QUICK POST: Huge thanks to Kathy Ashman, who texted while I was at work to let me know she had located a SANDHILL CRANE at 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary. I ran for the bird after getting out of work this afternoon; Maria Loukeris met me at the sanctuary and got me on the bird very quickly (thanks!). Which was a good thing, because shortly after my arrival, the bird picked up and relocated deep into the reeds and out of sight. The bird was distant, but I was still super excited to see this excellent bird and get some documentary photos. And, of course, it was great to get it in Orange County and add it to my year list (#208).
Mount Peter Ski Area is known as “The Friendly One”. I think the same can be said for Mount Peter Hawkwatch, where the birding is great but camaraderie is awesome too. I was basically rained out yesterday (I managed only one relatively rain-free hour at the watch, where I had 5 Sharp-shinned Hawks stream through), so I headed up to Mount Pete this morning get my fix. There was a strong WNW wind and I was hoping for a good flight and maybe even a Golden Eagle. I wasn’t the only one that had that idea – Mt. Pete counters Judy Cinquina, Tom Millard, and Denise Farrell all joined me and the official counter of the day, Ken Witkowski on the viewing platform. There were also several visitors and they all seemed to be serious hawkwatchers too. It was a great group and I really enjoyed my time up there today. Birding often serves as an escape for me, time to get away from everything and everyone, but hawkwatching is one of the exceptions to this and the social aspect is often just as rewarding as the birding.
As for the hawks – the wind was very strong up on the mountain, making it difficult to keep my binoculars steady and early on, I wondered if the wind was too strong for a good flight. Thankfully, that was not the case. In the 4 hours I spent on the mountain, we had a good Sharp-shinned Hawk flight with over 40 Sharpies being counted. Red-tailed Hawks and Red-shouldered Hawks were also moving a little bit, with 10 and 5 birds counted respectively. It was interesting to us that on a day with such strong winds, it was the little Sharpie that was braving the wind, rather than the larger birds. We had only two Bald Eagles while I was there, one was a local bird that headed north, and the other migrated. As for Golden Eagles, I’m sure one migrated through shortly after I left the watch (as of this writing the report had not been completed). It was a great day at the watch and it made up nicely for missing my day of counting yesterday.
QUICK POST: I got out to 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary’s Citgo Pond a little on the late side this evening; I had some things to take care of directly after work. But, when I eventually got out there, I finally had a new bird – a single DUNLIN. I got super looks at the bird in my scope, but the bird was a bit distant for any decent photos. I was super excited, I’ve been waiting for a while for something good to make its way to Citgo, and Dunlin were on my list for sure. This Dunlin is my 207th species in Orange County this year.
I was not very optimistic as I headed out to do my Saturday of counting at Mount Peter Hawkwatch. The wind direction was not going to be favorable, and additionally, the forecast was for clear blue skies all day, which is a hawkwatcher’s worst sky. I was pleasantly surprised to have a pretty good flight in spite of the adverse conditions. I had a total of 52 migrating raptors, most of which were Sharp-shinned Hawks. The highlight of the day was getting absolutely killer looks at a couple of adult Red-shouldered Hawks in the scope as they migrated through. Big thanks to Denise Farrell who helped me out for most of the day. Here’s my report:
Pam Bryant and Joe Zera
Sunny with almost no clouds. Gentle winds from the east early on and shifting to the south. Temperatures ranged from 6 to 19 degrees Celsius.
-One immature Bald Eagle -One unknown, one immature, and 3 adult Red-shouldered Hawks. -One unknown American Kestrel
Other species: Cedar Waxwing (30), American Crow (13), Common Raven (4), Black-capped Chickadee (6), Ruby-crowned Kinglet (1), Blue Jay (25), Canada Goose (11), Northern Cardinal (1), American Goldfinch (5), White-breasted Nuthatch (1), Red-breasted Nuthatch (1), Blackpoll Warbler (1), Eastern Bluebird (2), Yellow-rumped Warbler (4), American Robin (2), House Finch (1), Red-bellied Woodpecker (2), Ring-billed Gull (4), Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (1).
