Hudson-Delaware Region: Summer 2021

Summer 2021: 1 Jun–31 July

Robert O. Paxton
[email protected]

Amy Davis
[email protected]

Frank Rohrbacher
[email protected]

Shai Mitra
[email protected]

Recommended citation: 

Paxton, R. O., A. Davis, S. Mitra, and F. Rohrbacher. 2021. Summer 2021: Hudson-Delaware Region. <https://wp.me/p8iY2g-bxM> North American Birds.

Summer 2021 was rainy and hot, though without breaking temperature records. It was the third wettest July ever in Central Park, New York City (11.09”), and on 17 Jul a record 3.03” of rain fell at Rochester. A major feature of the season was a hatch of 17-year Brood X cicadas, particularly in Delaware. During the first week of June, historic numbers of Mississippi Kites gathered at a cicada hatch west of Newark, New Castle Co, DE, and slowly diminished until the cicadas stopped emerging in early July. Crows, starlings, catbirds, robins, and a juvenile Cooper’s Hawk were also observed feeding on the emerging insects. About 75 Cedar Waxwings were actively fly-catching cicadas near Hopewell White Ridge Trail, Mercer Co, NJ on 2 Jun (Vincent Nichnadowicz). A late migrant Olive-sided Flycatcher at the Mississippi Kite feeding frenzy site near Newark, DE, was observed singing on 5 Jun but couldn’t be heard over the cicadas’ din (ph. Lani Hyde).

Tropical Storm Elsa, remnant of a minor hurricane, passed Montauk Point, NY, early on Friday 9 Jul, displacing only the expected local pelagic species: 80 Cory’s Shearwaters, 49 Great Shearwaters, 5 Sooty Shearwaters and 258 Wilson’s Storm-petrels (fide Tom Burke, New York City Rare Bird Alert, hereafter NYC RBA). The small number of Sooty Shearwaters was expected, as those that gather off Long Island in June mostly move eastwards by early July in their post-breeding circumnavigation of the north Atlantic Ocean. Eight Whimbrels seen from shore were probably offshore migrants caught up in the storm. 

Notable this season were Delaware’s first Ancient Murrelet and Delaware’s fifth Little Egret, as well as breeding Dickcissels, and the region’s share in a historic northward incursion of Wood Storks and Roseate Spoonbills.

Waterfowl

Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks were unrecorded in this region before 2000, but now range widely through it annually in summer. This season, the species visited all three Delaware counties, and the state’s biggest assemblage—about 23 birds—summered at the Amalfi Drive retention pond near Clayton, Kent Co, from 3 Jun into September, in diminishing numbers (Andy Biederman, Karl Krueger, m. ob.). Smaller groups included five at a retention pond at Bay Pointe development, Bear, New Castle Co, 12–26 Jun (Jane Curschmann m. ob.); two flying over Smyrna, Kent Co, 13 Jun (Steven Graff) and three there 23 Jul (Andrew Ednie); one around Rehoboth, Sussex Co, 20–23 Jun (Tony Dvorak, ph. Sharon Lynn, Andrew Albright); and four overflying Augustine Wildlife Area, New Castle Co, 2 Jul (Megan Kasprzak). By contrast, New Jersey birders reported only two Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks. One was at Edwin B. Forsythe NWR’s Brigantine Unit in Atlantic Co (hereafter Brigantine) 18–31 Jul+ (Jason Denesevich, Susan Treesh), and another was at Lake of the Lilies in Point Pleasant, Ocean Co 1 Jul (Matt Schuler, m. ob.). New York hosted seven Black-bellied Whistling Ducks at Cayuga Lake SP, Seneca Co, on 11 Jun (Katie Du Jardin) and four at a farm pond near Mattituck, Suffolk Co, Long Island, on 15 Jul (NYC RBA). Elsewhere in the state, singles turned up at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, Brooklyn and Queens Cos, New York City (hereafter Jamaica Bay) 11 Jul into September (Peter Paul, m. ob.), and at Montezuma NWR, Seneca, Wayne, and Cayuga Cos (hereafter Montezuma) 29 Jul (Nick Kachala). 

