The Weekend, 10/25/20

I was counting at Mount Peter all day Saturday; it was a slow start with drizzly and foggy weather with a southwest wind, but at around noon the fog cleared out, the winds shifted to west northwest, and the hawks started flying. It was a day with a very good variety of migrating raptors – 11 different species. I particularly enjoyed watching five Northern Harriers fly over – I know they are very common in our area in the winter, but I just love to see them when they migrate; they look like no other raptor. Another highlight was a large skein of BRANT flying over, just as the watch was coming to an end.

~A late Black-throated Green Warbler at Mount Peter Hawkwatch, 10/24/20.~

Sunday morning I ran around locally. Wickham Lake was my first stop, where I had 13 species of waterfowl (highlights = my first Ring-neck Ducks and Buffleheads of the season, a pair of American Wigeon, and 4 Northern Shovelers). From there I went to the Liberty Loop. I wanted to check for shorebirds at the south pond, so I headed towards Owen’s Station Road. As I turned onto the road, I saw bird on the side of the road. It was a Chukar; their range is out west, but they are sometimes released here as game birds. I’m not sure how commonly they are released locally, but I’d never seen one, so game bird or not, I was sort of excited.

~Chukar literally on Owen’s Station Road, 10/25/20.~

I was only able to locate three species of shorebird in the south pond: Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, and Pectoral Sandpipers. The walks in and out weren’t very birdy, so I was on my way relatively quickly. On my way out, I saw the Chukar again, this time in the grass, so I stopped and got a few more shots. I made one last stop on the way home, at Skinner’s Lane. I was able to locate, but not photograph a Vesper Sparrow, and there were also some American Pipits around.

~Golden-crowned Kinglet at Mount Peter Hawkwatch, 10/24/20.~
~Chukar on the lawn. Owen’s Station Road, 10/25/20.~
~That’s a large skein of BRANT. I made a quick count from this photo and came up with 304 birds. Mount Peter Hawkwatch, 10/24/20.~

Heckuva Day at Mt. Pete, 10/17/20

I was not schedule to be the counter at Mt. Peter Hawkwatch today. But, the day hadn’t been filled, so I volunteered to take it. I’m glad I did, because it was an excellent day. In spite of a completely cloudless blue sky, we tallied a total of 129 migrating raptors. We had a good variety of birds today, with eleven different species of migrating raptors, but it was the eagles that stole the show.

~Two young Bald Eagles migrating over Mt. Peter Hawkwatch, 10/17/20.~

The highlight of the day came during the 4th hour of the watch, when I picked up an immature GOLDEN EAGLE north of the platform, circling up and slowly gaining altitude. The bird was distant, but in the scope the white base of the tail with dark terminal and the white patches at the “hands” were well seen. Not to be outdone, the Bald Eagles had quite a showing as well, with 14 migrating birds counted. Ten of them were immature birds.

~Ahh, the obligatory Turkey Vulture shot. Mt. Peter Hawkwatch, 10/17/20.~

I’ve included my report at the bottom of this post. Huge thanks to Tom Millard, Denise Farrell, BA McGrath, and Jeff Zahn. Without their eyes, who knows how many birds would have been lost to that all blue sky today.

~Still hoping for a decent Common Raven shot. Mt. Pete 10/17/20.~
~Bald Eagles moving through! Mount Peter Hawkwatch, 10/17/20.~

Looking Back at the Weekend

I did something this weekend that I’ve never done before. I kayaked at Wickham Lake. I’m not sure what took me so long. They have a really excellent put-in, specially made for kayaks which allows you to lock in your paddle to pull yourself into and out of the water. Anyways, I wanted to photograph the Ruddy Ducks that have been at the lake for several days now. Fortunately they were still present, but I soon learned that they are not a very confiding species.

~Double-crested Cormorant showing some personality at Wickham Lake on Saturday morning, 10/10/20.~

I was hoping that being in the kayak would allow me to get a little closer to the Ruddy Ducks, but that proved not to be the case. The group of approximately two dozen birds very calmly kept their distance from me, regardless of my approach (I mostly just let the water drift me towards them). So, I left the Ruddies in peace, and explored the lake like I never have been able to before. I came across a nice mixed flock on the northwest shore; I enjoyed close up views of many Yellow-rumped Warblers, as well as several Black-capped Chickadees, a Blue-headed Vireo, and a Black-throated Green Warbler. An Osprey was intermittently hunting and relaxing in a tree along the shore. But, it was a Double-crested Cormorant, perched high in a tree, that stole the show for me (at least for photos), as it posed in some nice light and didn’t mind at all as I floated by.

