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.
When I saw John Haas’ report this morning that he had a BAIRD’S SANDPIPER at Apollo Plaza, I knew there was a good chance I’d be heading to Sullivan County after work. While it’s been an excellent year for me with shorebirds in Orange County, photo ops have been very few. So, with that in mind, I raced towards Apollo Plaza after work and luckily the bird was still present. At first I didn’t think I would get any photos because the BASA was staying mostly hidden in the grasses, but eventually the bird worked its way out and into the open. What a difference from see them a couple hundred yards out like we have been in the black dirt! What a beautiful bird; huge thanks to John for posting and to Patrick Dechon, who originally located the bird on Monday.
Over the weekend, I was lucky enough to catch up with the two SANDHILL CRANES that have been spending some time in our area. Not only that, I watched from my car as the two birds interacted for approximately 5 minutes. They were very vocal while this was going on; you can see in nearly every photo, one or both of their bills are open. I did some research on the internet and found out that SACRs mate for life, choosing their partners based on dancing displays. But, the timing doesn’t seem right for this, so I kept looking and found a passage on the National Geographic website that indicated that they “also dance, run, leap high in the air and otherwise cavort around—not only during mating but all year long”. It was awesome to see it; here are a number of photos from that five minutes.
Unexpected for me at least. Until yesterday, I hadn’t really ever given it much thought. I guess I always just assumed that Ruby-throated Hummingbirds fed on nectar alone, but they are considered ominvores (eat food of both plant and animal origin), and they supplement their nectar diet with arthropods, including insects.
Kyle Dudgeon and I spent some time very early this morning with the LEAST BITTERNS at Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge’s Liberty Loop. It was great to see good numbers of LEBIs, and we got lucky with one particularly accommodating individual, which landed not very far off the path – I’ve included four photos of this bird.
In birding news, Karen Miller watched the ROSEATE SPOONBILL fly north over Oil City Road and into Orange County. Kyle and I searched for the bird down Liberty Lane, and John Haas joined us to help search the area, but unfortunately, as of this writing, the bird had not been relocated.
This past weekend, Kyle Dudgeon joined me in what has become a yearly trip for me to the Adirondacks to photograph Common Loons. We arrived Saturday afternoon, set up camp, and we were heading out in our kayaks onto Follensby Clear Pond by early evening. Moments after I got in the water, a Common Loon popped up right next to my kayak, checked me out for a minute or so, and then dove under. We spent the evening on the pond with several cooperative adult birds; the weather was great and we had some decent light for photos.
We timed the trip so that we might be able to see some loon chicks. When the sun had set on Saturday evening, we were questioning our timing since we’d seen only adults.
Over dinner, I double checked when I’d had chicks there in the past – our timing seemed okay, and when we woke up Sunday morning at our campsite there was an adult with a chick on the pond about 75 yards out. Unfortunately the weather had taken a turn for the worse, and it was a rainy, dark, morning. We enjoyed seeing the adult feeding the chick and we had some real excitement when an intruder loon came into the area and “our” adult tangled pretty good with the intruder, eventually forcing him/her out of the area. The chick, in the meantime, hid itself along the shore. We knew where it was, but only because we saw it go there – it was REALLY well camouflaged. Eventually the adult came back and the two were reunited. It wasn’t long after that when the second adult arrived and the two adults took turns feeding the chick. It was pretty cool stuff to see, even though the distance and lack of light limited the number of decent photos.
Kyle was determined to get into the water and photograph the loons using a boogie board to prop his camera on. The idea is to get as low of an angle as possible, which always seems desirable for bird photography. On Saturday, at first, he tried it in deeper water and struggle to keep the camera from getting wet. Later he tried where he could stand and he had much more success. He couldn’t convince me to get out of the kayak and try it (I’ve had enough camera issues recently, I don’t need to drop one in the pond!), but he ended up swimming with the loons both days and I have to say I love the low angle he achieved:
It was a brief, but excellent weekend with the loons. It would be interesting to spend a summer with these birds – you would learn so much and the photo ops would be insane. Until that happens, I’ll try to keep up the yearly visits. Here are some more of my favorite shots from the weekend:
I wonder how many people can say they saw breeding Common Loons with a chick in the morning and a Roseate Spoonbill in the afternoon? Without taking a flight? I’m guessing not too many, if any at all, but that’s exactly what Kyle Dudgeon and I did today. Just as we were wrapping up our yearly trip to the Adirondacks after a morning of kayaking in the rain (and swimming in Kyle’s case) with Common Loons, I got a phone call from Linda Scrima. She had located a ROSEATE SPOONBILL at the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge’s Liberty Loop. Apparently a photo of a ROSP had been posted to the refuge’s Facebook page and Linda followed up on it early this morning and found the bird on the west side of the loop, just over the border into Sussex County, New Jersey. As Kyle and I got on the road, we did some quick figuring and we knew that we would certainly try for the spoonbill. Five or so hours later, we headed down the trail and joined a number of birders and photographers gathered to see the bird. It was very strange to me to see this bird up in our area, after having previously only seen them in their normal range of Florida and Texas. It was a life bird for Kyle, so that was exciting. The bird spent the duration of our time there partially hidden by vegetation, so Linda sent me one of her pics from earlier in the day to use for this post – thanks Linda!
I have a good number of Common Loon photos to get through, but I will post in the next day or so; it’s one of my favorite posts of the year, so I’m looking forward to it. Here is a teaser from earlier this morning, during a break in the rain:
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 had a fantastic week in Connemara, Ireland, a district located on the west coast of the country, in the northwest corner of County Galway. The biggest surprise of the week was, in spite of renting a house right on the beach, I spent a large portion of my birding time with the local passerines. Songbirds were numerous on the road leading to our house and I walked it nearly every morning, trying to find and identify Irish passerines. I have loads of photos to get through, so I will put together a post or two as soon as I can. Until then, enjoy this European Goldfinch, a bird that reminded me very much of our own American Goldfinches.
This morning I joined John Haas and Karen Miller on a trip to Nickerson Beach on Long Island; we were hoping to see some of the great terns that have been reported there in recent days. It was my first time to Nickerson Beach, and I didn’t really know what to expect. There are nesting colonies of Common Terns, Least Terns, and Black Skimmers – all in a relatively small area, so the shear number of birds is absolutely incredible. Our timing was good for tern chicks and we saw plenty of both Least and Common Tern chicks. We spent much of our time between the Common Tern colony and the ocean, and it was remarkable to see how well the terns were doing feeding; there was a steady stream of COTEs heading out to the ocean and coming back with fish in their bills to feed young.
We were hoping that some larger groups of terns would loaf on the beach, this would increase our chances of seeing some different terns, but this never materialized to any great extent. Whenever a larger group of terns would start to develop, sure enough a walker or jogger would come through and flush the birds. It was a perfect “beach day” after all! Apparently we had missed a Royal Tern do a fly-by while we were checking out the Least Tern colony, but we did get lucky with four GULL-BILLED TERNS which spent a good amount of time flying above and through the Common Tern colony. I was excited because of all the likely terns, this is the one I wanted to get shot of – they are a beautiful clean, sharp looking tern and they are distinctly whiter than the Commons that they were flying among. Unfortunately, we left without getting a couple of our targets – Arctic Tern and Roseate Tern. It was a great morning of birding, and getting out super early, we beat the heat for the most part.