Curiously, King Eiders were reported more widely than Common Eiders. Several subadult male King Eiders were reported from New York: one lingered off Great Kills Park, Staten Island, New York City, 1–6 Jun (NYC RBA); another was at Cupsogue County Park, Westhampton Dunes, Suffolk Co (hereafter Cupsogue) on 6 Jun (NYC RBA); and a third visited Star Island, Montauk, Suffolk Co, Long Island, 10 Jul (Nick Bonomo). In New Jersey, four King Eiders summered on the Barnegat Inlet in Ocean Co. Three hens and a subadult drake were present there through the period, as were 65 Common Eiders (Amy Davis, Steven Weiss, Chris Thomas, m. ob.). The latter species, which has bred in the region, probably went underreported here; there were a dozen around the West End of Jones Beach SP, Nassau Co, Long Island, NY (Robert O. Paxton, Sarah Plimpton). 

Grebes to Gallinules 

A Horned Grebe on Lake Cayuga at Myers Point, 6 Jul established a first July record for Tompkins Co, NY (Jay McGowan).

Some birds initially reported as Eurasian Collared-Dove were determined to belong to a commercially traded species known as African Collared-Dove, also known in the cage bird trade as Ringed Dove. This distinction needs to be made with care. A White-winged Dove, less than annual in this region, was present from late June to 5 Jul at Huntington Station, Suffolk Co, Long Island, NY (NYC RBA).

A King Rail delighted many at Kumpf Marsh, in Iroquois NWR, Genesee Co, NY from 30 May into early June (Peter Yoerg, m. ob.), well north of known breeding areas. Observations of the species at Prime Hook NWR, Sussex Co, DE (hereafter Prime Hook) on 3 and 23 Jun and 29 Jul (M. C. Wiggins, Dick Plambeck, Susan Gruver) were more normal. Up to four Soras at Augustine Wildlife Area, New Castle Co, DE 18–20 Jul (Hugh McGuinness, Andrew Ednie, Lynn Jackson) suggested possible breeding. One or two American Coots at Bombay Hook NWR, Kent Co, DE (hereafter Bombay Hook) 9–10 Jul (Andrew Ednie, Bo Nelson, Michael Gardner, Kris Benarcik) were south of normal breeding range but not unprecedented. A Purple Gallinule, far less than annual in this region, visited Jamaica Bay from late June to 3 Jul (Corey Finger, m. ob.), following a New York City record last year. The coastal location was typical of some three dozen New York records.

 Shorebirds 

After remaining totally absent from New York State’s Lake Ontario shoreline since 1984, a Piping Plover pair reestablished breeding there in 2015, at Sandy Pond, on Lake Ontario, Oswego Co, NY (hereafter Sandy Pond). In summer 2021, this outpost Great Lakes population doubled to two pairs that produced six chicks (David Wheeler, Valerie Vought, Matthew Brown). The Long Island Piping Plover population has gradually risen to somewhere between 415 and 441 pairs that produced an encouraging 661 fledges in 2019, the latest data available (NY Department of Environmental Conservation).

In New Jersey, in the nation’s most densely populated state, the Piping Plover population is massively stressed by humans. After a promising increase to 114 pairs in 2019, New Jersey’s Piping Plovers slipped again in 2020 (the latest figures available) to 103 pairs, slightly below the long-term average of 116. Productivity was 1.29 fledglings per pair, above the long-term average of 1.05 fledglings per pair, but below wildlife officials’ goal of 1.50. Piping Plovers nested at 20 sites statewide, with two sites gained in 2020 and nine lost. The best sites were Gateway National Recreation Area at Sandy Hook, Monmouth Co (hereafter known as Sandy Hook) with 40 pairs, and Forsythe NWR’s Holgate Unit (Ocean Co) and Little Beach (Atlantic Co), which, combined with the North Brigantine Natural Area in Atlantic Co, hosted 41 pairs. 

