Snowy Morning at the Grasslands, 03/02/19

~Northern Harrier hunting in the snow at Shawangunk Grasslands NWR, 03/02/19.~

I arrived at Shawangunk Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge just after sunrise this morning. I was happy – a steady snow was falling, it was cold but not uncomfortably so, and I was the only one there. I walked the trails for a little while; I heard coyotes off in the distance. As the sun started to rise, I noticed a few of the Northern Harriers had started to fly, so I headed into the “Bobolink” blind and waited. But, the snow seemed to keep the harriers from flying like they have been recently, and it was songbirds that stole the show for me. I had several American Tree Sparrows just off to my right; every once in a while one would perch up on a bush. A Savannah Sparrow flew in front of the blind, perched briefly and then disappeared into the grasses. A trio of Northern Flickers spent some time in the tree directly in front of the blind, before flying south and finding another tree out in the middle of the grasslands. Then I heard a call I was hoping to hear all morning – Eastern Meadowlarks! A group of nine had landed in the ‘flicker tree’ and were gently calling.

~One of 9 Eastern Meadowlarks in one tree, Shawangunk Grasslands NWR 03/02/19.~

I then walked the trails for a while, covering a good portion of the north end of the refuge. The snow eventually stopped and the refuge had a different feel, much brighter and warmer. The harriers remained relatively sparse on my walk although I did see a distant “Gray Ghost” flying over near Galeville Park. An Eastern Bluebird perched in a tree right alongside the trail. Four Black Vultures circled directly overhead. When I arrived back near the parking area, I ran into one of my favorite people: Ralph Tabor. We caught up for a while and enjoyed the birds at the feeder station. A Brown Creeper made its way up a tree just to the right of the feeders; I’m pretty sure it’s the first one I’ve ever had in Ulster County. Ralph then spotted a Short-eared Owl in the distance, being harassed by some American Crows. As I walked back towards my car, the crows flushed a second Shorty and I was able to get some photos before both owls settled down again. It was great morning of birding; it far exceeded my expectations when I headed out this morning.

~It’s been ages since I’ve gotten any Short-eared Owl photos; Shorty in flight at Shawangunk Grasslands NWR, 03/02/19.~
~This might be the bird of the day for me – BROWN CREEPER at Shawangunk Grasslands NWR, 03/02/19.~
~One of 4 Black Vultures I saw overhead as I walked the trails at Shawangunk Grasslands NWR, 03/02/19.~
~Short-eared Owl, Shawangunk Grasslands NWR, 03/02/19.~
~Eastern Bluebird at the Grasslands, 03/02/19.~
~I ran into this Red-tailed Hawk on the way home, I think it was in Wallkill NY, 03/02/19.~

Saturday 01/26/19

~This bird was perched right near the parking area when I pulled in just after sunrise, Shawangunk Grasslands, 01/26/19.~

As I drifted off to sleep on Friday night, I came up with a birding plan for Saturday. I would hit the Shawangunk Grasslands NWR at sunrise for some “sure thing” birding (with an outside shot at the Northern Shrike), then head up to Dutchess County to try for the Golden Eagles that have been reported there this winter, and finally, on my way home stop at the Newburgh Waterfront to try for gull (Glaucous and Iceland had both been reported earlier in the week.

I had a great stop at the grasslands, I spent some time in a blind which gave me a couple of nice photo ops (in addition to the accommodating Northern Harrier perched right near the parking area). NOHAs are still numerous, and I also had 2 Rough-legged Hawks (distant), and from the blind I watched approximately 10 Eastern Meadowlarks work their way around the refuge. I tried for the N. Shrike from the Galeville Park side, but had no luck.

