Sunday Shots, 07/05/20

I did a lot of hiking this holiday weekend; I walked a total of around 15 miles in the three mornings. I love hiking this time of year, it’s fun to cover a lot of ground as you never know what you will come across. Highlights included Acadian Flycatcher at two locations in Sterling Forest State Park: the Appalachian Trail near Little Dam Lake, and on the Sterling Loop trail. Also on Sterling Valley Loop trail, I saw my second ever Five-lined Skink this morning. It was a little too quick for me to get a photo, but click here to see the one I had at Silver Mine Lake last year.

~I have this as a young female Baltimore Oriole. I took this shot out my back door, into the crabapple tree we have there. I love the late evening light. I don’t know if this is just a good year in my yard, or if I’m just more in tune with the birds in the area because I’m home much more often (since I’m working from home). BAOR in my yard, 07/04/20.

The AT near Little Dam Lake was a nice surprise, it’s a beautiful hike with nice views of the lake, and it’s quite birdy. I had a close encounter with a Red-shouldered Hawk there – I was looking out over the lake and the bird flew past my right shoulder, very close, I don’t think it knows about social distancing. And just beyond the lake, there is a rise in elevation, and I had a singing Hermit Thrush there, which was nice.

~Also in the crabapple tree in my yard, House Wren on 07/02/20. I hear and see these birds constantly, but they never seem to pose for pics. Until now.~

The only thing I don’t like about hiking – it’s not very productive for photos. Most of the trails I was on are through relatively dense woods, so the light is terrible (see Acadian Flycatcher, below). Plus, the birds aren’t numerous, nor are they close to the trail very often. Still, a bad day on the trail beats any day in the office.

~Common Yellowthroat at Sterling Forest SP, 07/04/20.~
~Always a favorite of mine – Acadian Flycatcher on the Sterling Loop Trail, 07/05/20. I think I missed the boat when I did my cool birds post; this bird should have been included. Any bird that screams “PIZZA” in the dark woods is okay by me. This photo was taken at ISO 5000, so some creative noise reduction was necessary.~
~I love this shot, it’s dreamy, mysterious, and maybe even a little sinister. Baltimore Oriole in my yard on the Fourth of July, 2020.~
~I believe this is a Canada Lily, Tricia looked it up and came up with that ID for me. Ironwood Drive power cut, which I took up to join the Sterling Loop Trail, 07/05/20.~

Mongaup River Trail, 07/03/20

I inadvertently made a really good choice of places to bird this morning.I was tired from the week, and a little uninspired, so I ended up sleeping in a little late for me (7:30), especially for a hot summer day when it’s good to bird early to beat the heat. I dragged my self out of bed and and made a coffee. Then I decided to head over to the Mongaup River Trail just outside of Port Jervis. I hadn’t been there in a while, and I remembered that it was a pretty good spot for summer birding.

~I think this little dude is going places, I’m sensing some attitude in that pose. Four of the five young Common Mergansers at Mongaup River Trail, 07/03/20.~

What I didn’t remember is that it’s also a very cool (temperature-wise) place to bird. The sun doesn’t get up over the ridge to the east of the trail until a little later, plus it’s just nice and cool walking along the river. The trail winds alongside the Mongaup River for just over a mile and a quarter, ending at a small cemetery in the woods.

~These two were inseparable. While the other four young birds were doing their own thing, this one stuck close to mom. Common Merganser at Mongaup River Trail, 07/03/20.

It was a nice cool walk, not exceptionally birdy, but still enough birds to keep me interested. I’d forgotten how loud the river can be, especially at the beginning of the trail, making pretty difficult to hear the birds. I had a modest total of 26 species for the morning. There were a couple of birds I was surprised to have missed: Louisiana Waterthrush and Northern Parula. I don’t think I’ve ever been there in the summer and not gotten both species.

~Nap time. Common Mergansers at Mongaup River Trail, 07/03/20.~

The highlight of the day was having a Common Merganser family swim up to where I was birding on the shore. I was hoping to see Common Mergansers, but every other time I’ve been there, the birds were very aware and kept their distance. Maybe it was because I was standing still for a good while, so they weren’t aware of my presence. They swam up river, feeding as they went. Then they stopped and climbed on some rocks and began preening and then eventually took a little snooze. I sat on the shore, trying to stay motionless other than taking photos, while they did their thing less than 45 feet away, seemingly oblivious to me.

~Young Common Merganser swimming and feeding on the Mongaup River, 07/03/20.~

On the way back, I found a secondary trail that I’d never noticed before. It doubled back the way I had come, at first climbing up and then flattening out and continuing parallel to the lower trail and the river. I added a few species to my list, and it was just nice to explore a new trail.

Checking In, 06/28/20

I haven’t posted in a couple of weeks – it’s not that I haven’t gotten out, it’s just that time of year where the birds are basically all expected breeding species, doing their thing, so there’s not as much excitement (at least not locally). Still, I’ve enjoyed getting out, taken some hikes, and continued atlasing in my priority block. I struggled last week to get many post-worthy photos, but I did a little bit better this week.

