcanic peak in the back-ground, and as if on cue, the breathtaking Ecuadorian Hillstar made a bold appearance and gave us all great views. 

    On the way back down, we got additional views of the same species, as well as the opportunity to puzzle over the ID of the female Hillstars. We also stopped at a fishing pond, where we got close-up looks at the Andean Teal and the Andean Gull, and then tried to coax Tawny Antpitta out of hiding. Several responded to Renato’s calls, but none favored us with a view. As did the Condor.

    We finished the day with a stop at Guango Lodge. All you do is pull into the parking lot and the Hummingbird feeders are all about. Chestnut-breasted Coronet, Mountain Velvetbreast, Collared Inca, Buff-winged Starfrontlet, Sword-billed Hummingbird , Tourmaline Sunangel, Tyrian Metaltail, Long-tailed Sylph! Many of us succumbed to multiple eyegasms.

    Were that not enough, when sated with the hummers we walked down the path to the river, where we were greeted in rapid succession by Masked Trogon, Inca Jay, and Turquoise Jay. Inca Jay looks just like the Green Jay that can bee seen in Texas, but in S.A it’s a different species!

    Following the trail down river, we went in search of Torrent Duck. We found Spotted Sandpiper, Torrent Tyrannulet { a mere speck of a bird that makes it’s living catching flies from within the spray, }, Black Phoebe , Brown-bellied Swallow, White-capped Dipper { something very likeable about these Dipper birds } and Mountain Wren.

   Renato heard a Toucan, so we stopped to call it out. He did not have its call in his player, but once again “Loretta” came through and we got nice looks at  a Gray-breasted Mountain-Toucan. What a great bird! In return for my contribution, Renato tried to call out a Cinnamon Flycatcher for me that I keep missing, [ but everyone else managed to see repeatedly ] while Corey went back down to the bridge we surveyed earlier and he found the Torrent Ducks!

    We all got scope views, then made are way back up river hoping to get a better and clo ser lo ok. Thankfully, not only were we not disappointed, but we saw both the male and female who are quite dimorphic. Then we returned to the lodge, where we enjoyed coffee and hummingbirds in the fading light. Our final stop was for dinner where a Black Phoebe was making good use of a light in the dark to catch some extra insects before it went to sleep.

Ecuador. ...But the Birding Was Great!

posted Apr 5, 2011, 6:24 AM by Arie Gilbert

Chapter 5: Hey, Ecuador Is a Great Place to Bird When You Aren’t Hicupping!

    We began the next day in a special place called “Recinto 23 de Junio” made famous a number of years prior by a grad student who did some research in the area. With the help of  local inhabitants the town is now known as a reliable location for the endangered Long-wattled Umbrellabird. We were joined by one fellow from the town and had great birds on the road that leads up the hill. A pair of Swallow Tanagers greeted us, hawking insects by where we parked, and soon after the local guide called out PAJARO TORO, alerting us to an Umbrellabird in the tree. As we walked down the road, we saw a lot of great other birds including Scaly-throated Foliage-gleaner, Buff-fronted Foliage-gleaner, Wedge-billed Woodcreeper, Strong-billed Woodcreeper, Ornate Flycatcher, Cinnamon Becard, Three-striped Warbler, Yellow-throated Bush-Tanager, Dusky-faced Tanager, Lemon-rumped Tanager, Blue-gray Tanager, Variable Seedeater, Yellow-bellied Seedeater, Orange-billed Sparrow, White-tailed Tyrannulet, and Black-winged Saltator. The sun and the butterflies came out, and we had our first Blue Morpho licking minerals in the road. Sadly, someone driving by later,  ran it over. We capped the location by enjoying a cup of coffee, and fresh empanadas - the latter apparently Corey’s favorite food.

    Our next stop was El Mirador del Rio Blanco. This is a excellent restaurant and hostel overlooking a wide chasm that has the Rio Blanco way below. What vistas! Several Hummingbird feeders were set upon the balcony, and a fruit feeding stand was visible through the windows from within the restaurant. We all enjoyed cold and very large beer courtesy of Danny, and I had the most tasty steak prepared perfectly. The feeder birds were White-whiskered Hermit, Green Thorntail, Green-crowned Woodnymph, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, Andean Emerald, Green-crowned Brilliant, and Crimson-rumped Toucanet. We also got great looks at Red-faced Spinetail, Ecuadorian Thrush, Orange-bellied Euphonia, Gray-and-gold Tanager, Golden Tanager, Silver-throated Tanager, Chestnut-bellied Seed-Finch, and Black-winged Saltator. The beer as stated was pleasingly large, and of course we were at high elevation, so it caused me to hallucinate briefly. Thankfully, the other trip members did not tease me unduly for ~not~ seeing a condor. Groan.

