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.~

Sunday 11/5/17


~I finally got some decent looks at American Pipits. They have been a tough bird for me this fall; I’ve seen them plenty of times but never gotten much of a look until today.~

QUICK POST: I took a cruise around the black dirt this morning. I was hoping for Horned Larks/Lapland Longspurs/American Pipits and also to sift through some geese looking for rarities. I did well with American Pipits, seeing them in several locations and finally getting some photographs, but struck out with larks and longspurs. I had a hard time finding any collections of geese; eventually I did find a couple of larger groups, but other than Canada Geese, the only other goose I found was a single Snow Goose. I had a pleasant surprise when I located two late moving American Golden Plovers. They were late enough that when I went to do my eBird report they were flagged as a rare bird. Not an amazing morning, but any time I get a shorebird in OC, I’m a happy birder.

~One of two American Golden Plovers in the Black Dirt this morning, 11/5/17.~


Beautiful Buntings, 03/16/17

~ Orange County Snow Bunting in the snow,  03/16/17.~

QUICK POST: For the second consecutive time, on my way to participate in a DEC Raptor Survey, I had a really nice photo op.  Two weeks ago I had a large group of confiding Ring-necked Ducks. Last night, it was Six Snow Buntings on the side of the road. They seemed uncooperative at first and flushed, but then came back to land very close to my car, posing nicely on the tops of the piles of plowed snow. Good birds for sure!

~I love these birds, definitely towards the top of my long list of favorites. Snow Bunting in the Black Dirt Region, 03/16/17.~

Playing Catch Up

~What a cutie! A Snow Bunting chows down on some spilled corn in the black dirt, 12/30/16.~

I’ve gotten out a good amount in the past week, but really haven’t had anything all that amazing. I’ve spent much of my birding time chasing a couple of mixed flocks of Horned Larks, Snow Buntings, and Lapland Longspurs hoping for photographs. A farm truck spilled some corn on the road and it was a mixed blessing. It was great because for a few days the birds were actively feeding on the the spilled corn. It was not so great because, in my opinion, the corn does not really make for good pics.

~Lapland Longspur in the black dirt, 12/30/16.  My best count was 6 of these beauties, but Ken McDermott had a remarkable 13!~
~Ah ha! Got a Snow Bunting with no corn involved. Black Dirt 12/30/16.~

My only other noteworthy observations involved some good local waterfowl. On Wednesday evening after work, I went to the Newburgh Waterfront looking for gulls. Instead, I found Ken McDermott, who told me he had 2 Horned Grebes at Kowawese Unique Area at Plum Point. I ran for the birds and relocated them, pretty far out into the Hudson River, but I had good scope views. Then, on Friday after work, I went to Wickham Lake to try for a couple of Common Goldeneyes that Rob Stone had seen there earlier in the day. The birds were still present and I was able to take some documentary photos. I also stopped by Warwick Town Hall where I had a really good mix of waterfowl: Canada Goose (2), Gadwall (18), American Wigeon (1), Mallard (25), Northern Pintail (1), Ring-necked Duck (2), and Greater Scaup (1). By the time I got there it was too dark for photographs, but good birds for sure!

~Two Common Goldeneyes at Wickham Lake on 01/06/17.~

Otherwise, I’ve just been doing lot of running around, seeing mostly the usuals, and taking loads of photos. Here are several I felt were worth sharing:

~A young Bald Eagle flies over the Delaware River at Laurel Grove Cemetery, 12/30/16.~
~On Saturday 01/07/17, I took a trip to the Lackawaxen, PA Eagle Watch to visit with Ed Morse. It was quite lively at the watch and I had nearly 10 Bald Eagle in the first 15 minutes I was there.
~American Tree Sparrow in the black dirt, 01/08/17.~
~On Sunday, it was this kind of day. Thirteen degrees Fahrenheit for most of the time I was birding, even the Canada Geese were laying low. Wickham Lake, 01/08/17.~
~A Ring-billed Gull on a nice perch at the Newburgh Waterfront, 01/08/17.~
~A Dark-eyed Junco on some farm equipment in the black dirt, 01/08/17.~ 



