Hudson-Delaware Region: Summer 2023

Summer 2023: 1 Jun–31 Jul

Robert O. Paxton
rop1@columbia.edu

Amy Davis
adavis@aba.org

Shaibal S. Mitra
shaibal.mitra@csi.cuny.edu

Recommended citation:

Paxton, R.O. A. Davis, S. Mitra. 2023. Summer 2023: Hudson-Delaware. <https://wp.me/p8iY2g-gAF> North American Birds.

The Hudson-Delaware region avoided the extreme heat of some other parts of the U.S. in summer 2023, and rainfall was locally variable. Record rain fell in the Hudson Valley of NY on 9–10 Jul, reaching nearly six inches in 24 hours in some localities, but nesting was largely finished by then. Wildfires in the western U.S. and Canada created a smoke hazard in this area, but we have no data about its effect on birds. Some exceptional passerine visitors this summer (e.g. Tennessee and Magnolia warblers) may have fled the fires. Notable observations included Neotropic Cormorant, Little Egret, Roseate Spoonbill, White-winged Tern, and a possible Red-necked Stint.

Abbreviations: Bombay Hook (NWR near Smyrna, Kent Co, DE); DEC (NY Department of Environmental Conservation); LICWS (Long Island Colonial Waterbird Survey); Montezuma (NWR and wetlands complex, Seneca, Wayne and Cayuga Cos, NY); Prime Hook (NWR near Milton, Sussex Co, DE).

Waterfowl

Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks, expanding northward explosively, have become regular summer visitors since first reaching this region in 2000 (a few earlier records were considered escapes from captivity). This summer they were conspicuous and hyperactive in DE, where their epicenter, as in past years, was the Amalfi Drive retention pond near Clayton, Kent Co Numbers there fluctuated wildly, peaking at 41 on 7 and 12 Jun (Rick Robinson, David Luning). Eight Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks inhabited Bombay Hook NWR in DE 24+ Jul (Ian Teaell, Wendy Cesario, Alex Pellagrini) into August. Singles came and went at three additional DE locations in late Jul: Thousand Acre Marsh near the Reedy Point Bridge, New Castle Co, on 16 Jul (Jason Horn, Sara Busch); a small pond near Middletown, New Castle Co 25−30 Jul (Wendy Cesario, Michael Moore), and the retention pond at the Bayberry subdivision, New Castle Co 28−31 Jul (Christopher Rowe). Additional small ponds in DE were visited by small numbers of Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks in early Aug. Unlike the case in 2019, there was no sign of breeding this year. The picture is clouded by the frequency of this attractive and easily domesticated species in captivity and in the pet trade.                                                                   

As in the past two years, a few Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks explored as far north as southeastern NY state. Three were at a small pond near Midland Beach, Staten Island, 11–14 Jun (Anthony Ciancimino), and two were photographed at Huguenot Lake, next to the New Rochelle High School, Westchester Co, on 17 Jul (Tom Donahue). In NJ one visited Lighthouse Pond at Cape May on 17 Jul (Tom Donahue) and nearby Bunker Pond 27–29 Jul (Lynn Pollard, Jeff Pace, Mary Watkins).

Two Trumpeter Swans settled at Bombay Hook on 25 Jun (Ian Teaell) and were recorded almost daily to 20 Oct (m. ob.). No breeding behavior was observed there, but, aided by reintroduction programs, this species has been breeding since 1995 in upstate NY, since 2018 in Pennsylvania, and, beginning this year, in MD.

Three Green-winged Teal remained at Bombay Hook until 11 Jun (Chris Bennett, Anthony Gonzon, Rod Murray). The species has bred occasionally in DE. Several Ring-necked Ducks summered in DE, where they are far less expected in summer than scaup: a drake was at a small pond near Harbeson, Sussex Co, on 9 Jun (Andrew Ednie); one was at Bombay Hook on 23 Jun (Andrew Ednie); and another was at Thousand Acre Marsh, New Castle Co, DE on 16 and 26 Jul (Jason Horn, Sara Busch).

A female King Eider, far less expected in midsummer than Common Eider, was photographed in Fire Island Inlet off Robert Moses SP, Suffolk Co, Long Island, NY on 2 Jul (Lynn Freeman), while another summered at Nickerson Beach, Nassau Co, NY after 7 Jun (Jennifer Wilson-Pines, m. ob.). Common Eiders continue to breed at their southern limit on Fisher’s Island, off the north fork of Long Island near the CT shore, as they have done every summer since 2000. The biggest count was 35, including 24 ducklings, on 14 Jul (Terry McNamara).       

A female-type Red-breasted Merganser at Stone Harbor, Cape May Co, NJ on 4−11 Jul (Mike Heine, Aidan Griffiths, Devin Griffiths) was far south of known breeding areas. A male Ruddy Duck was unexpected at Thousand Acre Marsh, New Castle Co, DE on 26 Jul (Jason Horn, Sara Busch); the species has very occasionally bred in the state.

Grouse to Cranes

Ruffed Grouse continue to decline in NY, according to the 16th annual grouse drumming survey conducted in spring 2022 by the DEC. In 3638 hours afield, 154 hunters reported only 0.15 grouse drumming per hour, lower than any year of the past decade except 2017. Declines were more severe in the southern part of the state’s Ruffed Grouse range. Reduction in the species’s preferred second growth edge habitat was believed to be a major factor. No Spruce Grouse were reported to eBird in NY in 2023.

