QUICK POST: Busy day here, so just putting together some recent photos, most from this weekend, all from within the last week. I just realized as I was writing this that all were taken at Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge, either at the Liberty Loop or at Winding Waters Trail.
GUEST POST BY BILL FIERO
We’re all familiar with our neighborhood wrens, House, Carolina, Winter, Marsh, and Sedge. Of the 5, Winter and Carolina Wrens are resident, while the House, Marsh, and Sedge Wrens are summer breeders in our area. There are actually 88 species of wren occurring throughout North and South America, occupying a number of habitats, and are excellent songsters more often heard than seen. There is, however, one species that occurs in the old world, the Eurasian Wren, largely resident throughout Europe and Asia. Eurasian Wrens had previously been considered the same species as our Winter Wren, but it has recently been split into 3 separate species (‘Winter Wren’ in the eastern US, ‘Pacific Wren’, in the west, and ‘Eurasian Wren’ in the old world). As classification methods improve, we can expect more changes in our understanding of the relationships between familiar birds. Perhaps an increase in ‘armchair lifers’?
From July 7th to the 14th, Tricia and I, along with seven other members of her family rented a house right on the beach in Rossadillisk, Ireland. Rossadillisk is a Townland in County Galway, Ireland. It is very small, taking up just .29 square miles of area. But, it is certainly not the smallest, as, of the approximately 4,556 townlands in County Galway, it is the 2,483rd largest. For such a small area, Rossadillisk packs a pretty mean birding punch. There is great birding along the road – with many fields and plenty of thick vegetation. And then, there is always the beach. I got into a nice routine of getting up nice and early. I would bird the beach right in front of our house and then set off to bird along the road, which is where I found most of my birds. I would finish the morning by birding what I called the “far beach”, which was much larger and more productive than the beach right in front of the house.
For the week, I tallied 46 species of birds in that .29 square miles. I mostly enjoyed the challenge of trying to find birds and identify them; in the beginning, identifying birds was not coming very easily at all. It felt a lot like starting over birding – I came to realize how much I know the birds in our area just because I’ve had plenty of experience with them before and because they are supposed to be there; they are expected. And, I also realized that I’m not actually spending all that much time truly looking at birds and recognizing and knowing their field marks. Additionally, I hadn’t done much homework before the trip, and the guides I was using* just didn’t seem to be quite as comprehensive as the ones we use for birds in the eastern United States, and finally, it was the time of year when there were many young birds around, so some of the plumages I was seeing were not in the guides. This made for some very interesting and rewarding birding, in spite of it being frustrating at times.
I hope you enjoy this little taste of Ireland’s birds – I’ve included my favorite shots from my mornings in Rossadillisk. If I’ve misidentified any birds, please let me know in the comments.
AT THE BEACH
*I used the Complete Field Guide to Ireland’s Birds by Eric Dempsey & Michael O’Clery, as well as two apps on my phone: iBird UK Pro and Birds of Britain and Ireland by Natureguides.
I usually like to post on Sunday nights, or at least once over the weekend, but last night I was having some computer issues, so this post had to wait until today.
I got a nice early start on Sunday morning. I headed to Sterling Forest State Park, where I was going to walk the Sterling Valley Loop, an eight mile hike that I have done several times and is typically quite birdy. I use the end of Ironwood Drive as the trailhead, which is nice as that spot is usually very active with birds, particularly with Blue-winged and Golden-winged Warblers. I was surprised by the number of cars in the parking area and by the number of birders and photographers lingering around the power cut. This made me switch gears a little bit, and instead of birding the area before heading on the trail, I hit the trail immediately (not to worry, I picked up BWWA and GWWA out on the trail).
You don’t go on a hike like this, at this time of year, especially in the overcast conditions we were having on Sunday, expecting to see and photograph all that many birds. Large stretches of the trail were flat out dark (ISO set to 4000+), and much of my birding was done by ear with the occasional nice surprise of tracking down a bird. I feel like I really appreciate seeing birds so much more when they are harder to come by. I began to rack up the number of species and individuals. The most numerous species were likely American Redstarts and Red-eyed Vireos. Highlights included: hearing a remarkable 6 ACADIAN FLYCATCHERS hearing both species of cuckoo and seeing my first BLACK-BILLED CUCKOO of the year, hearing 4 CERULEAN WARBLERS and finally being able to track one down for at least a documentary photograph, and watching a young Cedar Waxwing get fed by and adult. The best moment of the day came when a young LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH landed on a branch just off the trail to my left. This bird was so stinkin’ cute!
