I got out of work a little bit late this afternoon, but I still had time to try for the BARNACLE GOOSE which had been reported in Ramsey, New Jersey on eBird. I tried for the bird yesterday without any luck, but today it worked out great. I got my lifer BAGO and it did not disappoint – what a super bird! I was able to get very good looks and my photos, while quite grainy due to the low light, still made me very happy. The Barnacle Goose has been sort of a nemesis bird for me. There have been a few Barnacle Geese that have been reported in the NY/NJ area in the past several years. There was one in Orange County back in 2012 that eluded me as did the one in the Bronx last year (which I only tried for one time). There was a Barnacle Goose reported at this same location last year and I tried for it several times but struck out each time. So, it was VERY satisfying to finally see this bird. If you are planning to go for this bird, please contact me and I will give you details.
So, as I mentioned in my post yesterday, I had a full day of birding in before the Short-eared Owl extravaganza at the Shawangunk Grasslands. In the morning I did a tour of the Black Dirt Region, mostly hoping to find a Snowy Owl or perhaps an interesting goose. I failed to locate either, but instead had an interesting morning with a good number of passerines at various locations. I had nearly 30 species in the black dirt, and for me the hightlight was a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker which was seen on Onion Avenue in Goshen.
BLACK DIRT REGION 12/14/14
Great Blue Heron
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)
American Tree Sparrow
In the early afternoon I headed over the Newburgh Waterfront to try and pick up a couple of county birds that I needed – with the end of the year looming, I am trying to maximize my Orange County species list. I was looking for a Great Black-backed Gull and a Great Cormorant (both of which Bruce Nott had reported being there earlier in the week), and I was successful on both counts:
After Newburgh, I headed over to the Shawangunk Grasslands as I wrote about in yesterday’s post. I stopped at Blue Chip Farms long enough to get this shot of a European Starling:
And finally, here are a few more shots of the Short-eared Owls at the Shawangunk Grasslands NWR, all on 12/14/14:
I had a full day of birding today, but the best was saved for last. Huge thanks to PJ Singh who texted me to let me know that there was a single Short-eared Owl up early at the Shawangunk Grasslands NWR. I was over in Newburgh picking up a couple of birds I needed for the county (Great Black-backed Gull and Great Cormorant), and I was not going to go to the grasslands. It had been gray and cloudy all day which would not make for good photos, and the owls had not been up early yet this year as far as I knew. I decided to head over to check it out and boy am I glad I did. Sun came out and the so did the SEOWs, right before 3:30. I was lucky enough to get into the south blind and that’s where the birds seemed to spend most of their time tonight. PJ joined me in the blind shortly after the owls got up and wow did they put on a show! I approximate at least 10 Short-eared Owls were there, but it is tough to get a good count while photographing. What an exciting afternoon!
This afternoon I was sifting through a flock of Canada Geese at Blue Chip Farms in Ulster County and I observed the above bird, which I believe is a Cackling Goose. The bird was a shade paler than the surrounding Canada Geese, with a small stubby bill, and a shorter neck. I am having a little hesitation in positively identifying this bird because although the bird was smaller than the Canada Geese, it did not appear to be as small as some Cackling Geese that I have seen in the past. According to the Crossley Guide, “Most look small and cute compared to Canada Geese, but this is not always the case”. I believe that this bird falls into the latter category. If anyone has thoughts about this bird, please comment.
I did some other running around today, particularly looking for the Snow Geese that I’d seen fly over last night. I didn’t have any luck with them, but I did get some photos along the way:
I spent the afternoon and evening at the Shawangunk Grasslands, which were a little quieter than last weekend. I still had several Rough-legged Hawks and Northern Harriers. When I left at 4:30 the Short-eared Owls were still not up. Here’s one shot I got of a young harrier:
And one more shot of the Cackling Goose:
QUICK POST: Rob Stone and I had two large groups of Snow Geese fly over the black dirt this evening just around sunset. I approximate the number of birds somewhere in the neighborhood of 700. Given the height that the birds were flying and the time of day, I am hoping that they put down somewhere in the area. I will certainly be out tomorrow morning to check it out…stay tuned.
UPDATE: No luck this morning relocating the Snow Geese. I was at the Camel Farm just after 8 and then I made the rounds without success.
**NOTE: I finally figured out how to get email subscriptions to the blog. If you are interested, please look at the top of the side bar on the right to subscribe. Please note that you have to respond to the confirmation sent to your email address.**
One thing I knew I wanted to do this weekend was to try to get out to the Shawangunk Grasslands NWR. When Ken McDermott let me know on Friday evening that he had a Northern Shrike there that day, I knew for sure that’s where I was headed. Saturday was, unfortunately, a wash. Steady rains all day made for poor birding, though it was not for lack of trying. I went to the grasslands early in the day where I met up with John Haas and Ralph Tabor and we had no luck with the shrike. Sunday was a different story; it was a beautiful, sunny, cold, and crisp day which was very refreshing. No luck again with the Northern Shrike, but I did REALLY well with raptors. I spent a few hours in the morning in the new blind that Ralph placed pretty far into the eastern most portion of the refuge. The blind is well placed with several nearby trees for the birds to perch on, and it is in an area where the Rough-legged Hawks seem to spend a lot of time. By the time I headed back to my car in the early afternoon, I had put together what I consider a pretty good list of raptors:
Black Vulture (3)
Turkey Vulture (4)
Bald Eagle (2 adults)
Northern Harrier (4)
Red-tailed Hawk (5)
Rough-legged Hawk (5 – at least!)
