12 May 2016

Rockefeller Big Day 2016!

The big event is almost here. International Migratory Bird Day, Global Big Day, the 1st annual Westchester Birdathon, and my 2nd annual Rockefeller Big Day all coincide this weekend. From 7pm May 13th to 7pm May 14th, I'll be trying to find as many bird species as I can within the Rockefeller complex. My efforts will be raising money for both Rockefeller State Park Preserve and Saw Mill River Audubon. Saw Mill will be using their portion of the proceeds to support their youth birding education programs and Rockefeller will be using the funds to help support my research on wood thrush and other interior forest species on the preserve and their conservation. It is not too late to donate towards this fundraising effort. You can support my Birdathon effort with a flat donation of any amount ($5, $10, $20, or more) or you can decide to donate a certain amount per species recorded (for example, $0.25, $0.50, or $1 per species). If you decide to donate a flat amount, you can donate right now. Don't forget to indicate that you are donating towards my birding effort. If you decide to donate per species, just let me know how much you wish to donate per species and how to contact you. I'll give you an update once the Birdathon is over. Thanks so much to those generous souls who have already donated!

Once again, my goal is to see at least 100 species within the Rockefeller Preserve complex (includes Stone Barns and Rockefeller Family property). This is a tall order, but I know it can be done. The weather is looking a bit iffy (it could be worse), but who doesn't like a challenge right?

For the rest of this blog, for those who are interested, I'm going to work out my strategy for finding 100+ species in the Preserve complex. This is as much for my own planning, as for those who might find it interesting and those who have already donated to my effort.

Must Get Species (common species on the preserve that I must get to have a chance)

1.   Canada Goose (Swan Lake and most other parts of the Preserve)
2.   Wood Duck (Swan Lake, but I haven't had good luck seeing them so far this year)
3.   Mallard (Swan Lake, and many other parts of the Preserve)
4.   Wild Turkey (Buttermilk Hill or Eagle Hill, possibly Swan Lake)
5.   Double Crested Cormorant (Swan Lake, or possibly Rockwood Hall out on the Hudson)
6.   Black Vulture (Eagle Hill or flying over other parts of Preserve)
7.   Turkey Vulture (Eagle Hill or flying over other parts of Preserve)
8.   Red-tailed Hawk (nest in Eagle Hill area)
9.   Herring Gull (hopefully on the Hudson at Rockwood Hall)
10. Rock Pigeon (Stone Barns or Rockwood Hall)
11. Mourning Dove (Buttermilk Hill and other areas)
12. Yellow-billed Cuckoo (Pair on Nature's Way near Swan Lake)
13. Great Horned Owl (nest in Eagle Hill area)
14. Chimney Swift (Eagle Hill and flying over other parts of Preserve)
15. Red-bellied Woodpecker (Everywhere)
16. Downy Woodpecker (Everywhere)
17. Hairy Woodpecker (Eagle Hill and Buttermilk Hill best bets)
18. Northern Flicker (Everywhere)
19. Pileated Woodpecker (Buttermilk Hill and other areas, less luck with them this year...)
