QUICK POST: I got out several times this weekend; most of my birding was relatively uneventful with the exception of getting my first shorebirds of the fall migration – 5 LEAST SANDPIPERS at the Citgo Pond on Friday afternoon. I went back this afternoon and the only shorebirds present was a half dozen Killdeer. Here’s several shots from the weekend.
QUICK POST: Huge thanks to Linda Scrima, who contacted me tonight to let me know she had a FORSTER’S TERN at Wallkill River NWR’s Liberty Loop. I jumped into the car and ran for the bird, and WOW, what a beautiful bird! It was perched on the measuring pole just to the left of the viewing platform, which made for a great photo op. I’ve never had FOTE in Orange County before, so this is OC bird #243 for me! Very exciting!
Kyle Dudgeon and I loaded the kayaks onto my VW Golf this past weekend and headed north to do some Adirondack birding. We were heading to Saranac Lake, where there are some excellent local birding hotspots and the St. Regis Canoe Area is less than a half hour away. This trip has become an annual one for me; I’ve gone the past four years in a row now, but for Kyle, this was his first birding trip in the Adirondacks. Our main goal was to photograph the Common Loons, and if that went well and the timing worked out, we would do some additional birding in the area.
We arrived at the boat launch late Saturday afternoon. The weather seemed good while we were on the road, with mostly sunny skies above us as we made the 4 1/2 hour drive. But, when we got out of the car it was really windy and we immediately saw that the water was extremely rough. As we debated on whether or not to venture into the water, an adult Bald Eagle swooped in by the boat launch and then perched on the other side of the small cove. That convinced us and we headed out in the kayaks. Once in the water, the eagle did not stick around for any photos and the water was rough enough for me to be concerned. I wasn’t worried for our safety, we had life vests and we are both strong swimmers, but between the two of us, we had a lot of camera gear to keep dry.
We eventually made it to some areas that were protected from the wind, making the waves at least tolerable. Unfortunately, we were not having much luck with loons, getting only a brief look at a single bird. I’ve been successful on every other trip, but here I was with Kyle and I was beginning to get worried. We paddled around the large pond, hoping our luck would change and eventually it did. We first heard a loon calling, and then four loons flew in and put down just across the pond from us. We made our way over to them and, as I’ve experienced in the past, the birds were comfortable with our presence and went about their business. The loons had put down in an area where the water was pretty rough, which made it really tough to take photos, but in the end I felt like the water movement really added to the photos. Later, as we paddled back to the launch, Kyle and I decided to definitely give it another try first thing in the morning, hoping that the wind would die down a bit and make for some easier paddling.
We arrived at the boat launch right at sunrise on Sunday morning. And the water was like glass. What a difference a day makes! The light was gorgeous and the paddling was super easy. We spent 2 1/2 hours on the water; we did well with more Common Loons, including finding one that was on a nest. We were also hearing many songbirds along the shores of the pond and the islands in the pond. We had an excellent close encounter with a Blackburnian Warbler, but I somehow blew my photos of that bird. Kyle did better than I did, you can check it out, as well as all his photos from the trip here. The highlight of the morning, however, was an adult female Common Merganser with 8 of the cutest chicks you’ve ever seen!
It was still early when we finished up kayaking, so we hit a couple of hotspots to try and get Kyle some target birds. We were hoping for Boreal Chickadee, Gray Jay, and Black-backed Woodpecker. We made brief stops at both Bloomindale Bog and Bigelow Road. Both areas were birdy, but the birds were mostly heard and not seen. We had our best luck at Bigelow Road, where right near the trailhead we had a great look at a Nashville Warbler. Further on, we eventually heard a pair of Black-backed Woodpeckers, which were frustratingly close to the trail, considering we never got even a glimpse. Then, on our way back to the car, we first heard and then saw a single young Gray Jay. The bird did not cooperate, so no photos. We wrapped up the weekend with a nice big, late, breakfast before getting on the road. It was another great trip to the Adirondacks, a place that I’ve grown to really love in recent years. Huge thanks to Kyle for joining me; he was great company.
QUICK TEASER: Kyle Dudgeon and I took a trip up north this weekend for some awesome Adirondack birding. We took loads of photos (especially of Common Loons), so it may take me a little time to get through them. Stay tuned for a post in the next few days.
