It was really, really nice to have four days off in a row. And with the pandemic still raging, we did not travel. So, that made for a good amount of birding during those four days. Noteworthy birds included more RED CROSSBILLS at Reservoir 3, the BARNACLE GOOSE continues in the area, being seen mostly at the Camel Farm, a handful of Snow Buntings at Skinners Lane, and I had my first ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK of the season. I had a good weekend with raptors, topped off by an early morning visit to the Grasslands today. It was enjoyable to be out there sitting in a blind. It sort of felt like the old days when I used to photograph many more raptors.
Yesterday was my final day of the year at Mount Peter Hawkwatch, it’s amazing how quickly the season goes by. It was a cool crisp day with a cold WNW wind. It was sunny but with enough clouds in the morning to help find birds. I finished the season on an up note, with a decent day consisting of 72 migrating raptors. Highlights included four Bald Eagles moving through; two adults and two immatures. Also noteworthy was 21 Red-tailed Hawk and seven Red-shouldered hawks; 2 adults and 5 immatures.
I was counting at Mount Peter all day Saturday; it was a slow start with drizzly and foggy weather with a southwest wind, but at around noon the fog cleared out, the winds shifted to west northwest, and the hawks started flying. It was a day with a very good variety of migrating raptors – 11 different species. I particularly enjoyed watching five Northern Harriers fly over – I know they are very common in our area in the winter, but I just love to see them when they migrate; they look like no other raptor. Another highlight was a large skein of BRANT flying over, just as the watch was coming to an end.
Sunday morning I ran around locally. Wickham Lake was my first stop, where I had 13 species of waterfowl (highlights = my first Ring-neck Ducks and Buffleheads of the season, a pair of American Wigeon, and 4 Northern Shovelers). From there I went to the Liberty Loop. I wanted to check for shorebirds at the south pond, so I headed towards Owen’s Station Road. As I turned onto the road, I saw bird on the side of the road. It was a Chukar; their range is out west, but they are sometimes released here as game birds. I’m not sure how commonly they are released locally, but I’d never seen one, so game bird or not, I was sort of excited.
I was only able to locate three species of shorebird in the south pond: Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, and Pectoral Sandpipers. The walks in and out weren’t very birdy, so I was on my way relatively quickly. On my way out, I saw the Chukar again, this time in the grass, so I stopped and got a few more shots. I made one last stop on the way home, at Skinner’s Lane. I was able to locate, but not photograph a Vesper Sparrow, and there were also some American Pipits around.
I was not schedule to be the counter at Mt. Peter Hawkwatch today. But, the day hadn’t been filled, so I volunteered to take it. I’m glad I did, because it was an excellent day. In spite of a completely cloudless blue sky, we tallied a total of 129 migrating raptors. We had a good variety of birds today, with eleven different species of migrating raptors, but it was the eagles that stole the show.
~Two young Bald Eagles migrating over Mt. Peter Hawkwatch, 10/17/20.~
The highlight of the day came during the 4th hour of the watch, when I picked up an immature GOLDEN EAGLE north of the platform, circling up and slowly gaining altitude. The bird was distant, but in the scope the white base of the tail with dark terminal and the white patches at the “hands” were well seen. Not to be outdone, the Bald Eagles had quite a showing as well, with 14 migrating birds counted. Ten of them were immature birds.
I’ve included my report at the bottom of this post. Huge thanks to Tom Millard, Denise Farrell, BA McGrath, and Jeff Zahn. Without their eyes, who knows how many birds would have been lost to that all blue sky today.
QUICK POST: I had a really good weekend of birding with some interesting images to share, but here it is Sunday night after a day on the mountain and I am drained. So, here is my report from Mount Peter today; I will post more about the weekend in the next couple of days.
Mt. Pete was a really productive today with over 150 migrating raptors. Raptor highlights for me included four Northern Harriers, which I love to see in migration, and nine Red-shouldered Hawks, a good day for that species. We also had over 100 skeins of Canada Geese, consisting of approximately 4,370 individuals. I love seeing that. Anyways, more about the weekend in a future post.
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.
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.
As I was heading out this morning, I drove along 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary, and I saw in the distance a pair of Red-tailed Hawks perched in a tree. They were about 15 feet apart, and in the perfect early morning light the difference between the larger female and the smaller male was quite obvious. It was a beautiful image, and for some reason I took this as an omen that it was going to be a good day.