A Red-necked Grebe, one of the least frequent of lingering winter birds, remained off Hunter Island in Pelham Bay, Bronx, NY from 4 Jul to 9 Aug (Katherine Moon).

A Eurasian Collared-Dove was tallied on the Nassau Co, Long Island, summer bird count on 3 Jun (Shai Mitra). This introduced species once bred in small numbers on Long Island but has been rarely encountered recently.

Common Nighthawks were encountered in eight NJ counties in Jun, more than usual, though no concrete proof of nesting was obtained. Wild nesting sites, i.e. away from urban roofs, were partly coastal and partly inland. Traditional inland sites include Lakehurst Naval Air Station and Wharton State Forest, both in NJ. The best location for Common Nighthawk in DE seems to be Cape Henlopen where five were encountered on 8 Jun (Bill Oyler). A prodigious count of 239 Chimney Swifts was reported from the Church of the Good Shepherd in Inwood, New York City on 19 Jun (Ben Cacace).

Long-time bander Robert P. Yunick captured 184 Ruby-throated Hummingbirds at Schroon Lake, Essex Co, NY, in summer 2023―his second-best total in twelve years of banding there. The first Rufous Hummingbirds of the season appeared on 23 Jul at Upper Pine Kill, Sullivan Co, NY (John Haas), and on 25−26 Jul at West Saugerties, Ulster Co (fide Cory Finger). The former was verified as an immature male Rufous by examination of the rectrices, and the latter was an adult male.

A Sora was encountered “in full song” at Bombay Hook on 1 Jul (Andrew Markel), and one or two were detected throughout the month by numerous observers on 18 Jul (Bert Filemyr, Chad Kauffman). There are spasmodic summer records from DE, including one with chicks in summer 1973.

More Sandhill Cranes are attempting to breed outside Montezuma, where they first nested in modern times in 2003. In 2023 a pair had two colts at Sherbourne, Chenango Co, NY (Michael DeWispelaere), and another pair settled at Taylor Marsh, Honeoye, Ontario Co, NY (Lynn Braband). The pioneering Adirondack pair that have bred at Tupper Lake, Franklin Co, NY since 2016 returned on 27 Mar (Joan Collins). In DE, a pair was present at Bombay Hook from 19 Jun (Rod Murray) to at least 13 Aug (Megan McCulloch, Kiehl Smith).

Shorebirds     

The tiny population of Piping Plovers recently reestablished on eastern Lake Ontario was augmented in summer 2023 by the release of eight captive-reared birds at Lakeview WMA, Jefferson Co, NY. That site, which has not been mentioned in this space before, has hosted one to three nests in recent years. In summer 2023 one nest at Lakeview fledged three chicks (Elizabeth Truskowski, NY DEC).  Sandy Pond, Oswego Co, NY, immediately to the south, a site that we have followed closely, had two pairs of Piping Plovers in summer 2023 (one fewer than last year). Both males were lost, however, presumably to predators. No chicks were fledged at Sandy Pond. The eight eggs were collected for captive rearing (Elizabeth Truskowski).

The Long Island population of Piping Plovers fledged 618 chicks at 94 sites in 2022 (the latest figures available), up from 601 at 90 sites the previous summer (LICWS), thanks to vigorous protection efforts. NJ had 118 pairs of Piping Plovers in 2022, unchanged from 2021, but they fledged only 53 chicks, below replacement level (Todd Pover). DE’s last remaining population of Piping Plovers, at Cape Henlopen, was up to 12 birds on 14 Jun (Shawn Sullivan, Samantha Robinson).

American Oystercatchers persevere despite the challenges of their shoreline habitat. The LICWS reported 315 American Oystercatchers at 69 sites on Long Island and in New York Harbor in 2022 (the latest available), more than in any recent year. In NJ, researchers used game cameras to follow the 20 active pairs in 45 miles of Delaware Bay shoreline. Nineteen of these made confirmed breeding attempts (an improvement over 13 in 2021). The earliest egg was laid on 7 Apr. Eleven of the 19 nests were concentrated on a remote stretch of bayshore between Stipson Island and Heislerville WMA in Cumberland Co Of the 19 nests, nine managed to produce at least one chick. Predation and flooding destroyed the rest. Foxes were the principal predator, though juvenile Bald Eagles destroyed two sets of eggs, seemingly by accident. A further 25% were flooded on the bay’s narrow beaches. Four chicks survived to adulthood (Rachel McGovern, Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ).

More American Avocets than usual paused in this region, presumably straying north of their normal route from western breeding areas to their fall assemblage in DE. Sightings were from Jamaica Bay WR on 10 Jul (Andrew Baksh); Sandy Pond, on Lake Ontario, Oswego Co on 11 Jul (Kennedy Sullivan, Jordyn Dala); North Hamlin Road, Monroe Co on 16 Jul (Andy Guthrie); Dockside Park, Cold Spring, Putnam Co, on 21 Jul (Katherine Lukacher, Marcella Thomason); and Montezuma on 31 Jul (Reuben Stoltzfus).

Upland Sandpipers now occupy only a vestige of their former range here. In upstate NY, most Jun records came from southeast Jefferson Co: Fort Drum (e.g. 4 on 24 Jun [David Wheeler, Antony Shrimpton], and nearby Carthage on 26 Jun [Reuben Stoltzfus]). In Oneida Co, NY, one was calling at a traditional field in the Town of Steuben on Jul 9 (Bill Purcell). At their last NJ breeding site at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in Lakehurst (formerly known as Naval Air Engineering Station Lakehurst), Ocean Co, five Upland Sandpipers were present on 20 Jun (DE Valley Ornithological Club). Later Jul reports from Monroe and Orange Cos in NY, probably represent fall dispersal.   

