Trip Reports
Bashakill Wildlife Management Area (Sullivan County) — March 29-30, 2014

Note from Carena Pooth: This was a joint trip with our parent organization, the New York State Ornithological Association (NYSOA). In spite of the somewhat uncooperative weather, it was great! We enjoyed an informative and entertaining presentation Saturday afternoon on Birds of the Bashakill, given by local experts Lance Verderame and John Haas of the Sullivan County Audubon Society, a NYSOA Member Club and a NYSYBC Partner. The presentation included beautiful photos of many of the Bashakill's 200 species of birds. We examined the map and learned where the Deli Fields are (across from the Deli, of course). On Sunday morning, we found – to our great surprise and delight – that it was NOT raining, and we all headed over to Haven Road to begin a delightful birding tour at the Bashakill WMA, led by Lance and John. Truth Muller, a member of the New York State Young Birders Club, participated in the field trip on Sunday and sent in his report on the day's happenings (below). We are very grateful to Lance and John for giving us their time and sharing their knowledge with us. They scouted in advance, taught us about the Bashakill and its birds, took us to some of the best birding spots, and gave us tips for future visits to this birder's paradise. Check out John Haas's book on birding Sullivan County (including the Bashakill WMA).

The creek by the Deli Fields, photo by Carena Pooth
The creek by the Deli Fields, photo by Carena Pooth

A Day of Birding in the Basha Kill

On March 30th the New York State Young Birders Club met up with the New York State Ornithological Association (including NYSOA President Kathy Schneider) for a four and a half hour birding tour around the Basha Kill Wildlife Management Area. This NYSOA field trip was led by two of Sullivan County's top birders, John Haas and Lance Verderame. The threatening forecast caused some to cancel, but those who did arrive were in for a treat. The weather held for the duration of the entire trip.

We began at Haven Road, right in the middle of the Basha Kill and several hundred waterfowl. Ring-necked Ducks dove for breakfast, geese honked, Buffleheads bobbed with Common Mergansers, and a handful of stylish Northern Pintails swam about the icy water. The cacophonous squealing of uncountable Red-winged Blackbirds filled the air. John and Lance trained their scopes on particularly interesting ducks while the rest of the group searched the air for Bald Eagles, of which two were found. Once every duck had been thoroughly viewed, we headed back to our cars where a Rusty Blackbird was found foraging in the leaf litter at the water's edge, across the road from the parking lot. It was a life bird for me.

Our next stop was the main boat launch. The water, despite being well frozen, yielded Hooded Merganser and American Black Duck. We then trekked down the Birch Trail. At first nothing truly noteworthy showed, despite all fifteen birders scanning every tree and bush. But on the way back things began to pick up. First an azure male Bluebird with a large treat clenched in his beak appeared. Then a female arrived, and it became quite apparent that they were mates. The male snuggled close to her and presented her his food offering. They were a perfect little couple. Just as we were about to leave the Birch Trail, John Haas's keen ears picked up the magical song of a Winter Wren. The search was on. Someone played the wren's song on their phone, and the tiny bird belted out a beautiful song in response. Several minutes of "pishing", running, calling, playing, and shrub scanning later, the bird presented itself just long enough for a decent glimpse.

Getting great looks at an Eastern Screech-Owl in a tree cavity
We got amazing looks at an Eastern Screech-Owl in its nesting cavity.
photo by Carena Pooth

Our third stop was the Deli Fields, a combination of forest, river, stony clearings and thick fields, complete with a boat launch. Highlights there were: Belted Kingfisher, a rather wet, disgruntled looking Bald Eagle in the last stages of teenagehood, and the pièce de résistance: a wonderful Eastern Screech-Owl, peering from his roost-hole like a tiny feathered gnome. It was a life bird for one of the trip participants.

Our final stop was one last pass by Haven Road, where we picked up Tree Swallow and Green-winged Teal. Just as I closed the car door to head home, the cloudy sky finally let loose its store of rain. The final count was thirty-four species. Despite the cold and damp conditions, a wonderful time was had by all, proving the point: if you're gonna go birding, go birding, and let the weatherman fuss with the weather!

                                           — Truth Muller, age 14

         View photo gallery

             List of Birds Seen on this Trip 
             by Truth Muller

Canada Goose
Mute Swan
Wood Duck
American Black Duck
Northern Pintail
Green-winged Teal
Ring-necked Duck
Hooded Merganser
Common Merganser
Great Blue Heron
Bald Eagle
Red-shouldered Hawk
Ring-billed Gull
Eastern Screech-Owl
Belted Kingfisher
Downy Woodpecker
Eastern Phoebe
Blue Jay
American Crow
Tree Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Winter Wren
Eastern Bluebird
American Robin
European Starling
Song Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Rusty Blackbird
Common Grackle

Species Total: 34