~I was loving the marking on this bird. Northern Harrier at the Shawangunk Grasslands NWR, 01/26/19.~

From there, I headed up to Dutchess County to try for the Golden Eagles. I was able to get views of two birds I believe were Goldens – a young bird (100%, see photo below), and a possible adult (totally silhouetted, but the head/neck size looked really good to me). Additionally, I had a handful of Red-tailed Hawks, a Cooper’s Hawk, and several Bald Eagles, including a young bird which was enjoying a meal in a tree right off the road:

~What a big, beautiful beast this bird was. Bald Eagle in Dutchess County, NY 01/26/19.~
~I don’t think there is such thing as a bad photo of a Golden Eagle, but this is pretty distant – this bird was up there. Dutchess County, NY 01/26/19.~

My final stop at the Newburgh Waterfront was pretty much a bust, other than running into two of my favorite birding buds, Bruce Nott and Kathy Ashman. It was a beautiful night and while it was fun to sift through the gulls, we came up with nothing other than the expected three species: Ring-billed, Herring, and Great Black-backed. It was a good day of birding for me – some good birds, some decent photo ops, and a little bit of good camaraderie.

~Proof that I was at the waterfront, lol. Ring-billed Gull at the Newburgh Waterfront 01/26/19.~
~I feel like this photo was “this” close (holds fingers a quarter inch apart) to being a good one. NOHA at the Grasslands, 01/26/19.~

Sunday Shots – Grasslands Edition, 01/13/19

~Northern Harrier coming right at the blind, Shawangunk Grasslands, 01/13/19.~

QUICK POST: I got out this morning into the early afternoon. I started at sunrise in a blind at the Shawangunk Grasslands, ran for the GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE in Wallkill, and then ended up in the black dirt. It was cold but for the most part the light was great for photos and the birds were pretty cooperative, which made for a nice day.

~Northern Harrier at the Grasslands, 01/13/19.~
~Northern Harrier at the Grasslands, 01/13/19.~
~Northern Harrier at the Grasslands, 01/13/19.~
~This is one of the reasons I wanted to get a 1.4x extender – these geese are always so darn far away, and this helps to document them. GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE on the Wallkill River near Wallkill NY, 01/13/19.~
~Not always a cooperative bird, I watched this Northern Flicker feed on something deep under the leaf litter for a good 10 minutes. NOFL in the black dirt, 01/13/19.~
~This is not a bird I photograph very often. Northern Cardinal in the black dirt, 01/13/19. I took this with my 1.4 extender – I think you can tell, but the results aren’t too bad in my opinion. I wouldn’t normally use it for this kind of shot, but I had it on from the Greater White-fronted Goose.~

Weekend Wrap Up, 01/14/18

~Red-shouldered Hawk Route 207, Goshen NY 01/13/18.~

I got out both days this weekend, but the birding was relatively uneventful with a lot of the usuals being seen. Highlights for me included seeing a nice-sized mixed flock (maybe 200 birds) of Horned Larks, Snow Buntings, and at least a single LAPLAND LONGSPUR in the black dirt. Saturday evening the nice light had me headed to the Shawangunk Grasslands; on my way there a Red-shouldered Hawk flew across the road and perched on the roadside. At the grasslands, I had a single young Bald Eagle, 7 Northern Harriers (including 4 Gray Ghosts!), and although they got up too late for photos, 5 Short-eared Owls made a nice end to the day.

~I was surprised that this pic turned halfway decent – this bird was DISTANT! To get a brown bird on a brown background relatively in focus at that distance made me happy. Probably my best bird of the weekend – LAPLAND LONGSPUR in the black dirt, 01/13/18.~

~A backlit Gray Ghost, (adult male Northern Harrier) at Shawangunks Grasslands NWR, 01/13/18.~

Sunday morning I headed to Port Jervis and walked the trails at Reservoir #1. It was a nice, cold, walk and it was birdy, but with just the usuals. I headed to Laurel Grove Cemetery afterwards, where I had my first Hooded Mergansers of 2018 and my best bird of the day, a young COMMON GOLDENEYE. I photographed Eastern Bluebirds on the tombstones, by coincidence my second day in a row getting EABLs on tombstones (I had them at a small cemetery in Florida, NY on Saturday). It was a pretty good, if not exciting, weekend of local birding. Next weekend might be a little more exciting as I am going on a pelagic trip out of Brooklyn on Saturday; something to look forward to!

