The past couple of days I enjoyed getting out in the mornings; both days were birdy enough to keep it interesting. On Saturday I went to Port Jervis. Laurel Grove Cemetery was a bust, but Elks Brox had a good number of birds. It was mostly the usuals or birds I’ve already gotten this year, but I was able to pick up two new birds for the year: Swainson’s Thrush and Gray-cheeked Thrush. I’ve included shots of each below. See my Elks Brox report here.
This morning I went to Goosepond Mountain in an effort to spend some time in my NYSBBA priority block. I was hoping to confirm any breeding species (I didn’t), but I particularly wanted to follow up on the Broad-winged Hawks I saw there a few weeks back (also a fail – unfortunately no sign of them). The highlight of my morning was hearing a WHITE-EYED VIREO just off the trail. The little bugger was stubborn though, and I never laid eyes on it. That’s the second WEVI I’ve heard but not seen this weekend! (The first was at Sterling Forest SP on Saturday). In spite of the above frustrations, it was actually a great walk with plenty of birds (45 species) and very few people.
I can’t imagine many other birders feel this way, but warblers stress me out. Every spring I worry that I’m not going to be at the right place, on the right day, at the right time, and poof all the migrating warblers will be gone. It’s never happened, I always get my share, but this is what I do. Fortunately, today I was in the right place at the right time. After a relatively uneventful visit to Pochuck Mountain early this morning, I headed to Laurel Grove Cemetery, where I met up with Linda Scrima.
In spite of our late(ish) arrival, the place was hopping. And the birds lingered into the late morning, an unusual occurence at this location. We had a total of 13 species of warbler, highlighted by several Cape May Warblers, at least six Bay-breasted Warblers, a couple of Blackburnian Warblers, at least a couple of Magnolia Warblers, and a single Canada Warbler. Other good birds included Blue-headed Vireo, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Least Flycatchers (2), and I got my first Eastern Kingbird of the year. We had a total of 42 species for the morning, and some decent photos to boot.
After a pretty disappointing day of birding on Saturday, I was happy to have a pleasant and birdy walk at Pochuck Mountain State Park this morning. It was a sunny and cool morning, and had the place almost completely to myself; when I arrived there were no turkey hunter’s vehicles in the lot at all, my only contact with anyone was a single mountain biker on the trail briefly. I had a total of 31 species, which is just slightly above average for me at this location in early May. Highlights included 8 species of warbler (Ovenbird, Worm-eating, Nashville, Common Yellowthroat, Northern Parula, Chestnut-sided, Black-throated Blue, and Black-throated Green), Yellow-throated Vireo, my first Baltimore Orioles of the year, and probably my best photo op of a Pileated Woodpecker to date.
This evening, Tricia and I were sitting on the back deck having a cocktail. Tricia stepped inside for something and I took the opportunity to check out a wren that was making a racket on the far side of one of the evergreens. I made my way around, but I couldn’t locate the bird until it flushed into the neighbor’s yard. Meanwhile, the wren was replaced with another bird – I got my bins on it and was very surprised to see it was a LINCOLN’S SPARROW!
I didn’t have my camera with me, so, barely moving a muscle I reached into my pocket and quietly called Tricia. Thankfully she answered immediately; I asked her to bring me my camera. I kept my eye on the bird while Tricia smoothly walked the camera out to me; the bird hadn’t moved an inch! I clicked away like mad, I was shaking from the excitement, so I knew there would be a lot of throwaways. The bird changed its perch one time before disappearing behind the evergreen and we never saw it again. Lincoln’s Sparrow in my back yard! I’m still floored by this!
In spite of a late start, I had an excellent morning of birding at Goosepond Mountain State Park. I walked for over 3 1/2 hours and it was quite productive. I had a total of 41 species, 12 of which were year birds for me. Highlights included: BLUE-HEADED VIREO, BLUE-WINGED WARBLER, BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER, BLACK-THROATED GREEN WARBLER, and BLACK-THROATED BLUE WARBLER. I also had a pair of Broad-winged Hawks, deep in the woods. On my way out, I had one with a fresh kill (chipmunk). On my way back I watched as the two birds copulated high in the trees. It was pretty cool.
I also had a couple of interesting yard birds this week. Who knew what I’ve been missing by going in to work every day? Working from home certainly has its advantages.
On Saturday, I had my first day as official counter at Mt. Peter for the season. I’m cutting back a little this year and not doing every Saturday, so when the schedule came out in August and I saw I had the 14th of September, I was excited – primetime for Broad-winged Hawks! Little did I know then that conditions and weather would conspire against me to deliver my least productive day of counting at Mt. Pete ever. I had a paltry 2 (!) migrating raptors all day. It rained periodically. Even the local Red-tailed Hawks and vultures took the day off for the most part. On the positive side, I did have a Broad-winged Hawk perched in the parking lot when I arrived, as well as a nice mixed flock of warblers that worked the area all day (Yellow-rumped, Northern Parula, Black-throated Green, Black-and-white, and American Redstart).