American Kestrel (1)
Peregrine Falcon (1)
And, being in a blind, I had some very good opportunities for photos:
In the parking lot of the refuge I ran into PJ Singh who decided to join me in looking for some waterfowl. At our first stop, Lippincott Road in Wallkill, we saw a half dozen Common Mergansers, but that’s it. We did much better at our second stop, Chadwick Lake. The highlight for me was five Common Goldeneyes, and we also had: Ruddy Duck (9), Ring-necked Duck (35), Hooded Merganser (6), Common Loon (1), and a single Mute Swan.
Since it was such a gorgeous afternoon, I returned to the grasslands in the afternoon to try for photos of the Short-eared Owls. The light was a good as it could be, but unfortunately the owls did not cooperate and did not get up until after dark. It was tough to see, but when they did come up I counted at least three. I sat in the north blind until it was too dark for photos and did alright with Northern Harriers:
QUICK POST: I birded from sunrise to sunset on this Sunday; the weather was perfect, I saw many good birds, and took a ton of photographs. I do not have time to complete a full post tonight, so here is the first bird I photographed this morning, taken from my car as I pulled into the Shawangunk Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge. Full post tomorrow!
QUICK POST: Today I finally got some of the good winter birds that we expect to see in the Black Dirt Region of Orange County. Highlights:
(2) Rough-legged Hawks (one light morph and one dark)
(4) Snow Buntings
(3) LAPLAND LONGSPURS
(2) American Pipits
(many) Horned Larks
It was also a good day for raptors with many Northern Harriers and Red-tailed Hawks seen throughout the day. I also had a single American Kestrel and a single adult Bald Eagle. I had two large groups of Canada Geese but the only unusual bird that I could find among them looked to me like a domesticated goose.
Going to Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge on Black Friday has pretty much become a holiday tradition for me. And having an amazing birding experience has grown to be expected; I haven’t had a bad day out there yet. This year had a slow start, it was very cold and windy at the main pool, which made it very difficult to see the waterfowl which were located WAY out in the distance. I made the full circuit of the spots I usually hit, and it was on the quiet side. I was beginning to think that my “slump” was continuing. On my way back to hit Wildlife Drive for a second time, I made a quick stop at Tschache Pool. I picked up 4 Common Mergansers there, but more importantly, I met another birder named Mary Beth, who was out for the day with her sister-in-law (who, though enjoying herself, was not a birder and therefore spent a good amount of time in the car keeping warm). Mary Beth mentioned that there had been Sandhill Cranes reported out on East Road. Now, I had just come from East Road, but I was certainly willing to give it another shot. I followed them over, and moments after arriving, Mary Beth pulled over pointing to the west of the road. I got out of the car and started smiling ear to ear – it was a BIG flock of cranes – I initially counted 58 birds but later got better photos where I could count all the the birds and there were actually 75 Sandhill Cranes there! I high-fived Mary Beth, who was just as excited about it as I was. I was actually a little bit embarrassed because I had missed the birds – I spent all my time looking east of the road down towards Knox Marsellus and Puddler Marsh, where I have had birds in the past.
Mary Beth showed me one more spot that I had not birded in the past, I believe she called the the Potato Barn. It is basically just a vast stretch of farm land and we stopped and looked for Snowy Owls with no luck. Mary Beth mentioned that they sometimes got Short-eared Owls there; I went back just before sunset and had a single SEOW tangling with a Northern Harrier on the west side of the road.
I eventually made it back to Wildlife Drive, where the highlight was a single Snow Bunting, my first of the season. There was a photographer that was pulled over, and I could not see what she was shooting. I eventually, slowly pulled up along side her vehicle and asked her. She pointed down at the single Snow Bunting, not 20 feet from the side of the road. I took a bunch of photos, and I guess this is a good time to mention that I shot all my photos for the day on the wrong setting; a very small file size. I had changed my settings for a project at work on Wednesday and somehow I forgot to change this back. I did not realize until later in the evening when I was looking at the pics and noticed that something wasn’t quite right. I was totally deflated but, live and learn I guess. And, ultimately, I felt like although photos were not like I would want them, they were good enough for a post. It really helped that this bunting was so close.
I went back for another look at the Sandhill Cranes. When I arrived at East Road, all the cranes except 7 were located to the east of the road in Knox Marsellus. Shortly after my arrival, all of the cranes flew over the road and I took a bunch of photos. It was truly very exciting to watch these beautiful birds fly over, calling as they went. What fabulous birds!
Here’s my list for the day (28 species):
American Black Duck
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)
American Tree Sparrow
I’ve been feeling like I’ve been in a bit of a slump lately, so in an effort to mix it up a bit, Karen Miller and I birded Port Jervis, New York this morning. We birded three different locations: a reservoir northwest of Port Jervis, Laurel Grove Cemetery, and a small park in Port Jervis that borders the Delaware River. We identified 27 species for the morning. Before heading home, Karen wanted to show me the “Hawk’s Nest”, which is a beautiful scenic stretch of road just outside of Port Jervis. The road winds alongside the Delaware River, climbing all the time. There are areas where you can pull off and take it all in. We stopped at one of these, where we got our 28th species of the day; an adult Bald Eagle flew right over the car! I was not prepared for it, so my exposure is not great, but I did get some photos, here’s one:
It was good to change things up and bird some new locations; thanks to Rob Stone who helped out with the spots. Here’s our list:
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)