~Oh my! PINK-FOOTED GOOSE at Turtle Bay 12/3/16.~ 

I woke up this morning on a mission: To relocate the PINK-FOOTED GOOSE that Bruce Nott had found the day before. I met Linda Scrima out at the Camel Farm just after sunrise, and we were joined shortly afterwards by Walter Eberz. It was very cold and windy, but the three of us sorted through approximately 1200 Canada Geese without any luck. We decided to divide and conquer and I headed over to Turtle Bay, where I found a group of approximately 800 Canada Geese out in a field. I quickly found a Cackling Goose, and then not long after that I got on a bird that looked good… Yes, it was the PINK-FOOTED GOOSE! I put the word out and both Linda and Walter joined me and we enjoyed the bird for nearly an hour before all the birds picked up, circled overhead, and then headed north. What a bird, not only is the PFGO a genuine rarity, it is also just a beautiful goose – wonderfully proportioned and I just love the wrinkles in the bird’s neck. The bird was a lifer for Walter and it was my 214th bird in Orange County this year. Also of note, we located at least 2 Cackling Geese and a single Snow Goose. Super exciting birding!

~The PFGO feeding in the field off of Turtle Bay, 12/3/16. It was interesting looking at my photos of the bird because, although not seen in this photo, the bird twists its head around while feeding in the grass, nearly 180 degrees. 
~I’m including this shot of one of the Cackling Geese because I actually managed to get a catchlight on the eye. The photo below better illustrates the birds small bill. Turtle Bay, 12/3/16.~ 
~Cackling Goose, looking tiny next the Canada Geese. Turtle Bay 12/3/16.~ 
~A stop at Wisner Road afterwards produced 3 White-crowned Sparrows, 12/3/16.~

Weekend Wrap Up, 10/2/16

~A beautiful American Golden-Plover in the Black Dirt today, 10/2/16.~

I got out and did a fair amount of birding this weekend, especially because I didn’t count hawks at Mt. Peter Hawkwatch on Saturday, due to the fog and light rain that persisted throughout the day.

BLACK DIRT REGION: I received reports from Bruce Nott and Ken and Curt McDermott on Saturday that the collection of plovers in the black dirt continued. Curt and Ken had a very nice count of 41 American Golden-Plovers and 5 Black-bellied Plovers. On Sunday, I met Linda Scrima in the late morning. The plovers were present, but distant. We lingered, and eventually they flew in closer, with a couple even landing on the road. We had a total of 34 AMGPs and 3 BBPLs. The highlight, however, was when a Killdeer flew over being chased by another smaller bird. Linda picked it up and got me on the birds. I stayed on the smaller bird and when it landed, I was thrilled to see it was an AMERICAN PIPIT! We eventually saw 3 more for a total of 4 AMPIs. The pipits were my 204th species in Orange County this year.

WICKHAM WOODLANDS TOWN PARK: I birded here on Saturday morning so I could stay close to Mt. Peter, in case the weather cleared up. The highlight for me was a trio of Ruddy Ducks. I also had a nice look at a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, and Mockingbirds and Northern Flickers were present in numbers.


~American Golden-Plovers in flight with one Killdeer. Black Dirt Region, 10/2/16.~
~Yes! AMERICAN PIPIT in the Black Dirt, 10/2/16.~
~A Killdeer takes a bath in a puddle in the road. Black Dirt, 10/2/16.~

6 1/2 STATION ROAD, CITGO POND: I made three trips to the pond this weekend and finally on Sunday I had some new shorebirds:

4 Pectoral Sandpipers (one new bird)
3 Lesser Yellowlegs (one new bird)
1 Greater Yellowlegs (new bird)
11 Least Sandpiper (same number)

On Friday evening I had a Northern Harrier fly over the pond and a Sharp-shinned Hawk as well. Both kinglets were present on the trail into the pond. On Saturday I also went over to the Heritage Trail side of the sanctuary, where I had many Yellow-rumped Warblers and a pair of Black-throated Green Warblers.

