I really didn’t have much in the way of expectations for my first day of birding in 2018. I knew I wanted to get up early to try for the two ROSS’S GEESE at Glenmere Lake, but beyond that I didn’t have a plan. It was zero degrees Fahrenheit when I woke up, but I managed to rustle myself out of bed and get to the lake before the geese left. When I arrived, there were several other birders that had the same idea as me: Karen Miller, Diane Bliss, Mike Mallon, Rick Hansen, and Kathy Ashman were all present, getting their Orange County Ross’s Goose for the new year. I waited with Karen, Diane, and Mike for the geese to pick up, since the 2 Ross’s spent most of the time with their heads tucked in. On my way out, I was talking to Kathy in the parking lot and we decided to walk the trail. Kathy had already walked it earlier with Rick, but was game for some more birding.
I haven’t spent much time birding the trail at Glenmere, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. We ended up having an incredible morning with nice variety of songbirds and some close encounters. How’s this for some good birds on January 1st: Golden-crowned Kinglet (many!), Yellow-rumped Warbler (7), Brown Creeper, Hermit Thrush, Eastern Bluebird (12), and six different species of woodpecker! (Hairy, Downy, Red-bellied, N. Flicker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, and Pileated). Of the likely woodpeckers, we only missed the Red-headed Woodpecker (which is still present, Judy Cinquina, Tom Millard, and Maria Loukeris all saw it today).
At one point, I had a Golden-crowned Kinglet feeding just inches from my right shoulder! I stayed completely still and just enjoyed it; I couldn’t believe how close the bird was, nor could I believe how very tiny they are when you see them that close – they are just little peanuts! We walked the trail until it opens up to a field. The field was very active and we weren’t sure where to look for the next bird. Then a Pileated Woodpecker flew out of the trees right towards us, banking right over our heads before landing on a nearby tree. It really was a super morning of birding and in the end we tallied 28 species for the morning. I’ve not birded one on one with Kathy much before this, and I have to say it was a joy and she is really good – always a step ahead of me picking up birds all around us. Good birding for sure and a great way to start the year.
If you had a chance to be out this evening, you know it was a gorgeous night, cool and breezy with an amazing sunset. The only thing that could make it better is a beautiful bird, and the Rusty Blackbird is the kind of bird that can just make your day with their distinctive call and fabulous coloring. I ran into several of these beauties this evening at 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary and I’m still smiling about it.
Mount Peter was fogged in this morning, so I took the opportunity to bird a couple of nearby spots before the fog cleared out. My first stop was Cascade Lake, which was very birdy. The most numerous bird was definitely Ruby-crowned Kinglet; I had over a dozen easily. Among the kinglets I had a couple of warblers. One was a Black-throated Green, but the other I haven’t been able to ID. I’ve posted a couple of shots of the bird – if any one has any ideas, please comment. I was surprised to also do well with raptors while there; I had an Osprey, a Sharp-shinned Hawk, and a Cooper’s Hawk.
Next, I went to Wickham Lake, where Yellow-rumped Warblers were the bird of the day; they were seemingly everywhere. Other birds of note included a Pied-billed Grebe and my FOS Ruddy Ducks and Gadwall.
I headed back up to Mt. Pete just before noon. By 12:15 the fog was thinking about clearing out and I began the day’s hawkwatch. I had 7 migrating raptors in the first 45 minutes, which had me thinking it might be a good flight. Alas, it was not to be and I had only 2 additional migrating hawks in the next 4 hours! This has not been my year for hawkwatching so far, but I’m hoping that changes starting next Saturday.
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.
I feel like I’m sort of in a birding slump these days – things have just been slow and it feels like ages since I’ve taken a decent photograph. Saturday’s hawkwatch at Mt. Peter was more of the same; I had a total of only 21 migrating raptors for the day. That being said, the weather was excellent (it actually felt like fall!), and I had a pleasant day on the mountain. Most of my highlights are not raptor related: I had my best bird of the day before I even unpacked my gear – a Blackpoll Warbler in the evergreen right next to the platform. Throughout the day, I had 24 skeins of Canada Geese fly over, with a total of over 1000 geese, which was exciting to me. I’m looking forward to sifting through some geese this winter. As far as raptors go, I had 4 Osprey pass over in an hour’s time and my first migrating Peregrine Falcon of the year. Here’s my report with the season totals:
Odds and Ends:
I’ve been checking on the shorebirds at Citgo Pond regularly, but unfortunately I’ve been finding pretty much the same birds all week. I did have my first Bald Eagle there in a while on Thursday. On Wednesday I tried for shorebirds in the black dirt, but ended up finding more falconers than shorebirds.
