Trip Reports
Muttontown Preserve — May 30, 2009
photo gallery added 6/30/09

Note: This field trip was sponsored by the Huntington Audubon Society, a NYSYBC Partner Club. Many thanks especially to Stella Miller of HAS, who led a great bird walk for us, and to Brent Bomkamp, one of our own Youth Members who also belongs to HAS and did a terrific job co-leading with Stella.

We arrived and met in the parking lot of the Muttontown Preserve, in Nassau County, at 7:45. Already it was warm, and the weather would prove to be great for the whole morning. There were seven young birders there, including three that had joined recently, making this one of the best young birder turnouts yet. Our leaders were Brent Bomkamp and Stella Miller.  A few catbirds were in the bushes bordering the parking lot, and a group of Chimney Swifts swooped overhead, twittering constantly. After visiting the center (or more accurately, the bathrooms), we set off. A Wood Thrush was quickly heard, though it did not show itself. That would be the case with many of the birds we located, and a significant amount of the birding was done only be ear. A Blackpoll Warbler was heard, but it, frustratingly, kept hidden as well.

Brown Thrasher, photo by Benjamin Van Doren
Brown Thrasher, photo by Benjamin Van Doren

Our first hotspot came only about 15 minutes into the walk. We were hearing the blackpoll, and also saw multiple Yellow Warblers, a redstart, a Red-eyed Vireo, and, the best bird, a Chestnut-sided Warbler. Both the redstart and chestnut-sided gave good looks to some. A Veery was also singing its beautiful song. It was a great start to the day, and still barely 8:00.

Much of the sightings of the day would be around a number of fields on the preserve. We came to the first one hearing Blue-winged Warblers, and eventually found them, as well as an Eastern Towhee and a few yellowthroats. Soon after a Rose-breasted Grosbeak was spotted and stayed in the open, giving all birders a chance to see it.  At another field we saw a House Wren in a nest box and a Brown Thrasher.

Many good birds were found in the trees adjoining another large field. There we found Baltimore Orioles, Blue-winged Warblers, Indigo Buntings, waxwings, yellowthroats, and a flyover Red-tailed Hawk. One of the rarest, but most annoying birds of the day was found here too.

Trying to spot the White-eyed Vireo, photo by Carena Pooth
Trying to spot the White-eyed Vireo
photo by Carena Pooth

Someone heard a White-eyed Vireo, and we all looked up into the large tree that it was in. And we looked, and looked, and did not find it. We even spent a couple minutes looking at the field itself after a bird, which turned out to be a yellowthroat, flew from the target tree down into the grass. We then went to the other side of the tree, and there a few people got mediocre looks, and one or two got good looks. While accomplishing this we realized that Vireo-neck can be just as bad as warbler-neck, and this time your quarry doesn’t move, so you don’t know where it is.  When we were satisfied that enough people had seen it, we moved on.

Another surprise came at a different field, when an American Woodcock flushed from the meadow into the woods. At another wooded spot, we found a grosbeak that stayed right in the open very close to us, giving us great looks. We also heard a Magnolia Warbler and a Scarlet Tanager. Other heard-only birds included a kingbird and wood-pewee at different times.

Luck is in the eye of the by Herb Thompson
Luck is in the eye of the beholder...
(luckily not in the eye this time!)
photo by Herb Thompson

At one point, Brent, being the great leader that he was, taught us a very important lesson about birding: Be careful when looking up into a tree. At one point, we were walking along a wooded section of the trail, and heard a loud rustling sound directly above us. Brent looked up… and, well, you can probably tell where this is going. As to the species, (the first thing we inquired about) it was a robin. We decided that it was supposed to be good luck, though unfortunately that luck did not manifest itself in the form of a cuckoo sighting. (We decided that the luck could have been that nothing got on his new jacket.)

After this we began to head back to the visitor center, seeing a Veery, Mallards, and bizarre bathtub-like things filled with charcoal. That was somewhat puzzling. Before we reached the center, we also found a pair of towhees that were almost certainly nesting, and a Red-eyed Vireo. A brief stop to try to locate a cuckoo failed. At the center again, we found a Red-tailed Hawk and another hawk that might have been Red-shouldered, swifts, and a nesting Carolina Wren in a vent in the side of the center. After the wren left, we also saw a female cowbird visit the same nest. A Wood Thrush was very cooperative at the visitor center and nearby paths. A few Double-crested Cormorants flew over as well. After talking for a bit, we departed after a great trip. The total for the day was 47 species, even without House Sparrow, European Starling, and Rock Pigeon.

Thank you to Stella Miller and Brent Bomkamp for leading the trip, and the Huntington Audubon Society, our partner organization that sponsored it.

                  — Eamon Corbett,age 13

             View photo gallery 

List of Birds Seen on this Trip
by Michael McBrien

Canada Goose
Double-crested Cormorant
Red-tailed Hawk
American Woodcock
Mourning Dove
Chimney Swift
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Eastern Kingbird
White-eyed Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Barn Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Carolina Wren
House Wren
Wood Thrush
 American Robin
Gray Catbird
Brown Thrasher
Cedar Waxwing
Blue-winged Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Magnolia Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler
American Redstart
Common Yellowthroat
Scarlet Tanager
Eastern Towhee
Song Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Indigo Bunting
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Baltimore Oriole

Species Total:  47