~Red-winged Blackbird coming in for a landing. Knapp’s View, 06/25/20.~
~Common Gallinule peeking out of the vegetation, Wallkill River NWR, 06/26/20.~
~This is a bird that I haven’t gotten a good look at nor a photo of in ages. Marsh Wren at Wallkill River NWR, 06/26/20.~
~I was messing around with my 1.4x extender on this night – it’s a lot harder to get on a flying Least Bittern, I can tell you that! This one’s a little soft, but I still like it. LEBI at Wallkill River NWR, 06/26/20.~
~Puffed up and calling Common Gallinule at Wallkill River NWR, 06/16/20.~
~Song Sparrow with a bill-full at Wallkill River NWR, 06/26/20. This one was also taken with the 1.4x extender.~
~Female Bobolink at Knapp’s View, 06/25/20.~
~It’s not very often that you’ll see a snapping turtle with a pile of rocks balanced on its head. Goosepond Mountain S.P., 06/21/20.~

Shawangunk Grasslands, 06/14/20

I birded Shawangunk Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge this morning. It was a cool, sunny morning and it felt good to be out there, since I haven’t been there in a while. I did fairly well for birds with 30 species, all expected, including some pretty darn good looks at one of my main target birds – GRASSHOPPER SPARROW. Photos were another story because I didn’t locate either of the two that I had until later in the morning, when the sun was a bit too high and the heat shimmer had already kicked in. It’s so worth it if you get up and out early. This morning I arrived at just before 8 o’clock, and the window for good photos is just so narrow arriving at that time, even on a nice cool day like today. Another target, BOBOLINKS, were plentiful, and as usual offered some good photo ops.

~Bobolink at Shawangunk Grasslands NWR, 06/14/20.~
~Another male Bobolink at the Grasslands, 06/14/20. You don’t have to try for these birds, they land right near you.~
~Grasshopper Sparrow singing its heart out at the Grasslands, 06/14/20.~
~Calling Bobo at the Grasslands, 06/14/20.~

Sunday, 06/07/20

I enjoyed getting out early on both mornings this weekend. On Saturday I spent some time in my NYS Breeding Bird Atlas priority block (Warwick_CE), and I was able to confirm two additional species (Mute Swan and Red-winged Blackbird), bringing my block total to 9 confirmed species. That number pales in comparison to other blocks I’ve looked at in Orange County, but little by slow I’m confirming birds.

~Field Sparrow with a bill-full. Hamptonburgh Preserve, 06/07/20.~

This morning I had my plans foiled. I wanted to hike out to Jupiter’s Boulder in Black Rock Forest, hoping for Ruffed Grouse (like last year at this time). I woke up early and drove to the trail head only to find that the trail has been closed due to the pandemic. It’s a popular trail, and I can imagine it was getting many visitors since everything has shut down. So, I headed to the Orange County Airport, where I was able to get my first GRASSHOPPER SPARROW of the year. From there I went to Hamptonburgh Preserve. I’ve never walked the whole trail there – it’s a really nice walk through tree-lined fields. It continues all the way to the Wallkill River, where I enjoyed watching a pair of Northern Rough-winged Swallows feeding over the river. It was a pleasant, if not exciting, weekend of birding.

~Female Red-winged Blackbird at Citgo Pond on Friday night, 06/05/20. The trail is already very overgrown, but fortunately I did not see any ticks.~
~Gray Catbird at Goosepond Mountain, 06/06/20.~

Orange County Wilson’s Phalarope, 06/04/20

This morning I got a call from Rob Stone. I figured it had to be something good for him to call me while I’m working, and it was. He had located a WILSON’S PHALAROPE at the Camel Farm. I was able to run for the bird at lunch time and thankfully it hung in there for me. Gail Benson and Tom were on the bird when I arrived, which made it a very easy get. They said that they believed the bird to be a transitioning female, but wanted to check additional resources to be sure. It wasn’t the most colorful bird, but beautiful to see nonetheless. I tried to document, but between the distance, the harsh sun, and heat shimmer, the results were less than stellar. The bird was my 260th Orange County life bird.

~WILSON’S PHALAROPE at the Camel Farm, 06/04/20.~
~One more docushot of the WIPH at the Camel Farm, 06/04/20.~

Sunday Shots, 05/31/20

This is a weak edition of SS, but I always like to at least check in on the weekends. My birding was a little unfocused; I think migration winding down had a lot to do with it. I tried for shorebirds in the county with almost no success (I did, however, get some at the Liberty Loop in Sussex Co., where I had Semipalmated Plovers, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Greater Yellowlegs, and a Spotted Sandpiper). I also did a little atlasing. I know that’s not a real word. I think that I need to be patient and I will have success with it, but it’s slow going so far for me in my priority block. That said, I did manage to confirm one more species – Swamp Sparrow. Here’s some pics from the weekend (and one from a couple weeks ago – it was slim pickings this week).

