Sunday, 02/10/19

~Black-capped Chickadee at Goosepond Mountain, 02/10/19.~

I guess I’m feeling a little blasé about today’s birding, I’m not sure why; maybe I’m just tired. First thing this morning, I went to the Edith Read Wildlife Sanctuary in Rye, New York. This is a favorite spot of mine at this time of the year, particularly for waterfowl. I looked back at visits from years past at this time, and today was just a little on the low side of my average – I had 11 species of waterfowl. Highlights included Common Goldeneye, 30+ Long-tailed Ducks, and at least 15 Horned Grebes (I can’t remember ever having that many there before). Unfortunately, most birds were quite distant so I didn’t do much as far a photos go. And, the pier at Rye Playland was closed for some reason; I typically can get more photo ops from the pier than at the sanctuary. I was also hoping I might get lucky with the Greater White-fronted Goose that has been at the sanctuary recently, but no such luck.

~One of my few photo ops with waterfowl today: Red-breasted Merganser in nice light at Edith Read Wildlife Sanctuary, 02/10/19.~

Back closer to home, I made a few quick stops, including Glenmere Lake since it’s one of the few spots in southern Orange County with open water right now . It was nice to run into birding bud Kathy Ashman and we had some decent waterfowl among the medium sized flock of Canada Geese on the lake: 2 Northern Pintails (funny to see them walking around on the ice!), a dozen or so Ring-necked Ducks, and a single Lesser Scaup.

~Northern Mockingbird at the Edith G. Read Wildlife Sanctuary, 02/10/19.~
Northern Cardinal perched near the feeder station at the Edith G. Read Wildlife Sanctuary, 02/10/19.~

Staying Local, 02/09/19

~Eastern Bluebird on a man made perch, Turtle Bay Road 02/09/19.~

I decided to stay local this morning. I cruised the black dirt, made a quick stop at Glenmere Lake, and took a walk at Wallkill River NWR’s Liberty Marsh. It was actually a pretty quiet morning bird-wise, but after a hectic work week it was just nice to be out and looking at whatever birds I could track down. It was on the cold side (19 degrees F when I headed out), with a whipping wind that made it very difficult to be outside for any extended period of time. I had a total of 27 species for the day and nearly all were the usuals. Noteworthy birds included 5 Ring-necked Ducks and a single Bufflehead at Glenmere Lake, as well as a pair of Common Mergansers at Skinner Lane. My best birds were found in the black dirt: 2 Rough-legged Hawks and 2 LAPLAND LONGSPURS. I initially had the longspurs at a distance in my spotting scope. I tried to digiscope them to document, but between the cold and the wind I didn’t have any success. Just as I was driving off, I heard LALO call to the left of my car and not too far out. I got on it and was able to get a shot of the bird, which made me happy.

~One of two LAPLAND LONGSPURS in the black dirt this morning, 02/09/19. The bird of the day for me.~
~It’s not very often I get a decent shot of this bird – Common Merganser in the Wallkill River in the black dirt, 02/09/19.~
~There’s a little heat shimmer from my car going on in this pic, but I like the way the bird is in the crosshairs of nearly every branch. White-throated Sparrow in the black dirt, 02/09/19.~
~Great Blue Heron flyover at Wallkill River NWR, 02/09/19.~

Two Life Birds, 02/02/19

~Here’s a beautiful bird – PACIFIC LOON at Manasquan Inlet in Ocean County, NJ 02/02/19.~

Early this morning, Linda Scrima, Maria Loukeris, and I headed to Manasquan Inlet to try for the PACIFIC LOON that has been seen there. This was definitely one of the easier rarities we’ve run for – we parked the car and the bird was in the channel right in front of us! And what a beautiful bird, a nice dark loon with a lovely chin strap. It was also very cooperative, swimming quite close and the light was pretty nice too. This bird alone was definitely worth the trip, but we also had some really nice photo ops with some Long-tailed Ducks (which are apparently a garbage bird around there!) and a gorgeous RED-THROATED LOON. We checked for gulls from Red’s Lobster Pot and got lucky with a 1st winter ICELAND GULL. Unfortunately that bird was just too far for pics. Then we walked out onto the jetty, where we enjoyed seeing many of the usuals – highlights included a Common Goldeneye flyby, a flock of Dunlin, and 2 Horned Grebes.