A Whimbrel of the nominate (European) form phaeopus, with a white dorsal wedge, was photographed at Jarvis Sound, Cape May Co, NJ on 16 Jul (Aidan Griffiths) and seen the next day at nearby Taylor Sound (Vince Elia). Bar-tailed Godwits were reported in summer 2023 from both NJ and DE, perhaps the first time this region has enjoyed more than one in a season. In NJ, where records go back to 1972 and have been nearly annual since 2010, one was at Forsythe (formerly Brigantine) NWR, Atlantic Co, on 18 and 20 Jun (Milton Collins, Susan Treesh) and again, possibly the same bird, 1–4 Jul (Michael Gage et al.). In DE, where there seem to be only two prior records, one was photographed on 6 Jul at Bombay Hook (Nathan Tea, Josephine Kalbfleisch).

An enduring phenomenon is the presence of waders lingering beyond normal spring migration dates. Among these inter-seasonal records in 2023 were a Marbled Godwit at Jarvis Sound, Cape May Co, NJ on 28 Jun (Aidan Griffiths); 45 Semipalmated Sandpipers at Delaware City, New Castle Co, DE on 12 Jun (Jason Horn); and 37 White-rumped Sandpipers at Bombay Hook on 16 Jun (Lindsay Bomgardner, Baxter Beamer). Eight Dunlin also at Bombay Hook on 16 Jun included some in breeding plumage but mostly not―an important detail too infrequently noted―(Baxter Beamer, Lindsay Bomgardner). Finally, three Stilt Sandpipers, all in alternate plumage, were photographed at Bombay Hook on 25 Jun (Chris Bennett). No one knows whether illness, malnourishment, sexual immaturity, or some other factor prevents these birds from completing their spring migration to the arctic.

A good 22,000 Red Knots were counted in Delaware Bay in late spring 2023, up from about 6880 in 2021, using ground observation this time instead of a survey by light plane (Larry Niles). All but about 2200 of these birds were on the NJ side, where the harvest of horseshoe crabs for bait is now forbidden. Horseshoe Crab eggs are the principal food item of Red Knots in Delaware Bay as they fatten up for their flight to the arctic.

An apparent Red-necked Stint was photographed at Sandy Pond, Oswego Co, NY on 15 Jul (Kennedy Sullivan). This season’s only Curlew Sandpiper arrived at Bombay Hook on 23 Jul and remained into Aug (Chris Bennett, David Brown, m. ob.). A Buff-breasted Sandpiper appeared at Bombay Hook on the “insane” date of 14 Jun (Michael Moore, Sara Busch, Kim Steininger, et al.). The only Ruff in summer 2023 was a female (Reeve) at Bombay Hook on 23 Jul (Chris Bennett) and again 29 Jul (m. ob.).

Fewer Wilson’s Phalaropes than usual lingered into Jun, with only one female at Jamaica Bay WR, New York City, on 9 Jun (NYC RBA); one at South Cape May Meadows, NJ on 15 Jul (Bill Roach); and singles at Bombay Hook 9–15 Jun, 26–28 Jun (2 on 10 Jun, Annette Boyd), and 1–16 Jul (m. obs.), and at Milford Neck Wildlife Area, Big Stone Beach Road, Kent Co, DE 12–15 Jun. Two birds (low totals for this region) were reported with certainty only twice: 10 Jun at Bombay Hook (Annette Boyd) and at Milford Neck on 14 Jun (Kris Benarcik, Holly Merker, Kim Steininger). The dates are appropriate for breeding, which was observed several times between 1993 and 2002 on Lake Champlain in upstate NY, but there were no signs of it anywhere in this region in 2023.

Red-necked Phalaropes moved through this region in remarkable numbers in the first days of Jun. The peak day was 3 Jun when an unprecedented 377 passed Robert Moses SP, Suffolk Co, NY into a northeast breeze (Shai Mitra, Pat Lindsay), along with 12 the same day at Nickerson Beach (Peter Paul et al.). Simultaneously Red-necked Phalaropes were reported in all three counties in DE, with a modest maximum of five at Bombay Hook on 6 Jun (Andrew Markel, Billy Weber). Two southbound on 26 Jul at the Herman Road wetlands, Tompkins Co, NY (Tristan and Paul Herwood, m. ob.), were exceptional inland, and only the second local record away from Cayuga Lake.

Skuas to Terns

A South Polar Skua was welcome but expected in NJ waters off Cape May on 19 Jun (Jason Denesevich, Jesse Amesbury, m. ob.)  A very rare midsummer Dovekie in breeding plumage was photographed off Cape May on a 19 Jun pelagic trip (Steven Weiss), the second in the past several years.

The LICWS reported no Laughing Gulls breeding on Long Island in 2022, compared with 2401 in 2013, 1881 in 2010, and four in 2007. An adult Franklin’s Gull was photographed on the Hudson River at Dockside Park, Cold Spring, Putnam Co, NY on 19 Jul (Charlie Roberto, Jon Erickson, Katherine Lukacher), breaking the earliest previous regional arrival date by one day. The species visits this area annually in small numbers after breeding in the intermountain west. An immature Black-headed Gull was reported at Bombay Hook on 14, 21, and 27 Jul (Michael Moore, Jason Horn, Gina Sheridan). Most records occur from fall into spring.

