QUICK POST: Huge thanks to Kathy Ashman, who texted while I was at work to let me know she had located a SANDHILL CRANE at 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary. I ran for the bird after getting out of work this afternoon; Maria Loukeris met me at the sanctuary and got me on the bird very quickly (thanks!). Which was a good thing, because shortly after my arrival, the bird picked up and relocated deep into the reeds and out of sight. The bird was distant, but I was still super excited to see this excellent bird and get some documentary photos. And, of course, it was great to get it in Orange County and add it to my year list (#208).
QUICK POST: I got out to 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary’s Citgo Pond a little on the late side this evening; I had some things to take care of directly after work. But, when I eventually got out there, I finally had a new bird – a single DUNLIN. I got super looks at the bird in my scope, but the bird was a bit distant for any decent photos. I was super excited, I’ve been waiting for a while for something good to make its way to Citgo, and Dunlin were on my list for sure. This Dunlin is my 207th species in Orange County this year.
I got out and did a fair amount of birding this weekend, especially because I didn’t count hawks at Mt. Peter Hawkwatch on Saturday, due to the fog and light rain that persisted throughout the day.
BLACK DIRT REGION: I received reports from Bruce Nott and Ken and Curt McDermott on Saturday that the collection of plovers in the black dirt continued. Curt and Ken had a very nice count of 41 American Golden-Plovers and 5 Black-bellied Plovers. On Sunday, I met Linda Scrima in the late morning. The plovers were present, but distant. We lingered, and eventually they flew in closer, with a couple even landing on the road. We had a total of 34 AMGPs and 3 BBPLs. The highlight, however, was when a Killdeer flew over being chased by another smaller bird. Linda picked it up and got me on the birds. I stayed on the smaller bird and when it landed, I was thrilled to see it was an AMERICAN PIPIT! We eventually saw 3 more for a total of 4 AMPIs. The pipits were my 204th species in Orange County this year.
WICKHAM WOODLANDS TOWN PARK: I birded here on Saturday morning so I could stay close to Mt. Peter, in case the weather cleared up. The highlight for me was a trio of Ruddy Ducks. I also had a nice look at a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, and Mockingbirds and Northern Flickers were present in numbers.
6 1/2 STATION ROAD, CITGO POND: I made three trips to the pond this weekend and finally on Sunday I had some new shorebirds:
4 Pectoral Sandpipers (one new bird)
3 Lesser Yellowlegs (one new bird)
1 Greater Yellowlegs (new bird)
11 Least Sandpiper (same number)
On Friday evening I had a Northern Harrier fly over the pond and a Sharp-shinned Hawk as well. Both kinglets were present on the trail into the pond. On Saturday I also went over to the Heritage Trail side of the sanctuary, where I had many Yellow-rumped Warblers and a pair of Black-throated Green Warblers.
HIGHLAND LAKES STATE PARK: I made it out here for early Sunday morning. The place was very birdy and I had 27 species plus one unidentified flycatcher in just over an hour. Yellow-rumped Warblers, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, and White-throated Sparrows were all quite numerous. Again, I had a couple of Black-throated Green Warblers, but besides that, not many noteworthy birds.
I spent nearly all my birding time this weekend looking for shorebirds in Orange County. Saturday was a bit of a bust, in spite of favorable overnight winds. Today was another story. I got out to the black dirt early while it was still on the cool side. At my first stop I had a small shorebird flyover with a small flock of Killdeer. I watched the bird in my binoculars until it was out of sight, never to be identified. At my second stop, I had a similar experience, but this time the bird put down about three fields over. I got on it with my scope and it looked like a BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER! I followed the bird, walking on the road as the bird worked the field. I would stop every so often when the bird would come to an area unobstructed by grasses and put down my scope for a look or to take some photos, becoming more and more convinced that it was a BBSA. I eventually lost the bird, so I walked the road to the other side of the field to try and relocate it. At first I could not find it, but I did see in the middle of the field, a single AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVER! Very exciting! Of course, at the time I wasn’t sure exactly which plover it was (American Golden or Black-bellied), I figured that out later. I eventually relocated the Buff-breasted Sandpiper and it was with a second Buffie. Then I heard a call I was unfamiliar with – I looked away from the scope to see 3 more American Golden-Plovers coming in! I took photos as the birds came in to land on the field – showing clear wing pits (not black as would be seen in Black-bellied). I had put the word out earlier, but unfortunately, before anyone arrived to see the birds, a low flying plane flushed first the plovers, followed shortly afterwards by the Buffies. Kathy, Scotty, Bruce, and I combed the area but came up empty. Sorry for the poor photos of these birds, but they were extremely distant and the heat shimmer was terrible.
