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.~

Sullivan Co. Shorebird Shots

I usually like to get my posts out in timely fashion, but I’ve had some problems with my computer and then when I sorted it out, it just took ages to get through all my photos and edit them. So, this post is from Sunday evening.

Sunday afternoon I was home for the day, done birding, relaxing. Then I read a post by Bashakill Birder and birding bud John Haas. He kayaked at Morningside Park, as he does most days this time of the year; he’d had a number of good birds there recently and they all were continuing. What got my attention was his excellent photo of a fabulous-looking American Golden-Plover.

~The American Golden-Plover did not disappoint. What a bird! Morningside Park on 08/30/20.~

With that, I got up off the sofa and loaded the kayak onto my car! What followed was a gorgeous night of paddling around the islands at Morningside Park with some very accommodating shorebirds. I’ve written about it before, but it is an incredible experience; it’s as if they don’t even know you are there. At one point, I had “docked” my kayak against one of the islands and I was just relaxing and watching some Least Sandpipers. They worked their way around island, towards me until they were close enough that I could reach out and touch them if I wanted! I sat motionless and just enjoyed their company. What a great evening, I have to thank John for his inspiration, it certainly beats sitting on the sofa watching the tube.

~On the prowl. AMGP at Morningside Park, 08/30/20.~
~A Spotted Sandpiper in the wind, right as the sun was setting. Morningside Park, 08/30/20.~
~AMGP at Morningside Park, 08/30/20.~
~What a cutie. Least Sandpiper at Morningside Park, 08/30/20.~
~This bird fooled me. It was tucked into the wood and looked so comfortable that I just kept my distance and cruised by, taking a few shots. When I got home and looked at the pics, I realized that this was the BAIRD’S SANDPIPER. Morningside Park, 08/30/20.~
~I like this shot. Solitary Sandpiper looking, well, solitary. Morningside Park 08/30/20.~
~AMGP reflecting on things. Morningside Park, 08/30/20.~
~I wanted to include one shot that showed how beautiful this bird was from the back. American Golden-Plover at Morningside Park, 08/30/20.~

A Few Good Days

I’ve had some good birds over the last three days. Unfortunately, as it often goes with shorebirds in our area, most of the birds were too distant for photos. After work on Thursday I ran for a BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER that Bruce Nott had located earlier in the day at Pine Island Turf Nursery. It took me nearly an hour, but I finally relocated the bird, just before the rain started. BBSA is an all-time favorite, so I was pretty happy to have caught up with that bird.

~Belted Kingfisher at the Liberty Loop, 08/29/20.~

On Friday morning Rob Stone found another BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER, and Linda Scrima located a BAIRD’S SANDPIPER; both birds were at Skinner’s Lane. I headed over during my lunch hour; I had no luck with the Buff-breasted, but fortunately the Baird’s was still present and relatively close to the road. I got great views, but unfortunately the heat shimmer during the early afternoon was brutal and killed my photos.

~Beautiful bird. BAIRD’S SANDPIPER at Skinner’s Lane, 08/28/20.~

This morning I got out early, with expectations of more shorebirds in the black dirt. This was not the case, so eventually I went to the back pond of Wallkill River NWR’s Liberty Loop. The Little Blue Heron continues, and I believe the Snowy Egret does too (just as I got on the bird, a young Bald Eagle flushed it, so I’m not 100%). Shorebirds had a good showing, with: Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Pectoral Sandpipers, Least Sandpipers, Semipalmated Plovers, and not one but two BAIRD’S SANDPIPERS. Also noteworthy was a decent number of raptors: Red-shouldered Hawk (3), Red-tailed Hawk (1), Bald Eagle (2), Northern Harrier (2), and Osprey (1). Not bad!

~Laying low. BASA at Skinner’s Lane, 08/28/20.~

While I was at the back pond, birding bud Maria Loukeris gave me the heads up that a BLACK TERN that she located at Owens Station Road had flown and was heading my way. I kept my eyes to the sky, but I didn’t see the bird. After leaving (via Owens Station Road), I went to the Liberty Loop parking area on Oil City Road, and lo and behold, there was the Black Tern feeding at the front pond. It flew back south only minutes after I’d arrived, towards the back pond. I knew that a birder that I’d met earlier in the morning, Yahvey, was at the back pond. I called him and gave him the heads up… and don’t you know that bird showed up there as well! That tern was seen in 3 locations, by 3 different birders, in about 30 minutes! Pretty crazy.

~If you are a fan of Killdeer, the black dirt did not disappoint this week. Killdeer and more Killdeer!~

Liberty Loop Back Pond, 08/23/20

The back pond at Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge’s Liberty Loop has been one of the hottest birding spots in the area recently (this part of the loop is located in Sussex County, NJ for all of you concerned with which county and state the birds are located in). I spent a pleasant and productive morning there; I’m pretty sure I got all the recent good birds/rarities reported: GLOSSY IBIS (3), LITTLE BLUE HERON, SNOWY EGRET, and SANDERLING.

