Rye, NY 2/7/16

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~A Lesser Scaup in Playland Lake at the Edith G. Read Wildlife Sanctuary, 2/7/16.~

I had planned to get to Rye, NY for some birding at the end of 2015 or early January of this year, but somehow I never made it out there. So, today I finally took the trip to the Edith G. Read Wildlife Sanctuary, a spot that always seems to deliver a good amount of birds in the winter compared to what we are getting in Orange County. I had a pretty good day, with a total of 34 species (this is ten fewer than I had during a trip late last February but only two fewer than Karen Miller and I had in January of 2015). The highlight for me was getting relatively good views of Long-tailed Ducks – they were still distant, but typically at the sanctuary the LTDUs are miles out into the Long Island Sound. Another highlight was a distant look at a pair of Horned Grebes, a species I’ve never had at the sanctuary before. I was mostly surprised by the number of species that I expected to get but did not: Brant, Double-crested and Great Cormorant, Great Blue Heron (I remember large numbers on the islands at Playland Lake in the past), American and Fish Crow. I’ve also typically done well with photos at the sanctuary, and that was not the case today. Still, it was good day – gorgeous, seasonably warm, with enough birds to keep it interesting. I’ve included my species list at the bottom of this post.

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~One of my favorites, Long-tailed Duck out beyond the rocks, Edith G. Read Wildlife Sanctuary, 2/7/16.~

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~Keeping my Species Photos 2016 page in mind, I spent some time with this Northern Cardinal, Edith G. Read Wildlife Sanctuary, 2/7/16.~

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~I stopped at the town park to have my lunch and I was joined by numerous gulls looking for a handout. Ring-billed Gull mooching in Rye, NY 2/7/16.~

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~Herring Gull close up. This bird was so close to me that I didn’t think my camera would focus on it. The bird eventually joined me on the bench. Rye Town Park, 2/7/16.~

 

Canada Goose
American Black Duck
Mallard
Greater Scaup
Lesser Scaup
Long-tailed Duck
Bufflehead
Common Goldeneye
Hooded Merganser
Red-breasted Merganser
Horned Grebe
Red-tailed Hawk
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Blue Jay
Common Raven
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Carolina Wren
European Starling
American Tree Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Common Grackle
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

Orange County Saturday, 2/6/16

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~A White-breasted Nuthatches strikes the usual pose, Port Jervis NY 2/6/16.~

I woke up early this morning and made it out to Port Jervis just after it started getting light out. I’ve spent nearly all my recent birding time in the black dirt, so I was looking for a change. I started at a spot just outside of Port Jervis that allows for a quiet walk with enough birds to keep it interesting. My first bird of the day was a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, my first of the year in Orange County. One of the last birds I had was a Common Raven which was another to add to my Orange County list for 2016. I saw or heard 14 species on what ended up being a very cold walk; when I got back to my car and I was thinking it had finally warmed up, I looked at the temperature and it was only 19 degrees! I had an interesting experience with a group of maybe 8 White-breasted Nuthatches (it was hard to keep count!). I’ve never seen that many together at once, and they were calling and flying all around me, landing on nearby trees and on the road as well… it was pretty cool.

From there I made a couple of brief stops as I made my way into Port Jervis to bird Laurel Grove Cemetery. I parked at the far end and then made a loop to eventually end up back at my car. It was a birdy walk and I added another 3 birds to my Orange County 2016 list: Hairy Woodpecker, Eastern Bluebird, and Brown Creeper (a drastic improvement over last year, when it took me 11 months and 27 days to find a creeper!). I walked for just about an hour and had 19 species.

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~I didn’t realize it until I stopped to think about it, but I had 4 Bald Eagles today, all of them adults. Orange County Bald Eagle, 2/6/16.~

I headed home for lunch with Tricia, winding my way through the black dirt without any remarkable sitings. After lunch I headed up north to see if I could do any good with waterfowl. I made three stops: Tomahawk Lake, Brown’s Pond, and Lake Washington. I only had any luck at Lake Washington, where I had 42 distant Common Mergansers and 8 Mallards. My more notable sitings were not waterfowl, I had an American Kestrel on the way to Tomahawk Lake in Hamptonburgh, and then when I arrived, I added my sixth bird of the day to my Orange County list, a Northern Flicker.

