Sometimes it just takes one good bird or one good photo to make my day. Today it was this shot of a pair of Eastern Kingbirds taken at Black Rock Forest. I got out early(ish) and took a shorter hike that was not overwhelmingly birdy, but still pleasant enough. I had a secret hope that I might hear Ruffed Grouse in the distance, as the trail I walked is not all that far from Jupiter’s Boulder, but alas it didn’t happen. This time of year, it’s just nice to get out for a little while, and if you can beat the heat it’s that much better.
QUICK POST: My birding time was limited this morning, but I made the best of it by following up on an eBird report by Scott Barnes from earlier in the week. He reported 40 Cliff Swallows at Silver Mine Lake in Harriman State Park; the birds were still present today and my best count was 37. It was certainly the highlight of my morning, I hiked around the lake to some extent (just under 3 miles), and had a total of 36 species (all the usual suspects). It’s actually a nice area to hike and it was quite birdy, but be aware that parking in that lot right now costs $6.00.
Since this weekend was pretty much a bust as far as photos go, I decided to take the opportunity to go back to some photographs that I previously hadn’t posted. This spring and early summer, several Sandhill Cranes were being seen in the area of the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge. I was lucky enough to get flight shots on two occasions; it was quite a treat to see these big beautiful birds in flight.
I got up early again this morning to try and beat the heat again. Last night I was looking through my trail maps and I came across a map of Schunemunk Mountain State Park. So, I decided to give it a try this morning. I parked at the trailhead on Clove Road. Looking on the map, it was a pretty substantial ascent for the first mile or so (for me, as a birder rather than a hard core hiker); I went up approximately 900 feet in just over one mile of hiking. This may be no big deal for true hikers, but for me it was more than enough.
The birding was just okay – the trail was probably one of the least birdy trails I’ve walked this year. That being said, in addition to the usuals, I had some pretty good birds. I was surprised to hear a Hooded Warbler calling just about a half mile up the trail. I got my best looks of the year at Worm-eating Warblers; I had at least a half dozen and got very good looks at three birds. I got a good look at a very young bird in a bush – at first I wasn’t sure what it was but as I thought about it, it came to me – it was a recently fledged Cedar Waxwing. I also got great looks at three young Black-and-white Warblers; they were so close but I didn’t have any luck getting photos. It was actually a tough day for photos with birds being backlit, obscured, etcetera. I covered 4.5 miles during my hike, and I ended up with a modest 35 species for the morning. You can see my eBird report here.
I got out early this morning to try and beat the heat and headed out to Harriman State Park for a hike. I parked at the parking area between Lake Askoti and Lake Skanatati and hiked a loop that ended up being just under 7 miles long. I’ve included a screenshot of my eBird track at the bottom of this post. As always, I was hoping to come across something super exciting on the trail. Unfortunately that was not the case, but it was a really nice hike with absolutely loads of the expected birds and I totalled 52 species of birds.
Highlights included several Yellow-throated Vireos (always a personal fav), my first Blue-winged Warblers in a while, and a singing Hooded Warbler that I never got my eyes on. Probably the most entertaining moment was coming across a Northern Mockingbird, WAY out in the trail, and listening to it run through a very extensive and impressive repertoire of bird songs. My favorite was when it did the Eastern Whip-poor-will call almost perfectly.
As an aside, Harriman State Park is a really great place to be from say 6:00 am until maybe 10:00 am at the latest. By then, the hoards of people have arrived. From the trail I could hear the roaring motorcycles and speed racers. At one point the police got involved and I could hear their sirens and then they were using some sort of megaphone; I couldn’t make out what they were saying. So, not exactly the peaceful respite I am typically going for. And with today being the 4th of July, by the time I left at noon the park was jammed full. I sat in traffic trying to get home. Lesson learned on that one – I’d say early in and early out if you plan on going.
Yesterday on my way home, I saw an interesting raptor in flight over Route 6 west just before the Woodbury Commons outlets (I’m thinking Mississippi Kite is a definite possibility). There was nowhere to pull over, so I eventually ended up turning around and headed back east on Route 6, to try and get another look at the bird. Of course, I didn’t see the bird again as I passed. So, I then had to drive up the mountain to turn around and head west on Route 6 again to head home. When I did that, I remembered that there is a rest area lookout on my way back (see map below). I pulled into the rest area and scanned for the raptor, but again, no luck. But, I did find something else – an absolutely massive Great Blue Heron rookery! I don’t know if others know about this rookery already, but it was new to me. I scanned several times and my high count was 45 Great Blue Herons! I thought that was a pretty lucky find, and I will be getting back to the area this weekend in hopes that I’ll get a look at my mystery raptor.