~Great Blue Heron just after Sunrise at the Liberty Loop, 05/30/20.~
~There was a good stiff wind at the Liberty Loop on Friday night, this Red-winged Blackbird assumed the position. 05/29/20.~
~Cuteness. Young Brown Thrasher at the Liberty Loop, 05/30/20. It was one of 6 new species I added to my Orange County year list this weekend (others were: Alder Flycatcher, American Bittern, Common Gallinule, Black-billed Cuckoo, and Blackpoll Warbler).
~Singing Indigo Bunting at Goosepond Mountain SP, 05/18/20.~
~Gotcha! Great Blue Heron at Liberty Loop, 05/30/20.~

Memorial Day Weekend, 2020

The past couple of days I enjoyed getting out in the mornings; both days were birdy enough to keep it interesting. On Saturday I went to Port Jervis. Laurel Grove Cemetery was a bust, but Elks Brox had a good number of birds. It was mostly the usuals or birds I’ve already gotten this year, but I was able to pick up two new birds for the year: Swainson’s Thrush and Gray-cheeked Thrush. I’ve included shots of each below. See my Elks Brox report here.

~This made my day. Today at Goosepond Mountain, this Prairie Warbler landed right in front of me along the trail. It was overcast in the morning, which to me is the perfect light for this bird – any direct light and I just don’t like the way the yellow comes out, especially if the highlights get blown out.~

This morning I went to Goosepond Mountain in an effort to spend some time in my NYSBBA priority block. I was hoping to confirm any breeding species (I didn’t), but I particularly wanted to follow up on the Broad-winged Hawks I saw there a few weeks back (also a fail – unfortunately no sign of them). The highlight of my morning was hearing a WHITE-EYED VIREO just off the trail. The little bugger was stubborn though, and I never laid eyes on it. That’s the second WEVI I’ve heard but not seen this weekend! (The first was at Sterling Forest SP on Saturday). In spite of the above frustrations, it was actually a great walk with plenty of birds (45 species) and very few people.

~Scarlet Tanager female at Elks Brox on 05/24/20.~
~Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher at Goosepond Mountain this morning, 05/25/20. This spring I have located 4 BGGN nests – it’s interesting to see how the NYS Breeding Bird Atlas has changed my focus.~
~Male Bobolink at Knapp’s View, 05/25/20.~
~Gray-cheeked Thrush at Elks Brox, 05/24/20.~
~I have this as a Swainson’s Thrush. Elks Brox in Port Jervis, 05/24/20.~

Saturday, 05/23/20

Low tide in Newburgh was at 7:52 this morning. With that in mind, I headed over to the Hudson River in hopes of getting some shorebirds on the mudflats of Cornwall Bay. As luck would have it, upon my arrival I had 3 unidentified peeps in flight, heading north, never to return. Sigh. From there, I went to the waterfront and ran into birding bud, Bruce Nott on the way. He informed me that the LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL was still present. I enjoyed my best looks at the bird, as well as some decent photo ops (in spite of the poor lighting).

~Beautiful bird. Lesser Black-backed Gull in flight, Newburgh Waterfront 5/23/20.~
~LBBG in Newburgh this morning, 05/23/20.~

Afterwards, Bruce and I met up at Ironwood Drive in Sterling Forest State Park. We enjoyed a pleasant late morning of birding; the cool rainy weather made it quite pleasant and the birds remained quite active. Highlights included our target birds Golden-winged Warbler and Brewster’s Warbler. A bonus was hearing a White-eyed Vireo. The bird called for about 2 minutes, never showed itself, and then nothing! Frustrating, but still very cool. Pics were tough, I included shots of the Brewster’s in my eBird report, but just for documentary purposes. I do, however, have several shots from the past week or so that I’m including here:

~I forgot about this shot – Chimney Swift at 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary, 05/13/20.~
~This is one of a pair of Worm-eating Warblers that I followed down the trail at Sterling Forest last weekend, 05/17/20.~
~This is a bird that has been scarce for me this year – Veery at Sterling Forest 05/17/20.~
~Chipping Sparrow at Sterling Forest SP, 05/17/20.~

Orange County BLACK TERN, 05/18/20

It was just after 4 o’clock this afternoon, when the bird finding machine known and Bruce Nott reported a BLACK TERN at Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge’s Liberty Loop. My problem is that Tricia and I were north of Newburgh at that time and would have to stop home first. I hustled over and arrived just after 5:30, and don’t you know it, the bird hung in there for me! It was an absolute beauty and it was also quite accommodating, feeding right in front of the viewing platform for much of the time I was there. Many other birders came for the bird as well; it was good to see some folks I haven’t seen much lately (at an acceptable social distance!). When I left the bird was still putting on the show. Huge thanks to Bruce, another goodie!

~Black Tern at the Liberty Loop, Wallkill River NWR, 05/18/20.~
~Up in the clouds. Black Tern at the loop, 05/18/20.~