~It was really great to see these birds down at their level from the kayak. Ruddy Duck at Wickham Lake, 10/10/20.~

After kayaking Wickham Lake, I headed over to Skinner’s Lane. I was happy to find a relatively large flock (200+ birds) of American Pipits present. They were my first of the year, and they’ve always been a favorite of mine.

I finished the day of birding at Mount Peter Hawkwatch, where I joined counter Bev Robertson and observers Judy Cinquina and Will Test. It was a productive day at the mountain with great variety. I think they totaled just over 100 migrating raptors for the day.

~Yellow-rumped Warbler at Wickham Lake, 10/10/20.~
~Yes! American Pipit at Skinner’s Lane, 10/10/20.~
~I love a migrating Osprey. Mt. Pete, 10/10/20.~
~A little bit of a different look at a Palm Warbler. Kendridge Farm, 10/04/20.~
~I don’t think I’ve posted a single photo of a Red-eyed Vireo this year. Wallkill River NWR, Winding Waters trail, 10/09/20.~

Mount Peter Hawkwatch, 10/11/20

QUICK POST: I had a really good weekend of birding with some interesting images to share, but here it is Sunday night after a day on the mountain and I am drained. So, here is my report from Mount Peter today; I will post more about the weekend in the next couple of days.

Mt. Pete was a really productive today with over 150 migrating raptors. Raptor highlights for me included four Northern Harriers, which I love to see in migration, and nine Red-shouldered Hawks, a good day for that species. We also had over 100 skeins of Canada Geese, consisting of approximately 4,370 individuals. I love seeing that. Anyways, more about the weekend in a future post.

~A local Red-tailed Hawk at Mt. Peter Hawkwatch, 10/11/20.~

Highland Lakes State Park, 10/03/20

This morning I birded Highland Lakes State Park for the first time in a long time. I was a cool and sunny morning, the kind of morning where it’s just refreshing to be out. I parked where I have in the past, at the entrance on Tamms Road. I don’t actually know the park very well, so I just wandered around the network of trails, trying to keep the sun at my back as much as possible.

~Pretty pic of a Lincoln’s Sparrow at Highland Lakes SP, 10/03/20.~

It was a pleasant morning, and the park was relatively birdy. It was mostly the usuals, but I did have some noteworthy birds. I had a couple of Lincoln’s Sparrows not too far from the parking lot. I also had a half a dozen Purple Finches in the same exact tree I had them in back in the fall of 2016, which I thought was really something. I found some trails I hadn’t hiked on before, one went right along Tamms Pond, and that’s where I found one of my nemesis birds: WINTER WREN! I was extremely excited; the bird was somewhat cooperative and I was able to follow it as it worked along the shore of the pond. Unfortunately it never really got out into the open, so I was happy to get a halfway decent shot of this bird that has been so elusive to me:

~Ah ha! WINTER WREN at Highland Lakes State Park, 10/03/20.~

By the time I’d gotten back to my car, I had a total of 36 species on my list. Remarkably, three of them were Orange County year birds for me: WINTER WREN, Purple Finch, and I was surprised to see that I’d gotten my firs Golden-crowned Kinglet of the year. These birds put my OC year list up to 209, which lower than I have been at this time in the past 4 years, but still not too bad.

~Common Yellowthroat striking a pose. Highland Lakes SP, 10/03/20.~
~One of six Purple Finches at Highland Lakes SP, 10/03/20.~
~This shot is from Friday night; Red-tailed Hawk at Winding Waters Trail (Wallkill River NWR), 10/02/20.~

Adirondacks 2020

I’ve gone up to the Adirondacks six of the last eight years. Every trip has been great, but this year surpassed them all. I’ve always enjoyed kayaking with the loons and I’ve done well with photos. This year was enhance by getting a beautiful cold and foggy morning, which was a fabulous experience, and also lent itself to some interesting photo ops. I also like to spend some time hiking and birding the area, trying for some of the birds we typically don’t get down our way: Boreal Chickadee, Canada Jay (previously Gray Jay), Black-backed Woodpecker, and Ruffed Grouse. I’ve had varying success with these birds in the past, but this year I made a clean sweep and got them all.

~I never expected a Great Blue Heron to get top billing on an Adirondacks post (usually reserved for a Common Loon), but I just love this photo. GBHE at Follensby Clear Pond, 09/19/20.~

On Saturday, I was putting my kayak into Follensby Clear Pond just as the sun was rising. It was unseasonably cold – just 30 degrees Fahrenheit, but I was prepared for the weather. Early on, the water was like glass and my kayak was cutting through it very nicely. I kayaked though the fog for a good while with no sign of any Common Loons; I began to wonder if my favorite spot wasn’t going to deliver this year. Then I heard my first loon calling and headed in that direction.

