Wow! Orange County Forster’s Tern!





~A beautiful FORSTER’S TERN at the Liberty Loop this evening, 07/01/17.~

QUICK POST: Huge thanks to Linda Scrima, who contacted me tonight to let me know she had a FORSTER’S TERN at Wallkill River NWR’s Liberty Loop. I jumped into the car and ran for the bird, and WOW, what a beautiful bird! It was perched on the measuring pole just to the left of the viewing platform, which made for a great photo op. I’ve never had FOTE in Orange County before, so this is OC bird #243 for me! Very exciting!


Life Birds X2

~Wow! Lifer LONG-EARED OWL, 03/19/17.~

It’s not very often these days that I can get two life birds in one day, but that’s exactly what happened today. The first was a bird that I have been really hoping to get for some time now, the LONG-EARED OWL. The bird did not disappoint, such a beautiful little owl, absolutely gorgeous. The second was a bird that I’ve had some experience with in the past, the NORTHERN SAW-WHET OWL. Back in the fall of 2013, Tricia and I joined a John Haas, Karen Miller, Scott Baldinger, and Arlene Borko in Sullivan County to call in migrating NSWOs. We heard several that night and caught a glimpse of one in flight in the dark, but I guess at the time I didn’t think that was enough to count it as a lifer. Today was quite different and there is no doubt about getting my lifer NSWO. These two owls are life birds #373 and #374 for me. Forgive the vague post, but with the best interests of these birds in mind, I will not be sharing their locations.

~I was impressed by how small this bird is in person, out in the field. Beautiful NORTHERN SAW-WHET OWL, 03/19/17. ~
~One more shot of the LEOW, 03/19/16.~


Getting Lucky

~A pair of American Kestrels mating on a wire, Orange County NY, 02/2517.~

So, I bumped my head on Tuesday evening. I didn’t even hit it very hard (I’ve certainly hit it way harder), but I must have gotten it just right and I ended up giving myself a concussion. Which put me to some degree out of commission for  a few days. When Saturday afternoon rolled around, I was feeling a little bit better so I did some birding, mostly just driving around southern Orange County. As I drove around, I was getting the usuals but I was enjoying it very much just because I hadn’t been out much during the week. Then I happened to see two falcons flying together in the distance. Luckily there was a nice area to pull over, so I parked and watched as the two birds spent some time coming and going from the overhead wires and then, excitingly, the birds mated on a wire. How lucky can you get? American Kestrels mating right in front of me in perfect light. It was very cool to observe and I believe it is only my second time seeing AMKEs mating, the first time being a few years back at the Shawangunk Grasslands from one of the photo blinds.

~The male (left) is a bit puffed up and in the foreground so he looks almost the same size as the female, but to me, in the field the female was noticeably larger. Orange County American Kestrels, 02/25/17.~

Saturday, 01/28/17

~I got a great look at a number of Ruddy Ducks at Piermont Pier, 01/28/17.~ 

First thing this morning I headed to Piermont Pier to see if could get any good ducks. It was a nice stop and I had 7 species of waterfowl:

Canada Goose (3)
Mallard (5)
Canvasback (27)
Bufflehead (5)
Common Goldeneye (2)
Common Merganser (1)
Ruddy Duck (43)

The Common Goldeneyes stole the show for me; I got great looks at one bird that spent some time close to the pier. The Canvasbacks were nice to get, but were very distant and a scope was needed to see them well.

~This is probably my closest look at a Common Goldeneye. I have this as a first winter male, Piermont Pier 01/28/17.~
~COGO in flight at Piermont Pier, 01/28/17.~

I left Piermont Pier and headed to State Line Lookout to join the hordes of birders/photographers/sheep that were present to try for the Gyrfalcon that has been reported recently there. It was quite a scene and I estimate that in the time I tried for the bird (4 hours), over 125 birders/photogs were there for the bird as well. Millions of photographs were taken of the local Peregrine Falcons (that might not be an exaggeration). The falcons did not fly much, but did spend much time on the closest perches. Other good birds included several Bald Eagles, Common Ravens, and a Cooper’s Hawk which was chased from the far side of the river to the Lookout by the local male Peregrine Falcon. As for the Gyrfalcon, it was of course a no-show. Hopefully it sticks and I’ll try for it another day.

