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.
I was a little too busy to officially participate in this year’s Mearns Bird Club‘s Break 100, but I was able to join up with my previous team for a few hours this morning. I met up with John Haas, Karen Miller, and Lisa O’Gorman at Laurel Grove Cemetery in Port Jervis just after 8 am. I know it’s stating the obvious, right now is really good time of year to look for birds. I think with how busy I”ve been with work and in my personal life lately, lost track of that to some extent. It came back to me when I arrived at the cemetery and the team was having a great morning, with several CAPE MAY WARBLERS, Blackpoll Warblers, and at least a couple BAY-BREASTED WARBLERS. One male Cape May was very obliging for photos:
Our next stop was at Elks Brox Memorial Park, where the team added several birds to their tally. I don’t want to say exactly where they stood, but suffice to say they had a good Friday Evening and early Saturday morning and were well on their way to breaking 100. Highlights at Elks Brox included Prairie Warblers, Great Crested Flycatchers, good looks at another couple of Bay-breasted Warblers, and a nice photo op with a male Scarlet Tanager.
From there we headed to Hawk’s Nest; the team added Peregrine Falcon, White-throated Sparrow, and Bald Eagle to their list. The traffic and the loud cars and motorcycles at that place make me absolutely crazy, so I was happy to head up to Reservoir 3 where the only new bird for the team was Brown Creeper. That’s where the team and I parted ways. They were headed to Sterling Forest, I went back to Laurel Grove where I located a CANADA WARBLER before heading home for the day. It was a great morning, and I’ll be curious to see how many species the team finishes with. I’ll update this post when I find out.
*Update: Our team ended the break with a total of 116 species – pretty darn good in my opinion!
It was an interesting and productive weekend of birding for me. It started on Friday evening after work at Ironwood Drive at Sterling Forest State Park. I had over 40 species in total; highlights included an up-close look at a Hooded Warbler, 2 American Woodcocks peenting and in flight, and several Eastern Whip-poor-wills calling. I had an exciting moment when 2 Whip-poor-wills took flight after sunset, calling as they flew right into the parking area at the end of Ironwood Drive. I could barely see them but I picked them up as they flew through and then disappeared into the night.
On Saturday morning, I woke up unsure of where to bird, or even what type of birding I should do. I had thoughts of shorebirds at the Route 207 Marsh, but instead I headed to Port Jervis to try for passerines. I went to Laurel Grove Cemetery first and it was birdy, but without many warblers present. New birds for the year (for me) included: Brown Thrasher, Least Flycatcher, and Chimney Swifts. From there, I headed up to Elks Brox Memorial Park, where it was also birdy, but with many more warblers. I had 10 species of warbler: Ovenbird, Worm-Eating Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, Northern Parula, BAY-BREASTED WARBLER, BLACKBURNIAN WARBLER, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Pine Warbler, Prairie Warbler, and Black-throated Green Warbler. Best of all, I got some decent looks and photo ops of several species. Other good birds at Elks Brox included: RED-BREASTED NUTHATCHES (FOY), Yellow-throated Vireo, Blue-headed Vireo, and my FOY Eastern Wood-Peewee.
In the afternoon I joined Karen Miller and we headed to the Bashakill to volunteer for Nature Watch. A pair of BLACK TERNS had been located and reported earlier in the day by the Mearns Bird Club outing, so we stopped at Haven Road first to try for the birds. When we arrived, several other birders were also looking for the birds, which hadn’t been seen in nearly 45 minutes. Birding bud Bruce Nott was there and I told him I had a feeling we would see the birds… five minutes later Bruce located them, north of the bridge and quite distant. Karen and I looked at them briefly but then had to head to the Main Boat Launch for Nature Watch. The terns eventually made their way all the way to us, and we enjoyed viewing them for most of our shift.
Today (Sunday) was yet another cold and rainy day. It rained ALL day long. I got out early and was optimistic that it wouldn’t rain too hard. I went to the 207 Marsh to try for shorebirds. I didn’t stay as long as I would have liked because the rain was relentless and my optics were just saturated. Every time I went use the scope or my binoculars they would instantly fog over. I did add a new shorebird for the year: SEMIPALMATED PLOVERS. I went home to dry off and then headed back out in the afternoon, again in search of shorebirds. I went to Lynch Ave (Least Sandpipers, Solitary Sanpipers, Lesser Yellowlegs, and Killdeer) and then to the Camel Farm (same species plus Greater Yellowlegs). The Camel Farm is loaded with shorebirds right now, but sadly there really isn’t a good spot for viewing. My final stop made all the wet weather birding worth it – I located a GLOSSY IBIS at Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge. I’ve included a documentary shot at the bottom of this post. I have to say it feels good to be home, warm and dry!