I left the county at the end of the day and headed out to Shawangunk Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge to try for the Short-eared Owls. I had a Red-tailed Hawk as I entered the refuge, which was absolutely packed – it was the first time I’ve had to parallel park at the grasslands! I talked to Ralph and he said that three different groups had outings at the refuge that evening. I had 7 Northern Harriers including one Gray Ghost, and then, up pretty late in the fading light, I had 4 Short-eared Owls – which was a nice way to end a super day of birding.

**I’ve updated the Species Photos 2016 page. I now have 25 species on the page, I think I need to start focusing on this page a little more.**

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~I’m really not so crazy for White-breasted Nuthatches, so I can’t really remember seeing one on the ground like this. WBNU in Port Jervis, NY 2/6/16.~

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~White-breasted Nuthatch, Port Jervis, NY 2/6/16.~

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~I saw this bird fly in and thought “please be a hairy!”, and it was. Hairy Woodpecker at Laurel Grove Cemetery, 2/6/16.~

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~On my way to Tomahawk Lake, I pulled over to get a better look at a bird on a distant hay bale. It was an American Kestrel. And it flew towards me and perched in the tree in front of my car! Lucky day! AMKE in Hamptonburgh, NY 2/6/16.~

 

Orange County Greater White-fronted Goose!

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~Wow! Greater White-fronted Goose in the Black Dirt Region, 1/29/16.~

I love getting word of a good bird while I’m at work. Well, I love it and I hate it. It’s great because it’s exciting and something to look forward to after work, but it can be terrible too because the day inevitably passes very slowly and there is always the chance that the bird will move on. This morning I received a text from John Haas – he had a GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE among a couple thousand Canada Geese at Turtle Bay in the black dirt, which was very exciting to me! As expected, the day did drag on, and of course, as I was leaving I received word from Linda Scrima that after spending most of the day at Turtle Bay, all the geese had lifted up. She had scoured all the regular black dirt geese locations and was unable to locate any large groups of geese. I could think of one other location where the birds could be located, but it was private property. Linda met me at the location, and with the homeowner’s permission we were able to relocate the bird and get some good photos too!

My exciting evening of birding didn’t end there. I had been in contact with Bruce Nott and he was at the Newburgh Waterfront looking for gulls. I contacted him after leaving the GWFG and he was on a LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL, presumably the same bird John Haas had located earlier in the week (that guy’s having a pretty good week!). I made my way over to Newburgh and when I arrived, Bruce and Ajit and Liza Antony all had the bird in their scopes. I hopped out of the car and took a good look at the bird in both scopes before going back to the car for my own scope. They told me how they had lost the bird but relocated it while I was in transit! What a great afternoon and evening of birding!

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~They all lined up nicely for this photo, Greater White-fronted Goose up front, of course! Black Dirt Region, 1/29/16.~

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~I don’t even know if this even qualifies as a documentary photo – Lesser Black-backed Gull at the Newburgh Waterfront, 1/29/16. Click here to see a decent shot I got of a LBBG last March at this same location.~

Sunday Shots, 1/24/16

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~This young Cooper’s Hawk found a man-made perch that I actually like for photos. This was wood and rusty metal rack in the back of an abandoned pick up truck. Black Dirt, 1/24/16.~

QUICK POST: I was out of town visiting family, so the only birding I did over the weekend was this afternoon when I ran around the Black Dirt Region for a couple of hours. It wasn’t the most productive of outings; I had only 18 species for the afternoon, and all were expected birds. The highlight for me was two ROUGH-LEGGED HAWKS; it’s nice to see that RLHAs seem to have finally moved into the area in some numbers. They were too distant for photos but still nice to see. At any rate, here are few shots from the afternoon.

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~It was a day for man made perches, I guess. White-crowned sparrow on a crate in the black dirt, 1/24/16.~

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~Same crate, different bird. Song Sparrow in the Black Dirt Region, 1/24/16.~

Black Dirt Birding, 1/16/16

 

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~An American Kestrel that actually did not flush as I drove by! A birding miracle in the Black Dirt Region, 1/16/16.~

I birded the Black Dirt Region by car this morning and covered a lot of ground. I wanted to first check to see if the Snowy Owl continued – I was unable to relocate the bird and did not hear of anyone relocating the bird all day. My second goal of the day was to sort through some of the many Canada Geese in the area, looking for rarities. I really wanted to locate a Cackling Goose, especially since John Haas had reported 2 from the day before. I located two decent candidates; one flew before I got any photos or could be sure of the ID. When I located the second candidate, Linda Scrima joined me and although we got some decent looks and photos of the bird, we left unsure of the ID. I kept going back and forth with this bird, sometimes it looked really good for a Cackling and other times not so good. Being this unsure, I will leave this bird unidentified, but I’ve included a photo of the bird in this post in case anyone would like to weigh in. The only other notable geese from the day were 5 Snow Geese. My final goal was to try to add some birds to my Orange County list and I increased it by 9 birds. I had 30 birds on my species list, which I’ve included at the bottom of this post. Highlights of the day for me included 2 Rough-legged Hawks and 2 American Kestrels.

