It was an excellent flight at Mt. Peter Hawkwatch today. With the help of several visitors and fellow counters Tom Millard, Ken Witkowski, and Rick Hansen, we were able to tally 1,307 migrating raptors for the day. I thought I might have a decent day, maybe even a good day, but this number surpassed my expectations for sure. Highlights included 1,257 Broad-winged Hawks, which flew over mostly in smaller kettles and were not too high up, so we got some decent looks and finding/counting them was not as difficult as it can be. Seven Osprey passed through, and we also a decent Sharp-shinned Hawk flight, with 32 birds. Non-raptor highlights included an impressive Blue Jay flight, that I estimate totaled 600+ birds easily. It may have been closer to 1,000. If we hadn’t been so busy with the raptors, it would have been nice to get an accurate count. Also, probably my favorite bird of the day, Rob Stone and I had COMMON LOON in flight, heading WNW, I’m not sure where that bird was going to or coming from. As usual, I’ve included my Hawkcount.org report at the bottom of this post.
QUICK POST: Busy day here, so just putting together some recent photos, most from this weekend, all from within the last week. I just realized as I was writing this that all were taken at Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge, either at the Liberty Loop or at Winding Waters Trail.
On a day like today, when I had plenty of help up at Mount Peter Hawkwatch, I wonder how many birds I would have missed if I was on my own. Tom Millard, Denise Farrel, Rick Hansen, Linda Scrima, and Ken Witkowski all put in some serious time at the hawkwatch today and helped me tally 331 migrating raptors. But, on this day, I got some help from another source on the ground. Just before 3 o’clock I received a text from Rob Stone saying he had a kettle of Broad-winged Hawks over the prison in Warwick. At that point, it was just Denise and I at the watch – we scanned like mad to try and find Rob’s hawks and for what seemed like ages, we had no luck. But then I thought I had a distant bird in my binoculars, but it was so distant that it just disappeared. I got on the same area with my scope, and voila! Rob’s kettle of Broad-winged Hawks (104 birds!). Teamwork can go a long way on a hawkwatch, but I’ve never experienced it to this extent!
So, with 331 migrating raptors, suffice to say it was a good day with some excellent highlights. For migrants, we had 6 Bald Eagles, 9 Osprey, 5 American Kestrels, 297 Broad-winged Hawks (oh so close to 300!), and our first Merlin of the season. As for passerines, at least 2 RED-BREASTED NUTHATCHES were around for most of the day, and the best bird of the day was a YELLOW-BELLIED FLYCATCHER found by Rick Hansen. Unfortunately the bird was not entirely cooperative, giving us only fleeting looks and no photo ops. Later in the day, Denise and I didn’t see the bird again, but heard it calling not too far away, just behind the platform. I was excited as it was an Orange County life bird for me and also my 210th bird in OC for 2018.
Broad-winged Hawks should be coming through in large numbers this week, so if you get a chance it’s a great time to visit Mount Peter. We have counters there every day starting at 9:00 am and going until the birds stop flying. And we always appreciate the extra eyes.
I had a pretty good hawkwatch today while it lasted, a nice combination of migrating songbirds and raptors. Fellow counter Denise Farrel joined me up at Mount Peter; I had my first 4 migrating Osprey of the year, as well as a couple of Broad-winged Hawks and a single Cooper’s Hawk. As for passerines, a couple of mixed flocks moved through quickly – I was able to pick up several American Redstarts, a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, a Prairie Warbler, a Red-eyed Vireo, two Palm Warblers, a likely Yellow-rumped Warbler, and a Northern Parula (you can see my complete list of birds in my hawkwatch report below). The rain began during the third hour of the watch and was light at first, but then it started fall a little more steadily, so at 2 o’clock I packed it in.
I took the opportunity and spent the rest of the rainy afternoon looking for shorebirds. My first stop was at the Liberty Loop’s southernmost pool, where a few good birds were seen yesterday (Wilson’s Phalarope, Baird’s Sandpiper, and Little Blue Heron). I whiffed on all three of those birds, but I was lucky enough to locate a STILT SANDPIPER, the first one I’ve seen in quite a while. This is a bird I’ve been talking about wanting to see lately, so it was nice for it to happen.
Afterwards, I headed to Skinner Lane where I had a trio of good birds: BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER (5), BAIRD’S SANDPIPER, and AMERICAN GOLDEN PLOVER. The big difference today is that, finally, the birds were not absolutely miles out. So, I was able to get some really good looks (especially in the scope), as well as some decent shots. All in all it was quite a good day of birding – a little bit of everything.
I can hardly believe that it is time for hawkwatch already – this summer just flew by. Today was the first day of my 7th season counting at Mount Peter Hawkwatch, and I believe this is the first time I’ve counted on opening day – September 01. My expectations were low, mostly because it’s so early in the season, and also because the winds were not entirely favorable – I had an East and East Southeast wind throughout the day. After no raptor movement at all for the first two and and a half hours, I was pleasantly surprised to have a good couple of hours with a total of 15 migrating hawks (13 Broad-winged Hawks and 2 Sharp-shinned Hawks). Other highlights included a pair of RED-BREASTED NUTHATCHES that were hanging around for most of the day and a brief appearance of a CAPE MAY WARBLER. I thought it was a pretty darn good start to the season, and I’m totally looking forward to an autumn full of Saturdays up on Mount Pete. You can see my complete report at the bottom of this post.
