Discover The Joys of Patch Birding

Find Your Magical Bird Patch and Connect with Nature

It was such a glorious day that Dan and I decided to enjoy an official intoBirds patch birding excursion in Rosendale, N.Y. located in the picturesque Hudson Valley.

Patch birding for those of you who are unfamiliar with the term is when you birdwatch regularly at a local area, your ‘patch.’

The great thing about patch birding is that it doesn’t have to involve a long road trip, and you just take in the sights and sounds of the birds in your patch.

Brooklyn Bridge Park Bird Patch

We got into the concept of patch birding after meeting Heather Wolf, author of the book, ‘Birding at the Bridge,’ last June.

It was a joy birding with Heather in her magical bird patch in Brooklyn for a feature story on our site.

Brooklyn Bridge Park offers breathtaking views of the Brooklyn Bridge
Brooklyn Bridge Park offers breathtaking views of the Brooklyn Bridge

Heather’s bird patch is the Brooklyn Bridge Park, an incredible 85-acre bird oasis that hugs the city’s shoreline.

We didn’t cover the entire 85 acres that day patch birding with Heather, but in just two hours we enjoyed an incredible number of sights and sounds of bird species.

READ: Birding with a Wolf in Brooklyn

Learning the Sights and Sounds of Your Bird Patch

So, we were sold on patch birding. (Thank you, Heather!)

And if you want to sharpen your birding skills, why not learn the sights and sounds of those birds close to your home or office in your bird patch.

Other places that intoBirds’ has adopted as our bird patch includes the Baxter Preserve in North Salem, New York; Grace Farms in New Canaan, Connecticut; and Shadow Lake in Ridgefield, Connecticut.

Red-winged Blackbirds provide the soundtrack serenading us birdwatching
Red-winged Blackbirds provide the soundtrack serenading us birdwatching

So, to shake things up, we decided to become ‘experts’ about the birds near our Rosendale office and adopt another bird patch.

We threw our equipment in the car and set off on our journey in Ulster County.

If you’re unfamiliar with Ulster County, it’s home to some of the most beautiful natural areas on the east coast.

Including:

  • Mohonk Preserve
  • Minnewaska State Park Preserve
  • Forsyth Nature Center
  • Esopus Meadows Preserve
  • Joppenbergh Mountain
  • Shaupeneak Ridge Park
  • Nyquist-Harcourt Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Bonticou Crag
  • Bluestone Wild Forest
  • Esopus Bend Nature Preserve
  • Thorn Preserve – Catskill Center
  • John Burroughs Slabsides and Nature Sanctuary
  • Ruth Reynolds Glunt Nature Preserve
  • Black Creek Nature Preserve
  • The Rosendale Trestle
The Northern Cardinal is a perennial favorite of bird watchers because of its bright red colors, joyful songs and year-round presence
The Northern Cardinal is a perennial favorite of bird watchers because of its bright red colors, joyful songs and year-round presence

Each destination is terrific for enjoying birdwatching with a plethora of bird species throughout the year and connecting with nature.

Highway Hawks

On this jaunt, Dan was driving, and I was the bird spotter.

Driving down the road on Route 32 in Rosendale by Bill’s Auto, in just a few miles I spotted our first find of the day.

On top of a utility pole was a beautiful Red-tailed Hawk, and its radar was locked in on something 20 yards away in the grass.

We often spot Highway Hawks, but rarely have the opportunity to stop and enjoy these beautiful birds
We often spot Highway Hawks, but rarely have the opportunity to stop and enjoy these beautiful birds

Climbing quietly out of the car we were able to observe the hawk as it was zoning in on its prey in someone’s front yard.

In a flash, it flew and landed trying to grab a small rodent in the vegetation, but it quickly gave up and went airborne again.

This time flying to a branch overlooking a swamp area.

Red-tailed Hawk perches on branch eyeing its prey
Red-tailed Hawk perches on branch eyeing its prey

Obviously, it had a change in menu plans.

After taking a few photos from a distance, we hopped back in the car to continue our excursion.

Sights and Sounds of the Marsh

Next, we stopped at the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail where it intersects with the Rosendale Refuse and Recycling Center on White Port Road.

The sounds of the Red-winged Blackbirds in the adjoining marsh serenaded us as Northern Cardinals fluttered about.

Two Sharp-shinned Hawks flew over us announcing their presence with a loud “kee-aah” call.

An American Robin caught our eye as it perched on a branch over the marsh feasting on insects that attempted to navigate a fly by right in its path.

It was a fantastic sight to see the Robin grab four insects in mid-air in a matter of seconds.

Patch birding is a great way to learn about other creatures and how they coexist with birds
Patch birding is a great way to learn about other creatures and how they coexist with birds

We even took the time to stop enjoy four beautiful Painter Turtles sunning on the rocks in the creek.