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~A male Northern Harrier, the Gray Ghost in flight in the black dirt. This was taken earlier in the week, 1/13/16.~

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~Three of the 5 Snow Geese I had in the black dirt today, 1/16/16.~

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~Same Gray Ghost as above, perched on the ground. Black Dirt Region, 1/13/16.~

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~American Kestrel taking flight, Black Dirt Region, 1/16/16.~

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~This was Cackling Goose Candidate #2… Any thoughts? ~

Snow Goose
Canada Goose
Mallard
Ring-necked Pheasant
Great Blue Heron
Turkey Vulture
Northern Harrier
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Rough-legged Hawk
Ring-billed Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Short-eared Owl
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
American Kestrel
Blue Jay
American Crow
Horned Lark
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
American Tree Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
White-crowned Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
American Goldfinch

ORANGE COUNTY SNOWY OWL!!!

~Wow!, Snowy Owl in the Black Dirt Region, 1/14/16.~

~Wow!, Snowy Owl in the Black Dirt Region, 1/14/16.~

I met Kyle out in the Black Dirt this evening after work to try for some raptors – Northern Harriers and Short-eared Owls were the goal. I was pleasantly surprised when I spotted a large white bird fly over a field in the distance, being chased by crows – SNOWY OWL!!! We immediately jumped out of the car and got the bird in the scope to find it had perched on a distant small post in a field. We watched the bird as it was harassed by both Northern Harriers and Short-eared Owls; it flew one time and found a new perch, but shortly after returned to its original perch. The bird was very distant, so pics were tough; the above is from the camera, and the shot below is with the iPhone through the scope. It was a super exciting night! Lifer Snowy for Kyle and my first one in a couple of years!

***If you go for this bird, please be respectful of the locals in the black dirt. Many roads are private and not public and shouldn’t be used without permission. Farmers are still working so please keep all roads clear and let them work. As a general rule, for me, if there is any sort of work going on I leave the area.***

~iPhone shot through the spotting scope - Snowy Owl in the Black Dirt, 1/14/16.~

~iPhone shot through the spotting scope – Snowy Owl in the Black Dirt, 1/14/16.~

Weekend Wrap Up, 1/10/16

~The highlight of the day for me - Merlin with prey at Piermont Pier, 1/9/16.~

~The highlight of the day for me – Merlin with prey at Piermont Pier, 1/9/16.~

Before I get to the wrap up, I wanted to mention that I created a new page for 2016 where I will post photos by species. Each time I take a photo that consider an improvement on the previous for any species, I will replace it on the list. As a starting point, I’ve typed out the list from the Edgar A. Mearns Bird Club Checklist of Birds for Orange County. As I was typing it out, I realized how daunting it can be to think about getting all these photos – there are over 265 birds on the list! It will be interesting to me to see how many of these I will get and also how many I might add to the list. Click here to check it out or on the page at the top right called Species Photos 2016.

The weekend started on a good note with a Friday evening trip to the Black Dirt where I was able to relocate the dark-morph Western Red-tailed Hawk, originally located by Steve Sachs the day before and relocated in the morning by Linda Scrima. Due to the distance and the trees, I was unable to get any photos, but Linda got some and gave me a couple to post here, see them below (thanks Linda!). It was a sort of strange experience seeing that bird – it was vocalizing constantly and moving from perch to perch to perch, never staying in one place for very long.

~Beautiful bird - dark-morph Western Red-tailed Hawk in the Black Dirt, 1/8/16. Photo by Linda Scrima.