The causes of nest failure were determined in 59 of the 82 failed Piping Plover nesting attempts in New Jersey in 2020. As in previous years, predation was the leading cause (38 cases), with red foxes the prime culprit (14) followed by opossums, raccoons, crows, and gulls. Flooding destroyed 15 nests. 

COVID-19 complicated staff efforts to place exclosures over nests and to patrol beach colonies. Sandy Hook was altogether unable to install exclosures because of COVID-19 distancing protocols. Outcomes there fell from 98% pair success to 53% pair success [Emily Heiser and Christina Davis, “Piping Plover Nesting Results in New Jersey: 2020,” New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife, Endangered and Nongame Species Program, 2021].

In addition to trying to control human disturbance and predation, officials have created new Piping Plover nesting habitat in Barnegat Light, Ocean Co, NJ, where forty acres of dense woody vegetation were cleared, and a large foraging pond was created. Seven chicks fledged there, attaining the highest productivity rate in the Barnegat Light area in five years (2.5 fledglings per pair). In addition, Hurricane Sandy in 2012 added good Piping Plover nesting habitat at Forsythe NWR’s Holgate Unit, where the Piping Plover population more than doubled in 2019 and continued at that level in 2020. Despite all these efforts, the New Jersey Piping Plover population has never regained the 2003 level of 144 pairs. 

Cape May Co, NJ, boasted two reports of Wilson’s Plover this season: one was at Corson’s Inlet SP on 9 Jun (Deborah Rivel), and it or another was at North Point Beach, Ocean City on 26 Jun (Nancy Larrabee). A Black-necked Stilt explored well north of known breeding areas at Kumpf Marsh in Iroquois NWR, Genesee Co, NY on 2 Jun (Willie D’Anna). Further south, as many as four Black-necked Stilts continued at Tuckahoe WMA, Cape May Co, NJ, where they were observed nest building (Brandon Brogle, m. ob.); two lingered to 8 Jun but were not seen thereafter. A Spotted Sandpiper at Bombay Hook NWR, Kent Co (hereafter Bombay Hook) from 9–20 Jun+ (Andrew Ednie) suggested possible breeding in Delaware, where it is not entirely unknown.

A Whimbrel at Plumb Beach, Brooklyn, New York City, on 7 Jun was a very late spring migrant (NYC RBA). A Hudsonian Godwit was a very early fall migrant at Jamaica Bay 9 and 11 Jul (Doug Gochfeld, Andrew Baksh). A Marbled Godwit, less frequent in spring than in fall, was northbound at the Dupont Nature Center, Slaughter Beach, Sussex Co, DE on 3 Jun, but one at Cupsogue on 20 Jun (NYC RBA) was more likely a non-breeding “floater.” Three at Cape Henlopen Point, on the south side of the Delaware Bay mouth, Sussex Co, DE on 11 Jul (Bill Oyler) were presumed southbound, evidence of the brevity of these shorebirds’ breeding window in the arctic. 

The annual late spring gathering of Red Knots in Delaware Bay, where they fatten up on horseshoe crab eggs for the final leg of their journey to the arctic, totaled 95,530 birds in 1983. Largely due to an overharvest of horseshoe crabs for bait and for medicinal use (their blood contains a natural clotting agent), the Red Knot count fell alarmingly to 12,375 in 2008. Then, thanks in part to partial protection of horseshoe crabs, it gradually revived to 30,000 in 2018 and 2019. In 2020 it slipped again to 20,000, and at the beginning of summer 2021 it fell ominously to 6880, the lowest total since counts began in 1982 (Larry Niles). Red Knots are not the only shorebird species of concern. Semipalmated Sandpipers were also down by an estimated 70% as summer 2021 began (David Mizrahi, Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey).

A Western Sandpiper at Bombay Hook on 19 Jun fell outside of expected migration dates; another “floater” there was a Pectoral Sandpiper on 21 Jun (both Steven Pitt). A Dunlin, normally one of the latest shorebirds to come south, arrived surprisingly early at Bombay Hook on 16 Jul (Don Burggraf); it may have over-summered. White-rumped Sandpipers, often among the latest spring shorebird migrants, lingered at Cupsogue on 7 and 13 Jun (NYC RBA), and at Plumb Beach, Brooklyn, NYC, on 9 and 10 Jun (NYC RBA). So did a Stilt Sandpiper at Jamaica Bay 11 Jun, along with Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs (Andrew Baksh). Why some waders fail to reach their arctic breeding areas remains unexplained.

