I went out and walked the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge’s Liberty Loop trail to follow up on an eBird report of a Short-billed Dowitcher in the Sussex County portion of the trail. I relocated the SBDO, but I also was fortunate enough to find a STILT SANDPIPER. The bird was feeding most of the time I saw it, head going up and down like a sewing machine. I was feeling lazy and walked the trail without hauling my scope with me, and I really regretted it as the birds were far enough out to make IDing them with binoculars tough. The pond was loaded with shorebirds, in addition to the STSA and the SBDO I also had Least Sandpipers, Killdeer, Lesser Yellowlegs, Greater Yellowlegs, Solitary Sandpipers, and Pectoral Sandpipers. Other highlights included a quick look at a young Black-crowned Night-Heron and a beautiful male Northern Harrier hunting over the marsh.
I have to thank Linda Scrima for motivating me this afternoon. I had not come up with a birding plan for the afternoon, and I was feeling a bit uninspired. Earlier in the day, Linda had gone for the Yellow-breasted Chats that had been reported at the Appalachian Trail off the Canal Road bike path in Vernon Township, New Jersey. At that time, she texted a recording of one of the chats calling, but I was unable to listen to it while I was working. Once I was out for the afternoon, I listened to it and I immediately knew I had to run for the birds; it really got me excited to see a chat! When I first arrived, I could hear at least one bird calling, but distant. I stood in the shade and waited it out; the calls came closer and eventually I located the bird as it took a nice high perch and called repeatedly. The bird was a little bit distant, but in perfect light, so I was able to get decent shots (with a very heavy crop). I stayed for a little over an hour and I was only sure of having one chat. Interestingly, it is seven days shy of a year since I had a pair of chats at this same location last summer.
I was a little bit at a loss as to where to bird this weekend. I ran around to multiple locations on Saturday and did not have many birds at all. I ended the day with a stop at the Shawangunk Grasslands NWR, where I ran into Karen Miller. It was a nice evening but not a good one for photos. We had 4 Short-eared Owls, 6 Northern Harriers, 2 Red-tailed Hawks, and my personal highlight – a Wilson’s Snipe.
This morning I walked the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge’s Liberty Loop with Maria Loukeris. It was beautiful, warm morning and it was a birdy walk but all the birds we saw were expected species. I had a three target birds – Brown Creeper, Fox Sparrow (I need both for my 2015 Orange County list), and Rough-legged Hawk (because typically I would seen many of them by now). I failed to locate any of my target birds, but we had a nice walk where we had 27 species. I’ve included the morning’s list of birds below.
Here’s my list for the morning:
American Black Duck
American Tree Sparrow
I’ve had a busy weekend, but I did get manage to get out and do some birding early Saturday morning. I met Maria Loukeris over at the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge, and we walked the Liberty Loop trail. It was a gorgeous morning, crisp with nice light and just a little bit of a breeze. We found plenty of birds to make the walk interesting, but I did not manage to see any of my target birds – Brown Creeper, Fox Sparrow, and Rusty Blackbird, all three of which I need for Orange County for this year. The highlight of the morning for me was seeing hundreds of waterfowl (Canada Geese, American Black Ducks, Mallards, Northern Pintails, and Green-winged Teals) pick up, circle around the refuge and then put back down again. We did alright with raptors with a Turkey Vulture, several Northern Harriers, an adult Bald Eagle, and 3 Red-tailed Hawks. My list for the day includes 26 species; nothing amazing, but it still made for a nice morning of birding that I was grateful to have.
American Black Duck
American Tree Sparrow
It was a rainy, wet and cold day for starters. I woke up early with the plan to get out early before heading up to Mt. Peter for my Saturday hawkwatch. I wanted to go to Owens Station Crossing to try for the tern I saw last night and also to try for the Red-necked Phalarope that Ken Witkowski had reported seeing in the back pool of the Liberty Loop. As I drove through a pretty steady rain, I was surprised to get a call from Maria Loukeris; she and Linda Scrima were already at Owens Station Crossing and wanted to try for the phalarope. And Marianne O. was on her way. Four birders out on the worst rainy morning in recent memory? Sounds good to me!