After work I went to Wickham Lake to see if any good waterfowl had moved in. I’d read a report from Scotty Baldinger that he and John Haas had 8 Black Scoters and one White-winged Scoter at Neversink Reservoir earlier in the day, so I was hoping for scoters as well. I located two scoters, very distant out on the lake. I did not have a guide book with me because I’d used Tricia’s car for birding over the weekend and forgotten it there. I did a quick google search and thought I came up with a good match with White-winged. I did my best to take some usable photos and I put the word out. Rob Stone went for the birds later in the evening and he was thinking the birds were more likely SURF SCOTERS. I checked my guides, and I sent my pics to Rob and John who both agreed that the birds were SUSCs. Here are some of the indicators – first, no white was seen on the wings (this is not conclusive because depending on how the bird is sitting in the water, a WWSC might not show any white on the wings). But, more importantly, the pattern of white on the face of the bird runs up and down; this is indicative of the straight edge of the bill of a Surf Scoter (for WWSC it projects forward due to the shape of its bill). And, also, the head has a dark capped look and has a more blocky appearance than WWSC. This is my 235th life bird in Orange County and number 206 on my OC year list. Thanks to Rob and John for helping out on this one!
Update: I forgot to include this last night when I posted – I wanted to mention quickly that this post is a bit of a milestone here at Orange Birding; it’s the 500th post! Here’s to 500 more!
QUICK POST: This afternoon, Linda Scrima, Kyle Dudgeon, and I ran to Wickham Lake for a BLACK SCOTER that was located earlier in the day by Rob Stone. When we arrived, the bird was very distant, but identifiable with scope views. Kyle had to run, but Linda and I walked the trail on the east side of the lake to get a better look and some photos. The bird was closer from that side of the lake, but spent most of its time tucked in. It finally untucked a couple of times and I was able to get some documentary shots of the bird. I was particularly excited because it was the 205th species I’ve had in Orange County this year. Thanks once again to Rob Stone, who just keeps finding great birds.
Another highlight was seeing a pair of Bald Eagles sharing a branch as a perch. It was a little bit distant, but I’ve included a photo of the cute couple.
I counted at Mount Peter Hawkwatch today, and it was a pretty good day. The rain held off and the heavy cloud cover kept the birds low. Actually, it was a really good morning with many birds flying very low and giving excellent looks, but then the afternoon was less productive. Kyle Dudgeon is home from college for the weekend and he spent most of the day helping me out with his young eyes. We had two Sharp-shinned Hawks take a run at the owl, one of which flew right at Kyle’s head, turning off at the very last second. In the early afternoon Maria Loukeris and Heather Thoma stopped by and brought the best songbirds of the day; we had a Blue-headed Vireo, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, and a Golden-crowned Kinglet. To see more data on Mount Peter or any other hawkwatch, you can visit Hawkcount. Here’s my report for the day.
Observation start time: 08:00:00
Observation end time: 15:30:00
Total observation time: 7.5 hours
Official Counter Matt Zeitler
Kyle Dudgeon, Maria Loukeris, and Heather Thoma.
Very cloudy with a very slight wind from the south. Temperatures ranged from 13 to 20 degrees Celsius.
It was a fun day at the watch with most birds flying quite low. Two Sharp-shinned Hawks and one Merlin took a pass at the owl, giving really great looks. One immature Northern Harrier and one unknown American Kestrel.
Other Species: Black-capped Chickadee (4), Tufted Titmouse (3), Blue Jay (65), Red-bellied Woodpecker (1), European Starling (14), American Crow (2), Common Raven (2), Eastern Bluebird (3), Cedar Waxwing (30), Northern Flicker (2), American Robin (72), White-breasted Nuthatch (1), Red-breasted Nuthatch (1), Red-winged Blackbird (18), American Goldfinch (16), Mourning Dove (3), Double-crested Cormorant (3), Eastern Phoebe (1), Pileated Woodpecker (1), Eastern Towhee (1), Blue-headed Vireo (1), Golden-crowned Kinglet (1), Ruby-crowned Kinglet (1), and Monarch Butterfly (2).
I got out and did a fair amount of birding this weekend, especially because I didn’t count hawks at Mt. Peter Hawkwatch on Saturday, due to the fog and light rain that persisted throughout the day.