Southbound shorebird migration began as usual in early July, as 500 Short-billed Dowitchers assembled at Bombay Hook on 9 Jul (Andrew Ednie). Wilson’s Phalaropes have bred in this region, but the one at Tuckahoe, Cape May Co, NJ on 12 Jun (Marc Chelemer, Yong Kong) and the two females at Bombay Hook 8 and 9 Jun (Alissa Kegelman, ph. Ryan Crane) were probably very late spring migrants.

 Alcids, Gulls, and Terns 

An Ancient Murrelet photographed off Slaughter Beach, Sussex Co 24 Jun (Marc Butt) constituted a first record for Delaware. There is only one previous record from the region (from Monroe Co, NY, in 1994). This Pacific coastal species has a history of turning up in the interior of the United States, and even increasingly on the east coast, including Cape Ann, MA, in 2017 and Race Point, Cape Cod, in 2020. Some observers speculate that the reduction of northern sea ice may favor easterly wandering by Ancient Murrelets.

A Laughing Gull at Sandy Pond on 4 Jun added to a long series of late spring records on the Great Lakes for this Atlantic coastal species. An estimated 4500 Laughing Gulls were present in the Rehoboth marshes north of Burton’s Island, Sussex Co, DE on 18 Jun (fide Andrew Ednie). A Franklin’s Gull, nearly annual in this region, was photographed at Braddock Bay, Monroe Co, NY on 2 and 7 Jun (Lauri Mattle, Nathan Ukens); another turned up at Reed’s Beach, Cape May Co, NJ 7 Jun (Jason Horn, Rick Wiltraut). New Jersey’s first Heermann’s Gull continued in Cape May Co through 4 Jun (Damian O’Sullivan). 

Lesser Black-backed Gulls, once a regional rarity, especially in summer, now commonly assemble in double-digits on Long Island at this season. Notable counts this summer included 79 at Sagg Pond, Bridgehampton, Suffolk Co, NY on 19 Jun (NYC RBA) and 34 at Breezy Point, Nassau Co, on 8 Jul (NYC RBA). A Glaucous Gull photographed at Nickerson Beach, Nassau Co, NY on 15 Jun (NYC RBA) was a less than annual summer lingerer.

Two Gull-billed Terns remained all summer at Bombay Hook; breeding has not been documented in Delaware in many years (Anthony Gonzon). A few still breed in Hempstead, Long Island. Two exploring Sandwich Terns, one around Manasquan Inlet, Ocean Co, NJ 20–28 Jun (Mike Heine, Bob Dodelson, Andrew Marden) and another around Rehoboth, Sussex Co, DE 5 and 6 Jul (Michael Moore) were slightly more than usual in midsummer for this southern species. Common Terns, quick to exploit potential breeding sites, have colonized Lima Pier, on Governor’s Island, New York City. As of 9 Jun, this colony, now several years old, contained 88 pairs (NYC Audubon). Arctic Terns came ashore again on Long Island beaches to loaf for short periods, as discovered in recent years. This season they appeared at Nickerson Beach, Cupsogue, and Robert Moses SP in the first third of June (NYC RBA).

In addition to New York’s two long-standing Black Skimmer colonies at Arverne, Queens, NYC (198 pairs in June 2019) and at Lido Beach, Hempstead Twp., Nassau Co, Long Island (389 pairs in June 2019), two additional small colonies were censused on Long Island by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation in June 2019 (the latest data available): 60 adults were at Atlantic Beach, Hempstead, and 20 adults were at Cartright Island, at the east end of Long Island.     