Shortly after arriving at Owens Station Crossing, I relocated the tern in the distance, perched on a stump in the lake. The tern flew for us one time (before I even had my camera out!!), but it gave us some good looks, coming closer in decent light. We were in agreement that the bird was likely a COMMON TERN. Perched, the bird did not stand tall and appeared to have a short neck, a hint of a dark carpal bar could be seen, dark primary/wing edges were very apparent, and the tail did not extending past wingtips. In flight, the wings were strongly angled back, and showed a dark trailing edge on the primaries.
We headed down the trail that leads to the back pond of the Liberty Loop. Shortly after arriving, Marianne located a Short-billed Dowitcher. Linda was the only one with a camera out due to the steady, continuing rain and she provided me with a photo of the bird. We continued to scan for quite a while, getting very wet and cold. Eventually, I located the RED-NECKED PHALAROPE in my scope! Marianne got on it quickly with her scope and Linda got a quick look in my scope, but unfortunately the bird disappeared into some grasses before Maria got her turn on a scope. It took a while to relocate the bird; when Marianne finally did, Maria got a look and we all got some better looks, but they were by no means good looks, through wet lenses and the bird coming and going through the vegetation. This was a life bird for both Maria and Linda, congrats to them both!
When we got back to the Owens Station Crossing parking lot, we could not relocate the Common Tern; had it moved on already? The weather was trying to break at this point, but the rain continued, just a little lighter than before.
I went home and changed into some dry clothes. It appeared that the rain might stop, so I was going to head to Mt. Peter. Once on the road, it became clear that it was still raining pretty good. Kyle Dudgeon was home from college for the weekend, we exchanged texts and decided to try to get the phalarope for him. We tried for a while at the back pond of the Liberty Loop, but we were unable to relocate the bird, even with the help of a Sussex County birder named Kevin who was out for the bird as well. Kyle and I decided to hit the black dirt to try for shorebirds (me) and raptors (Kyle). We were successful in both searches. American Kestrels were extremely numerous, we didn’t keep count but figured by the evening that we had seen over 30 kestrels! We also saw several Northern Harriers including one Gray Ghost, and we had one immature Bald Eagle fly over. For shorebirds we struggled for the most part with not many being seen, but eventually Kyle’s young eyes located three birds I am thinking might have been BLACK-BELLIED PLOVERS; I’ve included a photo of one them below. And then a little later, way out in a field he spotted 23 AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVERS! (Several of these birds lifted their wings to show wing pits that were not dark). What a day of birding! Crazy weather and awesome birds; it’s usually a good combination.
This evening after work, I was birding the black dirt when I got a call from Marianne O., who told me that a Red-necked Phalarope had been reported at the back pond of the Liberty Loop at Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge. The quickest way to the back pond is to park at Owen’s Station Crossing and head into the loop from there. I hustled over and parked. I figured I should check the lake there before heading towards the loop. When I did, I saw a tern flying in the furthest part of the lake. I grabbed my gear and headed towards that end of the lake for a closer look and to take some photos. It was raining pretty steadily and getting dark very quickly. Marianne eventually joined me, and unfortunately, we were both stumped in attempting to identify this tern. I’ve put out a few emails looking for some help, but the photos are so poor that I’m not sure they will help. When Marianne and I left at sunset, the bird was still perched out in the lake. I plan on returning first thing in the morning to try and get a better look. If anyone has any thoughts on this bird, please contact me or comment – thanks!
QUICK POST: I hope folks are not sick of shorebirds – I am obsessed with them. I made it out to Liberty Loop back pond at the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge tonight looking for shorebirds. I entered from the south via Owens Station Road, so I did not check the west side of the loop for shorebirds. The shorebird highlight of the afternoon was getting a pretty good look at one of the 5 Wilson’s Snipe that I had for the day. Here’s my list:
Lesser Yellowlegs 1
Solitary Sandpiper 1
Least Sandpiper 40
Pectoral Sandpiper 7
Wilson’s Snipe 5
QUICK POST: I had a birdy visit this morning to the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge’s Liberty Loop Trail. The cool weather made for a pleasant walk and the clear skies helped with some nice light for photos. Birds are certainly on the move and I did pretty well with warblers (for me!) on the west side of the loop. Shorebird numbers seemed up to me, with a good number found on the west side of the loop (in addition to the back pond). My best shorebird was a single juvenile Semipalmated Plover located in the back pond. All in all, a good morning of birding with over 50 species seen or heard. I’ve included my species list at the bottom of this post.
