Square Dance in the Sky
Approach your partner…
Even though spring migration is not yet in full flower, every moment of birding seems fraught with possibilities. That’s why we’ve been stealing any possible moment to go birding. Here’s are some brief highlights from of our recent excursions in Westchester and Orange Counties:
CRESTWOOD LAKE – A brief stop sans optics or photo equipment turned up some interesting birds, including my first Brown-headed Cowbird of the year. Nothing else new in the migratory passerine category turned up, but I was surprised to see an early sandpiper on the Bronx River mud flats. This shorebird, mixed in amongst the Killdeer, was most likely a Solitary Sandpiper. A Wood Duck hen navigated through the plenteous Canada Geese and Mallards with the most adorable little wood duckling I’ve ever seen. Further south, a mated pair dallied close to the near shore. Why is it that I only get good views of Wood Duck drakes, easily among the most resplendently colored waterfowl anywhere, when my camera is at home?
LENOIR NATURE PRESERVE – Having broken the ice on cowbirds a day earlier, I saw five or ten more as we pulled into the parking lot. Warblers weren’t readily apparent here; the mysterious owl that’s been antagonizing the local crows also remained under cover. However, dazzling Tree Swallows are now fully ensconced in their houses. Eastern Phoebe, Northern Cardinal, and Blue Jay dominated the woods with far fewer chickadees than usual making the scene. At the feeders, surprise Carolina Wrens and Red-breasted Nuthatches turned up alongside the usual finches and doves.
DOODLETOWN ROAD – Lured out by an early account of Cerulean and Hooded Warblers, we visited Doodletown Road at Bear Mountain State Park weeks ahead of schedule. The early birds in this instance did not get the worms, nor did we get the warblers, excepting one melodic Black-and-white. I should point out that I spotted a bird high in the canopy that looked a heck of a lot like a Worm-eating Warbler. However, I didn’t get a great look at it and Sara didn’t see it at all. Plus it was a lot higher up than I’d expect one of these birds to be. Since this species is not on our list yet, I’m not willing to force the ID. Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, on the other hand, left no doubt regarding their identities as they worked the treetops in groups.
We also observed Chipping and White-throated Sparrows, Gray Catbirds, Tufted Titmice, and a nice assortment of woodpeckers. The real action, however, circled above. Both Turkey and Black Vultures glided menacingly at the tips of the treeline; at these elevations, vultures get nice and close. American Crows and Red-tailed Hawks were easy to spot overhead as well. The photo series above depicts the kind of hoe-down that tends to occur when these two species intersect. I doubt that either of them enjoyed the dance