Yesterday after work I birded later than usual. I wanted to stay out to see if I could hear Whip-poor-wills to add them to my year list. As I waited, the insects got worse and worse, so I finally took respite in my car for a few minutes. I sat with the window open so I could still hear, and remarkably, the bugs were leaving me alone. I must have caught a bit of movement out of the corner of my eye, because I never heard a sound. I turned to my left to witness a BOBCAT slinking through the grass. It was nearly dark, but fortunately I had adjusted my camera for the best possible results (I cranked the ISO up to 12,800!), just in case I needed it. I grabbed my camera off the passenger seat and took some initial shots – as soon as the cat heard the shutter he looked my way and the above shot is the result. The bobcat continued through the grass and eventually made its way down the trail. I could hardly breathe, I was so excited! I couldn’t get over the size; I’d seen a bobcat one other time only, and that cat was much smaller than this one. What an incredible experience; I got so lucky and I probably have the bugs to thank for it! And to top the night off, I heard several Whip-poor-wills calling right after the bobcat had moved on.
I recently invited several of the more prolific birders in our area to contribute to the blog whenever they have something that they feel is worth sharing. I think there is a lot of good birding going on that folks would like to hear about, and the end result should be a little more complete coverage of the birds and birding in our area. Kent Warner is the first to take me up on the offer. The timing is perfect too, since I was out of town all weekend and didn’t get any birding done. I found this post very interesting because, generally speaking, not much attention is paid to raptor migration here in Orange County.
SPRING RAPTOR MIGRATION IN ORANGE COUNTY
BY KENT WARNER
Today was a stunner at Bellvale Community for raptors especially. As the sun warmed, and the updrafts started, the first couple of broad-winged hawks, passed low overhead. As the day continued, despite a stiff north breeze, the raptors kept coming – predominantly Broad-winged Hawks and Turkey Vultures, but a little of everything showed. Here is a list of what I saw…
Broad-winged Hawk – 450 (very conservative estimate of just the ones I saw, there were definitely more)
Turkey Vulture – 45
Black Vulture – 6
Osprey – 16
Northern Harrier – 3
Sharp-shinned Hawk – 3
Cooper’s Hawk – 5
Bald Eagle – 5
Red-Shouldered Hawk – 1
Red-tailed Hawk – 6
American Kestrel – 6
Merlin – 1
Peregrine Falcon – 1
QUICK POST: I’m exhausted this evening, so I’m going to try and make this a quick one. My brother-in-law Bill and I made our yearly Easter visit to Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge. We hit the usual spots; it seemed a little quieter than normal to me. We totaled 30 species for the morning, which seems low for the time of the year, and all were expected species. We had a few highlights – a Sandhill Crane flew over on my drive to the refuge, and then, after Bill and I made our way through Wildlife Drive, at Tschache Pool we had a group of over 50 Great Blue Herons as well a half dozen Bald Eagles tormenting ducks (and each other), flying over the pool.
Back here in Orange County, the action continued through the weekend and. today was another good day with some good birds reported: Wilson’s Snipe was the big winner, being reported at three locations in the county: Lynch Road in New Hampton, the Liberty Loop, and Citgo Pond. Additionally, Rob Stone located a Common Loon, 40+ Scaup, and a Bonaparte’s Gull at Wickham Lake, which is where I headed after work. The scaup were still present, as was the Common Loon, but the Bonaparte’s Gull had moved on. The loon was in beautiful breeding plumage, but was WAY out and photos were not an option. It was nice to get a good look at the 45 or so Greater Scaup.
This morning I took Kyle Dudgeon up on his offer to help him count migrating raptors up in Broome County, NY. He had been seeing decent numbers of Golden Eagles recently, so I was hoping today would be more of the same. Almost immediately upon exiting the highway, I came upon a pair of Bald Eagles perched together over Oquaga Creek. I took this as a good sign, and I wasn’t wrong. Through the morning and into the early afternoon, we saw many Bald Eagles; it was tough to keep a count because the birds kept coming and going. Most were locals, but we did have a group of four adult birds migrate through. Three of the birds were flying quite close together; flying almost in formation, which is something I’ve never seen before:
It may sound odd, but all the Bald Eagles ended up being among the least exciting parts of the day. Early on we had an adult GOLDEN EAGLE migrate through; very high. Shortly after that, we had a single young Golden Eagle, a local, make a brief, distant appearance before disappearing behind a distant ridge. Then, Kyle was looking through his scope and said “you gotta get on this bird”. Following his directions, I got on the bird quickly. I knew as soon as I saw the bird what it was – a NORTHERN GOSHAWK! My immediate impression was a massive accipiter with powerful wingbeats. We followed in our scopes as the bird followed the ridge off to our right. At one point it seemed to buzz a perched eagle. I was excited when the light caught the bird nicely on its topside, showing the blue hue of an adult bird – I was was flipping out! The bird eventually disappeared into the trees and we did not see it again. We had one final bit of excitement – not one, but two young GOLDEN EAGLES perched in a snag on a distant ridge. One bird took flight and started buzzing the perched bird; this went on for ages! Eventually, the buzzing bird left the perched bird and worked its way up the ridge to our left, finally got close enough for some documentary photos. What a great day of hawk watching! I can’t thank Kyle enough for the invite.
I was pretty psyched when recently the Turkey Vultures began roosting in our backyard again. It’s so exciting to get home from work in the evenings and have a tree full of vultures on the property. Even better, today came home early to find them all hunkered down to get through the snow storm. I’m not sure how excited others would get at having them in their yard, but I love it. They made my day today.