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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...