The good thing about not being able to bird all week is that I am really appreciating my birding time when I get it, down to the littlest things, such as that beautiful feeling of putting my binoculars up to my eyes and focusing in on a bird; it’s a joy. The bad thing (or at least one bad thing among the many), is that I feel out of practice. This is my second week of no weekday birding and I’ve had the same feeling both weekends, where I was just a little bit out of sorts and not really quick to ID birds.
Additionally, you would think that, since I didn’t have the opportunity to bird all week, that I might come up with a plan for my Saturday morning when I finally can get out. But I didn’t. So I just headed out and cruised the black dirt; my main goal was to try and find some Canada Geese to sort through. The morning was mostly a dud; my highlight was watching in my scope, as an absolutely gorgeous Coyote made its way across a field in the distance. That was awesome. I also bumped into John Haas, who I hadn’t seen in a while, so that was nice. We sorted through the largest group of Canada Geese that I had all morning (maybe 600 birds?). Unfortunately, we came up empty and I was running late to meet up with Linda Lou at the Bashakill to do water testing, so I had to run. While I was doing the water testing, John put out an alert that he had a CACKLING GOOSE on route 416 by Hillcrest Farms. After water testing and little lunch, I headed out into the rain and ran for John’s Cackler. It took me ages to find the bird, but eventually I did. It was a really good stop and I got really great looks in my scope and the usual goose documentary photographs. Huge thanks to John for finding and posting.
After, I thought it might be a good idea to try for more waterfowl. I headed to Tomahawk Lake, since it wasn’t far away. I had: Common Mergansers, Ruddy Ducks, and a single Ring-necked Duck there. Then, I headed to Round Lake. I went there because there is a covered spot for viewing the lake, since the rain had picked up pretty good at that point. At Round Lake I had 4 species of waterfowl: Mallards, a single Ruddy Duck, two Pied-billed Grebes, and three Greater Scaup that were close enough to shore for some decent photos (rain and horrible lighting aside). By the time I left Round Lake, it was late and dark already. I was going to head to Glenmere Lake, but that will have to wait until tomorrow…
My weekend of birding started early on Saturday morning. Following up on a tip from Rob Stone, I headed out to Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge’s Liberty Marsh. When I arrived, birding bud Linda Scrima was already there, viewing the main part of the marsh from the viewing platform. We walked out to view the pond north of Oil City Road, where a beautiful sight awaited us – 36 PECTORAL SANDPIPERS were huddled together in beautiful morning light. We took photos and scanned for more shorebirds. A single bird flew in and joined the Pecs – it was a WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER! Further scanning revealed two distant Wilson’s Snipe and another distant bird that I identified in the field as a Semipalmated Sandpiper, but in retrospect, with the bird being so far out, it is maybe best left unidentified. I had to get up to Mount Peter for hawkwatch, so we headed back to the parking lot. We took one last look at the pond in front of the platform and found yet more shorebirds – 7 Greater Yellowlegs and nearly a dozen Lesser Yellowlegs! What a great morning for shorebirds in OC!
Hawkwatch was once again a bust for me – so far, I am snake bitten this season for sure. I even had the big guns up to help me (Judy Cinquina and Denis Ferrell, fellow Mt. Pete counters), but it didn’t matter, the birds were not flying on this day. Jeff and Elizabeth Zahn visited and turned their (and mine) hawkwatch luck around. We had 12 of my 19 birds in the hour or so while they were there, including a pair of beautiful adult Red-shouldered Hawks that flew directly over the platform. The biggest news during hawkwatch had nothing to do with hawks at all – Maria Loukeris had located and photographed a SAY’S PHOEBE out at Liberty Marsh! She could barely believe it and she sent out photos to confirm the ID. Once confirmed, several folks went out for the bird but it was not relocated. I had plans directly after hawkwatch, so my search for the Says would have to wait until Sunday morning…
So, Sunday morning I went to Liberty Marsh to try for the the Say’s Phoebe. This time when I arrived, Scotty Baldinger was at the viewing platform. It was great to see Scotty (it always is!) and, in spite of not relocating the SAPH, we had a fabulous morning of birding. Sparrows were abundant and we had 5 species: Savannah, Song, White-throated, Swamp, and my FOS WHITE-CROWNED SPARROWS. Other highlights included a flock of over 40 American Pipits flying over our heads and landing in a field. Initially it did not look like we would do any good for shorebirds, but on our way back I spotted a flock in flight. There was an adult Peregrine Falcon in the area, we had just seen it earlier, and I’m guessing it was keeping them on their toes. The birds eventually put down in the pond north of Oil City Road – it was the same flock of Pectoral Sandpipers with the White-rumped Sandpiper. The flock was jumpy and took laps around the pond, allowing for some decent photo ops. They eventually left that pond and put down in the marsh south of Oil City Road; we were unable to relocate them. One last look from the viewing platform got us one Greater Yellowlegs and 3 Lessers. Scotty and I parted ways; I hit a couple other spots before heading home, but they were not as productive. What an excellent weekend of birding! I feel like I need it.
I received a text from Linda Scrima while I was at work today – she had located a NELSON’S SPARROW at the Liberty Loop! After work I headed straight to the loop. This is only the second record of a NESP in Orange County, and as I was driving, I was hoping that I would have better luck than I did with the first one: It was mid-October in 2013, and Rob Stone had located one at the Citgo Pond; I went for that bird several times and never got it.
When I arrived at the loop, Linda was there with Karen Miller and Lance Verderame. They had just seen the bird but it was back down in the grasses. Almost immediately it took a short flight, but I did not pick up any field marks. I waited it out and eventually the bird perched up right in front of us for maybe 10 seconds – enough time for me to get a good look, but certainly not enough time for a photo. I was so excited! I didn’t let myself think that I would actually get the bird this time around, so I was pretty happy. I’m hoping the bird sticks around, I would love to get better looks and maybe some photos. too. Huge thanks to Linda, who just keeps finding great birds in the county.
