2016 Great Gull Island Birdathon account and species list

Saturday, May 15 – Day 1
Sean Sime, his brother David, and I left the Wurtsboro Days Inn at 2:00 am to start this year’s Great Gull Island Birdathon. We headed to the “Pine Boat Launch” parking area at Bashakill Wildlife Management Area. At 2:18 we picked up our first species for the weekend, a Wood Duck calling out on the marsh, followed a couple of minutes later by a distant calling Barred Owl. Over the next couple of hours we stopped at a number of locations around Bashakill trying to find, by ear, various nocturnally calling birds. Unfortunately, the Barred Owl remained our only owl, but we did pick up some other good birds: Pied-billed Grebe, Sora, American Woodcock, and Whip-poor-will in the dark. On Port Orange Road the headlights picked up a Coyote running across the road. As dawn approached, we parked on the causeway that crosses the marsh; a heavy fog settled in, but we continued to pick up species: a couple of Common Nighthawks hunted low over the water and American Bittern and Common Moorhens called from out in the marsh grass. Even though we couldn’t see the sun come up because of the fog we kept track of the time because one of my sponsors was giving a premium for species recorded before sun-up. By scheduled time of sunrise, which we wouldn’t have seen behind the ridge to the east, even without the fog, we were up to 35 species. Most of these were calling and singing passerines we would get many times during the morning at the “Bash”, but a species we were quite happy to pick up was Hooded Merganser, when a group of three flew out of the fog over the causeway. We then headed down the “Stop Sign” trail from the main parking area. Though the fog lifted only a little we steadily picked up species, including, among others, Pileated Woodpecker, Least, Willow, and Great Crested flycatchers, both waterthrushes, Pine, Bay-breasted and Canada warblers. One of the best pick-ups was a singing Mourning Warbler in the orchard along the entrance road. After the “Stop Sign” trail we went to the main boat launch where there were two young eagles visible on the nest across the way. Among the good finds along the “Nature Trail” was a calling Least Bittern, a Blue-winged Teal out on the marsh, a Brwon Creeper, a couple of Gray-cheeked Thrushes, a singing Cerulean and two Cape May warblers. We did not find Acadian Flycatcher along Port Orange Road, but the usual Prairie Warblers and Indigo Buntings were there. We don’t usually get Bobolink at Bashakill, but Dave spotted one in flight by the “Deli Fields”. In the late morning we picked up Ann back at the motel (a bad knee kept her from birding with us in the morning) and then we headed out Upper Pine Kill Road for some of the higher elevation specialties. We found a number of the birds we were hoping for: Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Blue-headed Vireo and Dark-eyed Junco. At one point we spotted a Broad-winged Hawk and a Red-shouldered Hawk chasing each other. We next headed for the Neversink River where we picked up Common Merganser, and Northern Rough-winged and Cliff swallows before coming back to Wurtsboro. North of Wurtsboro we quickly birded McDonald Road and Gumaer Falls Road. McDonald produced a singing Orchard Oriole and the canal path single Solitary and Spotted sandpipers feeding together. Gumaer Falls Road produced a Hermit Thrush and a Blackburnian Warbler, but once again we could not find an Acadian Flycatcher. The biggest surprise as we headed up Gumaer Falls Road was not a bird, but a Black Bear which ran across the road in front of us and lumbered up the hillside. Finally leaving the Wurtsboro vicinity a bit after noon we were at about 110 bird species for the day.
            On our way to Blue Chip Farm we made our usual rest stop at the MacDonald’s in Pine Bush. As usual, there were Fish Crows and Northern Mockingbirds here, but unlike in most years, we already had these species for the day. Blue Chip Farm was a disappointment this year. For the first time in many years we could not find even a single Upland Sandpiper. However, the nearby Shawangunk Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge came through with Eastern Meadowlark and Grasshopper Sparrow. After Shawangunk we headed for Doodletown Road in Bear Mountain State Park. As usual we got on the NY Thruway in New Paltz for the run south, picking up Purple Martin at the colony off the Thruway entrance road. Shortly after getting on the highway, Sean spotted a Wild Turkey on the side of the road. At the parking area on route 9W, south of the Bear Mountain Bridge, Ann stayed with the car because of her bad knee while Dave, Sean and I dashed up the hill trying to beat the thunderstorms that were threatening to put a premature end to our day. On he way up we quickly picked up a singing Worm-eating Warbler and a number of singing Hooded Warblers. Unfortunately, the rains caught up with us and we did not get the breeding Kentucky Warblers that other birders had heard and seen earlier in the day. Coming back down the hill we drove out to the end of Iona Island where we picked up our last two species for the day, calling Greater Yellowlegs and a Virginia Rail on the marsh. Dave headed home and Ann, Sean and I went back to the city where we spent the night at home at Ann and my apartment in Inwood. Over a microwaved dinner of beef chili Sean and I went over our bird lists for the day. This ia a birdathon ritual since our first counts often disagree by one or two species and we have to figure out what species has been left off. After the usual checks, we agreed we were at 127 species. This was not a record, but close. More importantly we had picked up most of the species we needed to get on the first day – species that we would have little chance of finding on Sunday on Long Island. We thought we had a chance of finally breaking the 200 species barrier on a birdathon.