    We finished the day with a stop at Milpe. The highlight was observing the curious clicking and buzzing display of the Club-winged Manakin. Birds seen here were Bronze-winged Parrot , Green Thorntail, Green-crowned Woodnymph, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, Andean Emerald , Green-crowned Brilliant, Pacific Hornero, Ornate Flycatcher, Dusky-capped Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, Ecuadorian Thrush, Red-eyed Vireo, Tropical Parula, American Redstart, Dusky Bush-Tanager , Guira Tanager, Blue-gray Tanager, Palm Tanager , and Swallow-Tanager. A spectabulous day!

New York Botanical Gardens - March 27, 2011

posted Apr 5, 2011, 5:45 AM by Arie Gilbert

by  Rick and Linda Kedenburg

Meeting in the parking lot, we were relieved that all ticket booths were open early and we could proceed up the path toward Twin Lakes. As usual, many Robins and Juncos  foraged in the new spring grass and two Song Sparrows joined them. Also, as usual, we were greeted by early spring flowers: daffodils, snow drops, crocus, scylla and glory of the snow. Forsythia was poised to open, buds were swelling on the trees and Red Maples were in early bloom. 

Twin Lakes provided the hoped-for Wood Ducks, more than usual. There were two pair and several bachelor drakes as well as Mallards. The usual Phoebes had not yet arrived but a lone Rough-winged Swallow darted about. There were also Downy Woodpecker, Black-capped Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, Blue Jays, Grackles, Red-winged Blackbirds and White-throated Sparrows. Entering the forest, we eventually tallied more chickadees and titmice, Red -bellied Woodpecker, White-breasted Nuthatch and a Brown Creeper. Although we had vague directions to the owls, we searched but came up empty. However, a Red-tailed Hawk soared overhead. Finding new benches in a sunny location, protected by a rocky outcropping, we stopped for lunch on the Overlook Trail and enjoyed the rushing waters of the Bronx River below. Considering the chilly weather forecast, it was a most comfortable spot for a lunch break.

Investigating the Snuff Mill, we discovered that it is now a catering facility for private parties. Crossing back over the river, we discovered several newly landscaped trails, most of the afore-mentioned birds plus a male Cardinal and  the ongoing work in the native plant garden.  Perhaps it will be open for next year’s trip.  Or maybe not. Rick tells me the sign read Ready in May, 2012. On March 27, 2011, we were happy for the birds we did observe and the bright sunshine and blue skies of an early spring day.  It was a jolly old QCBC walk -about.

Participants: Linda and Bernie, their guests - Peter and Judy, and Lenore and A.W. from North Shore Audubon.

Northern NJ shore and Barnegat Light - March 6, 2011

posted Apr 5, 2011, 5:40 AM by Arie Gilbert

by Ian Resnick

On Sunday March 13th, we ran our Northern NJ Shore/Barnegat Light trip, one week after initially scheduled due to rain. It was a beautiful day, hampered only by a strong west wind blowing just about all day. This was the first time the trip was run in this format, one that I had done a few times in the past.

We started right on time at Seven Presidents Park, one that I'd never heard of until this past winter. For almost the entire winter there were Crossbills of one or both species present when there were none being reported in most of our area. Unfortunately for us, the last report of their presence was on March 7th. We were unable to turn up any of them, but we did get nice looks at a number of Red-breasted Nuthatches which seem to have become much harder to find in our area over the years. We also had our warblers for the day, a number of Yellow-rumpeds. A surprise was a couple of Tree Swallows flying around, a bit early in the year. We had some distant looks at sea ducks and loons.

Our next stop was Lake Takanassee, which hosted a Eurasian Teal all winter along with the American form of Green-winged Teal and many other ducks. The Teal appeared to have flown the lake, as it were, but we had numbers of Coot and Ring-necked Ducks among other species here.There were also quite a few Great Blue Herons.