Storks through Frigatebirds

An immature Wood Stork at Montezuma 20 Jul (Les Preston, Tim Lenz, Mike Wasilco) through at least 17 August (fide Joseph Brin) was among the most northerly representatives of a major incursion of this species into the northeastern and north central United States. Another (age unspecified) was at the Amazon Fulfillment Center, on the west shore of Staten Island, New York City, from 31 Jul (Anthony Ciancimino) through at least 2 Aug (Shannon Curley). It was subsequently found dead on 9 Aug, apparently having choked on a three-foot piece of plastic (José Ramirez-Garofalo). There are about twenty-five previous New York State records. In New Jersey, a Wood Stork was at the restricted-access Raritan Center, Middlesex Co on 19 Jul (Bruce McWhorter).

Brown Boobies, once very rare in this region, visited for the sixth straight summer. Two reports came from Ocean Co, NJ: one was seen offshore by a NOAA researcher aboard the H. B. Bigelow 22 Jun (Allison Black), and another appeared in Surf City 27–28 Jun (Brian Sullivan, Ray Duffy, Amy Davis, m. ob.) and 2 Jul (Phil Misseldine). Elsewhere in NJ, one was seen on the Delaware River from Fort Billingsport, Paulsboro, Gloucester Co on 9 Jul (Marilyn Henry, m. ob.) after the passage of Tropical Storm Elsa. 

Only a few post-breeding Brown Pelicans ventured as far north as the south coast of Long Island this season. All were reported on 9 Jul, so some duplication is likely. In chronological order, from east to west: five were flying west at Davis Park, Fire Island at 8:15 a.m. (Paul Sweet); four (possibly the same) were seen a little further west at Robert Moses State Park, Suffolk Co, at 8:56 a.m. (Pat Lindsay); then one was inside Jones Inlet (Seth Ausubel); and four were at Breezy Point, circling and then flying off westward toward Sandy Hook, NJ just before noon (Peter Paul).

Two Magnificent Frigatebirds led birders on a merry chase around Cape May Co, NJ 6–9 Jun (fide Jeff Dale, m. ob.). There are about 20 New Jersey records, many of them from Cape May.

Spoonbills through Ibises

In early July, Roseate Spoonbills moved conspicuously into the northeast this season, in an incursion rivaling that of 2018 and exceeding that of 2009. Most were immatures—when observers mentioned age (as they should)—suggesting a bountiful nesting season. At least seven reached this region. In Delaware, one arrived at Bombay Hook on 12 Jul (Sue Gruver, ph. Andrew Ednie, Lily Morell, Brian Griffin, Jerry Am Ende, Alissa Kugelman, Jerry Brown), and was joined by a second on 15 Jul (ph. Ann Dinkel, Beverly Dant, m. ob.), then by a third on 26 Jul (m.ob.), and finally by a fourth in early August; all remained into September. In New York, the first one was photographed on private property in Hamden, Delaware Co on 7 Jul (Landa Palmer). It or another was on the Chenango River in Chenango Valley SP, Broome Co, NY on 11 Jul (Julie Thorne, m. ob.). The northernmost was at Montezuma the same day (Joseph Brin, Renee Kittleman, m. ob.). Elsewhere in the state, one was photographed at Wallkill River NWR on the NY side 14 Jul (Linda Scrima), one was in Poughkeepsie, Dutchess Co 21–28 Jul (Barbara Michelin, m. ob.), and another appeared on Long Island at Cold Spring Harbor, Suffolk Co 25+ Jul (Sue Fuestel, m.ob.). There were only two previous records in New York State. 

The New York City Audubon Society’s Harbor Herons Survey in 2021 tallied 1298 herons of 9 species, continuing a slow decline that has become evident over the past decade. The decline was mostly attributable to a slow drop in Black-crowned Night-Herons, the most numerous species there. At the great Pea Patch heronry, on an island in the Delaware River off Delaware City, New Castle Co, DE, numbers were much lower for all species except Great Blue Heron (145) and Great Egret (304) (Chris Bennett). 

Delaware’s fifth Little Egret, lacking the nuptial head plumes, appeared at Bombay Hook on 25 Jul (ph. Michael Moore, ph. Debbie Blair); it remained into September and was admired by many. Now that Little Egrets have been nesting on Barbados (since 1994) and Antigua (since 2008), increasing North American visits are likely.

