Until I started writing this post, I was feeling like my weekend of birding was a little bit on the hum-drum side. But looking back, I actually had some pretty good birds over the weekend, even if it wasn’t overly exciting. On Saturday morning, I made a quick stop at Glenmere Lake, following up on a report from Kathy Ashman of a Cackling Goose on the lake. When I arrived, nearly all the geese, including the Cackler, had already flown. The stop was still worthwhile, however, since I was able to see my first Green-winged Teals, Wood Duck, and Northern Pintails of the year. Then, I ventured back to the Hudson River, spending most of the day working my way from the Bear Mountain Bridge up to Newburgh and getting mostly the usuals. I went to Storm King State Park again, hoping the Golden Eagle would be present, but unfortunately it was not. I walked the trail for a good while, hoping that the bird might make an appearance; if it did I, missed it. There were many raptors in flight over the mountain, however; I had several Bald Eagles, a pair of Red-tailed Hawks, nearly 2 dozen Black Vultures and a couple of Turkey Vultures. I ended the day in the Newburgh Waterfront area, hoping for any interesting gulls. I struck out with the gulls, but thanks to birding bud Bruce Nott, I did get my first Orange County RED-BREASTED MERGANSER of 2018.
I got out a little later than I should have on Sunday morning and missed the majority of the geese at Glenmere Lake once again. It was a good stop though, I picked up my first OC Ring-necked Ducks of the year and also had a female Red-breasted Merganser. I cruised the black dirt afterwards, hoping that the overnight snow would push some larks and buntings out to the roads. This proved not to be the case and I actually had very few Horned Larks in my travel (just 2 flocks totaling approximately 70 birds). The highlight of my morning was watching the large flocks of mixed blackbirds (Red-winged Blackbirds, European Starlings, Brown-headed Cowbirds, and Common Grackles). There is something about large flocks of birds, watching them and hearing them is just fascinating. I tried for some pics, but mostly I was disappointed with the results. I ended the day with a nice, low-flying Bald Eagle which provided a decent photo op.
I was up and out early this morning, looking to add some of the good birds currently being seen to my 2018 list. At Glenmere Lake, I relocated the Red-headed Woodpecker that I’d originally located the day after Christmas. A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker stole the show, however, giving me super looks as I birded from the area right around the parking lot.
I cruised through the black dirt briefly, finding just the usuals. After meeting Tricia for lunch at the Goshen Diner, I headed to Johnson Road in Chester, hoping for the GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE that John Haas had located earlier in the week. When I arrived, there were not many geese present; I sorted through them quickly without finding the GWFG and then made my way towards the Newburgh Waterfront.
I had two target birds at the waterfront: the continuing Iceland Gull (at least I hoped it was continuing), and a pair of Canvasbacks that Ken McDermott had reported there, just yesterday. I met Linda Scrima there and at first it did not look good for getting either bird. Gulls were relatively scarce and there was no sign of the Canvasbacks. We put in some time, which was tough because of how cold it was today, and eventually we located the Iceland Gull. The bird was incredibly cooperative and swam quite close, allowing for some nice photos in the waning light. Bill and Jayne Fiero showed up with impeccable timing and got the gull as well. The Canvasbacks did not make an appearance; other notable birds included a decent number of Common Mergansers (75+) and 4 adult Bald Eagles. All in all, a VERY cold but fun and productive day of birding.
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.
Well, another year of birding is officially in the books! The end of year post has always been one of my favorites to write; it’s fun for me to look back on the year of birding and remember all the highlights.
2017 MONTH-BY-MONTH HIGHLIGHTS
JANUARY:I went on my first Winter Pelagic and it did not disappoint. I got two life birds on the trip:DovekieandBlack-legged Kittiwake. Snow Geeserepresented well in the black dirt and provided plenty of photo ops. And, aROSS’S GOOSE was an easy get at Monroe-Woodbury Middle School.