Other stops as we headed south included the Shark River Inlet, where it was so windy you could hardly look to the west, and the birds were all much further back in the water than usual, and various bodies of water such as Lake Como and Wreck Pond, where we continued to encounter different species of ducks. We then stopped at Manasquan Inlet, which periodically attracts unusual species. No truly unusual birds were present here, but we did get good looks at a couple of Purple Sandpipers hiding in the unusually designed jetty, some Northern Gannets flying in the distance, and a Surf Scoter that flew in from the ocean and up the inlet. We tried to get better views of him, but were unable to locate him. We did get the near-permanent flock of Boat-tailed Grackles though, as well as a quite early Laughing Gull in nice breeding plumage. From here we headed down to Barnegat Light.

We eventually met at Kubel's, a restaurant a couple of blocks from the lighthouse, delayed by some poor directions that I provided to other drivers. After a good but long lunch, we headed to the lighthouse and beach. Being silly, we ignored the signs saying that the lot would be closed at 4PM, since this was the first day of Daylight Savings and this did not seem logical to us. We had a great walk out along the jetty. There were great views of many Oldsquaw (aka Long-tailed Ducks), a minimum of 35 Harlequin Ducks, many even on the jetty with us, and both Surf and Black Scoters not far from the jetty. On the top of the jetty itself, we had very tame Ruddy Turnstones, Purple Sandpipers and Dunlin. For those of us with cameras, it was very hard to tear ourselves away. In the meantime, Bernie, Linda & Bernie's cousin had headed back to the parking lot. While the rest of us had started walking back on the beach, we got a call from Linda that the park worker was about to lock the gate, right at 4! We rushed back to the lot, only to find that he in fact had locked us and many other people in. After about 15-20 minutes, he returned from the beach where he had gone to try and push all the others to leave, and we were once again on the road. Heading back to the mainland, we made a quick stop on an island in the marsh and had a nice early Eastern Phoebe.

Our last two stops were Cedar Run Dock Road, which heads into the marshes to the south of Route 72, and Stafford Avenue, aka the road to nowhere, which does the same to the north of Route 72. Probably due in part to the winds, we had very little at these spots. From here, we headed up to Toms River for dinner at The Office where the remaining five of us had an excellent dinner before heading home.

All told, we had a very good total of 60 species, including 15 species of ducks alone. Despite having spent too much time on the morning portion of the trip, it was a great success overall.

Ecuador. ...But the Birding Was Great!

posted Mar 2, 2011, 11:30 AM by Arie Gilbert

Chapter 4: I am Devoured By Wolves.

    Not really, but I always liked that line from the ‘Miles Copperthwaite’ sketches on SNL. But henceforth I was feeling much better with the aid of my antibiotics, as was Alison with hers, and despite Karlo who got sick for a day later on, he perked up right away by sharing Alison’s antibiotics. The rest of the trip thankfully progressed without any more “colorful” experiences. Yippee!

    The next morning had us start the day in the canopy tower at Rio Silanche. The birds were everywhere! We amassed a great trip list that included Ruddy Pigeon , Dusky Pigeon , Bronze-winged Parrot , Squirrel Cuckoo, White-collared Swift , White-whiskered Hermit , Purple-chested Hummingbird , Collared Trogon, Rufous Motmot, Pale-mandibled Aracari { my namesake}, Lineated Woodpecker { finally, another BVD quenched}, Wedge-billed Woodcreeper , Streak-headed Woodcreeper, Checker-throated Antwren , White-flanked Antwren, Dot-winged Antwren , White-bearded Manakin, Brown-capped Tyrannulet, Golden-faced Tyrannulet, Dusky-capped Flycatcher, Boat-billed Flycatcher { man, they sure like eating big juicy bugs!}, Streaked Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, Black-and-white Becard , Swainson's Thrush, Slate-throated Gnatcatcher{Cute!} , Red-eyed Vireo , Lesser Greenlet, White-shouldered Tanager , White-lined Tanager, Lemon-rumped Tanager , Blue-gray Tanager, Fulvous-vented Euphonia { Ah, the benefits of retrospective digital review. After seeing and photographing the bird, this and a more common species were known to be possible. Looking at the shots made the ID of the rarer bird. YES! } , Silver-throated Tanager { gorgeous!}, Bay-headed Tanager { gasp! I’m running out of adjectives, but you get the idea}, Rufous-winged Tanager, Blue-necked Tanager, Green Honeycreeper , Variable Seedeater , Yellow-bellied Seedeater , Buff-throated Saltator , and  Pacific Hornero. It’s really nice to look straight ahead, and especially down at birds, rather than up, and have to strain one’s neck! A “BVD” for those of you unfamiliar with the term, stands for “better view desired” ie a bird that one begrudgingly adds to ones’ lifelist, but for which they want a better view to be able to really feel like counting it

