If you had a chance to be out this evening, you know it was a gorgeous night, cool and breezy with an amazing sunset. The only thing that could make it better is a beautiful bird, and the Rusty Blackbird is the kind of bird that can just make your day with their distinctive call and fabulous coloring. I ran into several of these beauties this evening at 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary and I’m still smiling about it.
Mount Peter was fogged in this morning, so I took the opportunity to bird a couple of nearby spots before the fog cleared out. My first stop was Cascade Lake, which was very birdy. The most numerous bird was definitely Ruby-crowned Kinglet; I had over a dozen easily. Among the kinglets I had a couple of warblers. One was a Black-throated Green, but the other I haven’t been able to ID. I’ve posted a couple of shots of the bird – if any one has any ideas, please comment. I was surprised to also do well with raptors while there; I had an Osprey, a Sharp-shinned Hawk, and a Cooper’s Hawk.
Next, I went to Wickham Lake, where Yellow-rumped Warblers were the bird of the day; they were seemingly everywhere. Other birds of note included a Pied-billed Grebe and my FOS Ruddy Ducks and Gadwall.
I headed back up to Mt. Pete just before noon. By 12:15 the fog was thinking about clearing out and I began the day’s hawkwatch. I had 7 migrating raptors in the first 45 minutes, which had me thinking it might be a good flight. Alas, it was not to be and I had only 2 additional migrating hawks in the next 4 hours! This has not been my year for hawkwatching so far, but I’m hoping that changes starting next Saturday.
We all know how crazy the weather has been this fall; it’s the summer that wouldn’t end. That being said, I was not very optimistic going into Saturday’s hawkwatch, with the warm temperatures and south/southeast winds on tap. It was a slow start, and I didn’t get all that many migrating raptors (31), but I had excellent variety with a total of 8 different migrating species. It made me think about when I first started going hawk watching at Hawk Mountain many years ago. I usually chose early to mid October because it offered the best variety of birds – I had looked at previous years data on their website to figure it out. Jeff Zahn visited early and missed out on most of the birds. Kent Warner showed up a little later and things started to heat up and we got some Sharp-shinned Hawks. But, it was when Sylvia Kleff and Robert Montgomery showed up that things got good. They really brought the birds with them, and together we saw 7 of the 8 migrating species in a little over an hour’s time (Sylvia and Robert – the Bald Eagle came through only 10 minutes after you left!). See my report at the bottom of this post. It was a pretty decent day of hawkwatching, all things considered.
I received a text from Linda Scrima while I was at work today – she had located a NELSON’S SPARROW at the Liberty Loop! After work I headed straight to the loop. This is only the second record of a NESP in Orange County, and as I was driving, I was hoping that I would have better luck than I did with the first one: It was mid-October in 2013, and Rob Stone had located one at the Citgo Pond; I went for that bird several times and never got it.
When I arrived at the loop, Linda was there with Karen Miller and Lance Verderame. They had just seen the bird but it was back down in the grasses. Almost immediately it took a short flight, but I did not pick up any field marks. I waited it out and eventually the bird perched up right in front of us for maybe 10 seconds – enough time for me to get a good look, but certainly not enough time for a photo. I was so excited! I didn’t let myself think that I would actually get the bird this time around, so I was pretty happy. I’m hoping the bird sticks around, I would love to get better looks and maybe some photos. too. Huge thanks to Linda, who just keeps finding great birds in the county.
I feel like I’m sort of in a birding slump these days – things have just been slow and it feels like ages since I’ve taken a decent photograph. Saturday’s hawkwatch at Mt. Peter was more of the same; I had a total of only 21 migrating raptors for the day. That being said, the weather was excellent (it actually felt like fall!), and I had a pleasant day on the mountain. Most of my highlights are not raptor related: I had my best bird of the day before I even unpacked my gear – a Blackpoll Warbler in the evergreen right next to the platform. Throughout the day, I had 24 skeins of Canada Geese fly over, with a total of over 1000 geese, which was exciting to me. I’m looking forward to sifting through some geese this winter. As far as raptors go, I had 4 Osprey pass over in an hour’s time and my first migrating Peregrine Falcon of the year. Here’s my report with the season totals:
Odds and Ends:
I’ve been checking on the shorebirds at Citgo Pond regularly, but unfortunately I’ve been finding pretty much the same birds all week. I did have my first Bald Eagle there in a while on Thursday. On Wednesday I tried for shorebirds in the black dirt, but ended up finding more falconers than shorebirds.