Every once in a while you have a day where things fall into place. It started with a GREAT-HORNED OWL on a nice perch, sunning itself. Add to that several flocks of Snow Geese moving around the black dirt. The icing on the cake was a relatively low flyover by the GOLDEN EAGLE that has been in the area. Getting a better look and photos of this bird was my main goal today, so that was awesome. As the morning ended and crept into the afternoon, things slowed down, but still, I was happy to find a cooperative Red-tailed Hawk on a wire, a bunch of vultures on a deer carcass (not for everyone, but I love those birds and find them very photogenic), and a couple thousand Common Mergansers at Greenwood Lake. Heckuva day for sure.
My plan for the morning was to get outside and take a hike without worrying too much about getting any birds. I walked the trails near Reservoir 3 in Port Jervis. It was predictably quiet, but it was a pleasant walk in the woods on a cool, partly cloudy day. It wasn’t until I was on my way back that I started to think about getting some birds. Earlier, while I was hiking, Joyce Depew reported thousands of Snow Geese in the black dirt. On my way home, Ken McDermott followed up with another report of SNGOs in the fields off Onion Avenue. I figured I would stop by and check them out, especially because it was on my way home. Then, it got interesting: Bruce Nott reported a GOLDEN EAGLE flying over the Snow Geese, heading east.
I arrived at Onion Avenue convinced that I had missed any opportunity to see the Golden Eagle. But, as I got out of the car everyone was urging me to hurry up – I jumped on Bruce’s scope and sure enough there was the Golden Eagle circling in the distance! It wasn’t great timing (see Linda’s photos in this post), but it was pretty darn good! Another minute or so, and I would have completely missed the bird. Exciting birding!
I spent some time this morning in the black dirt, and then this evening at the Hudson River. Raptors were the most noteworthy birds I had; I saw a total of 8 species: Red-tailed Hawk, Northern Harrier, Rough-legged Hawk, American Kestrel, Great-horned Owl, Bald Eagle, Golden Eagle, and Barred Owl. So, it seems appropriate that on a day where I did pretty well for raptors, I would post this year’s end of season report for migrating raptors at Mount Peter Hawkwatch. The report was written, as usual, by MPH leader Judy Cinquina. Huge thanks to Judy for sharing.
MOUNT PETER 2019 By Judith Cinquina
Despite record Bald Eagles and a good buteo turnout, Mount Peter’s 62nd annual fall hawk watch recorded disappointing numbers for many species of concern in 2019. The 74-day count, from September 1 through November 15, produced a healthy 9,800 raptors, averaging 20.4 hawks per hour. But Broad-winged Hawks comprised 75% of that final tally, while the Northern Harrier, Sharp-shinned Hawk and American Kestrel flight dropped below average. Fortunately, near record Golden Eagles brought a bit of warmth to the cold and windy end of the season.
A slightly above average 7,360 Broad-wings were detected over the lookout, most mere specks out on the edge of visibility, between September 16 and 19. Volunteer Tom Millard managed to score a Broadwing trifecta, single-handedly counting 1,395 after other volunteers had left on the 16th, between 3 and 5 pm. He then popped up to the lookout the next morning to help count the 539 leaving a nearby roost between 9 and 10 am. And finally he joined Ajit and Liza Antony and Jeanne Cimorelli on the 18th, to help score our best Broadwing day of 2,096. Most or 1,300 were noted between 3 and 4 pm.
Red-shouldered Hawks had their second best year ever with 203 recorded, just under our 213 record set in 2018: 100 adult, 22 immature, 81 unknown. 160 Red-tails also took advantage of the winds on the 8th. Their final tally was an average 443. Note: the chart includes counts from 1980-2016 but not the last two record fall counts. Denise Farrell grabbed our best flight of 25 on November 8th on very strong NW winds. Chart from RPI (Raptor Population Index).
Sharp-shinned Hawk numbers were down across the Northeast. Our 693 count (not shown on chart) was our second lowest since the watch was extended into November in 1978 and was 55% lower than our 10-year average. 82 Cooper’s Hawks was also below average, and the Goshawk was a no-show. Chart from RPI.
After a healthy bounce last season, American Kestrels managed a below average 85 this season: 12 male, 19 female and 54 unknown. Our best day was a mere 14, September 24 on moderate NW winds. Not a falcon year for us, the Merlin with 8 and the Peregrine with 14 were also below average.
What’s up with Osprey? They’re reportedly breeding successfully in the Northeast, yet numbers are down over the lookouts. Our 123 count was below average. Although 11 moved through with the large Broad-wing push, September 18, Matt Zeitler nabbed the best count of 12 on lazy south winds, the 28th.
After a terrible showing last season, the N. Harrier continued its decline, with 27 sighted, 66% lower than its 10-year average: 7 male, 6 female, 4 immature, and 10 unknown.
