A BIG Day Photographing SMALL Birds

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~For some reason this is a bird that I have struggled to photograph in the past couple of years – Blue-gray Gnatcatcher at Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge, 8/2/15.~

Well okay, maybe it wasn’t THAT big, but I did do pretty well photographing passerines today. I walked the Liberty Loop at the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge early this morning, and the birds just seemed to make themselves a little more available than they have lately, particularly two birds that I never seem to get a good shot of: Yellow-throated Vireo and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. Additionally, the early morning light was nice for photos and I seemed to catch most birds in full or nearly full light on a nice dark background, which is a look I personally like. It was a nice walk with over 50 species seen or heard; I will include a species list at the bottom of this post. As usual, I was curious to see if any new shorebirds had moved in – I was happy to see at least one of the Semipalmated Plovers that Kyle Dudgeon had let me know about earlier this week was still around – that was my first of the season. Other than that, no new shorebirds to report, in fact numbers and variety of shorebirds both seemed to down; I did not located any Greater Yellowlegs, Semipalmated Sandpipers, nor Pectoral Sandpipers. Most the shorebirds were located in the back pond of the loop and in the WAY back of that pond, to boot. I did have one Lesser Yellowlegs just to the left of the viewing platform, where water levels have dropped a bit, so that was nice.

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~This was a treat for me! A Yellow-throated Vireo that ventured out of the treetops! Liberty Loop, 8/2/15.~

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~Here’s another flycatcher that I’m going to have to leave unidentified. Any thoughts on this bird, please comment! Liberty Loop at Wallkill River NWR, 8/2/15.~

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~Common Yellowthroat just off the trail at the Liberty Loop, 8/2/15.~

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~A sweet looking Downy Woodpecker at Wallkill River NWR, 8/2/15.~

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~Here’s another bird I don’t get too many shots of – House Wren on the east side of the Liberty Loop, 8/2/15.~

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~Ruby-throated Hummingbird at the Liberty Loop, 8/2/15.~

Here’s my list for the morning:

~One of only 2 Orchard Orioles I had on the day, they seemed to have moved through for the most part. Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge, Liberty Loop Trail, 8/2/15.~

~One of only 2 Orchard Orioles I had on the day, they seemed to have moved through for the most part. Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge, Liberty Loop Trail, 8/2/15.~

Canada Goose
Mallard
Wood Duck
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Green Heron
Turkey Vulture
Northern Harrier
Semipalmated Plover
Killdeer
Solitary Sandpiper
Spotted Sandpiper
Lesser Yellowlegs
Least Sandpiper
Mourning Dove
Black-billed Cuckoo
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Pileated Woodpecker
Eastern Wood Peewee
Unidentified Flycatcher
Eastern Phoebe
Eastern Kingbird
Great Crested Flycatcher
Yellow-throated Vireo
Warbling Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
Am. Crow
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
White-breasted Nuthatch
House Wren
Marsh Wren
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Am. Robin
Gray Catbird
Cedar Waxwing
Common Yellowthroat
Field Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Indigo Bunting
Bobolink
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Orchard Oriole
Am. Goldfinch

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~One more shot of the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Liberty Loop 8/2/15.~

Weekend Wrap-up, 7/26/15

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~A Great Blue Heron at Clark Pond, New Windsor NY 7/25/15.~

I got out both Saturday and Sunday mornings, mostly looking for shorebirds. First thing Saturday, thanks to Bruce Nott, I went to a new spot for me – it’s a small pond near Stewart Airport that is now a mud flat. Shorebirds present included Killdeer, Least Sandpipers, and a single Lesser Yellowlegs. There were many Great Blue Herons and a couple of Green Herons also present. It looks like a spot with some good potential, so I will keep checking back. Next I went to Lake Washington where I struck out with shorebirds – a quick stop yielded only a Great Blue Heron and a Green Heron. Bruce saw a Great Egret and a Black-crowned Night-Heron out there earlier in the week. My final stop was a total bust – I wanted to check the mud flats on the Hudson River just north of Cornwall-On-Hudson. The problem is that there is no real good spot to view that area, and there are “No Parking” signs everywhere. I eventually got frustrated with the situation and bailed on it.

Sunday morning I went back to the usual – I walked the Liberty Loop. It was a birdy morning where I had over 40 species. Shorebirds in the back pond remained basically the same as my last shorebird report, with the addition of a second Pectoral Sandpiper, and my first 2 SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPERS of the season. Waders were numerous, particularly Great Egrets (8), and Great Blue Herons (12). I also saw several Green Herons and managed a distant photo of one.