Fall warblers have pretty much been a bust for me this year, but I did manage to get a few this weekend. As I mentioned above, I had a Blackpoll Warbler at Mt. Peter; I also had an American Redstart and Northern Parula this morning at Winding Waters. Other good birds at Winding Waters today included a Blue-headed Vireo, several Eastern Towhees, and 6 species of sparrow: Song, Swamp, Lincoln’s, Field, Savannah, and White-throated.
Anyways, the good thing about a birding slump is that it has to come to an end. I’m looking forward to the next big thing, maybe next Saturday I’ll get an excellent flight at Mt. Pete – I’m due.
I met Linda Scrima at the Liberty Loop this morning for a brief outing. My target bird was LINCOLN’S SPARROW, which I got relatively easily as Linda had had them out there several times earlier this week (big thanks to Linda – this is two years in a row that she helped me get my LISP). We got excellent looks at a couple of birds and photos too. Other good birds for the morning included: Merlin, Cooper’s Hawk, a trio of cooperative Palm Warblers, several Savannah Sparrows, and a Pied-billed Grebe right in front of the viewing platform. The Lincoln’s Sparrow was bird #210 for me this year in Orange County.
I wasn’t sure where I wanted to bird this morning, so I consulted John Haas‘ book ‘A Birding Guide to Sullivan County New York’, and decided to head out to Hickok Brook Multiple Use Area. John mentioned in his write up that Hickok Brook is good for breeding warblers, and more importantly, that Ruffed Grouse could be found in the area. I did okay with warblers, getting nine species: Ovenbird, Black-and-white, Common Yellowthroat, Hooded, Chestnut-sided, Blackburnian, Black-throated Blue, Pine, and Black-throated Green. I had one bird calling that I couldn’t identify; I’m wondering if it wasn’t a Nashville. The best part came a little bit later in my walk. It was closing in on noon, and many of the birds had quieted down as I walked back to my car. Suddenly, from the ferns on the side of the trail, not 10 feet from me, a RUFFED GROUSE popped straight up and flew at high speed into the woods, never getting more than ten feet off the ground. It scared the heck out of me! And while I was happy to get the bird, it was a less than satisfactory experience. Let’s just say Ruffed Grouse remains on my nemesis list.
RANDOM TANGENT: I feel like my birding by ear is worse this year than last year. It could be that last year I spent all of my time in Orange County and I had learned most of the birds that I would hear. This year, I feel like I’m struggling. I noticed it for sure when Kyle and I went to the Adirondacks, and again in recent weeks when I’ve been birding in Sullivan County. There are some birds that I just don’t know by ear, but also I find myself getting a little lost from time to time and struggling with some of the birds I thought I knew. One of these days I am going to write a post about what makes a good birder, and birding by ear is certainly high on the list.
SHOREBIRD REPORT: I have been checking Citgo pond regularly and so far I’ve had low numbers of Least Sandpipers and just a couple of Lesser Yellowlegs. Conditions are good at the pond, so I remain optimistic.
Maria Loukeris, Linda Scrima, Kyle Dudgeon, and I headed out early this morning to Wolf Brook Multiple Use Area. John Haas recently posted on his blog that he had several Canada Warblers on the trail there, so this was our target bird for the morning. We walked the road that leads to the trailhead and then nearly a mile of the trail. It was a birdy walk, but as expected at this time of the year, more birds were heard than seen. And photo ops were few and far between. Eastern Towhees, American Goldfinches, and to a lesser degree, Chestnut-sided Warblers and Black-throated Blue Warblers were the most numerous birds heard and seen. About half a mile into the trail, we were beginning to think maybe Canada Warbler was not in the cards for us, when Maria finally located one. We watched it for a good while, and we also relocated it on our way out. What a great bird, and really tough to photograph since it kept its distance and never stopped moving. We all had afternoon plans, so we ended up cutting the hike a little bit short, so we never made it out to the waterfall. We’ll leave that for next time. In just under 4 hours, we had a total of 32 species.