On Sunday I went to the Winding Waters trail at Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge to try for warblers. I did alright, in spite of a late start, with 9 species of warbler:
Black-throated Green Warbler
I also spend some time at Mt. Peter, where the birds were actually flying on Sunday. It wasn’t an amazing flight, but there were enough birds to keep it interesting. And I was able to get a Broad-winged Hawk in flight. All in all, not a bad weekend for birding in the OC.
After work this evening I stopped again at Silver Mine Lake in Harriman State Park. The first time I visited the lake, prior to my post from last weekend, I had over 160 swallows on the wires at the boat launch. But, it was absolutely pouring rain and I was unable to document what I felt, in spite of the poor lighting conditions, was mostly CLIFF SWALLOWS. Linda Scrima went yesterday and had a similar experience – loads of swallows on the wires in terrible rainy conditions. I stopped after work but unfortunately there were not that many swallow present and I counted only 38 CLSWs. But tonight, I went back…
… and it was a different story. When I arrived there were many swallows present. I immediately counted 51 Cliff Swallows on the wires in the parking area. Then I went down to the boat launch and my best count in one sweep was a remarkable 172 Cliff Swallows! That was counting only the birds I felt confident about; I left many birds unidentified. Also present were approximately a dozen Barn Swallows, several each of Tree Swallows and Bank Swallows, and a single Northern Rough-winged Swallow. I digiscoped some video through my scope in an effort to try and document; it’s long (over 5 minutes) and poorly shot, but if interested, you can link to that video on Youtube here. I also took many pics; I’ve included several here. By the way, I went to the lake twice this week, during the week, and did not have to pay to park.
I got out early this morning to try and beat the heat and headed out to Harriman State Park for a hike. I parked at the parking area between Lake Askoti and Lake Skanatati and hiked a loop that ended up being just under 7 miles long. I’ve included a screenshot of my eBird track at the bottom of this post. As always, I was hoping to come across something super exciting on the trail. Unfortunately that was not the case, but it was a really nice hike with absolutely loads of the expected birds and I totalled 52 species of birds.
Highlights included several Yellow-throated Vireos (always a personal fav), my first Blue-winged Warblers in a while, and a singing Hooded Warbler that I never got my eyes on. Probably the most entertaining moment was coming across a Northern Mockingbird, WAY out in the trail, and listening to it run through a very extensive and impressive repertoire of bird songs. My favorite was when it did the Eastern Whip-poor-will call almost perfectly.
As an aside, Harriman State Park is a really great place to be from say 6:00 am until maybe 10:00 am at the latest. By then, the hoards of people have arrived. From the trail I could hear the roaring motorcycles and speed racers. At one point the police got involved and I could hear their sirens and then they were using some sort of megaphone; I couldn’t make out what they were saying. So, not exactly the peaceful respite I am typically going for. And with today being the 4th of July, by the time I left at noon the park was jammed full. I sat in traffic trying to get home. Lesson learned on that one – I’d say early in and early out if you plan on going.
Since I have Ruffed Grouse on the brain this weekend, I headed out early this morning to the only other location where I’ve seen the bird: Hickok Brook Multiple Use Area in Sullivan County. I didn’t have any luck with RUGR, (I knew I’d have to get lucky to come across one), but I was happy to get back to a spot that I’d only been to one other time, two years ago. It was a sunny, cool morning with a little bit of a breeze blowing. I took a nice, long, comfortable walk; the trails are mostly wide open and flat which makes for some good birding conditions. It was a birdy morning and I had 35 species on my list, with most birds being heard and not seen. I remembered having a similar experience last time I was there, but really, to me it’s pretty normal for summertime birding. Highlights for me were mostly raptors, including my second Barred Owl of the weekend, this one was heard but not seen. I also had a pair of Red-shouldered Hawks calling and also a pair of Broad-winged Hawks – I heard them first and then watched one shoot through the woods in the distance. I know that I missed some birds out there today – it’s hard to bird by ear for me when I’m a little bit outside of Orange County as I’m not entirely sure which birds to expect. I decided to not worry about it too much and just enjoyed a nice walk in the woods.
It’s been a little bit of a rough late spring for me – I’ve been going through a serious family issue and I am having some health problems. Between the two, my birding and blogging have been limited to the greatest extent since I started the blog in 2012. But, this morning I was finally able to get out. I made a long overdue trip to Black Rock Forrest in search of Ruffed Grouse. The good news is that I didn’t see any bears, and I also didn’t wipe out on the trail. The bad news is that I had no luck with my target species. It was still a nice hike; birdy with over 30 species seen or heard. The birds of the day was for sure the Ovenbird, with many being seen and heard throughout my hike. Highlights for me included catching a glimpse of a Barred Owl as I inadvertently flushed it as I walked the trail, getting my first Acadian Flycatcher of the year, and getting a nice photo op with a pair of Field Sparrows. It’s nice to be back at it.