James Orrico and I journeyed to the Sterling Forest in Tuxedo NY for a morning of birding. We had been here a year ago and now returned for much the same birds. Last year we had a very enjoyable experience with many wonderful birds. This year proved to be much the same with some added twists:
We started at Ironwood Drive rather late (8:20ish). I was a bit worried we’d miss some of the singers but we were pleasantly surprised to hear American Redstarts and Ovenbirds sounding off as we pulled in. As we started on our morning, we immediately ran into a friendly group of birders from the Queens County Bird Club. They kindly let us tag along with them. We hadn’t taken two steps when a very territorial waterthrush started chipping away. We suspected Louisiana. The bird had an all-white throat, but not much buff on its sides, and the eyebrow didn’t look quite right. However one playing on the bird’s song revealed its identity as a Louisiana Waterthrush.
Continuing on, we began to hear numerous residents, including: Veery, Red-eyed Vireos, and another Louisiana Waterthrush. A beautiful, male Rose-breasted Grosbeak flew across the road providing great looks. We passed an area with a lot of beaver activity; flooded forest, gnawed trees, fallen trees and even a beaver lodge!
As we moved farther down the road we started to hear Blue-winged and Hooded Warblers. Two Broad-winged Hawks flew over, followed by a Red-tail. It was wonderful being in a place with such abundant life, and made me feel really glad that there are places where we can interact and learn from wildlife.
Soon after, we reached the powerline cut and started on our hike. A Yellow Warbler greeted us on our way in, Prairie Warbler song came from all directions, and forest birds including Yellow-throated Vireo, Eastern Wood-Pewee, and Black-and-White Warblers sang from the edges. An immature Bald Eagle surprised us when it flew over the powerline cut. The eagle would continue the great raptor day we were having. In the end we would see 6 species of hawk and vulture including 3 Cooper’s Hawks and 3 Black Vultures.
As we started our ascent up one of the hills, we noticed a singing Golden-wing that we just couldn’t connect with. This would set the pace for the day, we never got any good looks at Golden-wings. The worst showing of this was at the end when we had a bird singing just 8 feet away in a shrub we were facing. Only problem was the bird was singing on the other side of the shrub. We never did see it, even after 10+ minutes of waiting.
That’s okay, though. We had numerous other resident birds to enjoy. 2 Common Ravens flew over the cut, Chestnut-sided Warblers and Field Sparrows sang from the edges and the Prairie Warblers kept us on our toes by flying very close and giving great looks while singing.
Up the hills we went, enjoying the birds, butterflies and bugs. As we were climbing I noticed a high-pitched song coming from the edge of the cut. A Cape May Warbler! But try as we might, we were never able to call it in, though it kept singing. As we continued, we heard more and more singing Golden-wings that taunted us from the shrubbery.
On the way back, a beautiful Cerulean Warbler perched right in the open for just a second giving terrific views. An Indigo Bunting perched close as well, and the views and color were just as stunning.
We also enjoyed many non-bird highlights including numerous Dragonflies and butterflies, including this stunning Tiger-Swallowtail.
When we got to the end, we bid farewell to our new friends and headed home.
6 Raptors! 12 Warblers! Not bad for May 30th!