FEBRUARY:Snow Geesecontinued to linger in the Black Dirt and a trip to the Jersey Shore yielded two really good birds:RAZORBILL and aLesser Black-backed Gull.
MARCH:I got my lifer Long-earedandNorthernSaw-Whetowls on a trip to Connecticut. There was a trio of Long-tailed Ducks at Glenmere Lake, and 4Sandhill Cranes in Ulster County. I joined Kathy Ashman, Bruce Nott, and Linda Scrima out at Wickham Lake for one of the best waterfowl fallouts I’d seen in the OC; we had 17 species of waterfowl including 3HornedGrebesand 17Redheads(an OC life bird for me!).
APRIL:Early in the month, I went on a family vacation to Sargent, Texas, where I accumulated 12 life birds. A little later in the month I ran for aTrumpeter Swanat the Bashakill.
MAY:A lot went on in May. Good waterfowl sitings included a White-winged Scoterat Glenmere and4 Red-necked Grebes at Wickham Lake. Linda Scrima located and documented very well aSUMMER TANAGERat Laurel Grove Cemetery. I had a 5 swallow night at the Liberty Loop (Tree, Barn, N. Rough-winged, Bank, and Cliff). I participated in the Mearns Bird Club’s Break 100 on a team with John Haas, Karen Miller, and Jeff Goulding. We located one of the best birds of the day,aLESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL. The following day, I got my Orange County liferYellow-breasted Chat, originally located during the Break by the team of Alan & Della Wells and Dave and Sharon Baker. At the Grasslands, I picked up 2 life birds in 2 minutes:DICKCISSELandHENSLOW’S SPARROW. At the end of the month I had a super showing of shorebirds at the Camel Farm, including 2RED-NECKED PHALAROPESand 6White-rumped Sandpipers. Later in the evening, Rob Stone would add aWILSON’S PHALAROPEto the list.
JUNE:Things slowed down a bit in June; there was aBlack Ternat the Liberty Loop that I missed out on. The highlight of the month for me was my yearly trip to Adirondacks; this year Kyle Dudgeon joined me and we overdosed onCommon Loons(never a bad thing).
JULY: Linda Scrima located aForster’s Ternat the Liberty Loop; I ran and was able to get some great shots of that bird. Rob Stone relocated 5 WHITE IBISat Wickham Lake and thanks to Curt McDermott and his kayak, I was able to get some good shots of those birds too. Following up on an eBird report, Linda Scrima and I relocated aSNOWY EGRETat Citgo Pond, which was an OC lifer for both of us. I had an amazing encounter with aLEAST BITTERNwith Linda and Maria at Richard W. DeKorte Park – see more about this below.
AUGUST:There was aGlossy Ibisat Citgo Pond, originally located by Bill Fiero. I located a pair ofUPLAND SANDPIPERSin the black dirt.
SEPTEMBER:Hawkwatch at Mt. Peter began; we counted over 6800Broad-winged Hawksfor the month, which is slightly below average. I had my best showing ofCommon Nighthawkssince moving to OC, with nearly a dozen sitings. I located 5SANDERLINGS, another OC lifer for me, in the Black Dirt.
OCTOBER:Linda Scrima struck again and located aNELSON’S SPARROW at the Liberty Loop. I was lucky enough to get that bird one evening after work. Maria Loukeris made her mark, locating aSAY’S PHOEBE, also at Liberty Marsh. Unfortunately that bird did not stick around for anyone else to see it, but it was documented with a beautiful shot by Maria. I had an amazing 36Pectoral Sandpiperslater in the month, again at Liberty Marsh, as well as a very earlyRough-legged Hawkin the Black Dirt.
NOVEMBER:At Mt. Peter, early in the month, I had my firstGOLDEN EAGLEof the season. I also had my first Snow BuntingsandLAPLAND LONGSPURSof the season. Later in the month, thanks to a lead from John Haas, I got my first (of many)Cackling Gooseof the season.
