#378 (and a half) at Doodletown

Yesterday Shane Blodgett led the Brooklyn Bird Club up the Doodletown trail in Bear Mountain State Park. Some birds are common there that are quite unusual here in the city and vice versa. In particular, it’s a good site for Yellow-throated Vireo, Hooded Warbler, Blue-winged Warbler, Golden-winged Warbler, and Cerulean Warbler. The latter would be a life bird for me.

Sign: Map of Doodletown; straight ahead to First June Cemetery; left to Tree Nursery

Once we got high enough up on the mountain, we saw several Ceruleans and heard quite a few more. They’re small birds that flit around in the tops of the trees, so they’re hard to spot. However I did eventually see one from the water tank, and that was my life bird for the day. We also had Golden-winged Warbler and Yellow-throated Vireo at the water tank. I thought the latter was a life bird too, but when I got home and checked my records, it seems I saw Yellow-throated Vireo a couple of times in Prospect Park last year, so I only got two life birds this weekend, not three.

Rob Jett, Valerie Heldt, Shane Blodgett, John Criscitello, Janet Zinn, Alan Bartaz, Janet Schumacher, Edith Gorman, Emily Goldstein, Suzanne Ortiz

Speaking of Saturday’s Yellow-billed Cuckoo, there’s a common phenomenon where once you finally get a nemesis bird, they’re suddenly everywhere, almost like they’re laughing at you. Saturday was my first Yellow-billed Cuckoo. Sunday was my second. Later in the afternoon, we had one up on Mine Road. One reason a bird species becomes more common after your first, is you learn what to look for in the half second you may have as the bird flies away. I had a near miss on a cuckoo at Sandy Hook a year or two ago, when one flew in front of me across a trail. At that time I was mentally running through my list of long, angular passerines about 15-20cm long, and my train of thought went “Flicker, No Thrasher, No Cuckoo!” and the bird was gone before I could even hope to tell Black-billed or Yellow-billed.

Yesterday as the bird flew by, I still couldn’t tell Black-billed or Yellow-billed without checking the field guide, but I did recognize it as a cuckoo immediately and knew I was supposed to be looking for the amount of red on the wings. This bird showed a lot of rufous on its wings, quite distinctive when you looked for it. After the bird was gone, I could look up cuckoos in the field guide and see that the cuckoo with all the red was in fact a Yellow-billed, not a Black-billed. (The bill color is apparent on a perched cuckoo in good light, but not a bird in flight.) A large part of becoming a good birder is just learning which field marks to look for when, and when you’re dealing with a flying cuckoo the reaction has to be automatic. There’s no time to think about it or check the field guide.

Also on Mine Road, we found a Lawrence’s Warbler. This is actually a regularly occurring hybrid of Blue-winged and Golden-winged Warbler. Backcrosses produce the even rarer Brewster’s Warbler, which we didn’t see. Because it’s a hybrid, it doesn’t count for life lists according to ABA rules, but it’s still a damned pretty bird, more attractive than either of the parent species (which are both rather pretty themselves).

There were also a couple of Eastern Bluebirds and maybe 10 Indigo Buntings on Mine Road. Indigo Bunting males are such a gorgeous blue bird. We don’t see them very often in the city, and even less rarely in full breeding plumage. Some of these were just striking.

Butterflies were also starting to arrive in force yesterday. I still have to go through the photos to fully identify all the species we saw, but there were lots of fresh Eastern Tiger Swallowtails, as well as some azures and probably more than one species of Duskywing.

Black and yellow butterfly

Total trip count was about 72 avian species, though I didn’t see nearly all of them myself. I decided to focus on just the unusual species and not push to see (or hear) absolutely everything the trip leaders pointed out. Here’s what I did see:

  • Double-crested Cormorant (1 flyover)
  • Canada Goose
  • Mute Swan
  • Mallard
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Spotted Sandpiper
  • Mourning Dove
  • Yellow-billed Cuckoo
  • Chimney Swift
  • Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Olive-sided Flycatcher
  • Eastern Wood-Pewee
  • Eastern Phoebe
  • Eastern Kingbird
  • Yellow-throated Vireo
  • Red-eyed Vireo
  • Blue Jay
  • American Crow
  • Barn Swallow
  • Cliff Swallow
  • Black-capped Chickadee
  • Tufted Titmouse
  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  • Eastern Bluebird
  • Wood Thrush
  • American Robin
  • Gray Catbird
  • Northern Mockingbird
  • European Starling
  • Cedar Waxwing
  • Blue-winged Warbler
  • Golden-winged Warbler
  • Yellow Warbler
  • Magnolia Warbler
  • Prairie Warbler
  • Cerulean Warbler
  • American Redstart
  • Common Yellowthroat
  • Hooded Warbler
  • Chipping Sparrow
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Rose-breasted Grosbeak
  • Indigo Bunting
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Common Grackle
  • Brown-headed Cowbird
  • Baltimore Oriole
  • American Goldfinch
  • House Sparrow
  • Lawrence’s Warbler

That’s a good day, and one unexpected bonus: there’s much less traffic driving back from Rockland County on Sunday afternoon than New Jersey. We should do more trips up here.

3 Responses to “#378 (and a half) at Doodletown”

  1. Peter Says:

    curious as to the location for birding “Mine Rd”

  2. Bey Says:

    Hey, great list! What was the date of that list? I went for a few hours yesterday and had a couple of raptor surprises. An adult Great-Horned Owl w/ crying young and juvie bald eagle flying thru the woods! A few large/healthy Black Snakes including a “5.6 skin. Right now is an excellent time to go because there are literally thousands(for sure a keystone species there) of newly transformed frogs of multiple species all over the trails and everyone is in on it: birds, snakes, raptors, etc. Later, Bey

  3. doodle master Says:

    what the flying fuck???i thought doodle town was actually cool.

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