PACIFIC LOON at Manasquan Inlet, 02/02/19.~
~The puppy dog of ducks, and one of my favorites, Long-tailed Duck at Manasquan Inlet, 02/02/19.~

~I know I write this a lot, but ANOTHER favorite of mine – Red-throated Loon at Manasquan Inlet, 02/02/19.~

We then headed to the Trenton Sewage Ponds in Mercer County to try for the TOWNSEND’S WARBLER that has been there. We were informed as soon as we arrived by other birders that the bird was still present, and we got on it not too long after that. It was a good looking warbler, but unfortunately the lighting was absolutely horrible and the bird was severely backlit from our vantage point. We tried for a while to get shots of the bird as it foraged around the pools, and eventually the bird perched in a nearby tree. It was still backlit, but closer to us and with a natural setting made the difference for me. Also present was a Eastern Phoebe, several Yellow-rumped Warblers, a handful of Ruby-crowned Warblers, and a Palm Warbler.

Both birds were lifers for all three of us – it’s not too often we get lifers these days, so it was AWESOME!

~Photos were tough, this was the best I could do – TOWNSEND’S WARBLER at the Trenton Sewage Ponds, 02/02/19.~
~A nice look at a Palm Warbler at the Trenton Sewage Ponds, 02/02/19.~

Rough-legged Beauty

~Rough-legged Hawk in flight, Black Dirt Region 01/27/19. One of my goals for 2019 is to look more closely at birds’ plumages. This bird looks to me like it might be an adult female, based on the dark trailing edge on the wings (adult), and the buffy underwing coverts with brown mottling (female).~

You know how certain birds just do it for you? That’s how it was today with this Rough-legged Hawk; it is the best looking bird I’ve seen in a long while. What I wouldn’t have done for a decent photograph of this bird. I had several fantastic scope views of this bird perched, and it just blew me a way; there’s just something about the bird’s pale, vanilla colored head that is just gorgeous to me. Who knows, maybe our paths will cross again and things will work out differently…

Saturday 01/26/19

~This bird was perched right near the parking area when I pulled in just after sunrise, Shawangunk Grasslands, 01/26/19.~

As I drifted off to sleep on Friday night, I came up with a birding plan for Saturday. I would hit the Shawangunk Grasslands NWR at sunrise for some “sure thing” birding (with an outside shot at the Northern Shrike), then head up to Dutchess County to try for the Golden Eagles that have been reported there this winter, and finally, on my way home stop at the Newburgh Waterfront to try for gull (Glaucous and Iceland had both been reported earlier in the week.

I had a great stop at the grasslands, I spent some time in a blind which gave me a couple of nice photo ops (in addition to the accommodating Northern Harrier perched right near the parking area). NOHAs are still numerous, and I also had 2 Rough-legged Hawks (distant), and from the blind I watched approximately 10 Eastern Meadowlarks work their way around the refuge. I tried for the N. Shrike from the Galeville Park side, but had no luck.

~I was loving the marking on this bird. Northern Harrier at the Shawangunk Grasslands NWR, 01/26/19.~

From there, I headed up to Dutchess County to try for the Golden Eagles. I was able to get views of two birds I believe were Goldens – a young bird (100%, see photo below), and a possible adult (totally silhouetted, but the head/neck size looked really good to me). Additionally, I had a handful of Red-tailed Hawks, a Cooper’s Hawk, and several Bald Eagles, including a young bird which was enjoying a meal in a tree right off the road:

~What a big, beautiful beast this bird was. Bald Eagle in Dutchess County, NY 01/26/19.~
~I don’t think there is such thing as a bad photo of a Golden Eagle, but this is pretty distant – this bird was up there. Dutchess County, NY 01/26/19.~

My final stop at the Newburgh Waterfront was pretty much a bust, other than running into two of my favorite birding buds, Bruce Nott and Kathy Ashman. It was a beautiful night and while it was fun to sift through the gulls, we came up with nothing other than the expected three species: Ring-billed, Herring, and Great Black-backed. It was a good day of birding for me – some good birds, some decent photo ops, and a little bit of good camaraderie.

~Proof that I was at the waterfront, lol. Ring-billed Gull at the Newburgh Waterfront 01/26/19.~
~I feel like this photo was “this” close (holds fingers a quarter inch apart) to being a good one. NOHA at the Grasslands, 01/26/19.~

Cool Birds

~LAPLAND LONGSPUR in the black dirt, Spring 2018.~

Each species of bird can conjure up different thoughts and emotions for us as birders. Some can be seen as just flat out beautiful, like a Northern Pintail or a first winter Iceland Gull are for me. Some are cute, I’d put the Atlantic Puffin and Snow Bunting in that category. And we all have our favorites, often for inexplicable or a large variety of reasons ( for me: Upland Sandpiper, and either species of Cuckoo spring to mind). There are also certain birds that I consider inherently “cool”. I stole this idea from Corey Finger, who made mention of it in a post on 10,000 Birds back in 2012. It has stuck with me ever since I read it because it struck a chord with me – I do feel like certain birds just have a coolness factor. It popped back into my mind after my recent trip to the Jersey Shore where we had a Razorbill (very cool bird!). Here is my personal top 5 “cool” birds list; I’d love to hear which birds others might put on their list.

