Black Rock Forest, 06/24/18

~Black Bear in the rain at Black Rock Forrest, 06/24/18.~ 

This morning I hiked out at Black Rock Forrest again. I have enjoyed going out there – to me there is a sense of adventure involved because you never know what you might see. I had a birdy walk with mostly the usuals, but the day did end up being eventful.  I have to mention that the bugs were absolutely terrible on this hike. I walked around in a cloud of gnats and mosquitoes that never seemed to end. I’m usually fine with the insects on a trail; they don’t really bother me. But today it was overwhelming, to the point where it was affecting my birding because I didn’t want to stop as often as I normally would.

~This is a bird that I really like and I’m always happy  to get a look at (instead of just hearing it). Yellow-throated Vireo at Black Rock Forrest, 06/24/18.~ 

About an hour into the hike, I walked out into a clearing to find a relatively large black bear right in front of me. I took a quick series of photos, but I was nervous because I’d come out into the clearing  quite close to the bear. I made a bunch of noise, but the bear held its ground, so I decided that I did not need to continue on that trail any further and slowly retreated. Not long after that, I inadvertently flushed a RUFFED GROUSE as I walked along the trail. The bird was just off the trail and instead of taking flight, it fled into the forrest on foot – giving me (sadly) my best look at a RUGR to date. I lingered in the general vicinity for a good while, keeping still and hoping for a reemergence of the bird, but it was not to be. I think you only get one shot with these birds. My final event was not a good one. I was making my way back to my car, moving at decent pace. I stopped to listen as a distant (presumed) bear had heard me coming and was making its way through the woods at a rapid pace off to my right. I never saw the bear, but it made quite the ruckus. My next step happened to be on a wet rock and I wiped out pretty good. I was fine, but unfortunately my camera did not come out of it  unscathed. Fortunately the lens seems to be fine, but the body took a good blow and is not able to connect with the lens, so it looks like it will have to go in for repairs. I finished my hike having logged just over 6 miles, with 35 species of birds and who-knows-how-many mosquito bites.

~Gray Catbird at Black Rock Forrest, 06/24/18. ~ 

The Week in Photos, 06/17/18

~Black Bear seen during an 8 mile hike at Sterling Forest State Park, Doris Duke Wildlife Sanctuary, 06/17/18.~

It’s the time of year when just about all of the birds in our area are expected breeders, so I didn’t have any real surprises this week. I got out a good amount and, I have to say, the birding has been really enjoyable. It’s a time of year to just enjoy seeing the birds, and to watch their behavior, and, of course, to photograph them. Here’s a sampling of the birds (and bears) I had in the past week.

~Fluffed up female Bobolink with prey at Knapp’s View in Chester, NY, 06/15/18. These birds are relatively easy to photograph, so I was hoping to get some more interesting shots.~
~A male Bobolink changes perches. Knapp’s View, 06/15/18.~
~Acadian Flycatcher at Black Rock Forest. On Saturday 06/16/18  I went to the main parking area and mapped out a 7 mile hike, which was enjoyable and pretty darn birdy. 
~Eastern Kingbird in flight at Wallkill River NWR’s Liberty Loop, 06/14/18.~ 
~A recently fledged White-breasted Nuthatch surveys the situation at Sterling Forest SP’s Doris Duke Wildlife Sanctuary, 06/17/18.~ 
~It’s been a while since I’ve photographed any American Goldfinches. This one was at Liberty Marsh, Wallkill River NWR, 06/14/18.~ 
~I’m really enjoying seeing all the young birds. Chipping Sparrow at Black Rock Forest, 06/16/18.~ 
~Green Heron flyover at the Liberty Loop, Wallkill River NWR, 06/14/18.~ 
~One more Bobolink photo – Knapp’s View, 06/15/18.~ 


~There were plenty of Black-and-white Warblers at Sterling Forest the past couple of days. This one is from this morning, 05/05/18, at Ironwood Drive.~ 

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

~Ovenbird at Pochuck Mountain SP, 05/05/18.~ 

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

~Male Black-throated Blue Warbler at Sterling SP, 05/05/18.~ 
~Female Black-throated Blue Warbler at Pochuck Mountain SP, 05/05/18.~ 

Blue-winged Warbler: Ironwood Drive

Common Yellowthroat: Ironwood Drive

Hooded Warbler: Ironwood Drive

~I still need a good Hooded Warbler Photo. Sterling Forest, 05/04/18.~ 

Cerulean Warbler: Ironwood Drive

Northern Parula: Ironwood Drive and Pochuck

Blackburnian Warbler: Ironwood Drive

Yellow Warbler: Ironwood Drive and Old Forge Road

~American Redstart at Sterling Forest SP, 05/04/18.~

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

~Golden-winged Warbler at Sterling Forest, 05/04/18.~ 

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 like this pic – Blue-headed Vireo at Sterling Forest SP, 05/05/18.~ 
~Ruby-crowned Kinglets were numerous at Sterling Forest today – I had at least 20 of them.~ 