Eagles sustained our volunteers through the entire watch, with record Bald and near record Golden counts. Our first ever two-digit count of Bald Eagles was 12 in 1988. Then in 2012 we tallied our first triple-digit count of 130. That record was crushed this season, with a tally of 163: 114 adult, 47 immature and 2 unknown. Will Test pulled in the best day with a record 30 noted on November 3 on moderate W winds. The flight began low and moved southwest early. Later in the morning and early afternoon, the eagles were higher and in small groups or pairs that headed west towards the Kittatinny Mountains. To confuse the issue, 12 local Balds were noted but not counted that day. Will and six other leaders were rewarded with Golden Eagle sightings. Matt Zeitler and Ajit and Liza Antony scored the best days with two, November 2, 9 and 13. The 9 counted, 5 adult and 4 immature, was our second best tally since the record 10 was made in 1994.
Vulture numbers were above average, Black -136 and Turkey-426. Ken Witkowski garnered a record day with 123 Turkeys, October 26. We had two or three local Common Ravens, but Denise Farrell noted eight migrating past the lookout November 8. It’s interesting that 10 went through last year on the 10th.
A healthy 1,607 Monarchs migrated past the lookout, quadrupling the number counted last season. The good news is our count is now part of a country-wide annual Monarch survey. A mere 16 Ruby-throated Hummingbirds were noted in September. Once again, Denise netted our biggest Canada Goose day with 860, November 1. 5,245 were counted for the season. Denise also noted the only Brant, with 500, October 18 and 345 more, November 1. The sole Snow Goose reports came from Ajit and Liza Antony, with 85 “glinting in the sun” November 6 and 615 more, the 13th .
Other birds of interest: Perhaps, the most exciting and the rarest was the Parasitic Jaeger I observed just over the treetops, heading from NE to SSE, October 15, around 10:15 DST on light NW winds. It disappeared behind the trees, and I suspect it headed towards Greenwood Lake. It had a strong, gull-like wingbeat, husky chest, long-squared-off tail, and a rounded head. Peregrine-sized, it was a mottled dark gray and was probably an immature.
September 16 3 C. Nighthawks, 2 more 9/23 (Tom Millard & Elizabeth McGrath)
October 11 450 Double-crested Cormorants (Denise Farrell)
November 2 – (2) Purple Finch (Matt Zeitler)
3 – (8) Sandhill Cranes over valley to the west (Will Test)
8 – flock of 30 Snow Buntings (spotted by Tim Vogel)
11 – a Woodcock flushed from trail near platform (Tom Millard)
Our 11 volunteer leaders could not have produced these results without the help of friends and visitors who helped spot in-coming and kept us sane during the lulls, especially Bill Connolly, John and Liz Sherry and Rob Stone. A welcome back to Beverly Robertson, and a big thanks to sharp-eyed Jeanne Cimorelli who popped up whenever she could. Kudos to our clean-up crew: Ajit and Liza Antony, Mike Buckley, Denise Farrell, Ken Witkowski, Chris Vogel, and especially to Tom Millard who repaired the platform and Will Test who went the extra mile and with Tom spent an afternoon cleaning up a mess. As always we are indebted to our sponsors, the Fyke Nature Association of Bergen County, NJ who supplied our insurance and to Fyke and all of you who supported our site on hawkcount.org. Our wish for our 63rd watch is a new road up to our lot and an unobstructed view to our SE from our platform. As always we remain the oldest, continually run, all-volunteer fall watch in the country.
On Saturday I was mostly out of commission as I had a wedding to attend in Westchester County. I say mostly because between the church and the reception we had some time to kill, so Tricia and I made a stop at Five Islands Park in New Rochelle. I was hoping for Monk Parakeets, but alas we didn’t have any luck with them. It was the third time I’ve been to that park and still I haven’t seen the Monk Parakeets.
On Sunday I got up early and checked my emails. An Iceland Gull had been reported in Westchester County, not far from Croton Point Park. I figured I could make the morning of it by heading over to try for the gull and then bird the park afterwards. I didn’t have any luck with the gull, but I got lucky in another way. I ran into another birder, the original locator of the Iceland Gull. He is a long time birder/naturalist from New York City. We checked for the gull near the Boathouse Restaurant and the neighboring park and then he showed where he had originally located the bird at the Croton Point Park train station. I had never birded that spot, even though I knew of it, so it was good to get the lay of the land. He shared stories of his birding over the years; he had seen some really amazing local birds and he also had gone on some amazing birding trips. He showed me a photograph that he took of a Spoon-billed Sandpiper in full breeding plumage back in 1995 on a film camera; it was unbelievable and made me want to cry. What a bird. Anyways, my takeaway from it was that there is an awful lot of birding out there, be it locally or even more so if you are willing to travel. It made me look forward to when I can look back on 30++ years of my own birding adventures…