~Beautiful bird – dark-morph Western Red-tailed Hawk in the Black Dirt, 1/8/16. Photo by Linda Scrima.~

I really like this shot, showing the top side of the bird including the red tail. Dark-morph Western Red-tailed Hawk, Black Dirt 1/8/16.~

I really like this shot, showing the top side of the bird including the red tail. Dark-morph Western Red-tailed Hawk, Black Dirt 1/8/16. Photo by Linda Scrima.~

On Saturday, Kyle Dudgeon, Linda Scrima, and I headed to Piermont Pier to try for the WESTERN GREBE. The bird was located by some other birders shortly after our arrival; it was a little far out and backlit but we got decent scope views and Kyle and Linda got their lifer WEGRs. I was hoping for more waterfowl, but really we did not have a large list: Canada Goose, Mallard, Canvasback, Lesser Scaup, Bufflehead, Ruddy Duck, and Double-crested Cormorant. We had some Buffleheads and Ruddies that were close enough for photos but the light was not very good. The highlight for me was a Merlin, perched in a tree and eating prey (which looked to be a Dark-eyed Junco). On our way home we made a stop at State Line Hawkwatch, but it was a bust as we had only two distant Red-tailed Hawks in the half hour we were there.

~This is not a pretty bird, but it is pretty cool. Black Vulture in Blooming Grove, NY 1/10/16.~

~This is not a pretty bird, but it IS pretty cool. Black Vulture in Blooming Grove, NY 1/10/16.~

On Sunday morning I met Maria Loukeris out in the Black Dirt, we tried unsuccessfully to relocate the dark-morph Western Red-tailed Hawk. We did, however, see my first ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK of 2016, hunting (successfully) over a distant field. This is only the second RLHA that I have seen this season. In a relatively short amount of time we had a good number of raptors: Maria had an American Kestrel before my arrival, and in addition to the RLHA we had 8 Red-tailed Hawks and a Sharp-shinned Hawk. From there I checked Glenmere and Tomahawk Lakes but neither had much waterfowl present; in fact Tomahawk was mostly frozen over, but I managed to see a high-flying Bald Eagle which was nice.

~Fish Crow at Piermont Pier, 1/9/16.~

~Fish Crow at Piermont Pier, 1/9/16.~

~The Merlin made quick work of that poor junco. Piermont Pier, 1/9/16.~

~The Merlin made quick work of that poor junco. Piermont Pier, 1/9/16.~

~Don't mess with these two, they look like they are in a mood. Ring-billed Gulls at Piermont Pier 1/9/16.~

~Don’t mess with these two, they look like they are in a mood. Ring-billed Gulls at Piermont Pier 1/9/16.~

Canvasbacks all tucked in, Piermont Pier 1/9/16.~

Canvasbacks all tucked in, Piermont Pier 1/9/16.~

WESTERN GREBE!

 

I blame the insomnia. I do. I really struggled to sleep last night and ultimately only got a very little bit of shut-eye. Which made for a really tough morning, a difficult workday, and some bizarre birding.

Just before noon, I received a phone call from John Haas – he had a WESTERN GREBE at Piermont Pier! When I got out of work I headed straight to Piermont and arrived with plenty of beautiful light. I parked at the beginning of the pier, and as I walked towards where the bird had been seen, Bob Senerchia pulled alongside me and gave me a lift the rest of the way, explaining that there was plenty of parking further up. Maria Loukeris and Christopher Takacs were both there and photographing the bird, which was in perfect evening light and not very far out (I’ve included one of Maria’s shots below). I jumped out of Bob’s car and pretty much immediately started to take photos… I looked at my camera and saw some awful words: No Card in Camera. Ugh, no way, not today. I must have a spare back in the car! Bob let me borrow his car, which is a Prius which apparently you need a special degree to drive. I finally figured out out how to get it into gear and drove back to my car. With the parking brake on – I thought the beeping was for the seatbelt! I checked my camera bag and of course, no spare card. My heart was broken, but I grabbed my scope and my iPhone adapter and called Bob so he could tell me how to release the brake. I made it back incident-free, and decided to make lemonade out of lemons. I stayed for a good while and enjoyed the bird, what a beauty! I took what photos I could through the scope and shot the above video, which made me happy. When it came time to leave, I took the wrong exit and went across the Tappan Zee Bridge… it’s the insomnia – that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Huge thanks to Bob for letting use his car, Maria for her photo, and of course to John Haas for locating the bird and getting the word out.