BLACK DIRT REGION: I received reports from Bruce Nott and Ken and Curt McDermott on Saturday that the collection of plovers in the black dirt continued. Curt and Ken had a very nice count of 41 American Golden-Plovers and 5 Black-bellied Plovers. On Sunday, I met Linda Scrima in the late morning. The plovers were present, but distant. We lingered, and eventually they flew in closer, with a couple even landing on the road. We had a total of 34 AMGPs and 3 BBPLs. The highlight, however, was when a Killdeer flew over being chased by another smaller bird. Linda picked it up and got me on the birds. I stayed on the smaller bird and when it landed, I was thrilled to see it was an AMERICAN PIPIT! We eventually saw 3 more for a total of 4 AMPIs. The pipits were my 204th species in Orange County this year.
WICKHAM WOODLANDS TOWN PARK: I birded here on Saturday morning so I could stay close to Mt. Peter, in case the weather cleared up. The highlight for me was a trio of Ruddy Ducks. I also had a nice look at a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, and Mockingbirds and Northern Flickers were present in numbers.
6 1/2 STATION ROAD, CITGO POND: I made three trips to the pond this weekend and finally on Sunday I had some new shorebirds:
4 Pectoral Sandpipers (one new bird)
3 Lesser Yellowlegs (one new bird)
1 Greater Yellowlegs (new bird)
11 Least Sandpiper (same number)
On Friday evening I had a Northern Harrier fly over the pond and a Sharp-shinned Hawk as well. Both kinglets were present on the trail into the pond. On Saturday I also went over to the Heritage Trail side of the sanctuary, where I had many Yellow-rumped Warblers and a pair of Black-throated Green Warblers.
HIGHLAND LAKES STATE PARK: I made it out here for early Sunday morning. The place was very birdy and I had 27 species plus one unidentified flycatcher in just over an hour. Yellow-rumped Warblers, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, and White-throated Sparrows were all quite numerous. Again, I had a couple of Black-throated Green Warblers, but besides that, not many noteworthy birds.
QUICK POST: Every once in a while you go out looking for a specific bird and you find it. That’s what happened to me tonight when I went out to the Black Dirt hoping for Black-bellied Plovers. I had located a collection of plovers – many Killdeer and a good number of American Golden-Plovers. There were 4 plovers that were slightly larger than the AMGPs, with a noticeably more substantial bills. I was feeling pretty sure that they were BBPLs; I waited it out and eventually a couple of them took short flights, exposing the black wing pits diagnostic of BBPLs! I put out the word and Maria Loukeris and Kathy Ashman both ran for them. All three of us enjoyed good scope views of the birds, even if photos were tough. My final count was 23 American Golden-Plovers, 4 Black-bellied Plovers, and approximately 40 Killdeer. Excellent evening of birding!
When it rains it pours, here’s my fourth post in as many days. Tricia and I spent a week in the Adirondacks on a family vacation with both of her brothers, her nephew, and her cousin and his family. We stayed at a great place, White Pine Camp in Paul Smiths, New York. I would certainly recommend it to anyone planning to head up to the Adirondacks and we will surely go back.
So, while it was not a birding trip, almost all of our time was spent outdoors. We did a lot of canoeing and kayaking (we did one epic day of 9 lakes in 8 hours in a canoe). And, I did get out and do some birding on my own, checking out some of the local hotspots, including Bigelow Road and Bloomingdale Bog (both the north end and the south end). Unfortunately, it was pretty quiet on the birding front. I did manage to see Gray Jays in 2 locations, and I had a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher at Bigelow Road. On one paddling trip, Tricia’s brother Kevin located a young Red-bellied Woodpecker, which was a bird I wasn’t expecting to see for some reason. I came up empty in regards to Boreal Chickadees and Black-backed Woodpeckers, which was disappointing. For the week I had just over 40 species. Anyway, it was a great time and I hope you enjoy my vacation photos.
I’ve always enjoyed photographing the Common Loons up in the Adirondacks. In the past I have had some great experiences where the loons were as curious about me as I was about them. They would pop up right next to my kayak and provide for extraordinary photo ops. This time around, I found that the loons were not quite as curious. I’m pretty sure it had to do with the adults tending to and protecting their young, which were still staying very close to their parents and sometimes still being fed. That being said, the birds were still quite confiding and while I did not spend as much time shooting them as I have in the past, I was able to get some decent shots: