Saturday 3/28/15

~One of 9 Bald Eagles at the Bashakill Wildlife Management Area, 3/28/15.~

~One of 9 Bald Eagles at the Bashakill Wildlife Management Area, 3/28/15.~

On this cold, windy Saturday morning, I left the house without much of a game plan. I wandered around, hitting several spots in southern Orange County before ending up at the Bashakill Wildlife Management Area.

GLENMERE LAKE: Highlights included 42 Ring-necked Ducks and 4 Common Mergansers.

SCHERVIER PAVILLION, WARWICK: 10 Hooded Mergansers, 2 Common Mergansers, Canada Geese, and Mallards.

~ A pair of male Hooded Mergansers at Schervier Pavilion in Warwick NY, 3/28/15.~

~ A pair of male Hooded Mergansers at Schervier Pavilion in Warwick NY, 3/28/15.~

WARWICK TOWN HALL PONDS: Ring-necked Ducks too spread out and numerous to count (maybe 60+?), Gadwall, American Wigeon, Canada Geese, and a single American Coot

SANFORDVILLE ROAD, WARWICK NY: 1 American Kestrel and 2 Red-tailed Hawks (including the one pictured below with some super markings).

~Red-tailed Hawk perched on a dirt pile off of Sanfordville Road in Warwick, NY 3/28/15.~

~Red-tailed Hawk perched on a dirt pile off of Sanfordville Road in Warwick, NY 3/28/15.~

LAUREL GROVE CEMETERY, PORT JERVIS NY: Highlights included 4 Red-breasted Mergansers, 2 Common Goldeneyes, and over 40 Tree Swallows, my first ones of the year!

~It was great to not only see the Tree Swallows, but to also get a decent photo of one. Laurel Grove Cemetery, 3/28/15.~

~It was great to not only see the Tree Swallows, but to also get a decent photo of one. Laurel Grove Cemetery, 3/28/15.~

BASHAKILL WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT AREA, SULLIVAN COUNTY NY: I got my best bird of the day here – a pair of FOX SPARROWS located at the Deli Fields. I tried desperately for photos because I haven’t had a Fox Sparrow since sometime in 2013! The birds would not cooperate and in the end this was my best shot:

~Fox Sparrow at the Bashakill Deli Fields, 3/28/15.~

~Fox Sparrow at the Bashakill Deli Fields, 3/28/15.~

Other highlights included 9 (!) Bald Eagles including one cooperative one that seemed to be playing while flying above Haven Road. And I also had 4 Tree Swallows and I able to get a decent photo of an Eastern Bluebird.

~An immature Bald Eagle flies over Haven Road at the Bashakill, 3/28/15.~

~An immature Bald Eagle flies over Haven Road at the Bashakill, 3/28/15.~

~Eastern Bluebird at the Deli Fields, 3/28/15.~

~Eastern Bluebird at the Deli Fields, 3/28/15.~

~This eagle seemed to be playing as it flew. Bald Eagle over Haven Road at the Bashakill, 3/28/15.~

~This eagle seemed to be playing as it flew. Bald Eagle over Haven Road at the Bashakill, 3/28/15.~

Consolation Prize

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~What a super consolation prize! Barred Owl on the side of the road near the Neversink Reservoir, 3/24/15.~

After work today, I decided to go for the the Red Crossbills that John Haas had located at the Neversink Reservoir earlier in the day (see John’s post HERE). Karen Miller and Lance Verderame were also out looking for the crossbills, but unfortunately the three of us came up empty-handed. Fortunately for me, I had quite a sweet consolation prize. On my way out to the reservoir, not long after getting off Route 17, I found a Barred Owl perched on the side of the road! So lucky!

Later, after trying for the crossbills I took Karen back to the spot where I had seen the owl – it would be a life bird for her. The bird was no longer present; we scanned the surrounding area for a little while and then I got back in the car to head home. A few minutes later, Karen called – she had the bird! It was perched on a wire just up the road from where I had seen it; I must have driven right under it! Thinking back, I realized that once I started for home, I had immediately begun scanning the radio for the Pittsburgh Penguins game, so I wasn’t looking up! I went back to see the bird for a second time, but unfortunately a Good Samaritan with a bad muffler on his car had stopped to see if Karen needed help and doing so flushed the bird.

Oh, and I also had an additional consolation prize – my first Red-breasted Nuthatch in over a year!

A Good, Long Day of Birding in Orange County

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~A Male Northern Harrier, the Gray Ghost, in flight at Missionland Road, 3/21/15.~

I spent a long day on Saturday birding in the Black Dirt Region. I started the day by getting my first Killdeer photo of the year when I came upon 5 Killdeer on the side of the road on Onion Avenue…

~One of five Killdeer in the freshly fallen snow on the side of Onion Avenue in New Hampton, NY 3/21/15.~

~One of five Killdeer in the freshly fallen snow on the side of Onion Avenue in New Hampton, NY 3/21/15.~

…And the day ended with nearly 1500 Snow Geese at Skinner Lane.

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~I can’t get enough of these birds. Snow Geese in flight over Skinner Lane, 3/21/15.~

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~More SNGOs at Skinner Lane, 3/21/15.~

But I did a lot of birding in between, hitting most of the regular spots and some of them twice. Missionland Road was a good stop; I ran into Kyle Dudgeon and another birder named Jason that I had met once before.  We had good photo opportunities with a pair of Gray Ghosts, and I found what I believe was Cackling Goose in a flock of maybe 2,000 Canada Geese. The bird was distant and never seemed to have its head up, making it tough for photos. Here is my best effort:

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~A likely Cackling Goose (at center with head pointed down and to the left) among many Canada Geese at Missionland Road, 3/21/15.~

I'm not sure what's going on here with the grasses in this bird's grasp. Prey within? Male Northern Harrier in flight at Missionland Road, 3/21/15.~

~I’m not sure what’s going on here with the grasses in this bird’s grasp. Prey within? Male Northern Harrier in flight at Missionland Road, 3/21/15.~

~Not a great photo, but I included it because the bird not only has prey but is tagged. Northern Harrier on Missionland Road, 3/21/15.~

~Not a great photo, but I included it because the bird not only has prey but is tagged. Northern Harrier on Missionland Road, 3/21/15.~

I made a stop at Scenic Farms Golf Course, sifted through a couple thousand Canada Geese (and came up empty-handed), and then saw a distant Coyote hunting in the field across the street from the golf course.

~Coyote across the street from Scenic Farm Golf Course in Pine Island, NY 3/21/15.~

~Coyote across the street from Scenic Farm Golf Course in Pine Island, NY 3/21/15.~

Another productive stop was the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge, where I walked the Liberty Loop Trail with Kyle. It took us ages to make our way around the loop, mostly because the birding was so good. Waterfowl is what I was hoping for, and we did well. Most of these birds were seen in the Sussex County portion of the loop:

Snow Goose
Canada Goose
Mute Swan
Tundra Swan (2)
Wood Duck
American Wigeon
American Black Duck
Mallard
Northern Pintail
Green-winged Teal
Ring-necked Duck
American Coot

~I was pretty psyched to see a pair of Tundra Swans fly in and land in the refuge. Walkill River NWR, 3/21/15.~

~I was pretty psyched to see a pair of Tundra Swans fly in and land in the refuge. Walkill River NWR, 3/21/15.~

We also did well with raptors, with the highlight (for me) being a very active Peregrine Falcon that spent the entire time we were there terrorizing the waterfowl. I’m not sure, but I think the highlight for Kyle was the three (possibly 4) Bald Eagles that we had. In all, we had seven species of raptors: Turkey Vulture, Black Vulture, Bald Eagle, Northern Harrier, Red Tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, and Peregrine Falcon.

~An adult Bald Eagle flies over the eastern leg of the Liberty Loop, 3/21/15.~

~An adult Bald Eagle flies over the eastern leg of the Liberty Loop, 3/21/15.~

~I wish I had gotten a better shot of this bird, she was gorgeous. Northern Harrier at Wallkill River NWR, 3/21/15.~

~I wish I had gotten a better shot of this bird, what a gorgeous creature. Northern Harrier at Wallkill River NWR, 3/21/15.~

~An explosion of ducks - Green-winged Teals and Ring-necked ducks mostly, with a few American Wigeon thrown in for good measure. Wallkill River NWR, 3/21/15.~

~An explosion of ducks – Green-winged Teals and Ring-necked ducks mostly, with a few American Wigeon thrown in for good measure. Wallkill River NWR, 3/21/15.~

~Bald Eagle at Wallkill River NWR, 3/21/15.~

~Bald Eagle at Wallkill River NWR, 3/21/15.~

~There were plenty of Northern Pintails at the refuge, Liberty Loop 3/21/15.~

~There were plenty of Northern Pintails at the refuge, Liberty Loop 3/21/15.~

~It's a lousy photo, but I had to include it because I was so excited to see this Peregrine Falcon doing its thing at the Wallkill River NWR, 3/21/15.~

~It’s a lousy photo, but I had to include it because I was so excited to see this Peregrine Falcon doing its thing at the Wallkill River NWR, 3/21/15.~

Wow, what a day, filled with exciting birds.

Super Birding In Orange County!

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~I love these blue morph Snow Geese! Coming in for a landing on Onion Avenue in New Hampton, NY 3/18/15.~

Wow, what a day of birding in Orange County today. I, of course, was at work and missed most of it! The action started early when I received a text from Karen Miller 7:30 this morning saying that while she did not relocate the Snow Geese from last night, she did have (8) likely TUNDRA SWANS at the Camel Farm. An hour later Linda Scrima texted that the Snow Geese had just come in and landed in the fields off of Onion Avenue. She also sent over a photo confirming the Tundra Swans. A couple of hours later, John Haas and Rob Stone were on the scene and located not one, but 2 ROSS’ GEESE!  And one of them was a blue morph! Check out John’s blog for his account. And not too long after that, I checked my email to see that Rob Stone had located a GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE at Scenic Farms Golf Course! Are you kidding me??? I was losing my mind at work and when I finally got out my first stop was at the golf course to go for the GWFG. I met Bruce Nott and Dave Baker over there, and thanks to them I was able to see the bird pretty quickly. Unfortunately it was miles out, so no photos. My next stop was the Camel Farm, where Dave and I had no luck with the swans. Next was Onion Avenue, where I spent most of the rest of the evening trying for the 2 Ross’ Geese with some great company like Ken McDermott, Marianne Ofenloch, and Scotty Baldinger. Unfortunately, we never located either bird.

My last ditch effort was to join Bruce to check the Camel Farm one more time… and I got lucky and the 8 Tundra Swans were there! Karen Miller joined us for a better look than she had gotten in the morning. I took some distant photos and enjoyed seeing them through my scope. What a day – incredible really!

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~SNGO in flight, New Hampton NY 3/18/15.~

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~Snow Goose at Onion Avenue, 3/18/15.~

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~I like this shot, a nice mix of white and blue morph Snow Geese in New Hampton, NY 3/18/15.~

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~On a slow day, the number of flocks of mixed blackbirds would have been the top story. It’s hard to estimate how many birds where out there, maybe 5,000+. Onion Avenue in New Hampton, NY 3/18/15.~

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~A great way to end the evening – 7  of  the 8 Tundra Swans at the Camel Farm, 3/18/15.~

 

SNOW GEESE!

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~Snow Geese in flight over Onion Avenue in New Hampton NY, 3/17/15.~

Last night I was at the Liberty Loop viewing platform just before sunset. There was much bird movement, particularly waterfowl. Many Canada Geese were flying over, from south to north. Mallards were circling around the reserve and Northern Pintails were doing the same. The highlight, however was a single skein of maybe 150 Snow Geese that flew over very high and pretty well east of the viewing platform. So today after work, I was on a goose chase. I found fewer Canada Geese than I would have expected, but numbers were certainly up with Canadas being seen at Scenic Farms Golf Course, the Camel Farm, Turtle Bay Road, Pierce Circle and Onion Avenue.

Also in the fields between Pierce Circle and Onion Avenue, there was approximately 150 Snow Geese! I was very excited and took some distant photos from Pierce Circle. I moved to Onion Avenue for a closer and better look. And more Snow Geese started to arrive from the south. They were putting on quite a show, picking up, circling and then landing over and over. I had put the word out and Linda Scrima and Maria Loukeris both joined me as the number of SNGOs continued to grow. By the time we left at 7:15, I approximate there were 1500 Snow Geese present. They seemed to be settling down a bit too, so hopefully they will stick around for a little while.

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~Lift off! Snow Geese in New Hampton NY, 3/17/15.~

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~I like this shot because of the calling second Snow Goose. Onion Avenue, 3/17/15.~

Also of note, I stopped by Glenmere Lake earlier in the afternoon and had 2 Common Goldeneye (as well as 12 Ring-neck Ducks and 8 Common Mergansers). Here’s a distant shot of the two COGOs:

~I thought these two would be the highlight of the day until I found the Snow Geese. Common Goldeneye at Glenmere Lake, 3/17/15.~

~I thought these two would be the highlight of the day until I found the Snow Geese. Common Goldeneye at Glenmere Lake, 3/17/15.~

Orange County Waterfowl

~Male Hooded Merganser at Schervier Pavilion in Warwick NY, 3/11/15.~

~Male Hooded Merganser at Schervier Pavilion in Warwick NY, 3/11/15.~

It’s been a good week of birding so far, the warm weather has been so nice to be out in, and it has thawed some of the open water in the county. As a result, I’ve done pretty well with waterfowl in Orange County over the past couple of days-

Glenmere Lake 3/11/15: Ring-necked Duck (3), Common Merganser (2), and Mute Swan (2).

