Monday, May 11, 2009


It was an incredibly nice day out there today so I just couldn't resist doing some birding on the way home. The first stop was 5-Rivers.

A female American Kestrel was spotted along one of the larger fields.

They manage the fields at 5-Rivers by mowing them at set intervals. This seems to work out well for the Bobolinks. A female is pictured above.

The male Bobolinks were busy trying to set up territories and attract females.

One of the fields has some small saplings in it and Prairie Warblers can be found there. This bird actually looks to have a band on it's right leg. They do research at 5-Rivers and perhaps this bird is part of it.

Pine Warblers have also returned. This guy just wouldn't stop singing.

This was a nice opportunity to get a look at one. Once they set up territory and start nesting, they spend most of their time high up in the pines.

After I left 5-Rivers, I stopped at the Bennett Hill Preserve in Clarksville. I wanted to see if an old friend had arrived yet. I walked up the trail and as I neared the spot that I wanted to check, a bird flew low across the trail. This Hooded Warbler has been at the preserve for the past 3 years. It didn't look quite right and was acting much different than it had in the past. The bird was silent and that was strange since it usually sang constantly. The fact that a bird like this can find it's way to wintering grounds some 3000 miles away and then find it's way back to the same small patch of woods is incredible. I've read a lot of attempts to explain how birds navigate during migration and never really found any that convince me 100%. I think it's one of those mysteries that mother nature still has not revealed. Welcome back old friend!.... and how the heck did you do it?

Sunday, May 3, 2009


The morning was overcast and seasonably mild for early spring. Things got off to an interesting start right at first light. I was standing in a small clearing when I was shocked to see a large falcon flying due east at a relatively low altitude. Fortunately, I already had my camera on and was able to get off a quick "hip-shot".

Even without binoculars it was obvious that it was a Peregrine Falcon. The first one that I had ever spotted up here in Partridge Run and was completely amazed. The bird was flying like it was on a mission.

The nearest known nest sight for these birds is about 25 miles away in Albany and I knew this certainly wasn't one of them. During spring migration peregrines usually migrate north along the Atlantic coast and are rare inland. I'm thinking that this bird somehow got a bit off course yesterday and once the sun came up, it was headed east towards the very distant ocean. Quite an early morning wake up!

Here's an interesting anomaly that's been hanging around the area. This bird has returned to the same general area that it occupied last year. It sings a Golden-winged Warbler song most of the time, but it sure does not look like one.

It doesn't resemble the typical Blue-winged Warbler as it has a lot of white on the underparts, white cheeks and a lot of gray on the back and neck. This is a hybrid between a Blue-winged and Golden-winged Warbler. They call these birds Brewster's Warblers and as interesting as they are to look at, they are being created at a high price. The Blue-winged Warblers are taking over much of the traditional nesting grounds of the Golden-winged Warblers in our area. This is probably due to habitat succession as well as the blue-wings being more aggressive. This combined with the fact that the two species hybridize regularly, has led to a serious decline in the number of golden-wings in our area.

Nashville Warblers have also arrived in the area and a few are staking out some prime territory. You can actually see of the rufous crown feathers on this bird that are often difficult to see.

Rose-breasted Grosbeaks have also arrived. A great bird to look at as well as listen to.

I spotted this female Hooded Merganser on a small pond. It reminded me that last year I found 2 pair of them, that successfully nested just down the road. Seems to be an increasing phenomenon in our area.

Back at home the Pine Siskins are still inhaling as much thistle seed as possible. Are they ever going to leave?

Saturday, May 2, 2009


May is one of my favorite months of the year. For a birder in this part of the country it is a very exciting time of the year. Birds that are going to nest in the area begin to arrive and set up territories. Some birds simply migrate through the area and others are year round residents. There's something for everybody.

The local Raven nestlings are doing just fine. Their feathers continue to grow in and their vision seems to be improving as their eyes develop.

Blue-headed Vireos have been here a while now. It's not unusual to spot them up here when there are still patches of snow on the ground. The first one that I found this year was on April 10 and their numbers have been increasing since then as 6 of them were spotted today.

An Osprey was spotted migrating through the area.

We are fortunate to have a lot of flowing water up here on the state land. This Louisiana Waterthrush was spotted looking for aquatic insects in a stream. Sometimes they can be hard to get a decent look at so I was fortunate to find this one right out in the open.

This Chestnut-sided Warbler seems to be finding plenty to eat. These are probably one of the most numerous species of warblers found here in Partridge Run.

A Spotted Sandpiper was found on one of the water control structures that the DEC built years ago to create one of the ponds. They normally don't stick around in this area so we'll call this one a migrant also.

Solitary Sandpipers are also migrating through the area. This one was breaking tradition as it was joined by another one. Not that unusual.

Another Louisiana Waterthrush was found in a rocky creek. This bird has been in this area for a couple of weeks now singing away. Nothing says spring like the song of a waterthrush.

Always a crowd pleaser, this Black-throated Blue Warbler was singing and setting up territory in an area that they nest every year.

This bird here is a classic example of "if you build it, they will come". Those chestnut streaks on it's back give away it's identity.

A few years ago the DEC cleared an area and left some rows of underbrush behind. They mow between the rows each year and it has created exactly the habitat that these birds are looking for. This Prairie Warbler has set up a territory right in the middle of it.

This is one of the few that I have ever seen on the state land and I really enjoyed hearing it's unique song.

My own nickname for the Prairie Warbler is "the turbo bird". When I worked down at the quarry I realized that it's song sounds exactly like the sound that the turbochargers on a Caterpillar 992G loader make when it is put under full load. I'm sure you all have heard that sound... Right? O.K. maybe I was reaching a bit on that one.