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~Great Egret in flight at the Liberty Loop, 7/26/15. This crop doesn’t show very well on the blog – click on the photo to have a better look.~

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~Least Sandpiper in the back pond of the Liberty Loop, 7/26/15.~

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~Great Blue Heron in flight at Clark Pond in New Windsor, NY 7/25/15.~

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~I’m trying to mix it up with all the Lesser Yellowlegs photos – half submerged LEYE at the Liberty Loop, 7/26/15.~

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~Green Heron in the ditch alongside the back pond at the Liberty Loop, 7/26/15.~

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~An unidentified flycatcher on the west side of the Liberty Loop, 7/26/15.~

7/23/15 – Shorebird Report…

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~This is first raptor I have photographed in a while. Red-tailed Hawk on my way home from 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary, 7/23/15.~

…And a couple additional photos from today’s birding. I made two stops after work looking for shorebirds:

Liberty Loop – Back Pond:

Least Sandpiper 12
Lesser Yellowlegs 9
Greater Yellowlegs 2
Solitary Sandpiper 1
Spotted Sandpiper 3
Killdeer 14
PECTORAL SANDPIPER 1

6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary – Citgo Pond:

Least Sandpiper 14
Lesser Yellowlegs 1
Spotted Sandpiper 1
Killdeer 9

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~A little bit of a different look at a Lesser Yellowlegs – taken when all the shorebirds in the back pond at Liberty Loop were briefly alarmed by something which I never located. 7/23/15.~

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~Great Egret in flight, Liberty Loop 7/23/15.~

Even More Loop Birding, 7/18/15

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~Ah! Finally got a decent shot of one of the Lesser Yellowlegs out at the Liberty Loop, 7/18/15.~

Since my last post on Monday, I’ve made it back out to the Liberty Loop at Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge three times, including a brief visit today. The biggest development was when Linda Scrima contacted me on Wednesday to let me know she had a GLOSSY IBIS in the back pond at the loop. I did not get out there to see the ibis on Wednesday because I was playing in my golf league, but I did get out there to see it on Thursday, when I was accompanied by Kyle Dudgeon who got his lifer Glossy Ibis. The bird was still present this morning when I stopped by; both times I’ve seen the bird it has been in the very back of the back pond. The bird can be seen well with a scope (or even binoculars), but photos were pretty much out of the question. On Wednesday, when Linda first saw the bird, it was closer to the trail and she has provided great shot of the bird for this post – thanks Linda!

~Glossy Ibis in the back pond of the Liberty Loop, 7/15/15. Photo by Linda Scrima.~

~Glossy Ibis in the back pond of the Liberty Loop, 7/15/15. Photo by Linda Scrima.~

The back pond continues to be the best spot in the area (that I know of) for shorebirds. This is what I had there this morning:

Least Sandpiper 15+
Lesser Yellowlegs 6
Greater Yellowlegs 2
Solitary Sandpiper 1
Spotted Sandpiper 2
Killdeer 12

The remainder of the loop also continues to be birdy with the expected species, with a family of Great-crested Flycatchers on the eastern side of the loop being a nice highlight and providing plenty of photo ops. Really, I should have gotten better photos, but sometimes that’s just the way it goes.

NOTE: I’ve checked the Camel Farm a couple of times for shorebirds (I had several Killdeer and 2 Least Sandpipers today finally), and I checked the Citgo Trail at 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary today (4 killdeer and 2 Least Sandpipers). Also, please note that the Citgo Trail is VERY overgrown and ticks are a problem. I do not recommend going there.

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~Great-crested Flycatcher on the Liberty Loop Trail, 6/16/15.~

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~This one made me happy – Red-eyed Vireo at the Liberty Loop, 7/16/15.~

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~On Tuesday, Kyle and I entered the loop from Owen’s Station Road, where I photographed this Killdeer while waiting for Kyle to show up. 6/14/15.~

More Good Birding at the Loop, 7/13/15

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~It was pretty exciting to see this BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON at the Liberty Loop Trail, Wallkill River NWR, 7/13/15.~

QUICK POST: It’s getting late, so I will have to make this a quick post. I met Kyle Dudgeon out at the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge’s Liberty Loop Trail, and the good birding on that trail continues. Most of the action seems to be happening in what I call the back pond – the southernmost pool on the trail. On our way back there, at least 2 Sora could be heard calling in the marsh; they sounded like they were pretty deep into the marsh, much farther out than they were on Saturday. As we approached the back pond, we inadvertently flushed a BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON that was in the ditch to the right of the trail. The bird did not fly far and we got some photos. This is my first BCNH sighting at the loop this year.