~A male Eastern Bluebird at Laurel Grove Cemetery, 01/14/18…~ 

~And a female Eastern Bluebird at a small Cemetery in Florida, NY 01/13/18.~

~There were plenty of crows in the black dirt on Saturday. Here’s 3 of them picking some bones clean,  01/13/18.~

Super Birding at Shawangunk Grasslands NWR, 05/23/17

~Exciting day for me today! One of two life birds, a DICKCISSEL perching on a thistle at Shawangunk Grasslands NWR, 05/23/17.~ 

After work today, I was finally going to make it out to Shawangunk Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge after work today to go for the DICKCISSEL that has been seen there in recent days. Little did I know that today would be an extra lucky day for me.

As I headed out towards the south blind, where the Dickcissel has been seen, I looked out that way and there was a relatively large crowd of birders there. This surprised me because I thought most had come for the Dickcissel already, but I continued to make my way out towards the crowd. About halfway out, I got a text message from Karen Miller – they were on a HENSLOW’S SPARROW! That explained the big crowd! I picked up my pace and joined the group, many of which I ended up knowing. Shortly after my arrival, the sparrow started calling and then jumped up and perched nicely. It was so exciting! Meanwhile, I was still concerned about whether or not the Dickcissel was still around and I was assured that it was. It wasn’t more than five minutes later that the Dickcissel made an appearance, perching nicely in the distance on a thistle. That made for 2 life birds in a matter of minutes! I certainly wouldn’t have predicted that this morning! As John Haas told me once – you never know when the next big thing will hit! Super exciting birding!

~WOW! HENSLOW’S SPARROW at Shawangunk Grasslands NWR, 05/23/17.~ 

~Singing Dickcissel at Shawangunk Grasslands NWR, 05/23/17.~ 

Shawangunk Grasslands NWR, 11/19/16

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~A male American Kestrel keeps an eye on me from his perch at the Shawangunk Grasslands NWR, 11/19/16.~

I got a relatively early start and arrived at the Shawangunk Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge at 7 am. I had a couple of goals for the morning. The first was to try for some photographs; it felt like ages since I’ve gotten a decent shot. The shortened days have really limited my ability to photograph in any sort of good light, plus I just feel a little snakebite lately when it comes to photos. My second goal was to relocated the Northern Shrike that has been hanging around out there, on and off. On this past Thursday evening, I made a brief stop and viewed the refuge from the Galeville Park and was lucky enough to find the shrike and get a couple of distant, brief looks at the bird in my scope before I lost track of it.

As for my first goal, I did get some post-able photos this morning, however they are nothing to write home about. But, still it was great fun to be out on such a gorgeous morning and have some good birds in beautiful early morning light. As for the shrike, it was a no show. I spent most of my time in the area where I had seen the bird on Thursday, but I was unable to relocate it.

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~Northern Harrier in flight just over the grasses at the Shawangunk Grasslands NWR, 11/19/16.~ 

It was an enjoyable morning of birding, if not amazing. One bird I was hoping to see but did not was Rough-legged Hawk. It leaves something to look forward to for next time, I guess. I’ve include my species list at the bottom of this post.

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~A big, beautiful, mean-looking Red-tailed Hawk at the Shawangunk Grasslands, 11/19/16. Good looking bird.~

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~While I was shooting the kestrel in the top photo, this dude walked across the trail just off to my right. I saw three bucks while I was at the refuge today.~ 

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~This is, in my opinion, a photogenic bird. Northern Mockingbird at the Shawangunk Grasslands NWR, 11/19/16.~ 

Canada Goose 300
Turkey Vulture 4
Northern Harrier 6
Red-tailed Hawk 4
Rock Pigeon 15
Mourning Dove 8
Red-bellied Woodpecker 4
Downy Woodpecker 2
Northern Flicker 5
American Kestrel 1
Blue Jay 75
American Crow 45
Common Raven 2
Black-capped Chickadee 12
Tufted Titmouse 8
White-breasted Nuthatch 4
American Robin 18
Northern Mockingbird 1
American Tree Sparrow 16
Dark-eyed Junco 12
Northern Cardinal 5
Common Grackle 25
blackbird sp. 200 Distant flock in flight
House Finch 14
American Goldfinch 24

 

 

Ulster County Barrow’s Goldeneye – YES!