~One lonely Common Loon at Follensby Clear Pond, 09/19/20.~
~Selfie at Follensby Clear Pond, 09/19/20.~

I paddled towards the north side of the largest island in the pond; I’d had luck there in the past. This year would be no different. At first there was just a single loon, joined quickly by a second. They were feeding and calling, and three more Common Loons came in. I feel like these must be the same group of loons I’ve photographed in that exact spot in years past. I watched and photographed them for a good while; as always they were very accommodating and just went about their business as I enjoyed the show and, of course, took loads of photos.

~Two Common Loons doing their thing, Follensby Clear Pond, 09/19/20.~

On Saturday afternoon, I birded a new spot for me. I’d done a little research on eBird and found a recent report at Blue Mountain Road which included Boreal Chickadees and Ruffed Grouse. I parked and headed down the trail on the south side of the road which lead to the Saint Regis River. About 500 yards into the trail, I heard my first BOREAL CHICKADEE. A little bit further, I walked into a small mixed flock which included two Boreal Chickadees. They initially flew in and landed in the tree directly above my head, and I mean directly – too close for photos! I watched the two BOCHs for a good while, as they worked through a couple of evergreens, I got some great looks, but was unable to get any worthwhile photographs. It was simultaneously one of the best experiences of the weekend but also the most disappointing.

~COLO at Follensby Clear Pond, 09/19/20.~

I continued down to the river and then back up to where I parked my car, and took the trail which heads north of the road. About 10 minutes into that walk, I rounded a corner and saw something distant on the trail. I picked up my bins, and sure enough, there was a RUFFED GROUSE on the trail. I stayed put and took some distant photos, just hoping the bird wouldn’t move off of the trail. But, as I was taking those shots, the bird walked across the trail and disappeared into the trees. This is my first good look at a RUGR ever, and I was super excited. The icing on the cake for Saturday was finding moose tracks a little further up the trail. I followed the tracks until I saw where they disappeared, heading west of the trail. I was loving it, it’s amazing to think that not long before I was there, a moose walked that very same trail.

~One final Common Loon shot, Follensby Clear Pond, 09/19/20.~
~Wow! Ruffed Grouse on the trail at Blue Mountain Road 09/19/20. Of course I would have loved a better photo, but it wasn’t to be this time. Something to look forward to.~

I did not have a great start on Sunday morning. I headed over to Bloomingdale Bog, at the north entrance. I parked and I was getting my gear together when another car pulled up and two men with two dogs got out and headed down the trail I was taking. I followed them slowly, trying to give them some distance, but there were very few birds. I was thinking it was because of the dogs, but eventually I came to the realization that it was more likely just too early – it was another cold morning and the sun was barely up. The dog walkers eventually turned back and left me with the trail to myself. Unfortunately, it was not at all peaceful. Somewhere, it was difficult to figure out where exactly, a man was yelling (screaming) at the top of his lungs and it was echoing throughout the bog. This went on for 10 minutes, and I still have no idea what the heck that was all about. I began to think that after a great Saturday, Sunday would be a bust.

~Beautiful and very cool bird. Backlit shot of a Canada Jay at Bloomingdale Bog, 09/20/20.~

And that’s when my first CANADA JAY flew in. They are very comfortable around people and there is even a feeding station on the trail for them. The bird came in, looking for a snack (I had nothing for it!). It lingered for a while, fed on some berries, and then was on its way. I continued on the trail and checked an area where I’d had Black-backed Woodpecker in the past: no luck. I eventually headed back towards my car; I was going to try the south entrance of the bog, where I’d also seen BBWOs. On my way back I heard tapping on some trees, off the trail to my right. It took a little while, but I was thrilled to find two BLACK-BACKED WOODPECKERS working some trees to the east of the trail. I was not expecting it, because it was a heavily wooded area, and both of my previous experiences with BBWOs had been in open areas with dead trees. Also noteworthy, shortly after the BBWOs, I came across five (!) Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers right on the trail.

~Canada Jay close up. Actually they were all close ups with this bird. Bloomingdale Bog, 09/20/20.

Afterwards, I did check the south entrance of the bog and it was pretty much a bust. I didn’t want to get back too late, so from there I headed home, satisfied with a very fulfilling weekend of birding in the Adirondacks.

