Ulster County Spring Bird Census 2016
The annual John Burroughs Natural History Society Ulster County May Bird Census (a/k/a Century Day) was conducted on Saturday, May 14, 2016. This “Big Day” count is an attempt to document bird diversity in the county by identifying as many species of birds as possible within Ulster County during a single day. This year’s effort included reports from eight field parties as well as several casual observations. The count occurred on the latest possible calendar date (second Saturday of May). Collectively we encountered 165 species, nine more than last year, and four more than 2014. The final tally included several uncommon or rare species on a day that was preceded by a very productive May migration period that featured unusually good diversity and numbers of individuals over an extended span of time.
Count day temperatures ranged from 45°- 72° (F) under mostly to partly sunny skies with 5-10 mph southwesterly winds. No precipitation materialized on count day. A 60% waxing gibbous provided some nocturnal illumination. All three expected breeding owls were detected, and Whip-poor-wills were heard singing from two distinct locations.
The outstanding highlight of this year’s effort was a staked-out Barn Owl at a farm silo nest site in southern Ulster County. Philadelphia Vireo at the Great Vly Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in Saugerties was also a rare find for this count, as was a Gray-cheeked Thrush seen at the Maple Ridge Community property in Ulster Park. An American Bittern was observed flying north over Lauren Tice Road heading towards the Great Vly WMA in Saugerties, a Red-breasted Merganser was found out in the lower basin of Ashokan Reservoir, and one of an apparent breeding pair of Merlins was recorded from Forsyth Nature Center in Kingston. Peregrine Falcon was found in two locations, the Jockey Hill Road utility cut in Kingston and the Trapps in the Shawangunk Mountains of southern Ulster County.
Ruffed Grouse were heard drumming at Wilson State Park, two Least Bitterns, a Sora, Common Gallinule, and Pied-billed Grebe were all detected at the Great Vly WMA. Black-crowned Night-Heron was found at Kingston Point. Eastern Whip-poor-wills were heard from Kenco’s on Rte. 28 and from West Saugerties Road, Great Horned Owl was heard in the Shawangunk Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge (SGNWR), and four Common Nighthawks were seen hawking insects over the Great Vly WMA during the early morning hour and again late day just prior to dusk.
Acadian Flycatcher (Dug Hill Rd.), Alder Flycatcher (Wilson State Park), Willow Flycatcher (SGNWR), two Swainson’s Thrushes (Mill Rd. and Maple Ridge Community), several Tennessee Warblers (multiple locations), Mourning Warbler (Jockey Hill Rd.), two Hooded Warblers (Mill Rd. and Jenny Lane), several Cape May Warblers (multiple locations), Cerulean Warbler (Snyder Field, Rosendale), Bay-breasted Warbler (Great Vly WMA), Grasshopper Sparrow (SGNWR), and a few lingering Pine Siskins at Maple Ridge Community feeders were also noteworthy for this count.
Red-headed Woodpeckers continue to breed at the Weston Road marsh on the New Paltz/Esopus town line. Osprey were recorded again this year at a nest site off Kingston Point. Both Black-billed and Yellow-billed Cuckoos were recorded this year, as were Golden-crowned and Ruby-crowned Kinglets, though it required a hike up Slide Mountain in the Catskills to detect a Golden-crowned. Hooded and Common Merganser, and White-throated, White-crowned, and Lincoln’s Sparrow all made this year’s list. A very respectable twenty-eight species of warblers were encountered during the count day.
More or less expected species that were missed this year include American Black Duck, Upland Sandpiper, Wilson’s Snipe, and Horned Lark. Brant were also absent from this year’s count despite several thousand moving up the Hudson River just two days earlier. With the exception of the Red-breasted Merganser, we did not find any odd lingering ducks, or unusual gulls, terns, or shorebirds.
Steve M. Chorvas – compiler