Soaring Hawks and Vultures

Next stop was the Marbletown Town Park on Tongore Road.

The park was quiet with just one fisherman on the creek.

American Robins were busy running and stopping across the lawns as Turkey Vultures, and Red-tailed Hawks soared above.

A familiar sight in the sky is the dark, long-winged Turkey Vulture, soaring high over the landscap
A familiar sight in the sky is the dark, long-winged Turkey Vulture, soaring high over the landscape

READ: Save Our Raptors, Don’t Use Rodenticide

Look and You Will See

We made a few stops on our journey pulling over to enjoy the sights and sounds around us.

Including stops at:

  • O and W Rail Trail Parking Area
  • Vivekananda Retreat Ridgely on Leggett Road
  • Marbletown Elementary School on Cooper Street
  • SUNY Ulster Soccer Field on Cottekill Road
  • Hasbrouck House parking lot on Main Street in Stone Ridge

Tufted Titmice serenaded us.

And we enjoyed seeing White-throated Sparrows.

Purple Finches.

Purple Finches feed up in trees and on the ground in open woods and readily come to bird feeders
Purple Finches feed up in trees and on the ground in open woods and readily come to bird feeders

American Goldfinches.

Northern Cardinals.

Blue Jays.

Eastern Phoebes.

Pine Siskins.

Black-capped Chickadees.

Red-breasted Grosbeaks.

Northern Flickers.

Chipping Sparrows.

Red-bellied Woodpeckers.

The Red-bellied Woodpeckers strikingly barred backs and gleaming red caps make them an unforgettable sight
The Red-bellied Woodpeckers strikingly barred backs and gleaming red caps make them an unforgettable sight
White-throated Sparrows sing a pretty, thin whistle that sounds like Oh-sweet-canada-canada or Old-Sam-Peabody-Peabody
White-throated Sparrows sing a pretty, thin whistle that sounds like Oh-sweet-canada-canada or Old-Sam-Peabody-Peabody

Eastern Bluebirds.

Carolina Wrens.

Great Blue Heron.

American Crows.

Grackles.

Song Sparrows.

Dark-eyed Juncos.

Sharp-shinned Hawks.

Downy Woodpeckers.

Hairy Woodpeckers.

Northern Mockingbirds.

Mourning Doves.

White-breasted Nuthatches.

Song Sparrows.

Pileated Woodpeckers.

And Pine Warblers all crossed our path.

It was time to hop in the car again and make our way back to the office through High Falls by Wild Earth on the Lucas Turnpike.

Our final bird was another Red-tailed Hawk perched in a tree just outside the High Falls Co-Op.

Red-tailed Hawks are the most widespread and familiar large hawk in North America, and commonly seen perched on roadside poles and trees or sailing over fields and woods
Red-tailed Hawks are the most widespread and familiar large hawk in North America, and commonly seen perched on roadside poles and trees or sailing over fields and woods

Traveling less than 10 miles roundtrip, we enjoyed seeing 32 bird species in 90 minutes.

If you’ve never tried patch birding, we encourage you to give it a try.

Benefits of Patch Birding

You Don’t Need Transportation

Although we were birdwatching from our car, you don’t have to rely on transportation to see birds. You can just walk to your patch.

And if your patch is small, you can enjoy a nice walk around the patch before work or use it to unwind at the end of the day.

Taking Active Interest in Your Birds

As you continue to enjoy your bird patch throughout the year, with each passing season, you’ll notice subtle changes, as birds come and go.

Soon you’ll come to regard these ‘birds’ as yours and take an active interest in their lives, especially during the breeding season.

Look for American Robins running across lawns or stalking earthworms in your yard or a nearby park
Look for American Robins running across lawns or stalking earthworms in your yard or a nearby park

Reporting Sighting to Protect Birds

Over time you’ll get to know which areas of your patch are best for specific birds.

Make sure to be a good citizen scientist and keep a list and report all sightings to eBird.

If something unusual appears, you’ll notice it since you’ll be familiar with the regulars.

And make sure to report rarities to eBird to help with Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s science and bird conservation efforts.

Not only does patch birding provide benefits for you, but the birds benefit from your presence and knowledge about them too.

If your bird patch becomes threatened by a municipal building project, your detailed records can reveal the presence of a rare or sensitive breeding bird and help protect the birds through conservation efforts.

Red-tailed hawks hunt from the air. As they circle and soar, they can spot a mouse from 100 feet up in the air—about ten stories high
Red-tailed hawks hunt from the air. As they circle and soar, they can spot a mouse from 100 feet up in the air—about ten stories high

Find You Perfect Spot and See Birds

Patch birding is a unique experience for each person.

Everyone has a different take away from their experience.

We encourage you to find that perfect spot and learn everything you can about the birds that call it home.

Over time, you’ll develop a special connection to this place.

It will become your little slice of birding heaven.

Now get out and see birds!

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