DECEMBER:I located aRed-headed Woodpeckerat Glenmere Lake and then Kathy Ashman located 2 ROSS’S GEESE, also at Glenmere. I also had a pair of ICELAND GULLS at the Newburgh Waterfront, a week later Curt McDermott had 4ICGU and a singleLesser Black-backed Gullat the same location.
BY THE NUMBERS
I almost left this section out this year because most of my numbers aren’t very pretty, but I enjoy looking at the numbers and I think they can be I had decided last year not to concentrate so much on birding in Orange County, but then I turned around and birded OC nearly exclusively, at the expense of the neighboring counties?!? I’m not sure what it is, but I guess I just enjoy getting birds in my home county more than anywhere else. Here’s my species numbers for the year:
MORE NUMBERS: I added 17 birds to my life list in 2017, putting my total at 388. I also added 12 species to my New York State life list bumping that up to 290, and I add 10 birds to my OC life list, giving me a total of 246. This is my 92nd post of the year, down 7 from last year, which I don’t think is too bad based on my birding time being limited these days.
MOST EXCITING BIRDING EXPERIENCE OF THE YEAR: LEAST BITTERN AT RICHARD W. DEKORTE PARK.
On July 30th Linda Scrima, Maria Loukeris, and I took a trip down to Richard W. DeKorte Park in Lyndhurst, New Jersey to break up the summer doldrums a bit. We left at the end of the day having had an experience that not many will have. We had an amazing encounter with a Least Bittern that was feeding right next to one of the blinds. The bird was super focused on its prey and never really reacted to us at all. To me, Least Bitterns are among the most secretive birds in our area, so I never dreamed that we could get such a close-up extended look and unbelievable photos ops. I can’t imagine that it will ever happen again for me.
TOP TEN PHOTOS OF 2017
So it’s always difficult for me to pick my top photos of the year – there are so many different criteria I could use I suppose, but basically it just comes down to the shots that I like the best and have held up in my mind over the year.
I’d like to thank everyone who reads the blog and especially those who comment – the comments really keep me going. And, as usual, I’d like to thank all my birding friends out there for yet another excellent year of birding, with special thanks to Rob Stone, Linda Scrima, Maria Loukeris, Kyle Dudgeon, John Haas, Karen Miller, Ken McDermott, and Judy Cinquina. Happy New Year to everyone out there, here’s to an extremely birdy 2018!
First thing this morning I followed up on Kathy Ashman’s report of two ROSS’S GEESE at Glenmere Lake from yesterday morning. It was a dark, cold, and snowy morning; I arrived at the lake before sunrise and immediately located the 2 Ross’s among approximately 300 Canada Geese. I put the word out and John Haas was able to join me. With the snow fall and the heavy cloud cover, it never got light enough for good photos, but we both did our best. Ross’s are always exciting, and in spite of the poor light, the birds were relatively close and we got pretty good looks. Around 9 am, the birds picked up and John and I headed our separate ways. Huge thanks to Kathy for finding and reporting the birds.
My goal for the day was to make a last ditch effort to find some new birds for my Orange County 2017 year list. I scoured the Hudson River, starting at the Bear Bridge and eventually ending up at the Newburgh Waterfront. I was hoping for Canvasback (I’d had 75 near my work in Rockland County the day before!) or for Great Cormorant. It was a fun day exploring new spots and hoping for the best, but ultimately I did not add any birds to my list. The highlight at the Hudson came at my final stop, where I ran into John Haas once again. He had just located an Iceland Gull. The bird was super cooperative and I got some decent shots. John had put the word out, but unfortunately, before anyone else had arrived the bird picked up and flew all the way to Beacon. Curt McDermott and Rick Hansen missed the bird by moments and Curt chased it over to Beacon (he said that it would guarantee that the bird would come back to Newburgh). Kathy Ashman showed up shortly after his departure and Curt was right, the bird did come back and Kathy and Rick both got their lifer Iceland Gulls! That was a pretty exciting way to end the day. I didn’t add any birds to my OC year list, but any day with 2 Ross’s Geese and an Iceland Gull is a good day of birding.