~One of 4 Pectoral Sandpipers at Citgo Pond on Saturday 10/1/16.~
~Swamp Sparrow on the Citgo Pond Trail, 10/1/16.~

HIGHLAND LAKES STATE PARK: I made it out here for early Sunday morning. The place was very birdy and I had 27 species plus one unidentified flycatcher in just over an hour. Yellow-rumped Warblers, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, and White-throated Sparrows were all quite numerous. Again, I had a couple of Black-throated Green Warblers, but besides that, not many noteworthy birds.

~Yellow-rumped Warbler on the Citgo Pond Trail, 10/1/16.~
~Ruby-crowned Kinglet at Highland Lakes State Park, 10/2/16.~
~Not a great photo, but I wanted to show the black wing-pits of one of the Black-bellied Plovers in the Black Dirt Region, 10/2/16. Also notice that the bird is slightly larger than the neighboring AMGPs.~

Orange County Black-bellied Plovers, 9/29/16

~A distant look at one of four Black-bellied Plovers, along with two Killdeer. Black Dirt Region, 9/29/16.~ 

QUICK POST: Every once in a while you go out looking for a specific bird and you find it. That’s what happened to me tonight when I went out to the Black Dirt hoping for Black-bellied Plovers. I had located a collection of plovers – many Killdeer and a good number of American Golden-Plovers. There were 4 plovers that were slightly larger than the AMGPs, with a noticeably more substantial bills. I was feeling pretty sure that they were BBPLs; I waited it out and eventually a couple of them took short flights, exposing the black wing pits diagnostic of BBPLs! I put out the word and Maria Loukeris and Kathy Ashman both ran for them. All three of us enjoyed good scope views of the birds, even if photos were tough. My final count was 23 American Golden-Plovers, 4 Black-bellied Plovers, and approximately 40 Killdeer. Excellent evening of birding!

Great Birding in the Black Dirt, 8/29/16






~I used my car as a blind (hiding behind it rather than being in it, in this case), and this Northern Harrier made a close pass. Black dirt, 8/29/16.~

QUICK POST: It’s late so I have to make this quick. I had some great birds and some darn good photo ops while birding the black dirt this evening. Highlights included: 2 BUFF BREASTED SANDPIPERS, 9 American Golden-Plovers, a Northern Harrier close encounter, and a late evening Common Nighthawk flyover. Here’s some of my shots from the day.

~A plane doing stunts overhead actually flushed several American Golden-Plovers closer to me! Black Dirt, 8/29/16.~
~And this blew my mind. Two Buff-breasted Sandpipers flew all the way across a field to land approximately 30 yards in front of me. I was freaking out and trying to take photos without moving a muscle! Black dirt, 8/29/16.~
~BBSA in the Black Dirt, 8/29/16.~
~American Golden-Plover in golden light. Black Dirt 8/29/16.~
~I was not really happy about the lack of sharpness in my BBSA shots; I think the camera has a hard time picking up the bird versus the similar background. Black Dirt, 8/29/16.~
~One more Buffie. I love this bird. Black Dirt 8/29/16.~

Good OC Shorebirding Continues, 8/28/16

~A Lesser Yellowlegs feeds at 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary’s Citgo Pond, 8/27/16.~

I spent nearly all my birding time this weekend looking for shorebirds in Orange County. Saturday was a bit of a bust, in spite of favorable overnight winds. Today was another story. I got out to the black dirt early while it was still on the cool side. At my first stop I had a small shorebird flyover with a small flock of Killdeer. I watched the bird in my binoculars until it was out of sight, never to be identified. At my second stop, I had a similar experience, but this time the bird put down about three fields over. I got on it with my scope and it looked like a BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER! I followed the bird, walking on the road as the bird worked the field. I would stop every so often when the bird would come to an area unobstructed by grasses and put down my scope for a look or to take some photos, becoming more and more convinced that it was a BBSA. I eventually lost the bird, so I walked the road to the other side of the field to try and relocate it. At first I could not find it, but I did see in the middle of the field, a single AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVER! Very exciting! Of course, at the time I wasn’t sure exactly which plover it was (American Golden or Black-bellied), I figured that out later. I eventually relocated the Buff-breasted Sandpiper and it was with a second Buffie. Then I heard a call I was unfamiliar with – I looked away from the scope to see 3 more American Golden-Plovers coming in! I took photos as the birds came in to land on the field – showing clear wing pits (not black as would be seen in Black-bellied). I had put the word out earlier, but unfortunately, before anyone arrived to see the birds, a low flying plane flushed first the plovers, followed shortly afterwards by the Buffies. Kathy, Scotty, Bruce, and I combed the area but came up empty. Sorry for the poor photos of these birds, but they were extremely distant and the heat shimmer was terrible.