Nesting Ring-billed Gulls are censused by the DEC every ten years at Little Galloo Island in Lake Ontario off Henderson, Jefferson Co, NY. The total in 2022 was 38,766, 11% less than in 2012 and far fewer than the 60,000 in 2002. The DEC removed 1600 Ring-billed Gull nests and culled 106 adults from Murphy Island, northeast of Waddington, in the St. Lawrence River.

The LICWS reported 1871 Herring Gulls breeding on Long Island in 2022 (the latest data available), compared with 4024 in 2019 and 5775 in 2007. Efforts to cap garbage dumps may be helping to shrink the Herring Gull population. Herring Gulls have a long history of nesting in the Adirondacks and on Lake Ontario, and the small populations there are kept under control. In 2022, 155 Herring Gulls nested on Gull Island, in eastern Lake Ontario, a 3% increase. They were not censused on Little Galloo, but a Great Black-backed Gull nested there in 2022 for the first time since 2008 (Adam Bleau, DEC). The LICWS also reported 1137 Great Black-backed Gulls breeding at 28 sites, far below the over 7000 of the 1980s. A handful nest in New York Harbor, but the largest colonies are on Long Island: 182 on West Inlet Island, Brookhaven; 152 on the Line Islands, Hempstead; 147 on Young’s Island, Smithtown; and 100 at Port of Egypt, Southold.

Jason Horn reports that Lesser Black-backed Gulls are “not so rare anymore along the DE shoreline.” Among 31 he identified at Woodland Beach Wildlife Area, Kent Co, DE on 29 Jun most were first and second-year birds, along with “several” third-year birds. Angus Wilson notes that on Long Island Lesser Black-backed Gulls are “the predominant gull in the surf zone.” He counted 52 on the beach at Amagansett on 8 Jul. The biggest count known to us in NJ was 33 at Cape May on 2 Jul (Bhavani Gopalkrishna).

According to the LICWS, 2246 pairs of Least Terns nested at 62 sites on Long Island in 2022 (the latest year available), up from 1982 pairs in 2021 but fewer than in the preceding five years. At their northern breeding limit, four pairs of Gull-billed Terns nested on the Cinder Island group, Hempstead, Nassau Co, Long Island, NY (LICWS), more than in any year since 2015, but below earlier numbers such as 15 in 2010. A few lingered in DE, but there was no evidence of breeding.

The great Caspian Tern colony on Little Galloo Island was down to 2174 nests, a decrease of 21% from the previous year and well below the record high of 2700 in 2018, but well above the figures of the early 2000s. This is no longer the region’s only Caspian Tern colony. They have nested in Buffalo Harbor since 2018, and 165 were there on 2 Jun (Mike Morgante). Four Brothers Island on Lake Champlain, Essex Co, NY housed a nesting colony of 185 Caspian Terns on 29 Jun (Stacy Robinson).

Black Terns almost held their own as breeders in NY in 2023. The triennial census by the NY Department of Environmental Conservation found 143 pairs in Jun 2023, only one fewer than in 2020, but seriously down from the 284 pairs censused in 1991. Nine sites were occupied in 2023, up from six in 2020 (Michelle McGill, DEC), reflecting active encouragements such as nesting platforms.

A White-winged Tern graced Nickerson Beach, Long Island, NY on 8–9 Jun (Mary Normandia, Pat Lindsay, Shai Mitra, m. ob.). Although the species has nested several times in the St. Lawrence Valley, there are few coastal records north of historic stop-over sites in DE.

Ninety percent of the northwestern Atlantic population of Roseate Terns breed in three colonies distributed across about 120 miles between eastern Long Island, NY, and Buzzards Bay, MA. At their main Long Island site, Great Gull Island, between the eastern tip of Long Island and the CT shore, 2062 nests were marked in summer 2023 (Joan Walsh, DEC), up from about 1300 pairs in 2010. As usual, several individuals were noted in NJ and two in DE, but there was no indication of nesting there.

The Great Gull Island ternery contained about 11,000 pairs of Common Terns in 2023 (Joan Walsh, DEC).  On the rest of Long Island, the LICWS censused 5245 pairs of Common Terns in 2022 (the latest figure available). These numbers were better than the previous year, but a bit below earlier levels (e.g. 20,137 pairs in 2010). As in past summers, an Arctic Tern came ashore on Long Island, NY, in early Jun, this time at Nickerson Beach, in front of the Least Tern colony on 4 Jun (Shawn Billerman), followed by several in subsequent days (m. ob.). Forster’s Terns continue to increase at their northern limit on Long Island, with 536 pairs at twelve sites, all in the Town of Hempstead; this was the highest total in recent years except for 563 in 2020 and 620 in 2015 (LICWS).

Royal Terns are breeding again in NJ, their northern limit on the U.S. Atlantic coast, following the loss to erosion of their 2007−2008 site on Champagne Island in Hereford Inlet, Cape May Co. In their second year on Horseshoe Island, recently formed of sand drift in Little Egg Inlet, Atlantic Co, they grew to 400 pairs and despite losses to flooding fledged 65 chicks (Todd Pover, Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ).

While only a handful of Sandwich Terns wandered as far north as Cape May and southeastern NY this season, a few were seen almost daily on the coast of DE. On 15 Jun alone, two were photographed from a kayak at Big Round Pond in Prime Hook NWR (Baxter Beamer), while another was reported at Cape Henlopen (Alice Mohrman). Breeding might be possible, though the current breeding range extends from VA south, with a few MD records.