I did check 6 1/2 Station Road’s Citgo Pond in the early afternoon, but I did not locate any new birds – I found basically the same birds as were present on Thursday, minus the Baird’s Sandiper and the Greater Yellowlegs.
I ran into Karen Miller and Diane Bliss this afternoon – we were all heading in to check out 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary’s Citgo Pond. We arrived at the pond and set up our scopes, and as luck would have it, the first bird in my scope was a beautiful BAIRD’S SANDPIPER! We were all super excited and enjoyed great looks in our scopes as we put the word out. John Haas, Bruce Nott, and Kathy Ashman all ran for the bird, which ended up being very confiding, allowing for great looks and some decent photos too. Shorebirds were numerous at the pond, here is our count:
Greater Yellowlegs (1)
Lesser Yellowlegs (5)
Semipalmated Sandpiper (3)
Least Sandpiper (34)
BAIRD’S SANDPIPER (1)
Pectoral Sandpiper (1)
Wilson’s Snipe (1)
What an excellent afternoon/evening of birding! I love this time of year!
Okay, so I guess I can keep calling the blog Orange Birding. This evening I just wanted to make a quick stop at 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary’s Citgo Pond to check the water levels, because when I was there on Friday the levels were too high and there were no shorebirds present. Well, the water levels were still high and there were still no shorebirds, but I found a welcome surprise: a BLACK TERN! When I arrived the bird was perched on the ground, but it took flight not long after I got on the bird and never set down again. The bird flew around the pond, hunting continuously and splashing into the water from time to time. I put the word out and John Haas, Karen Miller, and Diane Bliss were all able to run for the bird. Bad weather was moving in quickly, so we ended up having to hustle out of there to beat storms. It was a nice looking bird and we got good, if slightly distant views – all my pics are cropped within an inch of their lives. This is my 193rd species for Orange County this year.
It’s that time of year when new birds are not very hard to come by. Migration is getting into full swing, and many new birds are moving into and through the area. I spent the morning and into the early afternoon birding at the above locations, and added 14 new species to my Orange County year list.
First thing this morning, I met Linda Scrima and Maria Loukeris at Pochuck Mountain State Forest, which was quite birdy. We had a nice long walk with 33 species and I added 8 personal first of year (FOY) birds:
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Ovenbird was the bird of the day for sure; we heard them calling all along the trail as we walked. It was a nice outing, although at the end we had to cut it short and hustle back to our cars as both Linda and Maria had other obligations.
Afterwards, I headed over to 6 1/2 Station Road with the main goal of trying for some shorebirds. I started at the Citgo Pond, and although it was not a great success, I did see a several Killdeer, 2 Lesser Yellowlegs (FOY in Orange County), and 2 Spotted Sandpipers (FOY). The habitat looks good there right now for shorebirds, so I will be checking in for sure. I also walked a portion of the Heritage Trail, and ultimately I had 32 species. Other new year birds for me included: Green Heron, several Chimney Swifts, 2 Warbling Vireos, and a House Wren. I was bummed out about the Warbling Vireos because they were down low and in good light, but for some reason I was never able to get a good focus while I was trying to photograph them.
While I wouldn’t categorize it as amazing, it was certainly a good and enjoyable day of birding.
Since I’ve been out of the loop for a little while, I figured it would be a good idea to do a post of notable Orange County sightings that I know of from the past week:
SUNDAY 4/3/16 – It was a waterfowl fallout of sorts in OC. Rob Stone reported 20+ Long-tailed Ducks at Wickham Lake, along with 1 Greater Scaup, 1 Common Loon, and 1 Horned Grebe. Meanwhile, Kathy Ashman reported to Mearns Bird Club that she had 7 Horned Grebes at Glenmere Lake, with some in breeding plumage.