Around Town, 04/21/18

~Blue-gray Gnatcatcher at Wickham Lake, 04/21/18.~

I got out and around locally this morning. My main goal was to check on the American Bitterns from last night – in my imagination I was picturing numerous bitterns flying around the Liberty Loop in perfect light. The reality was more than slightly different; I met Linda Scrima there first thing  and although we heard an American Bittern calling repeatedly, we were unable to get a visual. We had no shorebirds, but I did pick up a few FOY birds – Brown Thrasher, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, and Field Sparrow.


~Horned Grebe in nice plumage at Wickham Lake, 04/21/18.~ 

A quick stop at the Camel Farm was disappointing – one lonely Killdeer is all Linda and I could find as far as shorebirds go. From there I headed to Wickham Lake; best birds were a Common Loon and a Horned Grebe and I also picked up my FOY Blue-gray Gnatcatchers. Glenmere Lake and pond were relatively unproductive but I did have 4 Blue-winged Teal at the pond. I watched them for a good while; they are beautiful. My final stop of the morning was in the black dirt to check on the Horned Lark flock. I last had them on Tuesday evening, but including today I’ve come up empty on my last 2 tries. I spent about an hour trying to wait them out today, but I’m starting to think they have moved on.

~I spotted this bird on my way home from work on Friday night – Common Loon at Lake Kanawauke in Harriman State Park, 04/20/18.~
~It’s been a while since I shot a Mourning Dove. MODO at Wickham Lake, 04/21/18.~
~Maria and I had this female American Kestrel out on Liberty Lane on Friday night, 04/20/18.~ 
~Good bird/bad pic – Blue-winged Teals at Glenmere Pond, 04/21/18.~

Another Excellent Day For Waterfowl in OC, 04/07/18

~This little cutie made my day – Horned Grebe at Greenwood Lake, 04/07/18.~

It was an excellent morning for waterfowl in southern Orange County – I had good birds at nearly every stop I made and a total of 18 species  (see my list by location, below). But, it was one extremely accommodating Horned Grebe at Greenwood Lake which made my day. Greenwood Lake is not typically a spot that is good for photos – the birds are typically quite distant – in fact, I often leave my camera in the car. Well I was glad I had it with me today as this HOGR came in close and fed well, completely unconcerned with my presence. I love it when, every once in a while, things work out really well. Here’s what I had today, by location:

6 1/2 STATION ROAD SANCTUARY: 6 Green-winged Teal, 35 Canada Geese, 5 Mallards, 9 American Black Ducks, 2 Mute Swan, and 1 Northern Shoveler.

~One of 12 Common Loons at Glenmere Lake. Most of the birds were in a single group, but this one was off on its own, near the parking lot.~

GLENMERE LAKE: 12 Common Loons, 10 Horned Grebes, 2 Mute Swans, 5 Canada Geese, 6 American Black Ducks, 3 Bufflehead,and 4 Wood Ducks. Thanks to Kathy Ashman for reporting – she had 16 Common Loons prior to my arrival.

~Eight Common Loons at Glenmere Lake, 04/07/18.~

WICKHAM LAKE: 2 Common Mergansers, 10 Double-crested Cormorants, 12 Buffleheads, 5 RED-THROATED LOONS, 1 Common Loon, 9 Horned Grebes, 1 Pied-billed Grebe, 4 Lesser Scaup, 2 Mute Swans, and 6 Canada Geese.

GREENWOOD LAKE: 2 Common Loons, 3 Horned Grebes, 15 Double-crested Cormorants, 7 Red-breasted Mergansers, 5 Common Mergansers, 5 Buffleheads, 2 Mallards, 4 Canada Geese, and 2 Mute Swans.

~I was surprised that this bird swam in so close too – Red-breasted Merganser at Greenwood Lake. He was one of seven RBME present, 2 males and 5 females. Greenwood Lake, 04/07/18.~

WALTON LAKE: 1 Common Loon and 1 Double-crested Cormorant.

ROUND LAKE: 2 Mallards, 1 Horned Grebe, 2 Greater Scaup, 5 Buffleheads, 14 Double-crested Cormorants, 2 Ruddy Ducks, and 6 Canada Geese.

