Lifers indicated in bold
Stopping at Shawangunk Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge (the same place I saw Short-eared Owls this spring, read more about it here) on the way back up to Syracuse was not just about adding a bird to my list, this was also to settle a score. The last time I tried for Henslow's Sparrow at this spot, I had waited for two hours with no luck, only getting a Dickcissel (a lifer at the time) and the sparrow reappearing after I had left. My mom and I got there around 3:00 in the afternoon, when it was blazing hot and nothing around. FWS has managed Shawangunk Grasslands in the past few years in hopes of attracting grassland breeding birds, with sparrows such as Henslow's are a particular target; finally succeeding in 2017. Skip ahead to now, and there is a pair of Henslow's Sparrows at the refuge that had built a nest on a trail that had been roped off to avoid disturbances to the nest. Since getting a close look was out of the question, this would be a waiting game like last year... Fortunately, another birder who had brought a scope was also on lookout.
As time passed, a male American Kestrel hovered over the grassland, a Bobolink sang from a perch near the nest site, and even a Black Bear foraged at the edge of the forest, but the sparrow didn't make itself known until another half hour, when I finally heard a repeated “tsi-lick” “tsi-lick” “tsi-lick” coming from the nest spot. While I have no problem counting heard only birds under normal circumstances, this would be my 300th bird on my NY life list, so I wanted a special look at it, so we continued to wait. Another half hour passed before I heard another series of the “tsi-lick” “tsi-lick” “tsi-lick” song. I focused my scope in on the bush and saw the male Henslow's Sparrow perched, singing his “tsi-lick” “tsi-lick” “tsi-lick”. I got pics through the scope before it dropped back down. We waited another half hour before finally moving on to Syracuse...
We didn't get to Montezuma until later in the afternoon on Tuesday. I was hoping to see either Black Tern or Least Bittern from the Wildlife Drive, but neither was present; instead mostly waterbirds, songbirds, and one Bald Eagle. I think the most notable bird I saw here was a Trumpeter Swan, and that wasn't even new for this year.
The next bird I would try for was Sandhill Cranes at Knox-Marsellus Marsh. There were several large wading birds there, but all turned out to be Great Blue Herons, not what I was looking for.
We were running out of time to find my remaining target species: Least Bittern, Black Tern, and Yellow-throated Vireo, so in a last ditch effort for new birds, we went to Van Dyne Spoor Road, where I had seen all three last spring. I heard the vireo singing from the forest and saw several Black Terns flying around, but came up empty with the bittern. Having gotten only two of my targets, we went home...
The next day, after trying again at East road for Sandhill Cranes with no success, we made the long drive home in silence. My birding marathon of the summer had unofficially ended, but would my checklist streak stay alive?
The following two days were spent trying to get into summer courses at LIU Post, so I couldn't bird unless I submitted incidental lists. Just as I thought my streak was about to die, as luck would have it, two days after the less than exciting 2018 AOS Check-list supplement came out, a pair of Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks was seen at Nissequogue River state park in Suffolk county while we were out to lunch with some friends of my father who were in town for a wedding. While I had already seen Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks in Florida this year, an opportunity for another state lifer was too good for me to pass up. I accompanied my dad in dropping him off at the hotel, then we went after the ducks. Shortly upon arrival, we saw the ducks perched on a floating log.
My 46 day eBirding marathon came to a grinding halt when I saw Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the day before summer classes started. My streak had held up even when I saw Solo: A Star Wars Story and Avengers: Infinity War, but not through a movie I was pressured into seeing, which you can read about what inaccuracies I have to criticize Universal on in Paleobirding #2: Breaking Down the Fallen Kingdom.
To be continued...
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