Warwick Town Hall 3/11/15: Canada Goose (35), Mallard (8), Gadwall (5), Ring-necked Duck (25), Hooded Merganser (2), Common Merganser (2), and American Coot (1, FOY).

Schervier Pavilion 3/11/15: Hooded Merganser (2).

Newburgh Waterfront 3/12/15: Canada Goose (4), Mallard (25), Common Merganser (3), Red-breasted Merganser (1), Pied-billed Grebe (1, FOY), Great Cormorant (1).

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~This Red-breasted Merganser in the Hudson River, seen from the Newburgh-Beacon Ferry parking lot, 3/12/15.~

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~This is my first photo that shows the maroon ‘ring neck’ on a male Ring-necked Duck. It was quite a coincidence as I was just talking about this with Maria Loukeris earlier that afternoon. RNDU at Warwick Town Hall, 3/11/15.~

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~Ring-necked Ducks in flight, Warwick NY 3/11/15.~

~My first American Coot of the year, at Warwick Town Hall, 3/11/15.~

~My first American Coot of the year, at Warwick Town Hall, 3/11/15.~

Orange County Lesser Black-backed Gull, 3/10/15

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~Lesser Black-backed Gull, Newburgh Waterfront, 3/10/15.~

As my work day was coming to an end, I received two separate reports for Red-breasted Mergansers on the Hudson near Newburgh, NY. One was a text from Rob Stone, the second a call from Bruce Nott. I headed in that direction in hopes of getting a RBME for Orange County for the year. From Plum Point Park I had some distant waterfowl where the water was open, but the heat waves were distorting the image in my scope way too much to confidently ID the birds. From what I could tell, they were likely Common Mergansers.

When I got back in my car, I had a missed call on my phone (which I had forgotten there). It was from Bruce; I called him back and he had what he believed to be a LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL – seen from the old Torches parking lot. I hustled over, but I was too late. The bird had ridden the ice floes up river and out of scope range. I was really bummed! Then, some folks started to feed the ducks and gulls from the parking lot and a good number of the gulls were up in the air. Many relocated on the ice floes right in front of us, and fortunately, one of them was the Lesser Black-backed Gull. I relocated the bird and had Bruce take a look – we both liked it for a LBBG. The bird was close enough for some decent photos, so I sent it out – thank you to John Haas, Rob Stone, and Curt McDermott who all responded that they agreed with LBBG. Huge thanks to Bruce Nott – this is life bird #318 for me, very exciting! Oh, and I never did get a Red-breasted Merganser tonight…

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~One more look at the LBBG, seen from Torches at the Newburgh Waterfront, 3/10/15.~

Signs of Life in Orange County

~A couple of Ring-necked Ducks made my day today. Glenmere Lake, 3/9/15.~

~A couple of Ring-necked Ducks made my day today. Glenmere Lake, 3/9/15.~

QUICK POST: It’s not much, but it’s a start. I stopped by Glenmere Lake after work today and I was pleased to find two Ring-necked Ducks (first of the year for me) and one Common Merganser in one of the thawed areas in the lake. Afterwards, I made my way over to the Liberty Loop viewing platform. Kyle Dudgeon was there already, Linda Scrima and Maria Loukeris showed up not too long after I arrived. It was nice to be out in the warmer temperatures, and we enjoyed watching a male American Kestrel hunting. The bird went two for two, successfully catching (and then eating) what I assume were voles on his first two attempts. Also of note, we heard my first Orange County Killdeer of the year.

~American Kestrel with prey at the Wallkill River NWR Liberty Loop viewing platform, 3/9/15.~

~American Kestrel with prey at the Wallkill River NWR Liberty Loop viewing platform, 3/9/15.~

~Common Merganser at Glenmere Lake, 3/9/15.~

~Common Merganser at Glenmere Lake, 3/9/15.~

Weekend Wrap-up, 3/8/15

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~Immature Bald Eagle at Croton Point Park, 3/8/15.~

To be honest, I was feeling pretty uninspired about my birding for this weekend. I think I might just be tired of winter birding and ready for spring migration to get into full swing. It will be nice to get out of the car and back onto the trails, which is certainly my preferred type of birding.

That being said, I did get out quite a bit. On Saturday morning I went up to Ulster County to try for the Gyrfalcon but came up empty. The highlight of the morning was running into and catching up with fellow birder/photog/nice guy Eddie Rodriguez, who I had not seen in ages. In the afternoon, Tricia and I stopped by Piermont Pier on our way to my Aunt Judy’s 75th birthday party in the Bronx. I picked up two year birds – Greater Scaup and White-winged Scoter, but the highlight of the stop was getting photos of a male Ruddy Duck with some blue on his bill. I’m not really sure how it works, but I imagine that this bird is just starting to show his breeding colors.

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~This male Ruddy Duck made Tricia’s day – she always wanted to see a Ruddy with a blue bill. Piermont Pier, 3/7/15.~

On Sunday I went over to the Hudson to look for Bald Eagles. I typically don’t go out of my way for Bald Eagles, but I like to go at least one day in the winter when they congregate at the river. On my way there, I was worried if I had waited too long, it has finally warmed up a bit and I wasn’t sure how successful I would be. I had a total of 51 Bald Eagles as seen from the following four locations: the scenic overlook off route 9 near Bear Bridge, the Peekskill Metro North Station, Charles Point Pier Park, and Croton Point Park. At the scenic overlook I picked up two more year birds: Wood Duck and Common Raven, and at Croton Point I saw my first two Killdeer of the year.

One more shot of the immature Bald Eagle that flew over me at Croton Point Park. I like the nice blue background in this photo, but the bird is soft.

~One more shot of the immature Bald Eagle that flew over me at Croton Point Park. I like the nice blue background in this photo, but the bird is a little soft.~

~Twenty-three Great Cormorants seen from Charles Point Pier Park, 3/8/15.

~Twenty-three Great Cormorants seen from Charles Point Pier Park, 3/8/15.

On Sunday afternoon I did a brief tour of the black dirt and did not have any unexpected birds. I was happy with a couple of photos, however:

~I didn't want to post a Horned Lark photo unless I got something a little different. I sort of like this shot, HOLA at Onion Avenue, 3/8/15.~

~I didn’t want to post a Horned Lark photo unless I got something a little different. I sort of like this shot, HOLA at Onion Avenue, 3/8/15.~

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~Eastern Bluebird on a rock on Onion Avenue in New Hampton, 3/8/15.~

Good Birding in Westchester and Rockland Counties, 2/28/15

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~Another one of my favorites! Long-tailed Duck at Piermont Pier Rockland County NY, 2/28/15.~

~Another one of my favorites! Long-tailed Duck at Piermont Pier Rockland County NY, 2/28/15.~

One of the best things that happened while we were there, however, was running into a couple of birders that had recently been to Piermont Pier. Neither Karen nor I had ever been there, so we were intrigued. They showed us good photos on their cameras of Long-tailed Ducks and mentioned seeing Canvasback, Common Goldeneye, and Ruddy Ducks.

After stopping for a sandwich for lunch, we headed out to find Piermont Pier, which is a great location. The pier, which stretches about a mile into the Hudson River, was built in the 19th century to accommodate river traffic and used during World War II as an embarkation point for troops heading to Europe. It’s a nice walk to get to the end of the pier, where we got great looks at a single Long-tailed Duck as well as many Canvasback and Common Goldeneye. We did not locate any Ruddy Ducks but we did see three Bald Eagles riding the ice floes on the far side of the Hudson River, and with the help of a local birder named Drew, we were able to see a female Peregrine Falcon in its nesting box on the Tappan Zee Bridge. We also added 5 species to our list for the day, bringing our total to 41.

What a super day of birding! I would recommend either of these locations to anyone who is suffering from cabin fever and would like to see some good birds.

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~Piermont Pier provided very good looks at Canvasback, 2/28/15.~

~I thought these female Canvasbacks were just beautiful, I love the color of their head! Piermont Pier, 2/28/15.~

~I thought these female Canvasbacks were just beautiful, I love the color of their head! Piermont Pier, 2/28/15.~

~I haven't posted a sparrow photo in ages. This White-throated Sparrow was at the feeders next to the Edith G. Read Wildlife Sanctuary visitor center, 2/28/15.~

~I haven’t posted a sparrow photo in ages. This White-throated Sparrow was at the feeders next to the Edith G. Read Wildlife Sanctuary visitor center, 2/28/15.~

I didn't realize at the time that there was a thin layer of something oily where this drake American was hanging out. Edith G Read Wildlife Sanctuary, 2/28/15.~

To me this photo looks altered – I didn’t realize at the time that there was a thin layer of something oily where this drake American was hanging out. Edith G Read Wildlife Sanctuary, 2/28/15.~