In the back pool we saw my first 2 GREAT EGRETS of the year out in the distance, in the company of nearly 10 Great Blue Herons and one Green Heron. Green Herons flew overhead several times while we were there.  Most excitedly, shorebird numbers and variety both increased:

Least Sandpiper 20+
Lesser Yellowlegs 5
Greater Yellowlegs 1
Solitary Sandpiper 1
Killdeer 6

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~A LEAST SANDPIPER at the Liberty Loop, 7/13/15.~

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~Lesser Yellowlegs in the back pool at the Liberty Loop, 7/13/15.~

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~Solitary Sandpiper at the Liberty Loop, 7/13/15.~

 

Good Birding at the Liberty Loop, 7/11/15

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~Orchard Oriole on Liberty Lane, 7/9/15.~ 

I woke up with no real plans for birding, so I decided to head out to the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge. I wanted to check on the Blue Grosbeak that has been out on Liberty Lane and I was hoping for some southbound migrating shorebirds. I walked out Liberty Lane (which was loaded with Orchard Orioles, Song Sparrows, and Indigo Buntings) to try for the Blue Grosbeak. I heard the bird, but off in the distance and I was not able to locate it.

~One of many Indigo Buntings out on Liberty Lane, Wallkill River NWR, 7/11/15.~

~One of many Indigo Buntings out on Liberty Lane, Wallkill River National Wildlife Reserve, 7/11/15.~

I made my way back to the parking lot where I met up with Linda Scrima and we walked the Liberty Loop Trail. We walked the west side of the loop first; we were nearly at the southwest corner of the loop when we heard a SORA calling! As we got closer to where the bird was calling from, the bird went quiet. We scanned for a while but then decided to move on – there are a lot of hiding places in that marsh. We continued down the trail and when we got maybe 100 paces away, the bird started calling again. We decided to try one more time and I’m glad we did. We moved very slowly back towards where the bird was calling from, this time it continued to call and it sounded relatively close. Finally, we saw some movement and across the open water, perhaps 150 yards into the marsh we saw both an adult and a single young SORA tucked away in the vegetation! It was very exciting to seem them, but photos were tough because of the distance, the grasses, and the birds were backlit. Here are a few, for documentary purposes:

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~An adult SORA stays mostly hidden in the southwest corner of the Liberty Marsh at Wallkill River NWR, 7/11/15.~

~The adult SORA flushed when a trail walker approached us. Liberty Loop, 7/11/15.~

~The adult SORA flushed when a trail walker approached us. Liberty Loop, 7/11/15.~

~A young SORA at the Wallkill River NWR, Liberty Loop, 7/11/15. Photo by Linda Scrima.~

~A young SORA at the Wallkill River NWR, Liberty Loop, 7/11/15. Photo by Linda Scrima.~

When we reached the pool at the southern end of the loop, we were pleasantly surprised to find 5 LESSER YELLOWLEGS, and 4 LEAST SANDPIPERS – my first southbound migrating shorebirds of the season. And, after just talking about the dearth of Green Herons this year, we saw two of them there as well.

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~One of five LESSER YELLOWLEGS at Wallkill River NWR, 7/11/15.~

We finished the loop, with more of the usual suspects being seen, then went out to try for the Blue Grosbeak once again,  but this time we didn’t even hear the bird. It was a good day with over 40 species seen or heard, and the first shorebird migrants that I’ve seen this summer.

Note: I was at the refuge on Thursday the 9th as well – two of the photos in this post are from that day.

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~Great Blue Heron in flight, shot from the viewing platform at the Liberty Marsh, 7/9/15.~

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~It’s always good to see a Northern Harrier! Wallkill River NWR, 7/11/15.~

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A Common Yellowthroat surrounded by leaves, Wallkill River NWR, 7/11/15.~

Bashakill Common Gallinules, 7/4/15

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~An adult Common Gallinule at Haven Road in the Bashakill WMA, 7/4/15.~

I have to say that it felt great to get out after several days of not feeling well and being stuck inside recuperating. Kyle Dudgeon joined me this afternoon and we headed out to the Bashakill Wildlife Management Area to try for the Common Gallinules that John Haas had posted about in his blog earlier in the week. We went directly to Haven Road, which is still flooded. We walked slowly through the water and over the bridge before we saw our first family of Common Gallinules, which consisted of one adult and 3 chicks. Fortunately, they were not too far out for photos, although the vegetation did make focusing on the birds a little bit difficult. It was super to get such a good look and photos of  these birds, which are typically much tougher than this to locate. And, it was Kyle’s lifer COGA, so that was exciting too. There was an additional 6 Common Gallinules in open water out in the distance, and I could hear other COGAs in at least two other locations. Huge thanks to John for posting – what a great birding opportunity.

