Contests & Special Counts
photo by Gloria Wagenknecht
Our local late winter survey of Sullivan County birds took place on the weekend of Feb 15-17 as six teams of field birders and one feeder watcher team joined in. They came up with a combined total of 61 kinds of birds, an average number for recent years. Most of the birds were seen not far from a well-stocked feeding station or open water. Congratulations to the top team of John Haas, Arlene Borko, Bill and Jayne Fiero, who counted 48 different species, focusing their efforts in the southern portions of the county. Four of their species were not found by anyone else during this weekend: Great Blue Heron (1 at South Road west end & 1 at the Wurtsboro development); 1 Eastern Screech-Owl (at deli fields); 1 Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker (at the development) and Pileated Woodpecker.
Scott Baldinger's team (including Lee Hunter and Deb Powell) ranked second in this event with 45 species. "Owling" at 6 am produced the only Great Horned Owl which was right across the road from their house. Then they started with Scott's feeders along South Road where they studied about 150 Common Redpolls (unsuccessfully looking for a rare Hoary Redpoll) and the only Fox Sparrow and Swamp Sparrow of the weekend. A trip to the western portion of the county produced the only American Kestrel (but no Rough-legged Hawk) and a single Turkey Vulture near the Monticello Raceway.
Two teams tied for third place with 42 species each: Valerie Freer, Mary Collier and Gloria Wagenknecht from 1 pm Friday to 1 pm Saturday, and Renee Davis and Ruth McKeon on Sunday. The Freer team found no unique birds, but Renee and Ruth located a Rusty Blackbird hiding in shrubbery close to Ruth's well-stocked feeders near Hasbrouck. Both of these teams saw the only Green-winged Teal near a feeding area in the brook at Livingston Manor, and the only Red-breasted Nuthatch at suet in Rock Hill. A remarkable Pine Warbler was seen by both teams at that same suet behind a house at the intersection of Katrina Falls Road and Wolf Brook Road. (A Pine Warbler—can it be the same one??--was seen in the same place on the 2011 Christmas Count; see photo in the Spring 2012 "Warblings."). John Haas and Arlene Borko formed another team on Sunday. They added the only Pintails (2) and Great Black-backed Gull of the weekend, both at South Road of the Bashakill. They earned our top green award for "number of species found per mile driven" since they found 36 species in only 40 miles. Each of the other teams drove over 100 miles.
Ruth McKeon and Ruth Shursky participated in a limited way on Saturday, finding 25 species, including Pine Siskins at the McKeon feeders. Kate and Charlie Hyden and their guest Valerie Beaman made a list of their 11 feeder birds which also included Pine Siskins. (They drove no miles and therefore were our most green participants.)
Over the years since 1998, nearly 100 different species have been seen as part of the "Feathered Frenzy." Probably the rarest bird of all of them is the Hoary Redpoll, a denizen of the far north, seen at close range by three teams this year at Scott Baldinger's feeders (see page 6). Two other new species were added this year: a Rusty Blackbird and a Pine Warbler.