Amazing Afternoon at Sterling Forest SP, 05/15/17

~Photo nemesis no more – HOODED WARBLER at Sterling Forest SP, 05/15/17.~

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.

~Beautiful bird! GOLDEN-WINGED WARBLER at Sterling Forest SP, 05/15/17.~

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!

~One of 2 beavers at Sterling Forest SP, 05/15/17.~

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!


~SUMMER TANAGER at Laurel Grove Cemetery, 05/09/17. Photo by Linda Scrima.~

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 snapshots of 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).

~Another look at the SUMMER TANAGER at Laurel Grove Cemetery, 05/09/17. Photo by Linda Scrima.~

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

And a final shot of the SUMMER TANAGER at Laurel Grove Cemetery, 05/09/17. Photo by Linda Scrima.~

Warbler Woes, 05/07/17





~This is a great bird – BLACKBURNIAN WARBLER at Laurel Grove Cemetery, 05/07/17.~

All birders seem to love warblers. Me? I’ve never been that big on them. And I think I’m starting to figure out why. There are a couple obvious reasons: trying to find the smallest backlit birds up in the treetops is not exactly easy. Then if you find them, you have to be able to identify them, which can also be difficult. I’m improving with both of these things, but there is third reason that I’ve just recently figured out. Warblers are all about timing. This time of the year, the morning after a southwest wind the night before, with the radar lit up, is just perfect. Unfortunately, I’m at work in the morning five days out of the week, and have to hope for good timing on the weekends. I get out in the evenings, of course, and you can do alright then, but it’s certainly not prime warbler time. And the window for warblers is not a large one. Time flies by and before you know it, it’s over. Don’t blink.

So, this weekend I sabotaged myself by making an appointment to have my car serviced first thing Saturday morning. I made it a few weeks back and I guess I just wasn’t thinking. After my appointment, I managed to get to Pochuck Mountain State Park by around 10 am. The trail was quite birdy, with more birds being heard than seen, but plenty of action. I had 30 species on my walk; a glimpse of a BLACKBURNIAN WARBLER, a nice look at my first of the year Blue-headed Vireo, and several Black-throated Green Warbler being heard were all highlights. I checked the Camel Farm afterwards and had a decent showing of shorebirds: Least Sandpipers, Lesser Yellowlegs, Greater Yellowlegs, Solitary Sandpiper, and Killdeer. I made one final stop for the day at 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary, where I saw my first Northern Rough-winged Swallows of the year.

~Magnolia Warbler at Laurel Grove Cemetery, 05/07/17.~ 

On Sunday I got out early-ish, arriving at Laurel Grove Cemetery just after 7 am. I did well for warblers here (for me). The best part was getting really good looks and a decent photo of a BLACKBURNIAN WARBLER. Catching a glimpse of one at Pochuck the day before wasn’t cutting it, so I was pretty thrilled to get such a good look at this bird. Other good birds include my FOY Magnolia Warbler, Northern Parula, Chestnut-sided Warbler, and Indigo Bunting. I had nearly 40 species at the cemetery with 9 species of warbler.

I stopped by the Camel Farm on my way home. I was already planning on going there, but I was pretty excited to get there because Rob Stone and Curt McDermott had let me know that they had located a WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER there earlier that morning. This was undoubtedly the bird of the day for me! I relocated the bird fairly quickly and Linda Scrima joined me to get a quick look. Now this was my kind of birding! A good collection of shorebirds was present:

Semipalmated Sandpiper (1), Killdeer (4), Least Sandpiper (20), WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER (1), Pectoral Sandpiper (2), Solitary Sandpiper (4), Greater Yellowlegs (1), and Lesser Yellowlegs (5)

Unfortunately at the Camel Farm the birds are really quite distant. I tried for photos, mostly by digiscoping, but I couldn’t even manage documentary photos of the WRSA.
~Definitely the easiest warbler to photograph – Ovenbird at Pochuck Mountain SP, 05/06/17.~
~Earlier this week I had some luck photographing Blue-gray Gnatcatchers at Sterling Forest SP, 05/02/17.~ 
~A female American Redstart at Laurel Grove Cemetery, 05/07/17.~ 
~I thought this pair of Chipping Sparrows was cute. Laurel Grove Cemetery, 05/07/17.~
~This bird was very accommodating, but the light conditions were tough. Scarlet Tanager at Pochuck Mountain SP, 05/06/17.~

Excellent OC Evening Birding, 05/01/17

~I’ve seen plenty of Yellow-rumped Warblers this spring. I’m still working on getting a good shot. Wickham Lake, 05/01/17.~

After work today I headed straight to Glenmere Lake to follow up on a lead from Rob Stone – he had two WHITE-WINGED SCOTERS there earlier in the day. And I just can’t get enough of sea ducks in Orange County, I find it fascinating. When I arrived, the birds were still present. I had distant but excellent looks in my scope and I managed to digiscope a few halfway decent shots with my phone. While I was there, I also had a remarkable 4 Ospreys flying over the lake and 2 Bald Eagles; one adult and one immature.