A couple weeks ago, I incorrectly reported a couple of Red-headed Woodpeckers in an eBird checklist for Glenmere Lake. It was a data entry error on my part – I had intended on reporting the 2 Red-BELLIED Woodpeckers I’d seen there that day, but clicked on the wrong box. My error was pointed out to me by birding buds Rob Stone and Linda Scrima; they had seen the report online and followed up with me about it.
As coincidence would have it, this afternoon I was at Glenmere Lake and I was pleasantly surprised to see a young RED-HEADED WOODPECKER as I was getting back to my car. The bird was very accomadating and I was fortunate enough to get some decent photos. This is my third straight year seeing this bird in Orange County; in 2015 there was a pair at Elks Brox Park in Port Jervis, last year there were a couple birds at Fancher Davidge Park in Middletown, and earlier this year I had two young birds at Hamptonburgh Preserve just north of Goshen.
After yesterday’s snow, I knew I wanted to check out the black dirt today. One of my main goals was to try for Snow Buntings and Lapland Longspurs among the large flocks of Horned Larks. I was hoping the snow cover would push the birds closer to the roadsides, this only happened to a small extent, but I was able to get a single LAPLAND LONGSPUR out at Skinner’s Lane. The bird was only about 40 yards off the road, but I was a little slow on the draw and missed getting a shot. I did a little bit better shooting raptors; I got my first decent shot of a Norther Harrier for the season. I also watched a Merlin enjoy a snack on a telephone pole, and miraculously, when it had finished, it took off in my direction, allowing for a decent shot.
After the black dirt, I checked out Wickham Lake, where I happy to find 12 species of waterfowl! They were pretty much the usuals, but it was excellent birding. The following species were present: Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Wood Duck, Gadwall, American Wigeon, Mallard, Am. Black Duck, Ring-necked Duck, Bufflehead, Common Merganser, Pied-billed Grebe, and Am. Coot.
From there I went to Glenmere Lake and found the birds of the day: a single BLACK SCOTER and 2 LONG-TAILED DUCKS. I haven’t had any sea ducks this fall, so I was pretty happy to see these birds. All in all, it made for a really great day of birding, one that I needed. It’s rare that I post twice in a single day – click here or on the link below to see my post from this morning with the Mount Peter 2017 end of season report by Judy Cinquina.
When it comes to photographing birds, one of the least desirable perches to me is on a wire. It’s always disappointing to find a good, confiding bird that happens to be perched on a wire – I would, of course prefer a more natural setting. But sometimes that’s just what you get, and looking back over recent years I’ve had number of pretty decent shots in spite of the wire perch; here are some of my favorites.
Today was another relatively slow day for me at Mt. Peter. I recently wrote that I have been snake bit this season, but in retrospect, I’m not sure that’s true. Instead, I think that the crazy warm temperatures have really affected the counts this year, particularly in October (which has felt more like August). We have had fewer “good” days this October. Last year, we had 10 days with over 50 migrating raptors; this year we have had only 6. We have also had more “bad” days this year, with less than 25 birds on 13 days! Last year, by comparison, had only 8 days in October with less than 25 birds.
I was hoping for the best, but I was not overly optimistic coming into today. The continuing warm temperatures and a south wind were not a promising combination. I totaled 24 migrating raptors (see report below), which was just enough to keep me from going bonkers. An added bonus was that the majority of the migrating birds today flew over very low. This allowed for some really great looks and some photo ops too. I had additional photo ops when one of the local Red-tailed Hawks finally decided to spend some time near the viewing platform. And, I’m always hoping for something a little different to fly over the mountain, and today I was not disappointed – I had 3 skeins of BRANT fly over! I really should have gotten a good Brant photo, but I was a little slow on the draw. The Brant made my day, as they were my 216th species in Orange County this 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.