Fall warblers have pretty much been a bust for me this year, but I did manage to get a few this weekend. As I mentioned above, I had a Blackpoll Warbler at Mt. Peter; I also had an American Redstart and Northern Parula this morning at Winding Waters. Other good birds at Winding Waters today included a Blue-headed Vireo, several Eastern Towhees, and 6 species of sparrow: Song, Swamp, Lincoln’s, Field, Savannah, and White-throated.
Anyways, the good thing about a birding slump is that it has to come to an end. I’m looking forward to the next big thing, maybe next Saturday I’ll get an excellent flight at Mt. Pete – I’m due.
I met Linda Scrima at the Liberty Loop this morning for a brief outing. My target bird was LINCOLN’S SPARROW, which I got relatively easily as Linda had had them out there several times earlier this week (big thanks to Linda – this is two years in a row that she helped me get my LISP). We got excellent looks at a couple of birds and photos too. Other good birds for the morning included: Merlin, Cooper’s Hawk, a trio of cooperative Palm Warblers, several Savannah Sparrows, and a Pied-billed Grebe right in front of the viewing platform. The Lincoln’s Sparrow was bird #210 for me this year in Orange County.
I can’t sugarcoat this one. It was a tough day at Mt. Peter Hawkwatch. Seven hours of scouring the bluest, haziest, cloudless sky you can imagine. Under a blazing sun. If the birds were up there, I didn’t find very many of them. I had some good help (and good company) too, but at the end of the day, we scraped and clawed for 54 migrating raptors. Rick Hansen, Kyle Dudgeon, and Rob Stone all visited for periods of time, and who knows how few birds I would have had if they hadn’t come up. They can’t all be winners, and today was not my most fun day on the mountain.
I did end the day on a very positive note. A couple, Henry and Lynne Launig came up to the watch. I immediately got a positive vibe from them. We had some nice conversation and we enjoyed seeing a relatively close young Bald Eagle that flew to the west of the platform (but didn’t migrate). Lynne brought up some feathers from her car that we tried to ID (Red-tailed Hawk?). It ends up that it was their 50th Wedding Anniversary. And they came to Mt. Peter to celebrate. I thought that was pretty cool. Their next stop was going to be the Bashakill; I hope they had a wonderful evening over there.
I stopped by Citgo Pond on my way home. I was pleasantly surprised to see that some new birds had moved in: 4 SEMIPALMATED PLOVERS and 5 Semipalmated Sandpipers joined the shorebirds that have been present for about a week or so. Also, the Wilson’s Snipe was nowhere to be seen.
I’ve been out checking for shorebirds as much as I can this week. For those of you who don’t know, I started a new job about a month ago. I’m really enjoying it and my stress levels are much lower, so the move has made me happy. The downside, however, is that I get out of work later in the evening, so it’s cutting into my birding time. Regardless, I’ve made it out to Citgo Pond three times this week and took a quick tour of the black dirt on another evening. Conditions at Citgo are excellent for shorebirds and I’ve had fairly decent numbers of what I would consider expected species. Tonight I had:
Earlier in the week I had a single Semipalmated Sandpiper; I did not see it tonight. And up until yesterday, the Glossy Ibis that was first reported in late August by Bill Fiero continued, but I did not see the bird tonight and I suspect it finally moved on.
Last night I took a quick spin through the black dirt. I found plenty of Killdeer and was lucky enough to stumble upon 8 American Golden-Plovers. They made my night.
I would also like to mention that John Haas has had some good shorebirds in Sullivan County this week – check out his blog here for the latest.
After a spring where I didn’t see any in the county, I’ve been fortunate this fall when it comes to Common Nighthawks. I’ve had nearly a dozen sitings in Orange County, including two occasions when they flew right over our house in Goshen, NY. I was on my way home on September 4th in the evening, when I noticed this bird as it, and several others, hawked insects over the small ice cream stand on the corner of Matthews Street and West Main in Goshen. I pulled over and grabbed my camera. I was pretty excited since the birds were up early and I had good light. I enjoyed trying to track the birds as they flew erratically and hunted; it was certainly a nice end to the day.
I had a great day today at Mt. Peter Hawkwatch. The birds were flying, at least to a certain extent, and I had a respectable 493 migrating raptors (448 of them were Broad-winged Hawks). I also had many visitors – it’s an exciting time of year at the hawkwatch, so there are plenty of folks coming an going: Joyce Depew, Kathy Ashman, Maria Loukeris, Linda Scrima, Rob and Anthony Stone, Denise Ferrel, Carol Linguanti, the Zahns, and Phil and Ann (who’s last name I don’t know but they are avid hawk watchers and yearly visitors to Mt. Pete) all spent time on the mountain today, scouring the skies for hawks. Here’s my report for the day: