We made our way back to Staten Island, all of us starting to get hot and tired. We were missing a lot of common birds, but we felt very confident that we would be able to find everything we were missing on the Island. We decided to hold off our two strongest stops, Mount Lorretto and The Conference House until later in the day when the birds would be more active.Before then our first target species was Wild Turkey. Now, being from Upstate Turkey are as common as any bird. But this is not the case in New York City. For the last decade or so, a group of Wild Turkey’s have stalwartly bred on Staten Island, the flock growing larger every year. They can now officially be counted on Christmas Bird Counts and The City Birding Challenge. It did not take us long to find the flock roaming around a local park. Apparently these Turkey’s like to mess up peoples backyards and patios in the neighborhood.
We next drove to Great Kills Park, where Bank Swallow was quickly found. In a small pond we notched Greater Yellowlegs and Gadwall. From there we moved to a small woodlot, where Pileated Woodpecker had been spotted earlier in the week. We didn’t find it, but Blue-winged Warbler was found as was Veery and Swainson’s Thrushes.
From there we moved to Blue Heron Park where we would have an unsuspecting amount of luck. Shortly after arriving, Mike spotted a Yellow-billed Cuckoo moving through the woods and at the next intersection a Nashville Warbler was singing. Walking around we hit a Belted Kingfisher and Hairy Woodpecker. A Canada Warbler was found skulking in the underbrush. Mike and I followed the road near the parking lot and notched a Least Flycatcher, with everyone getting a view.
From there and now nearly matching last year’s total, we moved to the Conference House which is the southern most point in New York State. Our main goal was Chipping Sparrow and Indigo Bunting, both of which we quickly got. A Northern Flicker flew through adding to our species list. Some more walking and poking around yielded a White-Crowned Sparrow, but the previously reported Dark-eyed Junco and Field Sparrow’s could not be found.
We hit Mount Lorretto next, Northern Rough-winged Swallow was quickly found as was Willow Flycatcher. Savannah Sparrow was located once again and a flock (!) of Bobolinks were in the fields, while a few Chimney Swifts twittered overhead. At this point we were missing White-breasted Nuthatch, Green Heron and Hooded Warbler. We were sitting at 145 species, already 4 more than last year, but we didn’t feel very confident. We guessed the Brooklyn team already had 150 and they no doubt were at Jamaica Bay at high tide, checking off rare shorebirds left and right. However we had to not worry about them and press on. Nothing was guaranteed.
Mike had said he was seeing a White-breasted Nuthatch at Clove Lakes Park for most of the week. We threw caution to the wind and went for it and it did not take long at the spot for the Nuthatch to show it’s self. Sprinting back to the car (it was after 7pm) we drove quickly to Snug Hollow in hopes of Green Heron and Hooded Warbler. The Green Heron was found down by the pond, but the Hooded Warbler could not be located. From here we went to our last location, Silver Lake, where we held out hope in the waning light of a Common Nighthawk. It didn’t happen, although we did get good looks at all the Swallows and a waterproof challenged Mallard.
Exhausted and feeling defeated we made our way back to the car and the long journey home. Shortly after dark it started to rain and then pour. We couldn’t go back out for a second shot at the Chuck-will’s-widow or Barn Owl. I met Danika at Mike’s house at around 9:30pm after being up for the last 22 straight hours (21 Birding). Once I got her back to the NYS Thruway, I think I passed out as I don’t remember much until we got back to Albany around 1am. Smelling like a rancid salt marsh I collapsed into bed and slept, not worrying about the results.
To Be Continued….