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~A Common Gallinule chick on a precarious perch at the Bashakill WMA, 7/4/15.~

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~COGA chick at the Bashakill WMA, 7/4/15.~

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~One more of the adult Common Gallinule, Haven Road at the Bashakill, 7/4/15.~

A Couple More Orange County Birds

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~Female Bobolink at Knapp’s View in Chester, NY 6/29/15.~

Recently, I was looking over my 2015 list of Orange County birds and noticed it was lacking a couple of birds that figured I would have seen in the county before now – Bobolink and Eastern Meadowlark. With that in mind, Monday after work I headed over to Knapp’s View in the town of Chester, a spot where I have never birded but heard both birds could be seen. I did very well with Bobolinks, with plenty being seen and they were close enough for some decent photos. I walked the mowed trails, but did not have any luck with Eastern Meadowlarks, so I decided to head Upper Wisner Road in Warwick where I’ve seen them in the past. Not long after my arrival, as I scanned I found a single meadowlark perched in the distance. Too far for photos, but still nice to get the bird. Before leaving, I had a nice photo opportunity with a Northern Mockingbird, a bird that I have not photographed in quite some time.

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~And a male Bobolink strikes a pose with some nice colors in the background. Knapp’s View 6/29/15.~

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~Northern Mockingbird off Upper Wisner Road in Warwick, NY 6/29/15. Barbed wire is one of the man-made elements that I don’t mind in a bird photo for some reason.~

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~Northern Mockingbird taking off, Upper Wisner Road in Warwick NY, 6/29/15.~

Sussex County Yellow-breasted Chat – YES! – Times 2!!

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~One of two (!) YELLOW-BREASTED CHATS at Canal Road in Vernon Township, NJ 6/28/15.~

After getting so close to seeing the Yellow-breasted Chat this morning near the Canal Road bike path in Vernon Township, New Jersey, I had try again this afternoon while the rain had stopped for a little while. I guess third time’s a charm and I finally got lucky, getting to see the bird this time.  It was a brief glimpse at first, but eventually I got several good looks and some photos too. The best part is that at some point I realized that there were definitely two chats present, just as Marianne and I were suspecting on Friday afternoon. First, I had both calling simultaneously from two sides of an open area to the left the trail. Then, I was looking at one bird while the second was calling from behind me! It was very exciting! Kyle Dudgeon eventually joined me and picked up an easy lifer YBCH; we got on one of the birds just moments after he arrived! Good birding!

~YBCH with a meal, Canal Road in Sussex County, NJ 6/28/15.~

~YBCH with a meal, Canal Road in Sussex County, NJ 6/28/15.~

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~There are many Blue-winged Warblers on the trail. Canal Road AT, Vernon Township, NJ 6/28/15.~

~A young BWWA waits for a meal, Canal Road AT, Sussex County NY, 6/28/15.~

~A young BWWA waits for a meal, Canal Road AT, Sussex County NY, 6/28/15.~

Challenging Chat

~Yellow-breasted Chat at Canal Road in Vernon Township, captured by Linda Scrima on 6/26/15.

~Yellow-breasted Chat at Canal Road in Vernon Township, captured by Linda Scrima on 6/26/15.~

On Thursday evening, I received word from Marianne Ofenloch that she had a Yellow-breasted Chat along the Appalachian Trail, off the Canal Road bike path in Vernon Township, New Jersey. I tried for the bird on Friday after work and ran into Marianne while I was there. The bird was heard for sure, and we were actually contemplating the possibility of there being two chats; there seemed to be one calling from either side of the trail, but the calls were never close enough together to be 100% sure there were two birds rather than the one moving around. Since I never got a look at that bird, I went back this morning to try for it again, in spite of the steady rain that was falling. Once again the bird was heard but not seen. At a couple of points, I could hear the bird, no more than 25 feet in front of me, but it stayed hidden from view! This is what I should have expected from a chat; I should have known it would not be as easy as when I went to Hopeland Sanctuary in Staatsburg for my lifer YBCH. On Friday morning, while I was working (poor me, ha ha!), Linda Scrima and Maria Loukeris went for the chat and had great success, as witnessed by the super photograph of the bird at the top of this post, provided by Linda.

It’s worth mentioning that this is a really good birding spot. In my two visits this weekend I had a total of 41 different species. The trail has a very wild and lush feel to it, but with enough open spaces to allow for good bird viewing and photographing. I am putting it on my list of places to frequent. Highlights included a pair of Yellow-billed Cuckoos that I was just a little slow on the draw for photos, a Scarlet Tanager family which included a young Brown-headed Cowbird, and Blue-winged Warblers. I should also mention that on Thursday Marianne also had a Golden-winged Warbler there.

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~A young Scarlet Tanager with what looks like some sort of seed on it’s bill. Canal Road Appalachian Trail, 6/28/15.~

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~Male Scarlet Tanager just off the AT at Canal Road, Vernon Township, NJ, 6/26/15.~

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~A busy female Scarlet Tanager, Canal Road, Vernon Township, New Jersey, 6/28/15.~