Great Blue Heron
Eastern Wood Pewee
Great Crested Flycatcher
Black-throated Green W.
*Click on photos to enlarge*
I spent a good part of the day on Saturday checking many of the usual spots for shorebirds, but the only spot that had any noticeable developments was the Citgo Trail at 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary, where the highlight was 4 PECTORAL SANDPIPERS (Thanks John Haas for the heads up on the PESAs):
Semipalmated Plover 1
Lesser Yellowlegs 5
Least Sandpiper 15
Pectoral Sandpiper 4
Semipalmated Sandpiper 1
Sunday morning I woke up not entirely sure of where I wanted to go birding, so I ended up doing the usual and walking the Liberty Loop at Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge. It has been the hottest spot recently and the large variety of birds that are possible is always appealing. When I first arrived, I spent some time at the viewing platform with Kevin Kreischer where we photographed the usual cast of characters that have been found there lately: Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, a Green Heron, and single Black-crowned Night Heron that did a perfect flyby for photos, but sadly, Kevin and I were both caught off guard and missed it. A little later the Green heron did the same, a little further out and I did a little better with that:
As I walked the loop with hopes of some shorebird magic in the back pond, it was quite birdy with a good showing of passerines that are on the move: I had a good number of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks (8), Ruby-throated Hummingbirds (12), and Blue-gray Gnatcatchers (7). The back pond was disappointing: only Lesser Yellowlegs (5), Killdeer (7), and Least Sandpipers (9) were present as far as shorebirds go.
As I was leaving the back pond, I was pleasantly surprised to find a Green Heron perched in the tree on the right side of the trail. I was already pretty close to the bird by the time I saw it; I wasn’t sure why it hadn’t flushed yet. Then I noticed that it was watching something overhead; the following shots show the bird’s reaction to a Turkey Vulture that was circling not too high overhead:
My best bird of the day was actually a pair of birds: YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOOS. They were located on the west side of the loop, just south of “Mosquito Alley”. Cuckoos are truly one of my favorite birds and it has been a frustrating year where I have heard many, many cuckoos but not gotten a really good look at one. It was a really enjoyable morning of birding with several good photo ops and a good number of birds, with total of 46 species on my list.
I went looking for shorebirds at 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary in the evening. I walked out to the pond at the Citgo Trail and found only a handful of shorebirds there. Then I walked the Heritage Trail, and all the shorebirds were on that side of the sanctuary. It was tough to get a handle on the number of birds out there, the birds were distant and moving around a lot, plus it’s tough to get clear looks from the trail these days because it’s so overgrown. I guesstimate 40+ Least Sandpipers, 15+ Killdeer, 3 Pectoral Sandpipers, and 4 Lesser Yellowlegs.
I drove through a heavy fog this morning, heading out to the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge – Liberty Loop, so I was pleasantly surprised that there was very little fog present when I pulled into the parking area. I was even more pleased to see the above Green Heron striking a pose on the measuring stick just to the left of the viewing platform.
I started to think that it might be a good morning when I got over to the platform and saw a Black-crowned Night-Heron hunting just across the water. I had taken some initial photos of the bird and gotten great looks in my binoculars, when Bruce Nott arrived. Shortly after his arrival, Bruce was scanning the marsh when he picked up a Peregrine Falcon in flight. Bruce alerted me and I was able to pick up the bird as it passed right in front of the platform:
Before heading out to walk the loop, we enjoyed seeing the large group of Great Egrets and Great Blue Herons that have been regulars lately out in front of the platform, especially first thing in the morning. We also had a second Green Heron, several Least Sandpipers, and 2 Lesser Yellowlegs.
We walked the loop and it was quite birdy with many active birds. In the back pond, the shorebird count was a little bit disappointing with only Least Sandpipers, Killdeer, and a single Lesser Yellowlegs being seen. The west side of the loop was a highlight of the loop, with many active passerines being seen or heard. Highlights for me included super looks at: Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Red-eyed Vireos, Common Yellowthroats, American Redstarts, and Ruby-throated Hummingbirds (several of each!). It was a super morning of birding, and although we didn’t exactly beat the heat (we were out there until 11:00 am), it was totally worth the sweat. By my count we had a total of 46 species for the morning.