~WESTERN GREBE at Piermont Pier, 1/716. Photo by Maria Loukeris.~

~WESTERN GREBE at Piermont Pier, 1/716. Photo by Maria Loukeris.~

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~One more digiscoped shot of the WESTERN GREBE, Piermont Pier 1/7/16.~

~iPhone digiscope shot of the WESTERN GREBE at Piermont Pier, 1/7/16.~

~iPhone digiscope shot of the WESTERN GREBE at Piermont Pier, 1/7/16.~

Orange County Birding, 1/3/16

~I'm not sure why (maybe because the bird seemed small), but I thought this bird was a Sharp-shinned Hawk when I saw it in the field. Tonight, looking at photos I am thinking it is a Cooper's Hawk, possibly a juvenile male? Black Dirt Region, 1/3/16.~

~I’m not sure why (maybe because the bird seemed small), but I thought this bird was a Sharp-shinned Hawk when I saw it in the field. Tonight, looking at photos I am thinking it is a Cooper’s Hawk, possibly a juvenile male? Black Dirt Region, 1/3/16.~

This morning I went out and did my first birding in Orange County for the new year. I took a tour of the Black Dirt Region, ending at the Liberty Marsh at Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge, where I did not walk the trails but just viewed from the platform for 20 minutes or so. I then check on Wickham Lake and Glenmere Lake before heading home. It felt good to get my list for the county started and I ended the morning with 27 species; I’ve included today’s list at the bottom of this post. Highlights from the morning included seeing large flocks of Horned Larks with Snow Buntings mixed in. At one point I had nearly 75+ Horned Larks taking a dust bath in the road in front of me. I’ve only seen this one other time and it was really cool to see it again. On the disappointing side, I was hoping to run across some Snow Geese in the black dirt, especially after seeing them fly over in Ulster County the day before.

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~A Horned Lark takes a dust bath in the road, Black Dirt Region 1/3/16.~

~HOLAs dust bathing in the road, Black Dirt Region, 1/3/16.~

~HOLAs dust bathing in the road, Black Dirt Region, 1/3/16.~

~I came home to find this Sharp-shinned Hawk in my driveway, not a bad way to end a birding outing. Goshen, NY 1/3/16.~

~I came home to find this Sharp-shinned Hawk in my driveway, not a bad way to end a birding outing. Goshen, NY 1/3/16.~

All species located in Black Dirt Region (including Liberty Marsh) except where noted:

Canada Goose
Mute Swan
American Black Duck
Mallard
Turkey Vulture
Bald Eagle (Wickham)
Northern Harrier
Sharp-shinned Hawk (Home)
Cooper’s Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
American Coot
Ring-billed Gull
Belted Kingfisher (Glenmere)
Mourning Dove
Blue Jay
American Crow
Horned Lark
Black-capped Chickadee (Glenmere)
Tufted Titmouse (Glenmere)
White-breasted Nuthatch (Glenmere)
European Starling
Snow Bunting
Dark-eyed Junco
Song Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

Shawangunk Grasslands NWR, 1/2/16

~Short-eared Owl at Shawangunk Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge, 1/2/16.~

~Short-eared Owl at Shawangunk Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge, 1/2/16.~

To say the meteorologists got it wrong would be an understatement. With clear, sunny skies in the forecast, Kyle Dudgeon and I headed out to the Shawangunk Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge in hopes of getting some good Northern Harrier and Short-eared Owl photos. We arrived early enough to claim one of the four photo blinds at the refuge, but alas, the heavy cloud cover refused to clear. We approximated 6 Northern Harriers were present at the refuge; we tried for the majority of the day to get some decent photos but no harriers came close enough for any decent shots. Fortunately, it was just barely after 3:00 that the Short-eared Owls picked up. And, although they never came very close, they spent enough time around our blind to get some decent (if noisy) shots and they were as entertaining as ever. Another highlight of the day was 3 large skeins of Snow Geese which flew over, heading south.

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~SEOW at the Grasslands on 1/2/16.~

~Short-eared Owl at the Shawangunk Grasslands NWR, 1/2/16.~

~Short-eared Owl at the Shawangunk Grasslands NWR, 1/2/16.~

~A SEOW dives for prey, Shawangunk Grasslands, NWR 1/2/16.~

~A SEOW dives for prey, Shawangunk Grasslands, NWR 1/2/16.~

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~A high flying Short-eared Owl passes over the photo blind at Shawangunk Grasslands NWR, 1/2/16.~

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~I struggled to get Northern Harrier photos today at Shawangunk Grasslands NWR, 1/2/16.~

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~SEOW cruising the Grasslands, 1/2/16.~

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~A cropped shot of one of the skeins of Snow Geese that passed over today at Shawangunk Grasslands NWR, 1/2/16.~