QUICK POST: These days it looks like I’m doing better with mammals than with birds. I did some local birding after work today with Acadian Flycatcher as my target bird. I was able to get the flycatcher (heard first and then seen, but no photos), which made me happy, but it was a Black Bear that stole the show. It was very dark on the trail, so I was happy with how my photos came out since they were taken with an ISO of 10,000. On my way out I also came across some Wild Turkeys with some super cute chicks. I birded for just over an hour and I had 27 species.
Every once in a while, my best bird isn’t a bird at all. I spent the afternoon after work today birding at Goosepond South, a spot that I’ve never been to before. Towards the end of an uneventful and not overly birdy hike, I came upon this mink and it made my day. I’ve never really caught more than a glimpse of a mink, but in this case I was sitting still for quite some time and the mink did not appear to know I was there and appeared on the far shore of the stream. It then actually swam closer to me before disappearing into the grasses on the near side of the stream’s edge.
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.
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:
I got my absolute best look at an Orange County BONAPARTE’S GULL this evening at the Newburgh waterfront. Every BOGU I’ve ever had in Orange County prior to this one has been just miles out. This bird, on the other hand, actually flew closer to me as I started to take photographs. It was a minor birding miracle : )
Tricia and I spent nearly a week in Texas on a family birding vacation with Tricia’s sister Carolyn, her husband Bill, and their daughter Cameron. We stayed at Bill’s friend Joe Zanone’s beach house at Sargent Beach, which is a barrier island between the Intracoastal Waterway and the Gulf of Mexico.
We flew into Houston and on our first day Bill and I did some brief birding at Hogg Park, walking a trail that bordered the White Oak Bayou. The next day we headed to the beach and did the remainder of our birding at Sargent Beach and two nearby National Wildlife Refuges – San Bernard NWR and Brazoria NWR. We did a good deal of birding right off of Joe’s back deck, looking over the Intracoastal Waterway into the marsh. Both NWRs were were loaded with birds and feature extensive wildlife drives which allowed us to cover a lot of territory in the car. As good as the refuges were, my best birding experience was when Joe took Bill and I to the north end of the island. The “road” that heads out this way is just brutal. It is not really a road, having just been created by vehicle traffic, and it is littered with absolutely massive potholes. Bill and I tried to head out that way on an earlier occasion, but had to turn back because the road was too bad. Joe, however, knew the road and knew how to drive it. He drove us way out, pretty much in the middle of nowhere; we eventually saw the fenceposts that border San Bernard NWR. We had not seen many Osprey the whole trip, but out here, for some reason, there were at least a half a dozen Osprey, all perched either on the ground or very low perches, something that I’d never seen before and found fascinating. I really enjoyed the feeling of being pretty much in the middle of nowhere; it was just us and the birds.
The whole area is extremely birdy, but I think because we never really birded any significantly different habitats, I felt that our total number of birds was on the low side. We had a total of 108 species in what amounted to five days in the area (I’ve included a list of all species at the bottom of this post). Of those 108 species, I managed to get 12 life birds:
*Neotropic Cormorant, White-winged Dove, Long-billed Curlew, Wilson’s Plover, White-tailed Kite, Least Grebe, White-tailed Hawk, Vermilion Flycatcher, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Gull-billed Tern, Snowy Plover, and Western Sandpiper.*
Normally the raptors on any list would be among my favorites, but I think because we got such limited looks at both the White-tailed Hawk And the White-tailed Kite they don’t rate as high as I would have thought. My favorites were the WILSON’S PLOVER, SNOWY PLOVER, and of course the SCISSOR-TAILED FLYCATCHER. All three are beautiful birds that we got really good looks at and photos too. The LEAST GREBE was also pretty amazing to see, but it was miles out and could only seen with the scope.
It was a really great birding trip, and I hope to get back there again some day soon. Enjoy the photos.
~POOR PHOTOS OF LIFERS SECTION~
QUICK POST: Tricia and I returned last night from family birding vacation in Sargent, Texas. We joined Tricia’s sister Carolyn, her husband Bill, and their daughter Cameron for 6 days in this very birdy area. I have over a thousand photos to get through, so I anticipate getting a post together for this weekend… stay tuned.