Monday, August 29, 2011

Post-Irene Birding

I wasn't sure what I even expected after Tropical Storm Irene rambling through the area. All of Sunday, upstate NY was pummeled with heavy rains and winds up to 60 mph. It made me think less of a hurricane and more like a late autumn day, especially with how cool it was. The winds did little destruction in my immediate area, but I know people with trees down on their roofs, and Vermont got hit really badly.

This morning I woke up around 5:30 AM, and was displeased to see that it is now still dark out at that time! I recall lying back down on my pillow and snoozing a bit, still managing to make it to the Betar Byway at 6:20 AM, with the sun just coming up. Moments before I got there, I had a sharp-shinned hawk fly over the nearby Hannaford. This wasn't out of the ordinary, I've found an adult and a juvenile at Betar this year.

I immediately noticed a large upsurge in the numbers of eastern wood-pewees right near the parking area! They must be migrating through today, as there is no way the breeding season suddenly caused that rise in numbers. They were flitting about, calling, occasionally calling. The chickadees who like that spot seemed disturbed by their appearance.

There were the usual numbers of black-capped chickadees, northern cardinals, American crows, and cedar waxwings along the Byway. The gray catbirds seemed a little more active than usual but Betar always has a large number of them. The American goldfinch number seemed greatly reduced!

There was a pair of additional belted kingfishers this morning near the beach. There has been a pair near the inlet all summer, and they were there this morning. As I was standing there watching them, to my delight the double-crested cormorant juvenile I've watched for weeks flew right over my head! I was afraid he wouldn't find shelter in the winds and would perish, but they do seem hardy. I had also worried about the great blue heron many fellow Betar walkers have noticed but the bird was hunkered down by a pier way on the north end of the Byway, sheltered by nearby trees and bushes; it was not at all moving and was standing in a position that made me believe it was napping.

By the beach was a little pocket of fall migrants! I was absolutely delighted, and wondered if Irene made them drop in. A really fat flycatcher with an incredibly short tail was bouncing around some low branches, making a sort of 'whit' call repeatedly. I noticed the very thick eyering, and along with the other descriptors, has me thinking this bird was a least. Either way, I was excited to see any Empid. flying around today as it might be one of the last for the year for me. Along with the flycatcher there were a few other tiny birds flitting about in the low bushes! I had a confused-looking red-eyed vireo pop out from the lowest corner. The location had me thinking it was a migrant as well, and I'm a little sad to see them go finally. The first year male American redstart of whom I only really saw the wing and tail was fantastic. He was making a sharp sort of trill-y call note and moving at lightning speed among tiny limbs. And then, a juvenile chestnut-sided warbler popped into plain view, with it's odd lime-green and deep gray shades! I've recently studied them online so I would know them when I saw them, and this one was unmistakable, despite me never having seen a juvenile one before in person! It was almost as great as getting a life bird! Chestnut-sided warblers just don't seem common at Betar at all.

I was sad to leave the migrant pocket behind, but I had to check the rest of the Byway. And it was fairly quiet, with no species out of the ordinary. There were plenty of mallards with one American black duck following them, but the wood ducks seem to have gone. Of woodpeckers, I had a pileated, downy, and red-bellied. I had a yellow-bellied sapsucker there the day before Irene. Tufted titmice were here and there, singing their 'peter' song.

My other favorite experience of this walk was the family of Carolina wrens all purring, trilling, and singing their 'teakettle' song! I've only ever heard one there all summer, so to get three on one side and one on the other side of the Hudson River was amazing.

Also notable, when I got home around 7:30 AM, was that I also had additional Carolina wrens at my house. It sounded as if there were three, two more than my usual one! Their migration pattern is still new to me, so I'm not completely sure if some migrant and some now stay in upstate New York for winter.

So, the impact from Irene wasn't exactly as interesting as I expected, but there is NO way I am going to complain about seeing fall migrants! In years past I seemed to have missed actual pockets of birds moving through, getting only one here and there. This experience was a nice treat after a storm moving through the area.

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