Only a few Cattle Egrets ventured north of Pea Patch, apparently their only remaining breeding site in this region. One visited Rockland County SP, NY 1–4 Jun (Scott Baldinger, m. ob.). The species was once a regular breeder in small numbers at New York Harbor, but the only other Cattle Egret reported there in summer since 2010 appeared at Hoffman Island during the 2019 Harbor Herons survey.

A juvenile Yellow-crowned Night-Heron at Taughannock Falls SP on 1 Jul (Sandy Podulka) was only the third eBird record for Tompkins Co, NY (Dave Nutter). A pair of Yellow-crowned Night Herons attempted to breed for the second year in a row in Middletown, Orange Co, NY (Joyce Depew). This species does not normally breed north of Long Island.

The Long Island Colonial Waterbird Survey (New York State Department of Environmental Conservation) for 2019 reported five breeding Little Blue Herons at three sites, but no breeding Tricolored Herons. Even so, single Tricolored Herons were found at Captree State Park and in the Oakdale – West Sayville Area of Long Island on June 12 (Shaibal Mitra, Pat Lindsay). No Tricolored Herons bred at Pea Patch (Chris Bennett) for the first time since surveys began there. 

White Ibis, once rare in this region, were numerous in the two southern counties of Delaware during the first week of June, continuing from spring. Some notable aggregations include 490 flying over Dewey Beach, Sussex Co, on the evening of 28 Jul; 215 at Gordon’s Pond near Cape Henlopen on 19 Jul (Bruce Peterjohn), and 60 at Indian River Inlet, Sussex Co, 11 Jul (fide Andrew Ednie). They do not seem to have bred in Delaware, although the species did breed in New Jersey again this year. In Atlantic Co, NJ, a flock of 40+ was seen at Brigantine 15 Jul (Bill Elrick, m. ob.) and flocks were reported throughout Cape May Co: up to 90 were tallied at Ocean City Welcome Center rookery, where the species was confirmed breeding for the second year in a row. An adult in high breeding was at Island Beach SP, Ocean Co, NJ 20–21 Jun (Marcus Castrillon, m. ob.), and an immature was at Sandy Hook, Monmouth Co, NJ 3–9 Jul (Jerald Reb, Michael Turso, m. ob.).

An adult White-faced Ibis in breeding plumage visited Jamaica Bay from 13 Jun to at least 11 Jul (ph. Andrew Baksh, Doug Gochfeld), and another was photographed on Lake Ontario at Braddock Bay, Monroe Co, NY on 29 Jun (Jim Miles, Philip Mills). In New Jersey, a White-faced Ibis was at Brigantine 24 Jun (Holly Merker) and 26 Jul (Alex Lamoreaux). This species breeds only very sporadically as far north as southern New Jersey, and its status in late summer anywhere in this region is often unclear because fading soft part colors make identification difficult then.

Ospreys through Owls

New Jersey contained 503 Osprey nests in 2020 (the latest figures available at this time), which produced 812 young, for an average of 1.61 young per active nest, the lowest since 2009 but still a sustainable level (Conservation Foundation of New Jersey, 5 February 2021). 

Swallow-tailed Kites visited this region slightly more often than usual in summer 2021. Several reports came from Cape May Co, NJ: the earliest was from Rea Farm 6 Jun (Rich Kauffeld); subsequently, the species was seen in the county 7 Jun (David Weber, m. ob.), 13 Jul (David LaPuma, Bill Roache), and 21 Jul (Louise Zemaitis). In New York, one flew high over Shelter Island, Suffolk Co, also on 6 Jun (NYC RBA), and another was over Woodbury, Nassau Co, Long Island on 25 Jul (Robert Taylor). 