~This was unexpected – a decent photo of a Black-backed Woodpecker! Bloomingdale Bog, 09/20/20.~
~Canada Jay at Bloomingdale Bog, 09/20/20.~
~CAJA, Bloomingdale Bog 09/20/20.~
~One of five Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers on the trail at Bloomingdale Bog, 09/20/20.~

Adirondacks 2020 Teaser

I just spent an amazing weekend in the Adirondacks; definitely my best to date. I spent some time kayaking with the Common Loons, as I always do (it’s one of my favorite things to do all year!), but this weekend was about so much more. I’m exhausted tonight, and it will likely take be a few days to go through and edit all the photos, so I will be posting sometime this week.

~Quick edit of a Common Loon with uncommon beauty at Follensby Clear Pond, Adirondacks 09/19/20.~

Carson C. Waxwing Update, 09/17/20

So, I finally connected with Giselle from the Avian Wildlife Center to get an update on Carson, the Cedar Waxwing Fledgling. If you missed this story, you can scroll back to mid August or check here, here, and here to catch up.

Carson is doing well, but has not be released back into the wild yet. When I dropped him off at the center, his feather condition was less than perfect, so they are going to wait for Carson to molt before the release him/her. Carson was also tested for fecal parasites, which came back positive, but it has been treated.

So, now it’s a waiting game, once Carson molts he/she will be released. The good news is that the center is currently housing several other Cedar Waxwings, so Carson will be in good company for the release. Stay tuned… I’ll update again when I can.

I hope Carson gets released soon – I’m running out of photos!

Black Dirt Shorebirds, 09/13/20

This weekend I was finally able to connect with some shorebirds in the black dirt. On Saturday, Jodi Brodsky reported an American Golden-Plover on Missionland Road. I was at the back of the Liberty Loop with birding bud Maria Loukeris when she reported it, but luckily the bird stuck around long enough for me to get it (thanks Jodi!). Then, this morning, after getting a relatively late start, I was able to locate 2 BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPERS on Skinner’s Lane. Initially I had them waaay out in a field; they flew shortly after I’d located them, and I thought they were long gone, but I was able to relocate them, and this time they were a little closer to road and I was able to get some shots, though most were ruined by the dreaded heat shimmer.

~Always a favorite – BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER at Skinner’s Lane this morning, 09/13/20.~

I’ve, of course, done some other running around, so I’ve included several shots from last Sunday and this weekend. Good birding!

~Wild Turkey Turtle Bay Road, 09/12/20.~
~Blue-winged Teal at the Liberty Loop back pond, 09/06/20.~
~Ruby-throated Hummingbird at the Liberty Loop, 09/06/20.~
~It’s always nice to catch up with a couple of Sandhill Cranes in the back dirt, 09/12/20.~
~I like this shot because along with the Green Heron, there are both the Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs. Liberty Loop back pond, 09/06/20.~
~Terrible documentary shot of the American Golden-Plover at Missionland Road, 09/12/20.~

09/05/20: Hawkwatch Begins and Ulster Co. Brown Booby

It’s hard to believe it, but it’s already time for the start of another season at Mt. Peter Hawkwatch. Today was my first day as official counter, and as early as it is in the season, it was expectedly slow with only 10 migrating raptors. But, there were some highlights – (8) Bald Eagle sightings, four of which migrated, a quick look at a couple of Cape May Warblers, a couple of lingering Black-throated Green Warblers, and my favorite part of the day: a messy ball of 11 Double-crested Cormorants flying high south of the viewing platform. You can see my report for HawkCount at the bottom of this post.

~A local Red-tailed Hawk makes a pass over the platform at Mt. Peter Hawkwatch, 09/05/20.~

Yesterday I got out of work a little bit early, so I decided to head up the the hottest hotspot in Ulster County: Ashokan Reservoir. There has been a White Pelican present for some time, and now there is a BROWN BOOBY. I took a nice drive up to the reservoir, and with some guidance from a quick call with John Haas, I was able to locate the bird easily. It’s quite a bird to see, and I had nice looks in my scope, but unfortunately it’s preferred perch is just a bit out of range for good photos. Consolation prize (in the photography dept) was a young Bald Eagle perched close to the road. I enjoyed the booby, and I was glad to add it to my NYS list – # 310.

~ Brown Booby at Ashokan Reservoir, 09/04/20.~
~A young Bald Eagle was unphased by all the folks walking along the road. Ashokan Reservoir, 09/04/20.~
~Black-throated Green Warbler at Mt. Peter Hawkwatch, 09/05/20.~