~This bird is a beast, does she look mean or what? Local female Peregrine Falcon at State Line Lookout, 01/28/17. There is no doubt that the local PEFAs were extremely well-photographed today.~
~The resident male Peregrine Falcon – State Line Lookout, 01/28/17.~
~Top-down look at a Turkey Vulture; not a look I get very often. State Line Lookout 01/28/17.~ 

Good Birding at the Grasslands, 01/21/17

~Northern Harrier in good light, Shawangunk Grasslands NWR, 01/21/17.~

After an uneventful morning of birding under gray skies, the clouds lifted in the early afternoon and I decided to head to Shawangunk Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge. I felt that I was arriving a little bit late to be able to get a photo blind, but as luck would have it, the closest north blind was still vacant and I grabbed it. Northern Harriers were plentiful and offered many photo ops, some of which I took advantage of, and some, well, not so much. American Tree Sparrows were heard more than seen, but I did finally get a bird that sat up for me for a few pics. The highlight of the day, however was when I saw a NORTHERN SHRIKE perched on a distant bush. I snapped off a few photos just before the bird flew and I was unable to relocate it. I had this bird back in November but was unable to get any photos, and it has been reported intermittently since then. I found out when I left the blind that other birders had seen the bird briefly as well. Also exciting, the Short-eared Owls got up early enough for some halfway decent photos and really great looks. On my way out, I ran into many birders that I know and it was good to shoot the breeze and catch up with several of them in the parking area. Good birding at the Grasslands!

~Ha! I finally got a shot of a NORTHERN SHRIKE! A distant and noisy shot, but I’ll take it. Shawangunk Grasslands NWR, 01/21/17.~
~Beautiful bird. Northern Harrier perched at Shawangunk Grasslands NWR, 01/21/17.~
~Going down for prey, NOHA at Shawangunk Grasslands NWR, 01/21/17.~
~Northern Harrier coming at the blind, Shawangunk Grasslands NWR, 01/21/17.~
~American Tree Sparrow at Shawangunk Grasslands NWR, 01/21/17.~
~A perched Short-eared Owl watches a high flying Northern Harrier, Shawangunk Grasslands NWR, 01/21/17.~
~Short-eared Owl in flight, Shawangunk Grasslands NWR, 01/21/17.~

Thanksgiving Weekend Wrap Up

~One of two young Bald Eagles perched along Wildlife Drive at Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, 11/25/16~

My Thanksgiving tradition of visiting Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge continued this year, in spite of the gray skies and intermittent rain. My brother-in-law, Bill and I were happy to learn that Wildlife Drive was open in spite of the recent snow fall. We had a productive day where the ducks were numerous but VERY distant. It was hard to even contemplate any sort of accurate count and I’m sure my eBird report numbers are a bit too much on the conservative side. We had 17 species of waterfowl:

~A mix of waterfowl in flight and on the ice at Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, 11/25/16.~

Canada Goose
Trumpeter Swan
Tundra Swan
American Wigeon
American Black Duck
Northern Shoveler
Northern Pintail
Green-winged Teal
Ring-necked Duck
Lesser Scaup
Hooded Merganser
Common Merganser
Pied-billed Grebe

The highlight of the day was, undoubtedly, locating first one and eventually three ROUGH-LEGGED HAWKS at the refuge. It was my first time getting them there, and Bill was very excited, as it was a life bird for him. All in all we had a really good day but struggled like crazy for decent photos. In case I haven’t said it enough on this blog: Go to Montezuma NWR! It’s a really great spot.

~ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK in flight at Montezuma NWR, 11/25/16.~
~In the parking lot of the visitor’s center at Montezuma NWR, Eastern Bluebird 11/25/16.