~GLOSSY IBIS striking a pose at Wallkill River NWR’s Liberty Loop, Sussex County NJ, 08/23/20.~

My main goal of the morning was, of course, shorebirds. Although besides the Sanderling I did not find anything else out of the ordinary, shorebirds were plentiful in number of both species and individuals:

  • Semipalmated Plover (2)
  • Killdeer (30+)
  • Sanderling
  • Least Sanpiper (10+)
  • Pectoral Sandpiper (3)
  • Semipalmated Sandpiper (4)
  • Wilson’s Snipe (3)
  • Solitary Sandpiper (3)
  • Lesser Yellowlegs (20+)
~Immature LITTLE BLUE HERON at the Liberty Loop, 08/23/20.~

I left the refuge just before 10 am, just as it was starting to get a little warm. I finished the morning with 44 species; the only target bird I missed was Least Bittern, which I’ve been getting out there on a regular basis. Nice morning of birding, and some photo ops on top of it all.

~Lesser Yellowlegs were plentiful in the back pond this morning. Liberty Loop 08/23/20.~
~Green Heron at the Liberty Loop, 08/23/20.~
~One more Glossy Ibis shot; I was pleased to have these birds in pretty close. That came to an end when a dog walker came by and flushed them. Liberty Loop, 08/23/20.~
~This Northern Harrier was keeping the shorebirds on their toes. I’m not sure what it was hunting, but the shorebirds were flushed by it several times this morning. Liberty Loop 08/23/20.~
~Semipalmated Plover in the early morning fog. Liberty Loop 08/23/20.~
~Tree Swallow from earlier this week. Black dirt 08/20/20.~

Cedar Waxwing Fledgling Update, 08/21/20

I called the Avian Wildlife Center this morning to get an update on the Cedar Waxwing fledgling. I spoke with Giselle and so far it’s all good news. The bird is comfortable and eating well. In fact, the bird has begun eating on it’s own out of a bowl. Next step is to introduce fruit on the vine to allow the bird to practice eating more like in the wild. The bird is still begging for food, opening wide whenever food is being given, and it won’t be until this stops that the bird will be released. Also, Giselle never releases a single Cedar Waxwing. They are a social bird and she has found that they do much better with other CEWAs. Fortunately, there is another CEWA at the center, so if all goes well they will be released together. The two birds are not together yet as “my” fledgling still needs to have a stool sample tested for parasites. So far, so good. I’ve got my fingers crossed, I’m knocking wood, etcetera…

~What a little sweetie. Cedar Waxwing fledgling at Beaver Pond, 08/15/20.~

I also wanted to apologize for my delayed response to many of the comments on the last post. The site has been updated, and as with many updates, there have been some issues. For some reason it is not notifying me via email of new comments. I’ll try to work out that bug, until then I’ll try to check for comments more diligently.

Cedar Waxwing Update & Sunday Shots, 08/16/20

I went back to Beaver Pond first thing this morning. When I arrived, there was no sign of the fledgling Cedar Waxwing. But, after about 10 minutes, I heard the bird calling. Not long after that, as I walked with my scope horizontally on my shoulder, the bird came down and landed on the legs of the scope. It didn’t stay long, the legs were wet from the rain and the bird didn’t seem to like it.

~I’ve come to love this little dude. It’s amazing how small they are when seen in the hand. Cedar Waxwing fledgling at Beaver Pond, on its way to Avian Wildlife Center, 08/16/20.~

So, I got in touch with Giselle Smisko from the Avian Wildlife Center in Wantage NJ . I told her my story, and she believed that the bird had been cared for by someone as a nestling and was perhaps released too soon. She said that any typical fledgling would never go to a human but that nestlings will just open their mouth for anyone to receive food. We agreed that if I could capture the bird, I would bring it to her, so it would get the proper professional care it needs. *Important note: Giselle said never to feed a bird wet cat food – it’s not good for their digestive system. Dry food is okay, if moistened. High protein is best.*

~I had plenty of opportunity to photograph this bird, but really, I didn’t take advantage of it. Here’s one shot from Saturday, when I first arrived at Beaver Pond and saw the bird for the first time.~

Meanwhile, Bruce Nott and Karen Miller had arrived to search for shorebirds. The fledgling did not come to me the entire time they were there, but within 5 minutes of their departure, the bird flew down and landed on my scope. I worked it onto my fingers and was able to take it in my hand. I spoke with Giselle again to make arrangements and she said to feed it berries or grapes if I could. I went to the QuickChek once again, and bought some grapes. I broke up a couple of them into manageable sizes and fed the fledgling – it gobbled it up like it was going out of style! It was a really excellent experience. I had to kill a little time before Giselle would be able to take the bird; it was excruciating for me – I just wanted to get the birds into her hands. Eventually, I successfully dropped it off at the center. Giselle said the bird looked well and that its feathers were in good condition. I am able to call in and check on it, so I will. Fingers crossed all goes well. I also wanted to mention that Avian Wildlife Center is privately operated; it does not receive any funds from the government. Tax deductible donations are welcome; you can visit their website here.

~Great Blue Heron at Beaver Pond, 08/16/20.~
~Young Bald Eagle at Esopus Lighthouse Park in Ulster County, 08/15/20.~
~Soft photo of a Sandhill Crane flyover (fly through?) at the Liberty Loop, 0/10/20.~
~Not a great shot, but my first Great Egret of the year in Orange County, at Beaver Pond to be more precise. 08/16/20.~