  1. LAPLAND LONGSPUR: The coolest of them all, in my opinion. Beautiful and awesome looking in any plumage.
  2. BARNACLE GOOSE: I love this bird, the coolest of the geese for sure. We need one to show up in our area, it’s been a while (2012? I never caught up with that bird…).
  3. RAZORBILL: While the Atlantic Puffin is cute and the other Alcids are all sharp looking birds, the Razorbill stands above as the coolest. I think it’s that large ridged bill with white lines.
  4. NORTHERN SHRIKE: I would venture to guess this might be on a lot of birder’s list. A cute killer, how cool is that?
  5. BUFF BREASTED SANDPIPER: I lose my mind when I see this bird.
  6. Honorable Mention – BARN OWL: A wonderful combination of beautiful, elegant, and so rare for our area.
~BARNACLE GOOSE in Ramsey, NJ back in 2014.~
~RAZORBILL last week at Manasquan Inlet.~
~NORTHERN SHRIKE at the Grasslands, January 2017. One day I will get a good photo of this bird.~
~Love this bird. BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER in the black dirt, September 2018.~
~Honorable Mention: Barn Owl in Orange Count back in 2014.~

Orange County Waterfowl Count, 01/19/19

~Linda took this photo right after locating the GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE on Route 284 in Westtown, NY 01/19/19. I love this photo, it’s just rich and beautiful.

Today Linda Scrima and I participated in the Mearns Bird Club’s Orange County Waterfowl Count. Our area was the black dirt, which basically means searching for, counting, and sorting through Canada Geese for the most part. We decided to divide and conquer – Linda would take the western side while I took on the eastern black dirt. We ended up meeting up twice when we had located large collections of geese. The first time was at Skinner Lane, where among approximately 600 Canada Geese, I had 4 blue morph Snow Geese and 2 CACKLING GEESE. I tried to document the Cacklers, but photos were tough due to the distance and heat shimmer. The second time we met up was when Linda located a GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE across from the pond on Route 284 in Westtown, NY. Shortly after I arrived, (and before I had a chance to see the GWFG), all the geese in the field lifted up. Thankfully, they just relocated to the pond across the street. It took us ages, but eventually we relocated the GWFG on the ice with its back to us. I felt like we had a pretty good waterfowl count for our area, with the biggest surprise being that we did not see one Mallard. Here’s our totals:

  • Canada Geese: 1,638
  • Common Mergansers: 2
  • Cackling Geese: 2
  • Mute Swans: 6
  • GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE: 1
  • American Black Ducks: 7
  • Hours (collectively): 9
  • Miles: 116
~The bird of the day, in my opinion. Greater White-fronted Goose, Route 284 Pond in Westtown, NY, 01/19/19.~
~Now this is a terrible photo. Cackling Goose among the Canada Geese at Skinners Lane, 01/19/19.~

Sunday Shots – Grasslands Edition, 01/13/19

~Northern Harrier coming right at the blind, Shawangunk Grasslands, 01/13/19.~

QUICK POST: I got out this morning into the early afternoon. I started at sunrise in a blind at the Shawangunk Grasslands, ran for the GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE in Wallkill, and then ended up in the black dirt. It was cold but for the most part the light was great for photos and the birds were pretty cooperative, which made for a nice day.

~Northern Harrier at the Grasslands, 01/13/19.~
~Northern Harrier at the Grasslands, 01/13/19.~
~Northern Harrier at the Grasslands, 01/13/19.~
~This is one of the reasons I wanted to get a 1.4x extender – these geese are always so darn far away, and this helps to document them. GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE on the Wallkill River near Wallkill NY, 01/13/19.~
~Not always a cooperative bird, I watched this Northern Flicker feed on something deep under the leaf litter for a good 10 minutes. NOFL in the black dirt, 01/13/19.~
~This is not a bird I photograph very often. Northern Cardinal in the black dirt, 01/13/19. I took this with my 1.4 extender – I think you can tell, but the results aren’t too bad in my opinion. I wouldn’t normally use it for this kind of shot, but I had it on from the Greater White-fronted Goose.~

Jersey Shore, 01/12/19

~Yes! RAZORBILL up close and personal in the channel at Manasquan Inlet, Ocean County NJ 01/12/19.~

Yesterday morning, Maria Loukeris, Linda Scrima, and I headed to the Jersey Shore. Our target was the RAZORBILLS which had been reported at Manasquan Inlet, but really, we were just heading to the beach where we knew we’d find loads of birds.