    Another particularly pleasant aspect of this place was that we were joined by another traveling birder from Miami named Carlos Sanchez, who turned out to be an excellent guide and a tour leader wannabe. We cheerfully welcomed his joining us, and he shared his broad knowledge while helping us to get more birds. { He mentioned the Euphonia possibilities detailed above }  We later were told by him that he found the LaSagra’s Flycatcher that a few QCBC members saw, as well as his friend finding the Red-footed Booby, both in the Florida area. Not stopping there, it turns out that both he and I were heavily into sophisticated ‘planted aquariums’, although I am almost sure I heard some say in the van: “oh no, not two of them!”

    Leaving Rio Silanche, we stopped for lunch on the way to Mangaloma. following the motto Semper Aucupium! { always birding! } and got some neat things at the restaurant and on the road such as Pacific Parrotlet., Smooth-billed Ani, Swallow-tailed Kite, and Black-cheeked Woodpecker.

    This fantastic day of birding continued at Mangaloma, where we saw many of the same birds though some with better looks. A special treat was finding a Slaty Becard, because it is both rare and not even listed for this area. A careful review of field marks convinced us that the ID was correct, and we scored another great bird.  But the day did not end there! Driving out of the parking area, I saw a bird in the undergrowth and blurted out PUFFBIRD! What was better, was that I was correct! And we added White-whiskered Puffbird! But wait - there’s more! Driving further down the road a raptor was spotted in a tree, and we all got great looks at Laughing Falcon. What a bird, and what a bird to cap the day!

Croton Point & Hudson River Sunday 2-6-11

posted Feb 11, 2011, 12:00 PM by Arie Gilbert

By Ian Resnick

    The annual trip to the east side of the Hudson River in Westchester was held on February 6th. Far more than in recent winters, I expected the weather to play a part, given the amounts of frozen precipitation we've had this season. The "Eaglefest", to have been held on the 5th, was called off by its sponsors, making me somewhat leery of holding the trip. I decided to just delay the start by an hour so that the sun could hit the road surfaces before we set out. Given that another club's report from the prior weekend included almost 200 Bald Eagles, I couldn't cancel ! The weather actually was possibly the warmest we have had on the trip, and winds were relatively light.

    Eight of us made the trip, and we had eagles just about as soon as we arrived by the Croton-on-Hudson railroad station. There was a lot of ice on the ground here, but we still managed to see 9 eagles in a shallow spot on the river as well as 10 sitting in one tree. Just like Alaska! There were also a few eagles flying around.

    The waterfowl numbers at this spot were way down, and the highlights were a Northern Pintail and an American Wigeon. From here we continued to Croton Point Park. The parking lot by the pines was ice-covered, and some of us drove back to the main lot and walked, while the others parked there. The main path was alternately covered in ice and an inch or more of cold water where the ice had melted. We didn't get a lot along here, and we then walked down by the house nearby where the trail was not iced over. At the feeders at the house we added a number of species including American Tree Sparrow and many expected species. The landfill was completely snow covered, and no birds seemed to be present. We had our lunch at the picnic tables under the large gazebo, normally not an option.

    We skipped Black Rock Park as I was not comfortable with the possible conditions in the lot there, and went straight up to George's Island. We added a few more eagles, and a few Common Mergansers. Then we headed off to Verplanck. In addition to more eagles, we also had Great Cormorants and a couple of nice flocks of Common Mergansers, almost all males. All the water in close at China Pier was frozen, but there were quite a number of  eagles in flight in the distance or on the ice. The best sighting here was of four Black Vultures soaring around together. The scenic overlook on Route 6 did provide nice scenery, but that was it. The parking lot there was not plowed out at all. 

    It was still a bit early, so we headed in the direction of the Croton Dam. Everything was going nicely until we got to the road that goes up to the dam, which had not been plowed. We took a shortcut to the Taconic and began the trip home.

    All in all, it was a pretty good day. We ended up with 42 species seen by at least one member of the group. I conservatively estimate that we had about 60 Bald Eagles, although others seemed to think it was much closer to 100. Either way, can't complain when you see lots of them!

Ecuador. ...But the Birding Was Great!

posted Feb 5, 2011, 12:14 PM by Arie Gilbert

Chapter 3: No Really, I’m Always this Pasty White Color

    The next morning, due to a worsening chest cold and a serious lack of sleep due to incessant hiccuping, I declined to go out on the day’s adventure. Jean, and Alison who also felt ill, stayed behind as well.