The last couple of days were very busy birding-wise, with many birds moving into and through our area. On Friday after work I went to Sterling Forest State Park. I birded the Ironwood Drive area and I did pretty well, getting 15 new county birds for the year:
Black-throated Blue Warbler
This morning I met up with Linda Scrima and we birded Pochuck Mountain State Forest. It was a slow start, but then it got pretty busy; at times it was hard to know which bird to look at there were so many. We had a total of 37 species; highlights included my FOY Great-crested Flycatchers and Veery, Scarlet Tanagers, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, and 10 Species of Warbler:
Worm-eating Warbler (FOY)
Northern Parula (FOY)
Magnolia Warbler (FOY)
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Afterwards, we went over to the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge. Highlights included my first Orange County Eastern Kingbirds of the year, a flyover of 2 SANDHILL CRANES, hearing a couple of SORA calling, and a handful of shorebirds (Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Solitary Sandpiper, Wilson’s Snipe, and Killdeer).
I spent the afternoon trying to find more shorebirds. At the Camel Farm I had more yellowlegs and although they were distant, I believe I had 3 Pectoral Sandpipers. On Lynch Avenue in the black dirt I had the same shorebirds that we had at Wallkill River NWR, plus I added my FOY Spotted Sandpiper. My final stop was at Stewart Forest; I stopped quickly at Ridge Road (one Solitary and one Spotted), and then spent some time at the 207 Marsh, where there were many shorebirds present, but I did not add any new species.
For the day today, I added 9 more county year birds – that’s a total of 24 new birds in 2 days, which sure makes for some fun birding.
I arrived at Shawangunk Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge just after sunrise this morning. I was happy – a steady snow was falling, it was cold but not uncomfortably so, and I was the only one there. I walked the trails for a little while; I heard coyotes off in the distance. As the sun started to rise, I noticed a few of the Northern Harriers had started to fly, so I headed into the “Bobolink” blind and waited. But, the snow seemed to keep the harriers from flying like they have been recently, and it was songbirds that stole the show for me. I had several American Tree Sparrows just off to my right; every once in a while one would perch up on a bush. A Savannah Sparrow flew in front of the blind, perched briefly and then disappeared into the grasses. A trio of Northern Flickers spent some time in the tree directly in front of the blind, before flying south and finding another tree out in the middle of the grasslands. Then I heard a call I was hoping to hear all morning – Eastern Meadowlarks! A group of nine had landed in the ‘flicker tree’ and were gently calling.
I then walked the trails for a while, covering a good portion of the north end of the refuge. The snow eventually stopped and the refuge had a different feel, much brighter and warmer. The harriers remained relatively sparse on my walk although I did see a distant “Gray Ghost” flying over near Galeville Park. An Eastern Bluebird perched in a tree right alongside the trail. Four Black Vultures circled directly overhead. When I arrived back near the parking area, I ran into one of my favorite people: Ralph Tabor. We caught up for a while and enjoyed the birds at the feeder station. A Brown Creeper made its way up a tree just to the right of the feeders; I’m pretty sure it’s the first one I’ve ever had in Ulster County. Ralph then spotted a Short-eared Owl in the distance, being harassed by some American Crows. As I walked back towards my car, the crows flushed a second Shorty and I was able to get some photos before both owls settled down again. It was great morning of birding; it far exceeded my expectations when I headed out this morning.
Early this morning, Linda Scrima, Maria Loukeris, and I headed to Manasquan Inlet to try for the PACIFIC LOON that has been seen there. This was definitely one of the easier rarities we’ve run for – we parked the car and the bird was in the channel right in front of us! And what a beautiful bird, a nice dark loon with a lovely chin strap. It was also very cooperative, swimming quite close and the light was pretty nice too. This bird alone was definitely worth the trip, but we also had some really nice photo ops with some Long-tailed Ducks (which are apparently a garbage bird around there!) and a gorgeous RED-THROATED LOON. We checked for gulls from Red’s Lobster Pot and got lucky with a 1st winter ICELAND GULL. Unfortunately that bird was just too far for pics. Then we walked out onto the jetty, where we enjoyed seeing many of the usuals – highlights included a Common Goldeneye flyby, a flock of Dunlin, and 2 Horned Grebes.
We then headed to the Trenton Sewage Ponds in Mercer County to try for the TOWNSEND’S WARBLER that has been there. We were informed as soon as we arrived by other birders that the bird was still present, and we got on it not too long after that. It was a good looking warbler, but unfortunately the lighting was absolutely horrible and the bird was severely backlit from our vantage point. We tried for a while to get shots of the bird as it foraged around the pools, and eventually the bird perched in a nearby tree. It was still backlit, but closer to us and with a natural setting made the difference for me. Also present was a Eastern Phoebe, several Yellow-rumped Warblers, a handful of Ruby-crowned Warblers, and a Palm Warbler.
Both birds were lifers for all three of us – it’s not too often we get lifers these days, so it was AWESOME!