I did check 6 1/2 Station Road’s Citgo Pond in the early afternoon, but I did not locate any new birds – I found basically the same birds as were present on Thursday, minus the Baird’s Sandiper and the Greater Yellowlegs.

~One of the hundreds of Killdeer in the black dirt, 8/28/16.~ 
~American Golden-Plover in the black dirt, 8/28/16.~ 
~Three American Golden-Plovers coming in for a landing. Notice the lack of black wing pits, indicating AMGP. Black Dirt 8/28/16.~ 
~A distant partially obstructed shot of  a Buff-breasted Sandpiper. Note the small squarish head on a slim neck and the bird’s erect stance. Black Dirt 8/28/16.~ 
~In the scope the bird’s yellowish legs could be made out. BBSA in the black dirt, 8/28/16.~ 
~A young Cooper’s Hawk seen while searching for shorebirds. No wonder there were none at this location. Black Dirt 8/27/16.~ 
~It was good to see some Horned Larks this weekend. Black Dirt 8/28/16.~
~It was good to see some Horned Larks this weekend. Black Dirt 8/28/16.~

NYSDEC Winter Raptor Survey

~Short-eared Owl on prey, Black Dirt Region 1/11/16.~

This past winter I volunteered to participate in the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Winter Raptor Survey, which was an interesting and fulfilling experience. The survey, which was well run by Malcolm Grant and Emily Underwood of the DEC, primarily focused on two species—the state endangered Short-eared Owl and the state threatened Northern Harrier. Surveys were conducted in the Black Dirt Region and the Shawangunk Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge Area every other week from early December until mid April (all of the surveys I participated in were in the Black Dirt Region). Locations were assigned to volunteers; surveys started one half hour before sunset and concluded one half hour after sunset. All raptor activity observed was recorded on the forms and marked on a map which had been provided. It was fun and challenging to try and keep track of all the raptors in a given location, especially in the final minutes of the survey when temperatures would dive and the light was really low.

~Norther Harrier, Black Dirt Region 2/26/16.~

Over the 4 1/2 months that I participated in the surveys, much data was collected and given to the DEC. At the time, I wasn’t entirely sure what the information was to be used for, so I wrote to Malcolm, and he explained a little bit further:

The DEC’s surveying effort addresses several goals:

1. To develop and implement an effective methodology for surveying and documenting wintering raptors with a focus on Short-eared Owls and Northern Harriers, to identify site occupancy and/or population changes over the long term to provide a complete picture of the status of these state listed species into the future. So, a part of this was just figuring out the methods, i.e. stationary survey half hour before to half hour after sunset, etc). These methods were finalized a few years ago.

2. To recruit volunteers to continue this effort in order to monitor the wintering population of raptors in NYS.

3. Determine critical winter habitat use by Short-eared owls at selected sites in New York
-Identify the extent of habitat used at each site.
-Characterize the type of habitat preferred by Short-eared owls in New York for both foraging and roosting.

4. To document areas that are important for wintering raptors (mainly Short-eared Owls and Northern Harriers) and produce spatially explicit maps of observations and critical habitat use. These areas are added to the New York Natural Heritage Database. This database is used to screen development and construction projects so that impacts to endangered and threatened species can be avoided or minimized. 

It’s really a great feeling to know that just doing something that I love this much can have a positive effect, and that it is time well spent which will ultimately benefit the birds.

~Short-eared Owl with prey, Black Dirt Region 1/11/16.~
~Shorty in flight, Black Dirt Region 1/24/16.~ 
~Short-eared Owl, Black Dirt Region 1/11/16.~ 
~I figured that I would take this opportunity to post some additional owl photos that I was holding off on. Barred Owl in Orange County NY, 2/20/16.~ 
~Eastern Screech-Owl, Orange County NY, 2/10/16.~