I enjoyed a really nice morning birding at Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge. I started at Owens Station Road, where I was surprised to find a SNOW GOOSE in the parking area as I pulled in. Well, I actually wasn’t surprised about there being a Snow Goose present, as there had been 6 reported there recently – it was more that it was in the front parking area and it proceeded to walk down Owens Station Road, apparently heading to New York on foot:
I hiked in from Owens Station Road and walked a portion of the Liberty Loop Trail in Sussex County. Afterwards, I drove around and parked on Oil City Road and birded part of the loop in Orange County. I had a total of 45 species seen or heard. Highlights included several LEAST BITTERNS; I had distant but nice looks at 3 birds and heard a fourth. Common Gallinules are plentiful in both counties. Mostly I just enjoyed being out early to beat the heat. The light was nice for photos too, so that never hurts. All in all, a very pleasant morning of birding.
Since I have Ruffed Grouse on the brain this weekend, I headed out early this morning to the only other location where I’ve seen the bird: Hickok Brook Multiple Use Area in Sullivan County. I didn’t have any luck with RUGR, (I knew I’d have to get lucky to come across one), but I was happy to get back to a spot that I’d only been to one other time, two years ago. It was a sunny, cool morning with a little bit of a breeze blowing. I took a nice, long, comfortable walk; the trails are mostly wide open and flat which makes for some good birding conditions. It was a birdy morning and I had 35 species on my list, with most birds being heard and not seen. I remembered having a similar experience last time I was there, but really, to me it’s pretty normal for summertime birding. Highlights for me were mostly raptors, including my second Barred Owl of the weekend, this one was heard but not seen. I also had a pair of Red-shouldered Hawks calling and also a pair of Broad-winged Hawks – I heard them first and then watched one shoot through the woods in the distance. I know that I missed some birds out there today – it’s hard to bird by ear for me when I’m a little bit outside of Orange County as I’m not entirely sure which birds to expect. I decided to not worry about it too much and just enjoyed a nice walk in the woods.
It’s been a little bit of a rough late spring for me – I’ve been going through a serious family issue and I am having some health problems. Between the two, my birding and blogging have been limited to the greatest extent since I started the blog in 2012. But, this morning I was finally able to get out. I made a long overdue trip to Black Rock Forrest in search of Ruffed Grouse. The good news is that I didn’t see any bears, and I also didn’t wipe out on the trail. The bad news is that I had no luck with my target species. It was still a nice hike; birdy with over 30 species seen or heard. The birds of the day was for sure the Ovenbird, with many being seen and heard throughout my hike. Highlights for me included catching a glimpse of a Barred Owl as I inadvertently flushed it as I walked the trail, getting my first Acadian Flycatcher of the year, and getting a nice photo op with a pair of Field Sparrows. It’s nice to be back at it.
As birders, we are really lucky. We are part of what I sometimes think of as a secret club, one that sees the world a little bit differently than everyone else. We have the ability to turn a 3-1/2 hour car ride from Syracuse from drudgery into our own personal nature film, like I did on Sunday evening. While everyone else is driving along searching in vain to be entertained by the radio, we can just sit back and enjoy the nature show. A Pileated Woodpecker flying across the road to perch on an old wood telephone pole. An American Kestrel hover-hunting over the median. A Red-tailed Hawk being mobbed by a gang of American Crows. An adult Bald Eagle soaring at the treetops, and then a young eagle not long after that. Of course much of the drive was just the usuals- but even so, I was getting a kick out of how many Red-winged Blackbirds, Common Grackles, and Brown-headed Cowbirds you can actually see while traveling on the highway.
I wrote the above paragraph for the most part on Sunday night when we got home. Coincidentally, on my way to work this morning there was an accident on the Palisades Parkway and traffic was brought to a dead stop. I was late for work, but I didn’t care. I birded from my now stopped car and saw or heard nearly a dozen species of birds while I waited for the traffic to get moving again. I think it’s a nice way to live.