~Beautiful little bird. Purple Sandpiper at Manasquan Inlet 01/12/19. This bird was on the jetty we were on, but most were seen on the jetty across the channel.~

Manasquan Inlet was our first and best stop. Not long after our arrival, we got the best look any of us had ever had of a Black Scoter. It was a day of photo ops, starting with this bird. Other highlights included my first shorebirds of the year, Dunlin and PURPLE SANDPIPERS. There was a very cooperative group of just under 30 Long-tailed Ducks at the end of the jetty. Humpback Whales were being seen in the distance, and a Gray Seal came in for a slightly closer look. A Bald Eagle was hunting WAY out in the ocean and you could barely throw a rock without hitting one of my favorites, the Common Loon. Most importantly, we had 6 RAZORBILLS in the ocean; we had distant but good enough looks. Then a fellow birder located a Razorbill in the channel, and as it worked its way back to sea, we got absolutely incredible looks and some decent photo ops.

~My best look ever at a Black Scoter. Manasquan Inlet 01/12/19.~

Our second stop was Shark River, which was loaded with birds. There has been a Eurasian Wigeon reported at that location, in fact it was reported several times yesterday, but we never located it. I feel like there might be some local knowledge going on here (we went back for a second try when it was reported in the afternoon, but still dipped on the bird). Regardless, the spot was loaded with waterfowl, we had 10 different species, with over 40 Mute Swans, 300+ Brant, and 60+ Buffleheads making up the bulk of the birds.

~I love this pic. I love this bird. Brant in flight at Shark River Inlet in Monmouth County, NJ 01/12/19.~

Shark River Inlet was our final official stop (we did run for the EUWI back at Shark River afterwards, however). I was excited to get back to this spot because last time we were there we had the most cooperative Red-throated Loon there. This time around it was not to be. But, we did get some really good scope views of our first SURF SCOTERS of the day, which was nice, and I was able to take my favorite photo of the day, a Brant in flight (above). Brant are up there in my favorite birds, and to me this shot is a nice one and it made me happy. The day went by quickly and the sun was setting as we headed home happy and tired.

~Boat-tailed Grackle portrait. Manasquan Inlet, 01/12/19.~
~We were told by a fellow birder that this is a Gray Seal. Manasquan Inlet, 01/12/19.~
~I couldn’t complete this post without at least one shot of a Common Loon. This species is everywhere on the Jersey Shore at this time of the year, this individual was at Shark River Inlet, 01/12/19.~
~I wish I’d spent more time trying to photograph the Long-tailed Ducks, but there was so much to see and look for. Manasquan Inlet, 01/12/19.~
~One final shot of the Razorbill in the channel at Manasquan Inlet, 01/12/19.~

2019 Birding Goals?

~American Kestrel in the black dirt this morning, 01/06/19.~

I’m still not sure what my birding goals or focus will be this year. I know that I would like to reduce the importance of listing in Orange County and branch out a little bit more. I was feeling similarly last year at this time, and as fate would have it, I got on a roll with OC birds and ended up running with it. It’s still a work in progress, but here are some of the things I’d like to focus in 2019:

  • Do more birding out of Orange County, and even NYS for that matter. I love listing, especially in OC, but I’m going to try and take a year off. I’ll still report and keep my lists, it just won’t be the main focal point.
  • Focus more on bird behavior. Often when I run around for birds, I fail to take the time to observe and enjoy their behavior to any large extent.
  • Work on my photography. As I went through all my posts for 2019 (looking for top 10 photos), I felt like maybe I’d taken a step backwards. I didn’t have as many shots that I REALLY liked; maybe I’m getting more and more picky, but that can be a good thing.

So, those are my starting points. But, I’m curious to hear from you: what are your goals for your birding this year? What will you focus on? What is it about birding that makes you the most happy? Do you even think about it in these terms, or do you just go out birding? Please leave a comment if you have any thoughts on this… thanks!

~ If you’ve been in the black dirt any time recently, you know there have been loads of American Crows. In spite of that, I rarely ever get an opportunity to photograph them; I think it’s because they are too smart to let us get near enough. Today several stayed put in a tree while the heavy winds blew. American Crow in the black dirt, 01/06/19.~
~You might have noticed that I tend to crop a large percentage of my photos as portraits or squares, as opposed to landscape. The reason for this is that those two crops read much better in this blog theme. I prefer this photo to the top one, but it did not lend itself to the crop I prefer. American Kestrel fighting a strong wind in the black dirt, 01/06/19.~