At least five Northern Harriers were reported from Delaware, where nesting is suspected but remains unproven in recent years. The species was seen at Milford Neck Wildlife Area, Kent Co, on 13 Jun (Anne Cianni, Robert Blye, Carol Blye, and Michael Bowen); Bombay Hook, where there was an immature bird on 16 Jun (Susan Scanlon); Dover Air Force Base, Kent Co, where there was a female on 23 Jun (Andrew Ednie); Porter, New Castle Co, 24 Jun (Gary Griffith); and the marshes north of the Mispillion River, Kent Co, where there was a female on 12 Jul (Chris Bennett).

The Bald Eagle population continues its strong recovery. A record 36 new nests were found in New Jersey in 2020 (the latest data available at this time), bringing the total number of nesting pairs in the state to 220. They produced a total of 307 eaglets. An additional 28 pairs were tracked but laid no eggs. Of the 210 nests with known outcomes, 1.46 young were produced per nest, well above the sustainability floor of 1.00 (Ethan Gilardi, Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey). One nest at Three Bridges, Readington Twp., Hunterdon Co, NJ, was transferred to a new tower during the winter. The pair accepted the relocation and raised two young at the new site (Larissa Smith, Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey). Bald Eagles were confirmed nesting in all 21 counties in New Jersey, compared to only one pair statewide in 1980.                               

Mississippi Kites continued their recent expansion into the northeast, breeding as far north as southeastern Maine. In this region, unprecedented numbers gathered to feast on emerging Brood X cicadas, especially in Delaware. The largest assemblage was 16 on 3 Jun near the John R. Downes Elementary School, along the upper reaches of the Christina River in Newark, New Castle Co. Smaller numbers remained there until the end of the month. There was a group of four at White Clay Creek State Park, New Castle Co, on 6 Jun (Sharon Steele), and there were four at Christina Manor, New Castle Co, 27 Jun (Frank Lenik); singles appeared widely. In New Jersey, 23 were counted over Rea Farm at Cape May in three mid-day hours on 10 Jun (Steve Smith). One outlier reached New York, at the Lenoir Preserve in Yonkers, Westchester Co, on 5 Jun (NYC RBA). Oddly, no Mississippi Kites seem to have nested in the region this year; previously, a nest site in Waretown, Ocean Co, NJ was active from 2015–2020.

The New York City Parks Department estimated that 35 pairs of Red-tailed Hawk now nest within the city limits (New York Times, 9 May 2021, p. 4). None were known there before 1991, when the famous “pale male” established his unprecedented nest on the facade of an apartment building at 927 Fifth Avenue, Manhattan.

According to one observer, somewhere between 15 and 20 pairs of Great Horned Owls now nest in greater New York City (Robert De Candido). A female Barred Owl that had wintered in Central Park, New York City, to widespread delight, remained exceptionally through the summer, until her accidental death by collision with a park service vehicle in the early hours of 6 Aug (Deborah Allen, m. ob.). 

Vireos through Thrushes

David Nicosia found 18 Blue-headed Vireos and 87 Red-eyed Vireos in about 10 miles while atlasing in the vicinity of Plymouth, Norwich and East Pharsalia, Chenango Co, in the central “southern tier” of New York. Common Ravens outnumbered American Crows in Nicosia’s 10-mile transect in that county.       

There were several reports of Brown-headed Nuthatch in Cape May Co, NJ 8–10 Jun (Jason Horn, David Weber, m. ob.). There are 13 previous records for the state, all but one from Cape May Co.

Nicosia counted seven Winter Wrens and 27 Golden-crowned Kinglets on 5 Jun in his 10-mile atlas transect in Chenango Co, NY. Sedge Wrens occupied their traditional site at Bombay Hook (ph. Michael Moore, ph. Megan Kasprzak, Hugh McGuinness, m. ob.), and were sparingly distributed in central New York, at locations including Three Rivers NWR; Baldwinsville and Durhamville, both Oneida Co; and Volney Twp., Oswego Co. Nicosia reported that Swainson’s Thrushes were “getting hard to find” in Chenango Co, NY; there were none in his atlas area.

Finches through Blackbirds

An Evening Grosbeak at a feeder at Fire Island Pines, Suffolk Co, Long Island, NY 11–15 Jun (NYC RBA) was surprising. There were a handful of reports of Red Crossbills from the New Jersey Pine Barrens in Burlington and Ocean counties throughout the season (Steve Sobocinski, Larry Zirlin, m. ob.). The species has nested in the Pine Barrens.