Sunday, May 16 – Day 2
On Sunday – I can’t call it morning because it was still during the night – we were up at about 2:45 am to make sandwiches for the day and get organized for day 2. We packed everything into the car and Sean drove down the street, but stopped to ask Ann about the brake light being on. He also said he had to push the pedal all the way to the floor to stop. Most years this would have been the end of our birdathon, but this year Sean had driven to our apartment instead of taking the subway. So at 3:30 am we were scrambling to transfer all our gear from Ann’s car to Sean’s car (and stuff from Sean’s car to store in Ann’s) and park Ann’s in the parking lot. We have expected someone to call the police about this frantic activity, but we were soon on our way. We got to Jamaica Bay just after first light. Leaving Ann with the car in the parking lot, Sean and I raced over to Big John’s Pond to try and catch the Barn Owls coming in to their nest box. – we were just in time. After a quick look at the East Pond (Mute Swan, Gadwall, Ruddy Duck) we went back to join Ann in the parking lot for bagels and cream cheese for breakfast. As with yesterday morning we kept track of birds we recorded before sunup, getting the total count for that premium list up to fifty species for the two days. Just after sunup we heard a Black-billed Cuckoo calling from the edge of the lot. Then it was out the West Pond trail as far as the “breach” caused by hurricane Sandy. Once again we were picking up species rapidly – herons, shorebirds, gulls, and terns. Quick trips to Big Egg Marsh, the East Pond again and the North Gardens and North Marsh added a few more species, including importantly, Little Blue Heron, Northern Harrier, a calling Yellow-billed Cuckoo, White-eyed Vireo, and a lone Bank Swallow (over the East Pond). Finally around 9:30 we left Jamaica Bay. As we drove up Cross Bay Boulevard and I tallied our list to this point Sean added one more – a male Blue Grosbeak flying across the road. Our list now stood at 168. This was good, but we knew that if we were to have a chance of breaking 200 we should be higher. The day’s high winds had dashed our hopes of making that record.
            We made an unsuccessful try in Howard Beach for Monk Parakeets before heading east to Cow Meadow Preserve in Nassau County. On the drive in there we heard Monk Parakeets catching up with that miss. We picked up Lesser Yellowlegs and Least Terns out on the marsh and in the pond by the parking lot Northern Shoveler, Green Heron and Yellow-crowned Night-Heron. Then it was on to Jones Beach where once again the high winds were a negative factor. Nevertheless we picked up a few species: Common Loon, Sanderling, and Horned Lark. Now began the long slog out Long Island hoping to pick up a species or two at every stop. Gardiner County Park came through with Saltmarsh and Seaside sparrows and a quick stop in Connetquot River State Park turned up the Yellow-throated Warbler that has been nesting there the last couple of summers. This brought our total to 180. The pond at Eastport added Lesser Scaup, but Gabreski Airport failed us with Vesper Sparrow.  The drive along Dune Road produced one or two birds at every stop: Black Scoter, Common Eider (Shinnecock Inlet), Red-throated Loon, Great Cormorant (Shinnecock Inlet again), Northern Gannet, Piping Plover, and Roseate Tern (a species we missed last year). A stop at the end of Atlantic Avenue in Amagansett produced a Lesser Black-backed Gull for species 190. The jetty at the Montauk Harbor inlet had a Purple Sandpiper for number 191. Finally, just before sunset, at 7:54 pm we found our final bird of the weekend, a male White-winged Scoter at Montauk Point. We did try for screech-owl after sunset but had no luck. Back in town we had to scramble to find someplace that was still serving dinner before checking into the Daunt’s Albatross motel for the night. The 2016 Great Gull Island Birdathon was now over. The full list of 192 species is below.

