Shawangunk Grassland NWR - 13 Jul 2021

With Mohonk Preserve a washout I checked the map and found that Shawangunk Grassland NWR was only about 10 miles away. So, I continued on south and headed for the 586-acre refuge that was once a US Military property.

At the entrance I found a pair of Eastern Kingbirds working the short-grass field while an Eastern Bluebird was visible only as a silhouette against the overcast skies. Young cottontail bunnies were foraging in the grass on either side of the road.

I pulled into the parking lot and immediately heard the song of an Eastern Meadowlark singing from the deck of the observation platform. A Dickcissel was also singing from the north end of the parking lot. This bird would be reported as a rare sighting for Ulster Co.

I spent some time on the platform digiscoping several Bobolink that were flying back and forth across the field to the east. Another meadowlark was singing in the distance. 

It was still early in the morning so I decided to hike the red trail from the north end of the parking lot. Try as I might I could not locate the Dickcissel even though it was sounding loud just a few feet away. Instead I turned my scope and cameras on the Bobolink that were more cooperative.

The mowed trail was easy to follow, and offered a glimpse into the wide variety of flora and fauna of the NWR. Orange coneflower popped among the milkweed, Queen-Anne's Lace, and dozens of grass species growing in the fields on either side of the paths. Recent rains left the ground soggy but bugs were non-existent.

Common Wood-Nymph Butterflies were everywhere but would not land in any location that would permit photos, so I had to settle for flight shots and obscured-view images.

Surprisingly, Common Yellowthroats and Song Sparrows were more cooperative. They were actively moving around while trying to dry out.

Indigo Buntings and Field Sparrows were less cooperative, but still visible at a distance. Sadly, I heard no other sparrows (Grasshopper or Henslow's).

The overcast skies provided just enough light to photograph the surrounding landscape. I love spending time out in fields like these.

I found a patch of milkweed that were being visited by bumblebees and a Hemaris sp. of Hummingbird Moth, also called Cinnamon Clear-wing. In the low light I was not fast enough to freeze their wings in flight, but still got a few pics that I liked. According to the Bug-Lady there are 17 spp. of clearwings worldwide with 4 species of clear-winged moths in the Americas.

After following the trail for about an hour and a half I was surprised to see that stopped at the edge of the woods and only continued on as a single deer trail that cut through trees marked with reflectors. Except that the reflectors stopped 25 yards into the woods, which left me stranded in poison ivy-ladened ground cover and trees. So, I headed to the nearest clearing and had slosh through waist-deep vegetation, and puddles to get back to the mowed trail marked by signage. 

I did not want to have to back-track an hour and a half to get back to the car, so I continued on in the direction I hoped would put me into view of the parking lot. Luckily, I found that i was only 15 minutes from the car, so I headed back soaked and tired. A small flock of Bobolink helped eased my agitations.

I would spend the drive back to the Inn picking ticks off my neck, shirts and arms, and pant legs. Not a task for a two-lane highway with lots of bends. Still, I enjoyed the visit and will come back on Thursday when the weather is supposed to be a bit better.


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