A Clay-colored Sparrow south of Canastota, Madison Co, NY on 5 Jun (Matt Wallace) marked the eastward expansion of this species’s breeding range into upstate New York, continuing since the 1990s. At their southern limit, Savannah Sparrows have nested at the Charles E. Price Memorial Park, Middletown Twp., New Castle Co, DE annually since at least 2008 (Anthony Gonzon); the species may have also nested at Dover Air Force Base, Kent Co, where one was observed on 23 Jun (Andy Ednie). David Nicosia counted 27 Dark-eyed Juncos in his 10-mile atlas transect in Chenango Co on 5 Jun. A Henslow’s Sparrow was at the Pole Farm, Mercer County Park, Mercer Co 21–28 Jul (James Parris, m. ob.).

Bobolinks have begun nesting at the new Fresh Kills SP, which was built on trash heaps on Staten Island, NY. A male Bobolink in breeding plumage on 8 and 10 Jul at Bombay Hook (Ryan Votta, David Votta) was interesting, for although Bobolinks may begin migrating in early July, they moult before doing so. But breeding is not known nearer than eastern Pennsylvania. Orchard Orioles tested their northern limits in New York at Montezuma 16 Jul (Deborah Earl), and at Cross Lake Marina, Cayuga Co, 14 Jun (Joseph Brin, Renee Kittelman).  

 Warblers through Dickcissels

Mourning, Canada, and Black-throated Blue Warblers “have really increased” in Chenango Co, NY, “with more logging and strip cuts as part of the DEC forest management plan” (David Nicosia). At least eleven species of warbler remained in Central Park up to 11 Jun, though only two or three of them were potential nesters (Tom Fiore).

Golden-winged Warblers were sparingly reported. There are two known breeding sites in Oswego Co, NY: south of Mexico, and the Great Bear Recreation Area north of Phoenix (Kevin Muldoon). The only Lawrence’s Warbler reported was south of Mexico, Oswego Co, NY 1 Jun (Bill Purcell). A Swainson’s Warbler summered at Higbee Beach WMA in Cape May Co, NJ, for the third consecutive year. There were 64 Chestnut-sided Warblers, 35 Magnolia Warblers, 34 Black-throated Blue Warblers, 16 Black-throated Green Warblers, 66 Blackburnian Warblers, 18 Mourning Warblers, and 110 Ovenbirds (this noisy species is probably fully counted), but only one Nashville Warbler and five Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warblers in about 10 miles of David Nicosia’s atlas route in Chenango Co, NY, on 5 Jun.

Yellow-throated Warblers, commoner farther inland, bred again at Bayard Cutting Arboretum in Great River, Suffolk Co, Long Island, NY, but the young they were feeding on 12 Jun was a Brown-headed Cowbird (Shaibal Mitra, Pat Lindsay). Two Blackpoll Warblers, always the last warbler to arrive in spring migration, were singing in Riverside Park, New York City, on the exceptionally late date of 23 Jun (fide Tom Fiore). Two or three very early fall migrant Worm-eating Warblers, or perhaps more accurately “floaters,” were in Central Park, New York City, on 4 Jul (Deborah Allen).

Dickcissels, former breeders that now nest only irregularly in this region, were marginally present in all three states for the first time in recent years, but not in the locations where they nested previously. In Delaware, a pair remained into early June near Prime Hook refuge headquarters (Susan Gruver). In New Jersey, a few continued through June at Mercer Meadows (a.k.a. the Pole Farm), Mercer Co, and at the Pinelands Preservations Alliance HQ near Vincentown, Burlington Co (Fairfax Hutter). In New York, a small colony of about three pairs bred successfully at Croton Point, on the Hudson, Westchester Co (NYC RBA). 

Report processed by Amy Davis, 24 Sep 2021.

Photos–Hudson-Delaware Region: Summer 2021

Click image to view fullscreen with caption.