On Sunday, I hooked up with Kyle Dudgeon early in the morning and we birded southern Orange County pretty much by car, trying for photos for the most part. It was good to see Kyle and catch up (he has been away at college), and we had some decent birds for the day. Notably, we had 8 raptor species for the morning: Bald Eagle, Northern Harrier, Cooper’s Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Rough-legged Hawk, American Kestrel, Merlin, and Peregrine Falcon. The highlight for me was seeing a good sized flock of Snow Buntings, perhaps over 100 birds. Good Birding!

~Snow Buntings in flight, Orange County, NY 11/17/16.~
~Awesome to see this Merlin perched on a pole. New Hampton, NY 11/27/16.~
~White-crowned Sparrow at Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge, 11/27/16.~
~This Northern Harrier found what I thought was a strange perch. Pine Island NY, 11/27/16.~
~It’s always a little sad to see these Ring-necked Pheasants. I could hear hunters not too far off so I flushed this bird in the opposite direction. Orange County NY, 11/27/16.~
~I love, love, love these dudes. Snow Bunting flock in flight, Orange County NY 11/27/16.~

Shawangunk Grasslands NWR, 11/19/16

~A male American Kestrel keeps an eye on me from his perch at the Shawangunk Grasslands NWR, 11/19/16.~

I got a relatively early start and arrived at the Shawangunk Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge at 7 am. I had a couple of goals for the morning. The first was to try for some photographs; it felt like ages since I’ve gotten a decent shot. The shortened days have really limited my ability to photograph in any sort of good light, plus I just feel a little snakebite lately when it comes to photos. My second goal was to relocated the Northern Shrike that has been hanging around out there, on and off. On this past Thursday evening, I made a brief stop and viewed the refuge from the Galeville Park and was lucky enough to find the shrike and get a couple of distant, brief looks at the bird in my scope before I lost track of it.

As for my first goal, I did get some post-able photos this morning, however they are nothing to write home about. But, still it was great fun to be out on such a gorgeous morning and have some good birds in beautiful early morning light. As for the shrike, it was a no show. I spent most of my time in the area where I had seen the bird on Thursday, but I was unable to relocate it.

~Northern Harrier in flight just over the grasses at the Shawangunk Grasslands NWR, 11/19/16.~ 

It was an enjoyable morning of birding, if not amazing. One bird I was hoping to see but did not was Rough-legged Hawk. It leaves something to look forward to for next time, I guess. I’ve include my species list at the bottom of this post.

~A big, beautiful, mean-looking Red-tailed Hawk at the Shawangunk Grasslands, 11/19/16. Good looking bird.~
~While I was shooting the kestrel in the top photo, this dude walked across the trail just off to my right. I saw three bucks while I was at the refuge today.~ 
~This is, in my opinion, a photogenic bird. Northern Mockingbird at the Shawangunk Grasslands NWR, 11/19/16.~ 

Canada Goose 300
Turkey Vulture 4
Northern Harrier 6
Red-tailed Hawk 4
Rock Pigeon 15
Mourning Dove 8
Red-bellied Woodpecker 4
Downy Woodpecker 2
Northern Flicker 5
American Kestrel 1
Blue Jay 75
American Crow 45
Common Raven 2
Black-capped Chickadee 12
Tufted Titmouse 8
White-breasted Nuthatch 4
American Robin 18
Northern Mockingbird 1
American Tree Sparrow 16
Dark-eyed Junco 12
Northern Cardinal 5
Common Grackle 25
blackbird sp. 200 Distant flock in flight
House Finch 14
American Goldfinch 24



Mt. Peter Hawkwatch, 11/12/16

~I was trying to remember taking this photo, I’m pretty sure this is a local Red-tailed Hawk rather than one of the 19 migrants we had at Mt. Peter Hawkwatch today, 11/12/16.~

Well, sadly today was my final day as official counter at Mt. Peter Hawkwatch for the 2016 season. It was a gorgeous day to be on the mountain; sunny and cold with a moderate northwest wind. Judy Cinquina joined me for most of the day, and although the conversation was more plentiful than migrating raptors, we still had a pretty good flight, with 31  birds which included a pretty good variety. Highlights for me included good looks at two adult Bald Eagles, two adult Red-shouldered Hawks, and a brief look at a bird that always seems to be on a mission – a Merlin. Photos were tough to come by, even the vultures and passerines seemed to keep their distance today.