~Digiscoped WHITE-WINGED SCOTER, one of 2 at Glenmere Lake, 05/o1/17.~ 

From there, I headed over to Wickham Lake, following up on another tip from Rob; he let me know about a Northern Waterthrush that was near the parking area at Wickham Woodlands Town Park. At first I was having no luck, but after a while I heard the bird. I really wanted to see the bird, so I waited a long time… and eventually I caught just the briefest look. While I was waiting, the area was birdy and I had several other warblers: Yellow Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Palm Warbler, and my first of the year American Redstart.

~Yellow Warbler at Wickham Lake, 05/01/17.~

I finally went to the shore of the lake to scan for waterfowl. I was not optimistic, but wanted to check before heading home. I was pleasantly surprised to first hear and then see a Common Loon out in the distance. What a great sound and sight! But that was just the beginning – I continued scanning and…wait let me count them… one, two, three, four RED-NECKED GREBES! They were in the company of 4 Ruddy Ducks. Again the birds were quite distant – I took some shots with my camera and I digiscoped some as well and got enough just to document. What a super night of birding, you just never know what you’ll find when you get out there!

~Two of the 4 RED-NECKED GREBES at Wickham Lake, 05/01/17.~
~Four Red-necked Grebes, all tucked in. Digiscoped at Wickham Lake, 05/01/17.~


It’s On!

~On Friday evening, this bird made my day. Black-throated Blue Warbler at Goosepond Mountain State Park, 04/28/17.~

As we all know, it’s a great time of the year for birding. Migration is on and new birds are showing up on a regular basis. I had a relatively busy week, so I didn’t get out birding as often as I usually do, but I still had 19 new birds in Orange County. This morning I birded Pochuck Mountain State Park with Linda Scrima and Maria Loukeris; it was the most productive outing of the week, with 7 FOY birds and nearly 40 total species being identified. Here’s my list of new OC birds for the past week, in chronological order and locations:

I love this time of year! And, what’s really exciting is that things are just getting started.

~Ovenbirds were plentiful at Pochuck Mountain SP this morning, 04/29/17.~
~Thursday 04/27/17 after work, I walked the Sterling Lake Loop at Sterling Forest SP. I had several Black-and-white Warblers, this one was most cooperative.~
~I had my first Ruby-crowned Kinglet of the year last weekend at Glenmere Lake, 4/22/17.~
~I guess the Worm-eating Warblers at Pochuck Mountain are on the early side – they came up as a rare bird when entered into eBird. One of 3 WEWAs at Pochuck Mountain SP, 04/29/17.~



Not The Bird…

~Northern Mockingbird in the black dirt on Christmas Eve 2016.~

…I was looking for. It’s uncanny to me how everytime I go out looking for a Northern Shrike, I come up with the bird that most closely resembles it in color and size: the Northern Mockingbird. I normally really like mockingbirds, I think they are a good looking bird that is charismatic and photogenic, but when I’m looking for a shrike they always seem to give me a brief false alarm.

Happy Holidays to everyone, I hope you are enjoying this festive time of year with loved ones.

Thanksgiving Weekend Wrap Up

~One of two young Bald Eagles perched along Wildlife Drive at Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, 11/25/16~

My Thanksgiving tradition of visiting Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge continued this year, in spite of the gray skies and intermittent rain. My brother-in-law, Bill and I were happy to learn that Wildlife Drive was open in spite of the recent snow fall. We had a productive day where the ducks were numerous but VERY distant. It was hard to even contemplate any sort of accurate count and I’m sure my eBird report numbers are a bit too much on the conservative side. We had 17 species of waterfowl:

~A mix of waterfowl in flight and on the ice at Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, 11/25/16.~

Canada Goose
Trumpeter Swan
Tundra Swan
American Wigeon
American Black Duck
Northern Shoveler
Northern Pintail
Green-winged Teal
Ring-necked Duck
Lesser Scaup
Hooded Merganser
Common Merganser
Pied-billed Grebe

The highlight of the day was, undoubtedly, locating first one and eventually three ROUGH-LEGGED HAWKS at the refuge. It was my first time getting them there, and Bill was very excited, as it was a life bird for him. All in all we had a really good day but struggled like crazy for decent photos. In case I haven’t said it enough on this blog: Go to Montezuma NWR! It’s a really great spot.

~ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK in flight at Montezuma NWR, 11/25/16.~
~In the parking lot of the visitor’s center at Montezuma NWR, Eastern Bluebird 11/25/16.

On Sunday, I hooked up with Kyle Dudgeon early in the morning and we birded southern Orange County pretty much by car, trying for photos for the most part. It was good to see Kyle and catch up (he has been away at college), and we had some decent birds for the day. Notably, we had 8 raptor species for the morning: Bald Eagle, Northern Harrier, Cooper’s Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Rough-legged Hawk, American Kestrel, Merlin, and Peregrine Falcon. The highlight for me was seeing a good sized flock of Snow Buntings, perhaps over 100 birds. Good Birding!

~Snow Buntings in flight, Orange County, NY 11/17/16.~
~Awesome to see this Merlin perched on a pole. New Hampton, NY 11/27/16.~
~White-crowned Sparrow at Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge, 11/27/16.~
~This Northern Harrier found what I thought was a strange perch. Pine Island NY, 11/27/16.~
~It’s always a little sad to see these Ring-necked Pheasants. I could hear hunters not too far off so I flushed this bird in the opposite direction. Orange County NY, 11/27/16.~
~I love, love, love these dudes. Snow Bunting flock in flight, Orange County NY 11/27/16.~

Snowy Birding, 11/20/16

~I’m enjoying Dark-eyed Juncos with their subtle colors this year. They were plentiful as I walked the trails of the Port Jervis Watershed Park and Recreational Area, 11/20/16.~ 

QUICK POST: I spent a pleasant morning birding in the snowy conditions at Port Jervis Watershed Park and Recreational Area. I walked the trails there for over four hours; it was quite birdy at times, but with all expected species. I did not have any luck with my 2 target birds – Pine Siskins and Crossbills. My best birds for the morning were:  a Hooded Merganser (my first of the season), a Fox Sparrow, and couple of Hermit Thrushes.

~Tufted Titmouse in a snowy setting. Port Jervis Watershed PRA, 11/20/16.~  
~It’s always nice to see a Hairy Woodpecker. Port Jervis Watershed PRA, 11/20/16.~ 
~Safety first, ha ha. Selfie on the trail at Port Jervis Watershed Park and Recreational Area 11/20/16.~
~Another sweet looking DEJU at Port Jervis Watershed PRA, 11/20/16.~ 
~I missed a VERY good opportunity to shoot a Hermit Thrush earlier in the morning. I managed to get this one through the obstructions later on. Port Jervis Watershed PRA, 11/20/16.~ 
~I know, it’s a pretty bad pic. BUT, it’s a FOX SPARROW! Port Jervis Watershed PRA, 11/20/16.~ 

OC Connecticut Warbler Continues, 9/25/16

~What?!? An unobscured photo of a Connecticut Warbler? Winding Waters Trail at Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge, 9/25/16.~

I met Linda Scrima out at Winding Waters Trail early this morning; I was hoping to get my first Lincoln’s Sparrow of the year, and we thought maybe we would get lucky with the Connecticut Warbler for Linda. Just a short way down the trail, Linda got me on a Lincoln’s Sparrow in very nice light. As we worked our way toward the area where the Connecticut Warbler has been seen, a group of birders caught up with us. It was Scott Baldinger, Karen Miller, Bruce Nott, Jody Brodski and Diane Bliss (who actually caught up with all of us further down the trail). I was thinking that I did not like our odds of relocating the CONW with such a large group, but we would try our best. It was a very birdy morning on the trail and having all the extra eyes helped locate many birds. We did particularly well with warblers; Northern Parula, Magnolia Warbler, Tennessee Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, and Black-throated Green Warbler were all seen well (it was my lifer Tennessee Warbler – woohoo!). The one warbler that was not cooperating was the Connecticut, at least not for a good while. Then, a bird popped up just to the left of me and Jody. We both got on the bird quickly and knew it was the CONNECTICUT WARBLER! It perched briefly and then moved further up and into another tree. We were trying frantically to get everyone on the bird, which then crossed the path and perched in some ivy high up on a tree trunk. It eventually showed itself very well on an open branch in good light and I was lucky enough to get a photo. AND, everyone in the group was able to get on the bird! I was really shocked that it worked out, and everyone was pretty giddy about it. The bird was a life bird for everyone in the group outside of myself and Scotty. Pretty exciting birding!

As a side note, Jody had a flyover of a Sandhill Crane in the Black Dirt Region on her way to Winding Waters. I ran around a little bit afterwards, as did Bruce and Jody, but as of this writing no-one had any luck relocating that bird.

~A sweet looking Lincoln’s Sparrow at Winding Waters Trail, 9/25/16.~
~Tennessee Warbler at Winding Waters Trail, 9/25/16.~
~Not as good a photo, but I wanted to include this TEWA with prey,. Winding Waters Trail 9/25/16.~

OC Connecticut Warbler = #200!

~ WOW!  CONNECTICUT WARBLER at Winding Waters Trail, 9/23/16.~

I went out to the Winding Waters Trail at Walkill River National Wildlife Refuge two times today, hoping to relocate one of the two Connecticut Warblers that Rob Stone had there this week. I was there in the morning, but unfortunately there was no sign of the bird(s).

I ended up going back in the evening, as I was walking the trail a bird popped up out of the underbrush and perched about 4 feet up. I looked in my binoculars and saw the prominent eye ring and began taking photos. It was a CONNECTICUT WARBLER! The bird quickly returned to the underbrush and I never saw or heard it again. This is a life bird for me (#370), and also, more excitingly, my 200th bird in Orange County this year! I, of course, wish I’d gotten better photos, but really, I’m happy to have gotten any shots at all. Huge thanks once again to Rob Stone, what an excellent bird!

~ I’m including several poor photos of the bird; Connecticut Warbler at Wallkill River’s Winding Waters Trail, 9/23/16.~
~CONW at Winding Waters Trail, 9/23/16.~
~One more angle; Connecticut Warbler at Winding Waters Trail, 9/23/16.~