Brant
Canada Goose
Mute Swan
Wood Duck
Gadwall
American Black Duck
Mallard
Blue-winged Teal
Northern Shoveler
Green-winged Teal
Lesser Scaup
Common Eider
White-winged Scoter
Black Scoter
Long-tailed Duck
Hooded Merganser
Common Merganser
Ruddy Duck
Wild Turkey
Red-throated Loon
Common Loon
Pied-billed Grebe
Northern Gannet
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Cormorant
American Bittern
Least Bittern
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Little Blue Heron
Green Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
Glossy Ibis
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Osprey
Bald Eagle
Northern Harrier
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
Broad-winged Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Peregrine Falcon
American Kestrel
Clapper Rail
Virginia Rail
Sora
Common Gallinule
American Coot
Black-bellied Plover
Semipalmated Plover
Piping Plover
Killdeer
American Oystercatcher
Spotted Sandpiper
Solitary Sandpiper
Greater Yellowlegs
Willet
Lesser Yellowlegs
Ruddy Turnstone
Red Knot
Sanderling
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
Purple Sandpiper
Dunlin
Short-billed Dowitcher
American Woodcock
Laughing Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Least Tern
Roseate Tern
Common Tern
Forster's Tern
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Monk Parakeet
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Black-billed Cuckoo
Barn Owl
Barred Owl
Common Nighthawk
Eastern Whip-poor-will
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Pileated Woodpecker
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Willow Flycatcher
Least Flycatcher
Eastern Phoebe
Great Crested Flycatcher
Eastern Kingbird
White-eyed Vireo
Yellow-throated Vireo
Blue-headed Vireo
Warbling Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Fish Crow
Common Raven
Horned Lark
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Purple Martin
Tree Swallow
Bank Swallow
Barn Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
Carolina Wren
House Wren
Marsh Wren
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Eastern Bluebird
Veery
Gray-cheeked Thrush
Swainson's Thrush
Hermit Thrush
Wood Thrush
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
Brown Thrasher
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Ovenbird
Worm-eating Warbler
Louisiana Waterthrush
Northern Waterthrush
Blue-winged Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Mourning Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Hooded Warbler
American Redstart
Cape May Warbler
Cerulean Warbler
Northern Parula
Magnolia Warbler
Bay-breasted Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Pine Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Yellow-throated Warbler
Prairie Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Canada Warbler
Eastern Towhee
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Grasshopper Sparrow
Saltmarsh Sparrow
Seaside Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Scarlet Tanager
Northern Cardinal
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Blue Grosbeak
Indigo Bunting
Bobolink
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Common Grackle
Boat-tailed Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Orchard Oriole
Baltimore Oriole
House Finch
American Goldfinch

House Sparrow

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