SUPER QUICK POST: I had loads to do tonight to get ready for my Vermont golf trip, but made it out to the black dirt this evening because conditions seemed ripe for good shorebirds. I was happily surprised beyond what I would have hoped for. On Skinners Lane, I located a really great collection of shorebirds, all in a single field: 12 Black-bellied Plover, 43 American Golden-Plover, 10 Killdeer, 1 Greater Yellowlegs, 4 Lesser Yellowlegs and definitely the best bird of the day, 5 SANDERLINGS.
I put the word out and Linda Scrima and Rob Stone both joined me to enjoy the birds. Excellent OC birding!
QUICK POST: While at work today, Bill Fiero reported to the Mearns Bird Club App a GLOSSY IBIS at Citgo Pond. I made plans with Linda Scrima to meet there after work and go for the bird. When we first got there, it appeared that the bird had moved on, but eventually we located it on the far side of the pond hanging out with the Mallards and the Canada Geese. We were able to get some documentary photos; the lighting was terrible and the bird was pretty distant. Meanwhile, I was also scanning the shorebirds present. Numbers were up considerably, with over 20 Lesser Yellowlegs present, a couple of Semipalmated Sandpipers, a handful of Least Sandpipers, a single Killdeer and the shorebird of the day… a half dozen dowitchers. I think they are likely SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHERS. I’m sort of playing the odds here because the time is right for SBDO rather than Long-billed, but also, the birds do not appear to be overly humpbacked and their undersides do not seem to be as solidly marked as found in LBDO. Please comment if you have any thoughts on the accurate identification of these birds – thanks. What a great evening of birding, I sort of wasn’t really expecting it! Huge thanks to Bill for locating and reporting the GLIB.
After work today, I went out in the rain and checked the Black Dirt for shorebirds. Right where I had a single Upland Sandpiper last Wednesday, today I located a pair of them. The big difference is that this time around the birds were pretty close to the road, AND I had my camera, so I was able to get some decent shots. I put the word out and Linda Scrima was able to join me.
We photographed the birds from our cars for a while, until I saw a white bird fly across one of the fields. I jumped out of my car and snapped some shots. It was a swallow of some sort; I am guessing leucistic rather than albino since there was hints of brown on the underside of the bird. It was flying with a single Barn Swallow, so I am guessing that it might be one as well. Any thoughts on the ID of this swallow, please comment.
QUICK POST: This morning I ran to Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge’s Liberty Marsh to see the juvenile LITTLE BLUE HERON that Linda Scrima had relocated (the bird was originally reported to eBird yesterday by Ken Witkowski). Linda had put the word out, so several other local birders also got to see the bird: Joyce DePew, Kathy Ashman, Karen Miller, John Haas, and Scotty Baldinger were all present as some point while I was there. The bird spent most of it’s time conveniently right in front of the viewing platform, out maybe 75 feet or so. It did relocate a couple of time and at one point it came back to the pool in front of the viewing platform; as it came in, it snagged a large frog mid-flight! I’ve never seen a wader do that before! Check out the bottom pic in this post to see it. Huge thanks to Linda for finding the bird and for getting the word out. More good OC birding!
…to me! This evening, on my 48th birthday, I located my 200th bird of the year in Orange County – an UPLAND SANDPIPER! The heavy rains this afternoon cancelled my golf game, so I headed to the black dirt to look for birds. Honestly, my expectations were low, but when I located this uppy, I was totally thrilled. What an excellent bird for #200! Unfortunately I did not have my camera with me, so I relied on digiscoping to document the bird. I watched the bird for a good while, and having put the word out, eventually Dick Riley and Karen Miller both showed up to get the bird. Good OC birding!
Put the summer doldrums on hold for a minute! With last night’s rainfall, I was optimistic that we might get a good bird today. Kyle Dudgeon and I were only half-joking about the outside possibility of a Roseate Spoonbill, since they’ve had one in New Jersey recently. Then I received a text from Linda Scrima – with an attached eBird report for a SNOWY EGRET at Citgo Pond, reported by a Kevin McGann at 8:23 this morning! I met Linda there after work to check it out; we were doubtful that the report would be accurate, not knowing Kevin McGann and having been burned on several inaccurate SNEG reports in recent years. We walked out to the pond, and sure enough there was a SNOWY EGRET! We put out the word and several birders were able to come join us in viewing the bird. Other highlights included hearing a Cooper’s Hawk calling from the trees (only my second time hearing the “kac, kac, kac” call), my first Lesser Yellowlegs in a couple of weeks, 10 (!) Green Herons, and a Red Fox on the far side of the shore, located by Kathy Ashman and Karen Miller.
QUICK POST: Well, Rob Stone strikes again. This evening he somehow managed to relocate the five immature WHITE IBIS that had been reported in Orange County earlier this week, but had not been seen for several days (I thought those birds were long gone!). I, of course, ran for the birds and when I arrived, Rob got me on them immediately. They appeared to be getting ready to roost in the treetops on the shore of Wickham Lake. I have to say that seeing WHIB, in Orange County, in the treetops, just blew me away. It was so awesome! Linda Scrima showed up shortly after I did, and then Curt McDermott and Karen Miller not long after her. Curt had been Kayaking at Glenmere Lake, so he had his kayak. I was really excited when he pretty much insisted that I get the first run in the kayak to get some photographs while the light was still good. I paddled out and got great looks at the two birds at the very top of the trees and, of course, clicked away. Huge thanks to Rob for relocating the birds and to Curt for the kayak. What a night!