As of 2023, Black Skimmers bred at five colonies in coastal NY, all of which enjoy some protection and all of which have fluctuating populations. By far the largest was Nickerson Beach, Nassau Co, with about 1100 on 2 Jun (Pat Lindsay). Others were at Arverne, Queens (c. 15); at Breezy Point (c. 50) and Atlantic Beach (c. 150), both in Nassau Co; and at Democrat Point in Suffolk Co (c. 23). In NJ, the Black Skimmer population has shifted from one megacolony (Seaview Harbor Marina, Longport, Atlantic Co, now deserted), to three sites: Stone Harbor, Cape May Co; Holgate, Ocean Co; and the new Horseshoe Island in Atlantic Co. A few individual skimmers continue to summer in DE, but none breed there.

LOONS TO CORMORANTS

The Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation censused a total of 816 Common Loons (714 adults, 86 chicks and sixteen immatures) on 193 lakes and ponds on 16 Jul 2022, the most since the counts began in 2001 (Dr. Nina Schoch). NY ranks well ahead of NH and VT in its Common Loon population, but behind ME.

Three Leach’s Storm-Petrels and seven Band-rumped Storm-Petrels, all regular far out, were recorded on an overnight pelagic out of Cape May, NJ on 19 Jun. An estimated 1300 Wilson’s Storm-Petrel moved east past Robert Moses SP, Suffolk Co, Long Island on 20 Jun (Shai Mitra). The 19 Jun pelagic trip out of Cape May also found one early Black-capped Petrel, a species more normally found in Aug, and a Manx Shearwater, also regular.

Three Scopoli’s (Cory’s) Shearwaters were identified from photographs on a pelagic trip overnight out of Brooklyn, NY to Hudson Canyon on 26 Jun (Doug Gochfeld). This form, once considered conspecific with Cory’s Shearwater but differing in underwing pattern, is accepted as a species by the British Ornithological Union and by Howard and Moore (Complete Checklist of the Birds of the World)―but not at this time by the American Ornithological Society’s North American Classification and Nomenclature Committee. Gochfeld reports that this form, which breeds on Mediterranean islets, occurs regularly in small numbers off New York City in summer.

Brown Boobies, once accidental here, have surged as summer visitors, becoming virtually annual in the last six years. This summer NY had two: an adult photographed off Coney Island, New York City, on 27 Jun (Anthony Ferrino), and a subadult at Little Gull Island, between Long Island and CT, on 20 Jul (Matthew Male, Frank Mantik). NJ had one adult, photographed on 9 Jul about 15 mi off Cape May and due east of Lewes, Sussex Co, DE (Melissa Laurino). NJ has had over 50 prior records and DE six.

Following an exceptional number of Anhingas in upstate NY in spring 2022, one paused briefly on a pond in the Mt. Loretto Unique Area, Staten Island, NY on 3 Jun (ph Ronit Wrubel et al.). American White Pelicans wander increasingly into this region as drought shrinks some of the western lakes where they breed. In summer 2023, one moved about in coastal DE 21–24 Jun (m. ob.), and on 10 Jul another passed Broadway Beach, Cape May Co, NJ southbound (Cosmo Loveccio). In NY, Brown Pelicans explored in only modest numbers as far north as Long Island waters, peaking at 19 at Great Kills Park, Staten Island (Anthony Ciancimino), and 12 flying past Plumb Beach, Brooklyn, both on 18 Jul (Peter Paul). An impressive 84 lined up on a breakwater at the Lewes, DE ferry terminal on 14 Jun. (Marshall Mumford).

The Double-crested Cormorant population continues to explode, angering fishermen and competing with vulnerable species. The NY DEC surveyed the eastern basin of Lake Ontario in 2022 and found 4510 nests, about twice the number in 2009 and 2010. On islands in the St. Lawrence River, the Double-crested Cormorant nest count was 5641 in 2022, 15% above the previous year and 59% above 10-year average. In 2022, DEC officials continued the control measures they have pursued intermittently since 2011: oiling eggs, removing nests, culling adult birds, and harassing non-breeding concentrations.  For example, at Murphy Island, St. Lawrence Co, four nests were removed, and 114 adults shot to discourage the establishment of a large colony (Adam Bleau, DEC).    

Neotropic Cormorants, unrecorded in this region before 2013, did not arrive in Hudson-Delaware up the coast but from the interior of the continent, first appearing in NY on the Great Lakes and in NJ on the Delaware River. This summer a Neotropic Cormorant appeared on the Hudson River at Newburgh, Orange Co, on 27 Jun (Bruce Nott, m. ob.)  and alternated with Beacon, Dutchess Co, on the opposite bank, until 22 Sep, exactly as one―probably the same individual―had done in summer 2022. A second Neotropic Cormorant actually reached the coast, remaining at Wolfe’s Pond, Staten Island, New York City, from 11 Jun (Anthony Ciancimino) until 29 Aug.    

HERONS

This region shared only marginally in a widespread Roseate Spoonbill event. A juvenile reached the Buffalo, NY area, surprisingly far north: it first appeared in a back yard at Elma, Erie Co on 7 Jul, and was then found at the Tifft Nature Preserve in Buffalo on 19 Jul (Zach Almond, m. ob.), and finally at Seneca Bluffs Natural Park, also in Buffalo, on 20 Jul (Kevin Rybczynski, m. ob.). It is probable that only one bird was involved.

Little Egret is now expected annually somewhere in this region, as it has been breeding in Barbados since 1994. This season one was reported at Prime Hook NWR, Sussex Co, DE on 12 Jun (fide Andrew Ednie). It, or another, was found at Bombay Hook on 30 Jun (Sara Busch, Jason Horn, et al.) where it was widely observed and photographed until it lost its diagnostic head plume in Jul. The last convincing identification was made on 21 Jul, based on bill shape and lore color (Andrew Markel).

A high proportion of this region’s colonial heron species are now concentrated in two major colonies: the New York Harbor complex, and Pea Patch Island in the lower Delaware River off Delaware City, New Castle Co, DE. Great Egrets continue their long march north, most recently into the St. Lawrence River basin on the Canadian border. The 2008 atlas showed no evidence of Great Egrets breeding in St. Lawrence Co, NY, but in 2022 there were sixteen Great Egret nests on Murphy Island, and, for the first time, one on Chimney Island, near Ogdensburg (NY DEC). The Motor Island colony in the Niagara River near Buffalo, formerly this region’s northernmost, persists. About 80 Great Egrets were counted from nearby Tonawanda on 21 Jun (Phil Mills).

The LICWS found 487 Snowy Egrets in NY State in 2022 (the latest figures available) at 11 sites, two in New York Harbor and nine on Long Island, numbers that indicate gradual decline. Only 42 Snowy Egrets flew into the Pea Patch heronry at dusk on 28 Jun, about half the average since 2001 (Chris Bennett).

Little Blue Herons sometimes breed as far north as New York Harbor. After an absence since 2013, eight nests were recorded by the LICWS in 2022: one in Elder’s Point Marsh, Brooklyn, and seven on Hoffman Island, just east of Staten Island in New York Harbor. The LICWS also found five Tricolored Herons, which may breed as far north as MA, nesting on the Line Islands, on the Nassau-Suffolk Co border in the Great South Bay of southern Long Island.

Cattle Egrets are faring poorly in this region, after an initial boom in the 1970s−1990s, after this species first arrived in the New World. The LICWS found two on Hoffman Island in 2022, the first in New York Harbor since 2010. Pea Patch has recently been their main breeding site in this region, but a count of 215 returning at dusk to that heronry on 28 Jun 2023 was about half of the average since surveys began there in 1993, indication of a “precipitous decline” (Chris Bennett).

There were 643 pairs of Black-crowned Night-Herons in New York City and on Long Island, of which 39 were in New York Harbor (LICWS), a considerable drop for what has normally been the most abundant heron breeding there. The LICWS censused only 41 Yellow-crowned Night-Herons in three colonies in 2022, all in New York City: North and South Brother Islands, Bronx; four at Bayfield Boulevard in Hempstead, Long Island; 31 in the established colony at the Redfern Houses, Queens, where the count was 65 in 2010.

White Ibis visit DE and NJ nowadays in growing numbers, and the species has bred at NJ’s Ocean City rookery in Cape May Co every year since 2020. By far the biggest count was 344 at Gordon’s Pond, Sussex Co, DE at sunset on 12 Jul (Baxter Beamer), all or mostly immatures, as expected, judging from photographs. On 26 Jul, 24 immature White Ibis flew out to roost at Pea Patch Island, in Delaware Bay; the highest previous count there was eight (Chris Bennett). Two immature White Ibis wandered north to upstate NY where they are still rare: one to Wright’s Loop, Stillwater Twp, Saratoga Co, on 31 Jul (Susan Beaudoin), and another to a small farm pond in Dundee, Yates Co, on 7 Aug (Jay McGowan). Glossy Ibis exploded in the 1970s and are now declining, falling from 514 pairs on Long Island in 2004 to 102 in 2022 (LICWS).

VULTURES, RAPTORS, FALCONS

Black Vultures, having spread northward since the mid-twentieth century (the first NY state nest was found in 1997), now regularly reach the Great Lakes. This season one fed on a deer carcass on the median of Lake Ontario State Parkway, Monroe Co, NY, on 15–17 Jun (Andrew Guthrie, Dave Tetlow et al.) while another, or the same, was soaring with Turkey Vultures nearby on 23 Jun (Chris Wood)

At a date when migration is unexpected, immature raptors continue to move eastbound along the Lake Ontario shore on mid-summer days with southwest winds. A good example occurred on 11 Jul when 119 Turkey Vultures, 20 Bald Eagles, and 14 Red-tailed Hawks passed Braddock Bay, Monroe Co, NY (Mike Tetlow, Mike Gullo).