~I had to include one more shot of the Horned Grebe at Greenwood Lake, 04/07/18.~

Sandy (off the) Hook, 03/24/18

~One of many Sanderlings we had at Sandy Hook, 03/14/18.~

It had been a while (over five years!) since I’ve birded Sandy Hook, NJ (part of the Gateway National Recreation Area), so I jumped at the opportunity to take a day trip with birding buds Maria Loukeris and Linda Scrima. Our first stop was to check on the large group of seals that have been seen on the sand bar near lot C. I’ve never seen anything like it; over 100 seals of all shapes and sizes, piled up on a single sand bar. We spent some time with the seals, enjoying incredible scope views and taking loads of pics. This was not something I expected to see on this day. We also picked up our first shorebirds of the day, three American Oystercatchers, as well as several species of waterfowl: Brant, Horned Grebe, American Black Duck, Bufflehead, and Red-breasted Mergansers. Northern Gannets streamed overhead and out in the distance, a theme for the day, as we easily saw over 100 gannets for the day.

~A pile of seals on a sand bar at Sandy Hook, 03/24/18.~

From there, we headed out to the point. Our target bird was Piping Plovers, which unfortunately were not to be found. We picked up some other shorebirds, however. Many Sanderlings were working the shoreline and flying over the water, four Black-bellied Plovers were hanging out closer to the dunes, and we had a handful of additional oystercatchers. For waterfowl we added several species to our list: We had a small group of Black Scoters, several Long-tailed Ducks, a Red-necked Grebe, a Double-crested Cormorant, and a trio of Common Loons. We also had our FOY Eastern Phoebe and Osprey.

~American Oystercatcher searching for a snack – Sandy Hook 03/24/18.~

When we got back to the car, Maria received a text alert – TUFTED DUCK at the “North Pond”! But where is the North Pond? Fortunately we ran into a large group of birders who had just come from viewing the Tufted Duck and they gave us perfect directions. We went for the bird and although it was not in sight at first, we waited it out and eventually it swam back into view amongst a group of Ring-necked Ducks – a beautiful rarity! I saw a TUDU one other time several years back, but the look was distant so I really appreciated the great looks we got of this one.

~Nice comparison between a Ring-necked Duck (left) and the TUFTED DUCK (right), Sandy Hook NJ 03/24/18. Heat shimmer was a bear all day and really took its toll on nearly all the photos I took.~

On the way home we stopped at Raritan Bay Waterfront Park. We were hoping for some of the excellent gulls that had been recently reported, but the tide was too high and there were not many gulls present. We scanned for waterfowl and I was impressed with the large number of Horned Grebes present – easily over a dozen. We added a single species to our list for the day – Red-throated Loon – putting our total to over 40 species for the day. What a super day – excellent birds (and sea mammals) and great company.

~One of many, many Northern Gannets seen throughout the day. Sandy Hook, 03/24/18.~
~Always a favorite of mine – Brant in flight at Sandy Hook, 03/24/18.~
~I have struggled to get any Long-tailed Duck photos this year, so I’m including this one; Sandy Hook 03/24/18.~

Lapland Longspurs, 03/11/18

~Lapland Longspur in the Black Dirt, 03/11/18.~

The Lapland Longspur is another bird that, to me, has an inherent coolness factor. Even the name is cool. I can remember when I first began birding, looking in a guide at the Lapland Longspur and thinking: Now THIS is a bird I would like to see. Of course, I was looking in the book at the bird in breeding plumage- rather than the more muted winter plumage we see them in here in Orange County.  I hadn’t had much luck photographing LALOs this winter until today in the black dirt, where I located approximately a half dozen amongst flock of horned larks. The snow cover was forcing the birds to feed at the roadside, so I finally got my photo op.  And, at this late date in the winter, some of the birds were just starting to get their summer colors – it’s the first time I’ve ever had LALOs showing any significant amount of breeding plumage – I think they look awesome!

~Not the sharpest image, but I included this shot because it shows bird’s namesake, the longspur (elongated claw of the hind toe).  LALO in the Black Dirt, 03/11/18.~


~Turkey Vultures in my backyard, Goshen NY, 03/07/18.~

I was pretty psyched when recently the Turkey Vultures began roosting in our backyard again. It’s so exciting to get home from work in the evenings  and have a tree full of vultures on the property. Even better, today came home early to find them all hunkered down to get through the snow storm. I’m not sure how excited others would get at having them in their yard, but I love it. They made my day today.

~This tree is good for them because they are mostly hidden. These birds are up towards the top; I estimate that there is another dozen or so below them but the view is blocked out by trees in front. TUVUs in Goshen NY, 03/07/18.~