I ended the hike with what I thought was a respectable 56 species. You can see my complete list of species here.
On Saturday morning, I met up with Linda Scrima and Maria Loukeris and we headed to Goosepond Mountain State Park to try our luck. We parked at the Laroe Road entrance to the trail, which has been renovated since the last time I was there – the parking area is better with fresh gravel and the entrance to the trail has been cleared of all overflowing vegetation. I was on a bit of a tight schedule, but we still managed to walk a pretty good portion of the trail, walking nearly a mile and a half in before turning around.
It was a birdy walk, but with all the trees leafing out, we certainly had more birds heard than seen. We had many BLUE-WINGED WARBLERS; they were mostly heard but we did track down several of them and they all were, indeed, Blue-winged Warblers (no hybrids, no Golden-winged Warblers). American Redstarts were numerous, as were Eastern Towhees, one of which provided a nice photo op. We didn’t know it at the time, but our best bird of the day was a flycatcher, perched high on a dead tree snag. The sun was on the other side of the bird, causing it to be severely backlit. We spent some time trying to turn it into an Olive-sided Flycatcher, but in the end we left the bird unidentified. That is, until Maria got home and looked at her photos. In the pics she could see that the bird had white tufts on its back – indicative of an OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER! I never even knew this was a field mark for OSFL! When I got a chance to look at my photos and lifted the shadows, sure enough the tufts were quite evident (see photo below). I thought it was really nice work by Maria to pick up on it and I was happy to have taken a few photos of the bird – you never know! I’d had some possible OSFLs in the past – all out at the Bashakill, but I was never certain enough to count them – so this bird is a lifer for me : )
AND A FEW PHOTOS TO CATCH UP FROM EARLIER THIS WEEK:
I have some things going on this weekend, so my birding window was a brief one early this morning. I made the best of it – I went to Laurel Grove Cemetery, which was quite birdy. Best birds were: a family of Common Mergansers (one adult female with 7 young), Blackpoll Warblers (6+, my FOY), Cape Warbler (1), American Redstart (1), Chestnut-sided Warbler (1), Pine Warbler (2), Yellow-rumped Warblers (4), and most exciting – Bay-breasted Warblers (2, my FOY).
On my way out, I was contacted by Rob Stone; he had 10 SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHERS and 3 WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPERS at the Camel Farm. I ran for the birds on my way home, meeting up with Linda Scrima. Unfortunately I was pressed for time, so I was only able to take a quick look at the birds before I had to run, but still it was great to see them and add them to my 2018 Orange County list. I also saw my FOY Bobolink as I was leaving the Camel Farm. Not bad for a quick morning in the field!
From Friday evening to Saturday evening, I’m pretty sure I had my best 24 hours of warblers ever. In that span I had 19 species of warbler in three different locations: Sterling Forest State Park’s Ironwood Drive, Sterling Forest’s Old Forge Road, and Pochuck Mountain State Park.
Black-and-white Warbler: Ironwood Drive and Old Forge Road
Ovenbird: All three locations
Nashville Warbler: Pochuck
Worm-eating Warbler: Ironwood Drive
Louisiana Waterthrush: Ironwood Drive and Old Forge Road
Northern Waterthrush: Ironwood Drive
Black-throated Blue Warbler: Ironwood Drive and Pochuck
Blue-winged Warbler: Ironwood Drive
Common Yellowthroat: Ironwood Drive
Hooded Warbler: Ironwood Drive
Cerulean Warbler: Ironwood Drive
Northern Parula: Ironwood Drive and Pochuck
Blackburnian Warbler: Ironwood Drive
Yellow Warbler: Ironwood Drive and Old Forge Road
American Redstart: Ironwood Drive and Old Forge Road
Black-throated Blue Warbler: Ironwood Drive and Pochuck
Black-throated Green Warbler: Pochuck
Yellow-rumped Warbler: Ironwood Drive
Prairie Warbler: Ironwood Drive
Golden-winged Warbler: Ironwood Drive
Maybe more remarkably, in that same 24 hours, I added a total of 27 new species to my Orange County year list. Highlights (outside of the warblers) include: Virginia Rail (Liberty Loop), Broad-winged Hawk (Sterling SP), Green Heron (Sterling SP), and Baltimore Oriole (Pochuck).
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.