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~This is the best I could do! Barrow’s Goldeneye at Glasco Mini Park in Ulster County, NY 3/12/16.~ 

After some uneventful early morning local birding, I drove up to Glasco, New York in Ulster Count to meet up with Linda Scrima and Maria Loukeris. We were going for the BARROW’S GOLDENEYE which had been reported at Glasco Mini Park in recent days. We located the bird fairly quickly far out in the Hudson River; it was keeping company with several Common Goldeneyes and a single scaup, which I’m pretty sure was a Greater Scaup. The birds were really quite distant, and additionally it was tough to get good looks because the water was quite choppy and the birds were diving regularly. But, we were patient and eventually we all got good looks in the scope and even managed to take some documentary photos, which was no small feat. One of us would look in the scope and call out when and where the Barrow’s surfaced while the others clicked away, hoping for the best. In spite of the distance and maybe because of the challenge of trying to get good looks, I really enjoyed going for this bird. The Barrow’s Goldeneye was life bird number 345 for me and my 259th New York State bird.

Linda and Maria continued north to do some Adirondack birding and I headed over to the Shawangunk Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge to meet up with Kyle Dudgeon to try our luck with Northern Harriers and Short-eared Owls. Unfortunately, it was a slow afternoon and the then the owls got up on the late side so we did not do very well with photos at all. Still, it was nice just to be out, especially for Kyle who has been away at school since January.

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~Northern Harrier with a FULL crop, Shawangunk Grasslands NWR, 3/12/16.~

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~A super grainy shot of a Short-eared Owl in flight. Quite a difference from last weekend! Shawangunk Grasslands, 3/12/16.~

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~The only thing good about backlit Buffleheads is glowing pink feet! Glenmere Lake, 3/12/16.~

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~I really enjoyed watching these Buffleheads – six males were vying for the attentions of a single female. They put on a show! Glenmere Lake, 3/12/16.~

Early Morning Grasslands, 2/13/16

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~Northern Harrier in flight, Shawangunk Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge, 2/13/16.~

I’m not sure why I picked the coldest morning of the year to go out to the Shawangunk Grasslands NWR. Well, actually, I do; I knew the cold temperatures would likely keep many folks away, so I was looking forward to a peaceful morning photographing raptors. I also have been thinking that I haven’t gotten many quality harrier photos this year, so I was hoping to change that. I arrived just after sunrise and as I drove into the refuge I saw the one other person that I suspected might be there – Ed Frampton. Ed is an awesome photographer who spends most early mornings at the refuge. He was shooting an American Kestrel perched in a tree as I slowly drove past his vehicle, doing my best not to flush the bird (which I didn’t). I parked, gathered my gear and headed out to the north photo blind. It was a cold but beautiful morning so I took an iPhone shot of the sunrise:

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~Sunrise at Shawangunk Grasslands NWR, little did I know that this would be the first of many photos shot looking into the sun on this morning. 2/13/16.~

I spent two and a half hours in the blind and the weather was all over the map. When I arrived it was cold with some clouds, as the morning progressed the with wind picked up and was whipping pretty good. There were long periods of sunshine with intermittent clouds. To the west the sky was very dark and hazy – I eventually found out why as snow flurries moved through the refuge, even while it remained sunny.

The wind was coming from the northwest, so the Northern Harriers were hunting primarily facing that direction. Which meant that for the most part, when the birds were facing me in the blind, they were backlit by the sun as it rose in the east. This can make for some interesting photos, but really it was not what I was hoping for. It was such a beautiful morning and I was hoping for more opportunities of the birds in good light, but they were few and far between.

At one point I counted six harriers in one scan, so there were at least that many out there, and probably more than that. The only other raptor I had for the morning was the American Kestrel as I drove in. I was pretty darn cold by the time I left the blind after two and a half hours. Then, when I headed back to the car, walking into that cold northwest wind really chilled me to the bone, so was quite a relief when I finally got back into my car.