MONDAY 4/4/16 – Rob Stone had a Vesper Sparrow at Lower Wisner Road.
THURSDAY 4/7/16 – I had 1 Greater Scaup, 1 Common Loon (my FOY), and 2 Horned Grebes at Greenwood Lake. Kathy Ashman reported a Green Heron at 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary.
FRIDAY 4/8/16 – I had 1 Common Loon at Sterling Lake and at Greenwood Lake I had 1 Horned Grebe, 1 Red-breasted Merganser, and 2 Common Loons.
SATURDAY 4/9/16 – I had my FOY Louisiana Waterthrush and Swamp Sparrow on the Sterling Lake Loop Trail. At White Oak Swamp, I finally got my FOY Rusty Blackbird and I also had my FOY Palm Warbler.
SUNDAY 4/10/16 – Maria Loukeris had a Common Loon at Glenmere Lake. I went for the bird later in the day and 4 Greater Scaup and 1 Lesser Scaup (FOY) had moved in as well. Earlier in the day, I had my FOY Osprey at 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary (but missed out on the Green Heron).
I spent a couple of cold hours this morning walking the Heritage Trail at 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary. It was quite birdy and I tallied 20 species for the walk; I’ll include my species list below. The best and most surprising bird for me was a female Northern Harrier which was cruising the open area below the Orange County Jail. I also enjoyed seeing 2 Great Blue Herons, one that flushed as I walked along the trail and the second was all tucked in on the bank of the stream alongside the trail. It was a brisk -3 degrees Fahrenheit when I started my walk, and it warmed up to a balmy 1 degree Fahrenheit by the time I got back to the car.
Great Blue Heron 2
Northern Harrier 1
Red-tailed Hawk 2
Ring-billed Gull 1
Red-bellied Woodpecker 2
Downy Woodpecker 6
Hairy Woodpecker 1
Pileated Woodpecker 1
Blue Jay 8
American Crow 1
Black-capped Chickadee 2
Tufted Titmouse 2
White-breasted Nuthatch 1
Eastern Bluebird 4
American Robin 12
American Tree Sparrow 25
Dark-eyed Junco 65
White-throated Sparrow 6
Song Sparrow 1
Northern Cardinal 1
**Updated on 10/29/15.**
I had an unproductive morning of birding today; I was hoping that perhaps some waterfowl had moved into the area. The I checked Glenmere Lake and Wickham Lake and only found a pair of Ruddy Ducks at Wickham and a single Greater Scaup at Glenmere. I went home disappointed and then headed back out in the afternoon, unsure where to go. I decided to check 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary – Citgo Pond for shorebirds, and I’m so glad I did. Upon my arrival to the pond, I immediately located a DUNLIN and what I thought were three Pectoral Sandpipers. I put the word out and took many photos, particularly of the Dunlin. Two of the “Pectorals” were not sitting right with me, but I couldn’t think what else they might be.
I took some photos of the birds so that I could verify later, and it wasn’t until later in the evening when I looked at my photos that I saw that they might be RED KNOTS! I was so excited! I really wish I had been able to identify them in the field, but I was not expecting this at all, so I was happy to have gotten the photos. Great birding!
UPDATE 10/29/15: After receiving a couple of comments on this post questioning the identification of the two birds below, it was time to take another look and try to get it right. Both commenters believe that the birds are White-rumped Sandpipers rather than Red Knots. So last night I put my photos on the New York Birders Facebook page, where I only got one response, which also identified the birds as immature WRSAs (but importantly no comments disagreeing with this). I initially considered WRSA for these birds, but ruled them out based on size, so I was confused. I turned to The Shorebird Guide by Michael O’Brien, Richard Crossley, and Kevin Karlson. The last two pages of the book contain silhouettes which depict the relative sizes of shorebirds. Looking at the silhouettes, it became clear that I should have actually ruled out Red Knots, based on their size rather than the opposite. It’s, of course, no fun to be wrong, but I believe that White-rumped Sandpiper is an accurate ID, so I’m happy to hopefully get it right. Thanks to Rosemarie and Christopher for their comments which got this started.