20. Eastern Wood-Pewee (Buttermilk Hill, Eagle Hill, 13 Bridges)
21. Eastern Pheobe (13 Bridges, Eagle Hill)
22. Great Crested Flycatcher (Swan Lake, Buttermilk Hill)
23. Eastern Kingbird (Swan Lake, Buttermilk Hill)
24. Yellow-throated Vireo (Swan Lake area best bet)
25. Warbling Vireo (Everywhere, particularly Swan Lake)
26. Red-eyed Vireo (Everywhere, particularly Eagle Hill and Swan Lake areas)
27. Blue Jay (Everywhere)
28. American Crow (Everywhere)
29. Fish Crow (hopefully at Rockwood Hall, but can show up elsewhere)
30. Tree Swallow (Swan Lake, Eagle Hill, and other areas)
31. Northern Rough-winged Swallow (Eagle Hill area and Swan Lake)
32. Barn Swallow (Swan Lake and Buttermilk Hill, maybe Stone Barns)
33. Black-capped Chickadee (Everywhere)
34. Tufted Titmouse (Everywhere)
35. White-breasted Nuthatch (Everywhere)
36. Carolina Wren (Buttermilk Hill and Swan Lake)
37. House Wren (Buttermilk Hill and Swan Lake)
38. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (nests at Eagle Hill and Swan Lake)
39. Eastern Bluebird (Buttermilk Hill and Swan Lake)
40. Veery (Buttermilk Hill, Eagle Hill, and 13 Bridges)
41. Wood Thrush (Everywhere)
42. American Robin (Everywhere)
43. Gray Catbird (Everywhere, particularly anywhere swampy or scrubby)
44. Northern Mockingbird (Buttermilk Hill and others)
45. Brown Thrasher (Buttermilk Hill, Ferguson's Loop)
46. European Starling (Everywhere)
47. Cedar Waxwing (most reliable near Nature's Way)
48. Blue-winged Warbler (Buttermilk Hill, Eagle Hill, Swan Lake)
49. Northern Parula (Swan Lake, Buttermilk Hill, Eagle Hill)
50. Yellow Warbler (Everywhere)
51. Black-throated Blue Warbler (Buttermilk Hill, Eagle Hill)
52. Yellow-rumped Warbler (Buttermilk Hill, Eagle Hill, Swan Lake)
53. Black-throated Green Warbler (Buttermilk Hill, Eagle Hill)
54. Pine Warbler (OCA, Peggy's Way interchange)
55. Black-and-white Warbler (Buttermilk Hill, Eagle Hill, Swan Lake)
56. American Redstart (Everywhere)
57. Ovenbird (Buttermilk Hill and Eagle Hill best bets)
58. Louisiana Waterthrush (Buttermilk Hill, Eagle Hill, 13 Bridges)
59. Common Yellowthroat (Eagle Hill, Buttermilk Hill, Swan Lake)
60. Scarlet Tanager (Buttermilk Hill, Eagle Hill, Swan Lake)
61. Eastern Towhee (Everywhere)
62. Chipping Sparrow (Rockwood Hall and others)
63. Savannah Sparrow (Buttermilk Hill and others)
64. Song Sparrow (Everywhere)
65. Swamp Sparrow (Buttermilk Hill and Swan Lake area)
66. White-throated Sparrow (Buttermilk Hill, Eagle Hill, Swan Lake)
67. Northern Cardinal (Buttermilk Hill, Eagle Hill, Swan Lake)
68. Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Swan Lake and Buttermilk Hill particularly)
69. Indigo Bunting (Eagle Hill and Buttermilk Hill)
70. Bobolink (Buttermilk Hill)
71. Red-winged Blackbird (Buttermilk Hill and Swan Lake)
72. Common Grackle (Rockwood Hall and Swan Lake in particular)
73. Brown-headed Cowbird (Everywhere)
74. Orchard Oriole (Swan Lake and Eagle Hill)
75. Baltimore Oriole (Everywhere)
76. House Finch (Buttermilk Hill and Eagle Hill)
77. American Goldfinch (Everywhere)
78. House Sparrow (Buttermilk Hill and Swan Lake)