It was another excellent season for me at Mt. Pete; I had decent flights every Saturday except the two where I was rained out. And, I feel like I continued to learn and improve my hawk watching skills. It’s sad to think it’s another 10 1/2 months until I’ll be at it again. I should mention that you still have a few days to go to the watch – official counters will continue to be there until Tuesday November 15th.

Here’s my report for the day:

Official Counter: Matt Zeitler
Observers: B.A. McGrath, Judith C. Cinquina

Visitors: Paul Skonberg

Sunny with very few clouds and a moderate northwest wind. Temperatures ranged from 0 to 8 degrees Celsius.

Raptor Observations:
Two adult Bald Eagles and 2 adult Red-shouldered hawks.

Non-raptor Observations:
Non-raptor Species: European Starling (22), American Robin (24), Canada Goose (15), American Crow (18), Black-capped Chickadee (7), Tufted Titmouse (4), Ring-billed Gull (8), Herring Gull (1), Common Raven (2), Blue Jay (21), Cedar Waxwing (3), Dark-eyed Junco (2), White-breasted Nuthatch (2).

~This bird was MUCH better in person. An adult Red-shouldered Hawk migrates directly over the viewing platform at Mt. Peter Hawkwatch, 11/12/16.~

Mt. Peter Hawkwatch, 11/5/16

~This Northern Harrier is NOT from Mt. Peter Hawkwatch; I stopped by the Shawangunk Grasslands NWR on Wednesday afternoon 11/2/16 to try for the Northern Shrike that had been seen there but didn’t have any luck. But, I did enjoy a nice walk on the trails of the reserve with Mary B. and photographed this NOHA.~

My Saturday shift counting at Mt. Peter Hawkwatch was steady but not exactly exciting. WNW winds provided me with 47 migrating raptors, consisting of mostly Red-tailed Hawks (22). Raptor highlights for me were decent looks at 3 adult Red-shouldered Hawks, and a distant look at a migrating ‘Gray Ghost’, an adult male Northern Harrier. My non-raptor highlight was 6 Common Loons – one group of four, and two singles. Photos were scarce for the day, but thankfully visitors were not. I enjoyed the company of Linda Scrima, Judy Cinquina, Maria Loukerisk, and Rob Pirie. Huge thanks to all four for their help spotting birds too.  Here’s my report for the day:


Total observation time: 7.5 hours
Official Counter Matt Zeitler
Observers: Judith C. Cinquina

Linda Scrima, Maria Loukeris, and Rob Pirie.

Cloudy and cool with a WNW wind. Temperatures ranged from 5 to 13 degrees Celsius

Raptor Observations:
One adult Bald Eagle, one male Northern Harrier, and three adult Red-shouldered Hawks.

Non-raptor Observations:
Non-Raptor Species: Dark-eyed Junco (15), Black-capped Chickadee (9), American Robin (168), American Goldfinch (4), Common Raven (2), Eastern Bluebird (2), White-breasted Nuthatch (3), Tufted Titmouse (2), Cedar Waxwing (18), Red-bellied Woodpecker (1), Purple Finch (1), Canada Goose (14), Common Loon (6)