I’ll tell you what, I had an absolutely incredible afternoon out at Sterling Forest State Park. And, you know what? I totally had a feeling about it. As I arrived and was parking my car, a sense of optimism came over me. I was dressed appropriately in muted colors, it was just a beautiful afternoon, and I just felt like anything was possible. The one question I had was regarding the wind – I thought it might be a little bit too breezy for songbirds, but that proved not to be the case.
I got out of my car and headed down the trail. Behind me, right by my car, I heard a song and I wasn’t sure what it was. I turned around, and perched in a tree right across the road from my car was a beautiful HOODED WARBLER. This bird has been sort of a photo nemesis for me; I’ve never gotten a good close look at one before. The bird stayed put and sang away as I crossed the road and I was able to get some decent shots.
A little bit later, I was walking a trail and I heard the call of a GOLDEN-WINGED WARBLER. I moved slowly and I could see that the bird was likely calling from the other side of a tree that was about 30 yards off the trail. I tried to wait it out, but then got impatient and tried to get further down the trail for another vantage point and though I did not see it fly, the bird must have flushed. It wasn’t until I was on my way back, in the same area I heard the bird again. This time I had the patience to wait it out. Eventually the bird came around the tree and exposed itself to me – I was thrilled just to get a look at the bird. I was taking some distant pics, just hoping for the best, when the bird picked up and flew into a lower tree right in front of me. I couldn’t believe it! I was able to take a bunch of shots before the bird moved on; I’ve never gotten such a great look at a GWWA!
I had one final excellent moment – I was walking the trail with a swampy area to my left. It was relatively quiet and I was disappointed because I’ve done well at that swamp in the past. I was scanning for birds when out of the corner of my eye I saw a pair of beavers swimming in the water. I stayed completely still and one came my way and got within twenty feet of me! It was really cool to see it so close up; shortly thereafter, the beaver moved on and so did I. On my way out, I noticed on the far side of the swamp, a single Great Blue Heron sitting high up on a nest. What an afternoon!
Wow! SUMMER TANGER in the OC! How exciting is that? I ran for the bird this evening after work, but I came up empty. Here’s Linda Scrima’s account of seeing the first Summer Tanager in Orange County since May of 1980:
I went to Laurel Grove this morning, hoping to view some of the warblers during this spring migration. I was searching the tree tops, hoping to see the warblers that move around in the tree canopy. I heard a call from a bird perched at the top of an evergreen and looked up and saw this tanager. It was not the call of a Scarlet Tanager, but yet, this tanager was calling. My cell phone battery was dead, so I was not able to try to get a audio/video of the tanager calling. The tanager’s head formed a peaked crest, which was different than that of a Scarlet Tanager’s head (and the bill looking slightly different, too). The tanager was facing me in a a resting position, so I was not able to see the wings, but I was able to see enough of the front appearance to notice the lack the prominent dark black wings of the Scarlet Tanager. I noticed the overall red color, and hoped that I had some photos of a side profile view, showing the lack of the darker black wings. The tanager moved in the tree and my view was obscured by the evergreen branches. I waited a few minutes,and decided, to move on in search for more spring migrants. I then wanted additional views of the tanager. I circled back to the evergreens and then saw the tanager fly in and perch on top of another evergreen, near the original evergreen. Although I did see a few warblers while at this location, my thoughts were that I wanted to make sure that this was actually a Summer Tanager. My mind was screaming silently that it was a Summer Tanager, but I had to caution myself because I had never seen a Summer Tanager, and this location is in *Orange County*. When I got home, I plugged in my cell phone and took a few cell snapshotsof the tanager photos from camera viewfinder. I was glad to see that I did get the side profile views, showing the overall red color (noticeable, the lack of the prominent black wings).
I texted the photos to Matt Zeitler, Rob Stone, and Ken McDermott, all who have much more birding experience than I do, and especially in *Orange County*. All came back with SUMMER TANAGER! Ken McDermott stated that it is a second recorded sighting here in Orange County. Ken McDermott saw the first recorded sighting almost thirty seven years ago! It is an exciting find. Thanks to Matt, Rob and Ken for confirming the sighting. Another good bird sighting in Orange County!
No, thank you Linda! Nice job with the photos and the write up too, it’s certainly appreciated. And congrats on another great find! – Matt