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~A backlit Northern Harrier hunts at Shawangunk Grasslands NWR, 2/13/16.~

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~Up close Northern Harrier with snow flurries at the Grasslands, 2/13/16.~

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~The harriers were doing a lot of tangling all morning, Shawangunk Grasslands NWR, 2/13/16.~

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~NOHA checking things out below. Shawangunk Grasslands NWR, 2/13/16.~

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~I included this shot to show the snow falling. NOHA at Shawangunk Grasslands NWR, 2/13/16.~

Shawangunk Grasslands NWR, 1/2/16

~Short-eared Owl at Shawangunk Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge, 1/2/16.~
~Short-eared Owl at Shawangunk Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge, 1/2/16.~

To say the meteorologists got it wrong would be an understatement. With clear, sunny skies in the forecast, Kyle Dudgeon and I headed out to the Shawangunk Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge in hopes of getting some good Northern Harrier and Short-eared Owl photos. We arrived early enough to claim one of the four photo blinds at the refuge, but alas, the heavy cloud cover refused to clear. We approximated 6 Northern Harriers were present at the refuge; we tried for the majority of the day to get some decent photos but no harriers came close enough for any decent shots. Fortunately, it was just barely after 3:00 that the Short-eared Owls picked up. And, although they never came very close, they spent enough time around our blind to get some decent (if noisy) shots and they were as entertaining as ever. Another highlight of the day was 3 large skeins of Snow Geese which flew over, heading south.

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~SEOW at the Grasslands on 1/2/16.~

~Short-eared Owl at the Shawangunk Grasslands NWR, 1/2/16.~
~Short-eared Owl at the Shawangunk Grasslands NWR, 1/2/16.~

~A SEOW dives for prey, Shawangunk Grasslands, NWR 1/2/16.~
~A SEOW dives for prey, Shawangunk Grasslands, NWR 1/2/16.~

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~A high flying Short-eared Owl passes over the photo blind at Shawangunk Grasslands NWR, 1/2/16.~

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~I struggled to get Northern Harrier photos today at Shawangunk Grasslands NWR, 1/2/16.~

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~SEOW cruising the Grasslands, 1/2/16.~

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~A cropped shot of one of the skeins of Snow Geese that passed over today at Shawangunk Grasslands NWR, 1/2/16.~

Shawangunk Grasslands NWR, 12/20/15

~Short-eared Owl hunting over the Shawangunk Grasslands, 12/20/15.~
~Short-eared Owl hunting over the Shawangunk Grasslands, 12/20/15.~

Kyle Dudgeon and I spent the afternoon in one of the photo blinds at Shawangunk Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge. Early on, it was very slow with only a few Northern Harriers being seen and none of them coming close to the blind. Several Red-tailed Hawks moved from perch to perch off in the distance. We had a Wilson’s Snipe do a flyover and then five Eastern Meadowlarks perched in tree. We didn’t have much excitement until later in the afternoon when the SHORT-EARED OWLS got up on the early side and put on quite a show. We had at least 4 owls and they were actively hunting and tangling with each other and a Northern Harrier as well. We spent over an hour watching and photographing the owls, which spent a lot of time around our blind but somehow never came in very close (all these images are pretty heavily cropped). I was happy to get lucky once again with these awesome birds.

~Five Eastern Meadowlarks perch in a tree. I believe that's a Red-tailed Hawk perched in the distance beyond the meadowlarks. Shawangunk Grasslands, NWR 12/20/15.~
~Five Eastern Meadowlarks perch in a tree. I believe that’s a Red-tailed Hawk perched in the distance beyond the meadowlarks. Shawangunk Grasslands, NWR 12/20/15.~

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~SEOW at the Shawangunk Grasslands NWR, 12/20/15.~

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~Short-eared Owl heading straight for the photo blind at Shawangunk Grasslands NWR, 12/20/15.~

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~SEOW flyover at the grasslands, 12/20/15.~

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~A Short-eared Owl cruises over the tall grasses at the Shawangunk Grasslands NWR, 12/20/15.~

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~A pair of SEOWs tangling at the Shawangunk Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge, 12/20/15.~