~My only decent photo op of the day was this low flying Turkey Vulture. I am grateful to the TUVUs for the photo ops, as well as their help in locating other migrating raptors. Mt. Peter Hawkwatch, 11/5/16.~ 
~American Pipit in the Black Dirt on 11/1/16. This was a fabulous night as I had my first Snow Buntings of the season and my first LAPLAND LONGSPUR of the year. The LALO was bird #210 on my 2016 Orange County  year list.~
~I should have done better with this bird, but it just didn’t happen. One of 2 very cooperative Golden-crowned Kinglets at Mt. Peter Hawkwatch on Friday evening, 11/4/16.~

Mount Peter Hawkwatch, 10/29/16

~GOLDEN EAGLE at Mount Peter Hawkwatch, 10/29/16.~ 

I was pretty sure that hawkwatch would be a dud this past Saturday. Southwest winds were in the forecast and the previous day’s count was on the low side (with a northwest wind!). Early on, it seemed like I was right; the watch got off to a very slow start, and I have to say, I was super cranky about it. I did not have a raptor of any sort for the first two hours and fifteen minutes, when I finally had a local Red-tailed Hawk hunting over the valley. Migrating birds started to trickle through shortly after that, but really, it was a slow day.

~GOEA at Mt. Pete, 10/29/16.~ 

Things started looking up when I got a visit from Gerhard and Tracy Patsch. We had some interesting conversations, and they seemed to have brought one of the local Red-tails along with them. It was the first time that I’ve had a local “tail” perch and hunt in the viewing platform area. And then bird put on a final show for us, hanging in the air directly above the platform and not very high up. The three of us really enjoyed great looks and I took many photos.

~Golden Eagle, apparently looking right at me?  Mount Peter Hawkwatch, 10/29/16.~

The highlight of the day came at 3:45 pm, when I counted just my 20th migrating raptor of the day, which was the GOLDEN EAGLE. I picked it up due north of the platform; it was distant but I knew immediately that it was an eagle and very shortly after that, that it was a Golden. As luck would have it, the bird flew slowly closer and passed at a nice easy pace right over the platform, circling several times before continuing due south. What a thrill it was, I am still freaking out about it a day later. The Golden Eagle is the 209th bird that I’ve had in Orange County this year. Here’s my report for the day:


Official Counter: Matt Zeitler

Visitors: Gerhard and Tracy Patsch, Tricia Zeitler, Carrie and Cruz Craigmyle, Bill, Carolyn, Cameron, and Mackenzie Martocci.

Weather: Partly cloudy with a southwest wind. Temperatures ranged from 4 to 18 degrees Celsius.

Raptor Observations: It was a slow start; the first raptor observed was a local Red-tailed Hawk over 2 hours and 15 minutes into the watch. One female Northern Harrier and at 3:45 one immature Golden Eagle passed through, circling right over the view platform, giving amazing views.

Non Raptor Species: American Crow (28), Blue Jay (24), White-breasted Nuthatch (2), Black-capped Chickadee (9), American Robin (32), Common Raven (2), Cedar Waxwing (25), Tufted Titmouse (1), Downy Woodpecker (1), Pileated Woodpecker (1), Ring-billed Gull (1), Red-bellied Woodpecker (1), Eastern Bluebird (5), Canada Goose (6), European Starling (20).

~GOEA at Mt. Pete Hawkwatch, 10/29/16.~
~I know, a lot of Golden Eagle shots, but when will I get this opportunity again? GOEA at Mt. Peter Hawkwatch, 10/29/16.~ 
~This young Red-tailed Hawk put on quite a show. Mt. Peter Hawkwatch, 10/29/16.~ 
~Going in for the kill, RTHA at Mount Peter Hawkwatch, 10/29/16. Unfortunately the bird came up empty on this attempt. 
~Local Red-tailed Hawk cruising by, Mt. Pete Hawkwatch, 10/29/16.~ 
~And, the local Tail checking out the situation from directly above the platform, Mt. Peter Hawkwatch, 10/29/16.~ 
~RTHA at Mt. Pete 10/29/16.~ 
And, finally, the obligatory Turkey Vulture photo. Even the vultures were sparse on this day at Mt. Pete, 10/29/16.~