    In the afternoon, Renato called into his very pleasant wife Paola to check on me, and they conspired, er -  arranged for me to be seen by a doctor in the town of San Antonio, outside of Quito. All I wanted was a prescription for antibiotics which I knew I needed at that point, and something to make me stop hiccuping. The doctors had other ideas. Low oxygen due to the altitude and the congestion and hiccuping...The doctor explained to me his findings, all of which I already was aware, but his English was worse than my Spanish. Suffice it to say he strongly suggested I stay.  I was admitted, put on oxygen, given IV antibiotics, and mercifully, a sedative for the hiccups. Shortly thereafter, I was seen by the doctor’s wife, also a doctor, who came in to see me and discuss my condition. She being able to converse in a broken English slightly better than my broken Spanish. As we spoke, I detected some odd pronunciations, and following a hunch asked: “Parlez vous français?” and it turned out that she did in fact speak french. So here I am in a Spanish speaking country being explained things in French. Odd, though it made for a more pleasant experience.

    The next day I awoke feeling much better, so despite the doctor’s advice to stay another day we left. Renato arranged for a car to pick up our luggage at the hostel, and then pick us up at the hospital, and take us out to Mindo where we would join up with the rest of the group. Mindo, is quite interesting as it appears to be a Mecca for bird guides: store fronts offering tour guide services were all about town. Arriving at our lodging, the Yellow House Inn, one of the first birds we saw was the brilliantly colored Lemon-rumped Tanager, and the Pterodactylesque White-collared Swifts. They are huge!

    But the others were out enjoying killer experiences with Giant Antpittas and Cock of the Rock. Superstitiously, I have observed in the past that one can jinx themselves by getting a t-shirt that depicts a bird they have not yet seen on the trip. In this case I chose for the cover of the checklist booklets I made,  the Giant Antpitta, an otherwise “gimme” bird if one goes to Refugio Paz de las Aves. And I missed it. No wonder I had to spend a day in hospital! Grrrr.

    We headed in to town, passing a Tropical Gnatcatcher in a hedgerow on the way. A pleasantly immediately identifiable bird. As far as I know, we were the only ones to have it on the trip. In town, a very accommodating Squirrel Cuckoo afforded us great views and posed for pictures. After this we settled into a vista behind a hostel that had a stream behind it, and a whole lot of birds.  In the yard we were thrilled by a cooperative Rufous Motmot, Streaked Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, Blue-and-white Swallow , Southern Rough-winged Swallow, House Wren, Ecuadorian Thrush, and the always gorgeous Troperula {Tropical Parula },White-lined Tanager,  Blue-gray Tanager, Blue Dacnis, Yellow-bellied Siskin, Fawn-breasted Tanager, Golden Tanager, and Andean Emerald. What a nice little spot!

    The proprietress of the hostel saw us standing there looking into her yard, and came out to inquire what we were doing. In my best broken Spanish, I explained that we were looking at the birds. This older woman preceded to prattle on in Spanish, and once again I detected some odd pronunciations, and sure as sugar, this woman spoke French too. What are the chances? So now she preceded to prattle on in French, where at least I was able to understand what she was saying, though after she made some good recommendations for where we might see more good birds, she preceded to tell us about her parrots, the ones that died, how she missed them, the new ones... We smiled, thanked her for the info, and then made our escape.

    Some notes on birding in places one has not been before. When I saw the Tropical Kingbirds, I immediately identified them correctly, as well as the Squirrel Cuckoo. But when I saw another Flycatcher, I was not so sure. It looked like a Kiskadee to me, but there were so many choices in the book.... Later on, when we walked through town, we stopped into one of the many storefronts offering birding guides. I discussed this bird with the guide, who told us that Kiskadee is not found anywhere near there, but narrowed the choice to two other birds. A return and relocation cinched the ID as Rusty-margined Flycatcher. A valuable lesson learned was that it pays to know what birds are possible in a given location - changes in altitude have a dramatic effect. Also, many of the birds are resident, not migratory, so they will also be found in specific habitats, and thus help to narrow down the choices for the inexperienced

    Upon return to our lodging, the Yellow House, we were informed and treated to views of Common Potoo obligingly sitting on a stick right behind our room! Jean spied a Masked Water-Tyrant, and I got a nice look at the Black-throated Mango coming to the owner’s feeder.

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