The annual John Burroughs Natural History Society Ulster County May Bird Census (a/k/a Century Day) was conducted on the traditional second Saturday of the month, May 08, 2021. This “Big Day” effort is an attempt to document bird diversity in Ulster County by identifying as many species of birds as possible during a single day. Seven individuals in three field parties participated this year, recording a total of 140 species plus one hybrid (Lawrence’s Warbler). Based on ebird records, additional species were documented in the county during the count day, but only three field parties submitted reports for the census.
Count day environmental conditions were challenging again this year, with cold air temperatures (42 – 52° F) and periods of rain showers throughout the day. This year’s count was also conducted on the earliest possible date within the second Saturday date range (May 08-14) during a time period with unfavorable migratory conditions, combined with relatively little participation and less effort compared to recent past years. It was apparent early in the morning that few if any new migrants had arrived overnight, traditionally late-season migrants had not yet reached our area in any significant numbers, and recently arrived local breeders were inexplicably quiet, relatively few in number, and generally uncooperative.
Despite this amalgamation of challenges, a larger than expected number of unusual species were documented by the field parties. Ashokan Reservoir hosted eight White-winged Scoters (Dike Road), and four Bufflehead (two drakes and two hens) were discovered on Cooper Lake in Woodstock. Two Green-winged Teal lingered in the farm pond off Denniston Road in Gardiner. Sora, two Common Gallinule, and an American Coot were detected at the Great Vly Wildlife Management Area in Saugerties, and one Bonaparte’s Gull was mixed in with a flock of Ring-billed Gulls on Kingston Point beach. A distant Northern Goshawk was seen in flight from Lauren Tice Road in Saugerties, a Peregrine Falcon was seen in flight over Winston Farm in Saugerties, and a Merlin was observed flying over North Street in Kingston.
Extremely unusual for this census, Evening Grosbeaks were encountered at two different locations. A single flyover was heard in Wilson State Park, and two additional birds were heard vocalizing on Rock City Road in Woodstock. A Pine Siskin was encountered on Glasco Turnpike, and a male Golden-winged Warbler was observed on West Saugerties Road, both in the Town of Woodstock. A hybrid Lawrence’s Warbler was seen and heard singing a Blue-winged Warbler song off Lauren Tice Road in Saugerties. Red-headed Woodpecker was recorded at the Weston Road swamp in New Paltz and at Winston Farm in Saugerties, but not at Esopus Meadows. Ruffed Grouse continues to be reliable at Wilson State Park, and Eastern Whip-poor-will returned to the Catskill Mountain foothills along West Saugerties Road, though an attempt to detect them from a previously reliable location off Rte 28 in the Onteora Lake area of Kingston was unsuccessful.
A total of Twenty-one (21) species of warblers were detected during the count effort, with none of the expected species missed, but all of the traditionally later-arriving species not recorded. Significant in a historical context, Purple Martins were NOT present at the Paradies Lane colony in New Paltz, but were found at the Rosendale colony, and for the second consecutive year at least one individual was observed associating with a large mixed flock of swallows foraging low over the Wallkill River in Gardiner.
There were numerous species not detected on this year’s count, the most noteworthy for the early date include Northern Harrier, Eastern Screech-Owl, Winter Wren, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Hermit Thrush, Cedar Waxwing, and Dark-eyed Junco. No concerted effort was directed at finding Northern Saw-whet Owl this year, and Least Bittern and Barn Owl were sought after with no success. The Shawangunk Grasslands/Blue Chip Farm area was relatively unproductive, failing to yield any sight or sound of harrier, Grasshopper Sparrow, or Upland Sandpiper. Peekamoose and associated mountain roads were not surveyed this year for high-elevation specialties.
The following table summarizes the list of species found by field party, followed by field party effort. Thanks to everyone for your effort, and let’s hope that we experience better conditions and greater participation next year when the count will occur on the latest possible date, May 14, 2022.
Steve M. Chorvas – compiler