Nearly a dozen individual Mississippi Kites visited this region, though they did not repeat last year’s nesting attempt, finally unsuccessful, at Country Knolls, Jonesville, Saratoga Co, NY (Naomi Lloyd). Other NY State observations included one at Milbrook, Dutchess Co, on 1 and 6 Jul (David Chernack, Sean Carroll); two around Airmont, Rockland Co, NY on 11, 19, and 29 Jun (Larry Scacchetti, Frank Durso); an immature at Lenoir SP, Yonkers, Westchester Co, on 10 Jun (Michael Bochnik); and one over Blue Heron Park, Staten Island on 16 Jun (Anthony Ciancimino). Four Mississippi Kites were reported in NJ: one in Cape May on 9 Jun (Michael O’Brien) ano;ther along the Garden State Parkway in Cape May Co on 17 Jun (Charlie Roberto); still another on Old Mine Road, Warren Co, also on 17 Jun (Chris Daly); and two together at Pine Hill, Camden Co, on 29 Jul (Nancy Erickson). DE had one Mississippi Kite report, following one in the spring: a second-year bird photographed over the Sherwood development in Mill Creek, New Castle Co, 3 Jun (Megan Kasprzak). A Swallow-tailed Kite strayed to Wilson-Tuscarora SP, Niagara Co, NY on 26 Jul (Gerry Teal) and moved the next day to Beechwood SP, Wayne Co (Mike Gullo et al.). On 28 Jul what must have been the same bird appeared at Burger Park, near Braddock Bay, Monroe Co, NY (Nick Kachala). This striking tropical species is expanding, and summer explorers have become almost annual somewhere in this region.             

We have no evidence that Northern Harriers now breed south of upstate NY in this region, but reports of brown-plumaged female or immature birds throughout Jun and Jul from DE, notably from Bombay Hook (m. ob.) are intriguing. New York City Audubon, in an online publication entitled “Red-tailed Hawks in New York City” (2020) estimates that “dozens” of pairs of this species now nest in New York City, attracting little attention, a far cry from the “pale male” excitement of the 1990s.

Merlin, a relatively recent addition to NY State’s breeding avifauna (1991 in the Adirondacks and 1996 outside the Adirondacks), was observed rather widely across NY’s northern counties in 2023. Nesting was confirmed at Trumansburg, Seneca Co (Jared Dawson), and was suspected in Gorham, Ontario Co, where courtship flight was observed on 10 Jun (Lynn Braband), and in Rochester (Chris Millet, Andrea Elwood). There was no repeat of the 2020 nesting record in NJ this year, but this species’s southerly expansion will certainly continue as it supplants the American Kestrel as the most successful small falcon in North America.      

Flycatchers to Corvids

Acadian Flycatchers have spread north to the very edge of Lake Ontario at four places in Monroe Co: the campground at Hamlin Beach, continuing from late May (Andy Guthrie); at Mendon on 1 Jun (Christopher Goetz); at Manitou Beach Preserve 1 Jun (Kim Steininger); and Firehouse Woods on 11 Jun (Chris Wood and Jessie Barry). The species also appeared in Oswego Co at Selkirk Shores SP on 9+ Jun (Mickey Scilingo et al.).

A Western Kingbird was unusual in midsummer at the O’Hara Nature Center, Irvington, Westchester Co, NY on 19 Jul (Thea Rubalet). An extralimital kingbird, which remained silent and thus could not be distinguished between Tropical and Couch’s, was at Prospect Park, Brooklyn, New York City on 14 Jul (NYC RBA). Two Scissor-tailed Flycatchers were encountered: one at Cape May on 6−7 Jun (Al Guarente, Vince Elia, Danny Ceravolo, Bill Boyle et al.), and an immature at Bombay Hook on 1 Jul (Katie Ruth, Adam Leisenring). This virtually annual mid-summer visitor has bred as near as ViA. A much-rarer Fork-tailed Flycatcher, an immature bird without full tail plumes, was photographed at Piermont Pier, Rockland Co, NY on 15 Jun (Laura Pistoles, ph Ari Weiss). Loggerhead Shrike went unreported in this region.

A major ornithological development of recent decades is the proliferation of Common Ravens all the way down to the coast, resettling much of this species’s nineteenth century range. What was apparently DE’s first raven nest in modern times was discovered in summer 2023 on grandstand girders at the Dover Downs Race Track (Christopher Heckscher). The nearest previous breeding record is probably Towson, a suburb of Baltimore, MD, in 2019.

Wrens to Blackbirds

Most NY Sedge Wren reports came from far upstate, in St. Lawrence Co. Only one report came from NJ, about a mile northeast of Pennington, Mercer Co (m. ob.), and one was in DE, at Bombay Hook 29+ Jul into August (Al Brown, Al Guarente et al.).

Bicknell’s Thrushes were reported as expected at high elevations in all four Adirondack counties of NY, the biggest counts being eight on Whiteface Mountain, Essex Co, on 2 Jun (H.J. Kim), and seven on the same summit, which is accessible by automobile, on 19 Jun (Donald Brightsmith). Gratifyingly defying predictions, they are still found further south in the more modest Catskill range. The best counts there were five on Slide Mountain, Ulster Co, NY, the species’s type locality, on 12 Jun (Christi Cassidy) and four were on Plateau Mountain, Greene Co, NY on 17 Jun (Keith Cronin).

Robert P. Yunick noted a 90% decline in Purple Finches over the past 50 years at his banding site at Corinth, Saratoga Co, NY, at the southern edge of the Adirondack Park, although he banded 168 there (including 95 immatures) in summer 2021 and 149 (including 98 immatures) in summer 2023, far above the numbers of other recent years, “anomalies that are difficult to explain.”

Clay-colored Sparrows nested in more upstate NY counties than usual, though in small numbers. They ranged across several lake front counties east to Jefferson, where they were found in an exceptional six locations. The southernmost were in Ontario and Washington Cos. A southerly pioneer was singing at the Pole Farm, Mercer Co, NJ on Jul 28 (James Parris, m. obs.)