Pick-up or Occasional Species (must get at least 22)

-Great Blue Heron (Swan Lake, Eagle Hill, Ferguson's Loop, they are around just finding them)
-Green Heron (sighted at Swan Lake, but can be hit or miss)
-Great Egret (has been one at Swan Lake this week)
-Osprey (possible flying over or over Hudson at Rockwood Hall)
-Bald Eagle (possible flying over or over Hudson at Rockwood Hall or from Eagle Hill)
-Sharp-shinned Hawk (around, just hit or miss)
-Cooper's Hawk (around, just hit or miss)
-Broad-winged Hawk (around, possible at Buttermilk Hill or Eagle Hill)
-Killdeer (hopefully pick up in Stone Barns area)
-Spotted Sandpiper (has been seen at Swan Lake)
-Solitary Sandpiper (has been seen at Swan Lake)
-Ring-billed Gull (hopefully on Hudson at Rockwood Hall, possible elsewhere)
-Great Black-backed Gull (hopefully on Hudson at Rockwood Hall)
-Black-billed Cuckoo (possible, but don't think it has been seen yet this year)
-Eastern Screech-Owl (they are around, would be a great evening pick-up)
-Ruby-throated Hummingbird (around, just not always seen)
-Belted Kingfisher (used to be fairly reliable on Pocantico near Eagle Hill, not seen this year)
-Least Flycatcher (around, would be a good pick up species)
-Blue-headed Vireo (around, Eagle Hill and Buttermilk Hill most likely candidates)
-White-eyed Vireo (likely in Swan Lake area, but can be hit or miss)
-Common Raven (around, not seen much lately)
-Winter Wren (has been around this spring, likely moved on)
-Ruby-crowned Kinglet (around, not as common as it was a few weeks ago)
-Gray-cheeked Thrush (around but occassional, Eagle Hill and 13 Bridges seem to be good)
-Swainson's Thrush (around, one seen at top of Eagle Hill recently)
-Hermit Thrush (still possible, but likely moved on)
-Nashville Warbler (around, hit or miss, but seen/heard at Swan Lake and Eagle Hill recently)
-Chestnut-sided Warbler (around, possible)
-Magnolia Warbler (lots around lately, good possibility, but can be hit or miss)
-Blackburnian Warbler (likely, just not as frequent as last year)
-Northern Waterthrush (still possible near Swan Lake and other places, not as evident as a week ago)
-Prairie Warbler (northern end of Lucy's Loop trail, can be hit or miss)
-Palm Warbler (most seem to have moved on, but possible)
-Bay-breasted Warbler (around, possible)
-Blackpoll Warbler (around, possible)
-Worm-eating Warbler (possible, but rare, one sighting near Eagle Hill recently)
-Hooded Warbler (possible, frequent last year in Buttermilk Hill area, but not so far this year)
-Wilson's Warbler (around, possible)
-Canada Warlber (around, possible)
-Field Sparrow (possible, seem to have moved on)
-White-crowned Sparrow (possible, moving through general area, but unlikely)
-Dark-eyed Junco (seem to have moved on this year, but late one is possible)
-American Kestrel (possible, but unlikely)
-Merlin (possible, but unlikely)
-Peregrine (possible from Rockwood Hall, but unlikely)
-American Woodcock (one displaying earlier near Buttermilk Hill, but unlikely)
-Cape May Warbler (around, possible)
-Lincoln's Sparrow (around, possible)

Tentative Plan

7pm May 13th: Start at Rockwood Hall where I can hopefully scan something interesting moving on the Hudson, plus pick up some of the common species. Next before darkness falls, I'll move to the Eagle Hill and 13 Bridges areas to listen for late singing thrushes. As it gets dark I'll be listening for woodcock and eastern screech-owl as I move out of Eagle Hill area and back to the car. From their I'll probably drive the roads the go through the Preserve complex and listen for owls, turkeys, and possible woodcock. Then I'll head home for some rest.

2-3am May 14th. I'll head out for a few more hours owling etc... I'll hit Eagle Hill for civil twilight and the dawn chorus, then plan to move to Swan Lake as soon as the parking lot opens to get early morning birds there and possible to herons or sandpipers before they get disturbed by the crowds. After a thorough tour of the Swan Lake area, I'll head over to do Buttermilk Hill, Ferguson's Loop, and Stone Barns. During the mid-afternoon doldrums, I'll head over to Rockwood Hall to scan the river etc... Late afternoon I will head back for a thorough tour of Eagle Hill and 13 Bridges.

Of course, I will adjust this plan as the day progresses and I see what "Must Get" species I'm still missing or what "Pick-up and Occasional" species I still might need to get or seem most likely.


  1. Last scouting trip this morning was promising. Picked up new possible locations for pine warbler (still around), northern waterthrush, and yellow-billed cuckoo. Also had my first Tennessee warbler of the year, which will hopefully stick around until this evening. Excited to start my Westchester Birdathon effort in just about 4 hours. ‪#‎wnybirdathon‬ ‪#‎rockefellerbigday‬

  2. Also had a probable Lincoln's sparrow, but it disappeared in the underbrush before I could confirm. Hopefully I can relocate it.

  3. Update after the first round. I currently have 30 species after visiting Rockwood Hall and the Eagle Hill area. I met a really nice ultrasound technician from Phelps at Rockwood Hall who was really into the birds, so I ended up getting to Eagle Hill a little later than originally planned. I only managed to pick up wood thrush and veery in the swampy area before everything shut down for the evening. No luck on my night walk on the Old Gory Brook Trail and Pocantico River Trails. The misty, overcast conditions probably had the few things that might be active being quiet. I got 29 species on my "Must Get" list and one species, blackburnian warbler, on my "Pick-up" list. However, that is one I expected to get; 21 more to go. Unfortunately the river was really fogged in this evening, so I only managed to pick up a herring gull perched on a buoy as the fog began to clear. That is a crucial species to get, but not really a "bonus". The morning should bring better weather and it is nice to have a bunch of my "Must Get" species already under my belt.

  4. Unofficial total: 94 species. I'll recap on the blog hopefully tomorrow.