Nearly vanished Henslow’s Sparrows persisted at two locations. A pair bred at the Schlabach farm near Owego, Tioga Co, NY, where one was observed carrying away a fecal sac on 7 Jun (Nathan Schlabach, Marshall Iliff, Jay McGowan, et al.). The long-known site at Dog Hill, just north of the Perch River WMA, Jefferson Co, NY was occupied as of 16 Jun (Raphael Nussbaumer, Andrew Gaerte).

There were only two breeding reports of declining Rusty Blackbirds from the Adirondacks: a family party of three at Little Moose Lake, in the West Canada Lakes Wilderness, Hamilton Co, on 17 Jun (Chris Wood); and another family party of five at East Pond, Eagle Bay, Herkimer Co on 21 Jun (Jennifer Scheer). Wood noted the presence of Common Grackles nearby that he feared would crowd the Rusties out.

Warblers to Dickcissel

Golden-winged Warblers were sparingly reported. The NY population is centered on Jefferson Co, NY, including Chaumont Barrens and closed sections of Fort Drum. In NJ, the species continues in powerline cuts in Passaic and Sussex Cos. Unseasonably early migrant Tennessee Warblers were at Cape May on 22 Jul (Tom Reed, Tom Johnson) and 23 Jul (Jesse Amesbury), and two were banded at the Braddock Bay Bird Observatory, Monroe Co, NY on 23−24 Jul (Andrea Patterson). A Magnolia Warbler was at Croton Point, Westchester Co, NY, on 22 Jun (Joseph Wallace), and numerous Magnolias on the Lake Ontario shore in Jun were thought possibly related to Canadian wildfires.

At their northern limit, a pair of Yellow-throated Warblers was feeding young on 20 Jun at Bayard Cutting SP, Suffolk Co, Long Island, NY (Robert Reed, Ken Brock, m. ob.), a known breeding location since 2021. A singing male at the Ashokan Center, Olivebridge, Ulster Co, NY 13+ Jun (Dennis Trapnell et al.) was north of known breeding areas. The recent pioneering pair in Allegany SP, Cattaraugus Co, NY was not reported in 2023.     

A Blue Grosbeak was present in Ulster Co, NY on Hurley Mountain Road, in Jul and Aug (Silas Wareham); the northernmost confirmed Blue Grosbeak breeding location in this region is in the adjacent county to the south, Orange Co.  

Dickcissels attempted to breed in all three states this summer. In NY, one at the Gonelle Big Woods Preserve, Webster, Monroe Co 27 Jun–9 Jul was the first chaseable singing male in that county in ten years (Noah Reid, Robert G. Spahn, m. ob.). Singles were reported elsewhere in NY at Garnsey Park, Saratoga Co, on 11 Jun (John Hershey, Susan Beaudoin) and Landis Arboretum, Esperance, Schoharie Co, 8 Jul (Kate Schurr). In NJ a family group with three fresh juveniles was observed at the Beanery in Cape May on 19 Jul (Michael O’Brien et al.), while a male sang 1−14 Jul at the Reed Bryant Farm, Pole Farm County Park, in Mercer Co (G. Buxton, m. ob.). More fleeting observations of Dickcissels in NJ consisted of two at the South Branch WMA on 25 Jun (Eddie Politz) and one at the Clinton WMA on 12 Jun (Steve and Josette Bonaro), both Hunterdon Co. In DE, the traditional site at the Charles E. Price Memorial Park in New Castle Co was occupied after a three-year absence, with a maximum of 5 singing males on 2 Jun (Andrew Ednie et al.), but the fields were mowed on 6 Jun.

Report processed by José Ramírez-Garofalo, 30 Dec 2023

Photos–Hudson-Delaware Region: Summer 2023

This Bar-tailed Godwit was photographed on 18 Jun 2023 at one of this Eurasian species’ classic sites in coastal New Jersey, the Edwin B. Forsythe (formerly Brigantine) NWR. A pattern there of multi-year repeats and multi-year absences suggests single errant individuals. Judging from its white axillaries and underwing, this bird came from the arctic Scandinavian population rather than from Siberia or Alaska. Either origin is within its capacities, since Bar-tailed Godwits regularly make the longest non-stop migrations of any bird, from Alaska to Tasmania or New Zealand. Photo © David DeSarno.

Brown Booby is still an exciting find in the Hudson-Delaware Region, even though this pan-tropical species has visited annually in recent years. This adult was found on 9 Jul 2023 about 15 miles off Cape May, NJ, and due east of Lewes, DE. Photo © Melissa Laurino.

Scopoli’s (Cory’s) Shearwater is considered by some a distinct species, and by others a form of Cory’s Shearwater. It is distinguished by pale margins on the underside of the primaries at the wingtip, detectable mostly in photographs. It breeds on Mediterranean islets. This bird was one of three documented on an overnight pelagic trip from Brooklyn to Hudson Canyon, about a hundred miles southeast of New York City on 26 Jun 2023. Photo © Doug Gochfeld.

Now that they breed in Barbados, a Little Egret or two visit eastern North America annually. They are distinguished from Snowy Egrets by a single split head plume, gray lores, and a slightly heavier bill. Sara Busch and Jason Horn discovered this bird among Snowy Egrets at Bombay Hook NWR, Kent Co, Delaware on 30 Jun 2023. Many enjoyed it well into Jul until it lost its distinctive head plume. Photo © Jason Horn.

White Ibis have nested since 2020 at their new northern outpost at the Ocean City Welcome Center, in Cape May Co, NJ, and raised young again in 2023. Photo © Jason Fehon.