Excellent Day of Birding in OC, 10/06/18

~Cape May Warbler at Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge’s Liberty Lane, 10/06/18.~ 

Saturday was a busy day for me, so I’m finally getting around to writing this post early Sunday morning. First, the bad news: hawkwatch at Mt. Peter was a total bust as the mountain was completely fogged in all day. The good news, was that I did some more traditional birding and it was very productive.

~Just look at the markings on this beautiful bird. I especially lover the white around the eye. Swamp Sparrow at Liberty Lane, 10/06/18.~ 

My first stop was Skinner Lane. It was supposed to just be a pit stop, but since the fog was showing no sign of lifting and the birding was good, I stayed for a good while (actually, I ran up to Mt. Pete at 10:30 thinking it might be clear; it wasn’t so I headed back to Skinner). When I first arrived, I was impressed by the number of Tree Swallows present. I was pleasantly surprised to find a pretty good sized flock of Horned Larks had moved in, among them several AMERICAN PIPITS. The big surprise came when I was scanning the larks and came across a LAPLAND LONGSPUR! This is a bird that is certainly one of my favorite, has a certain inherent coolness to it, and I just seem to have a knack for tracking them down. I was pumped, and although the bird was not really close, I was able to get some documentary photos; I’ve posted one at the bottom of this post.  Kyle Dudgeon joined me shortly after I’d located the LALO, but unfortunately we were unable to relocate it.

~Very exciting – AMERICAN PIPIT  at Skinner Lane, 10/06/18. I was happy to have this bird close enough for some photos. 

Shorebirds were, of course,  my initial target for my stop at Skinner. I’d had 6 American Golden-Plovers earlier, and Kyle relocated them as soon as he arrived. Then, we had a single shorebird flying and calling. We tracked the bird in our binoculars, waiting for it to put down. But, it never found a spot that it liked and it rose up and flew out of range. We thought that was the last we would see of the bird, but minutes later it returned and did the same routine but this time it put down in the distance. We relocated to try to get a better vantage point, but alas we were unable to relocate the bird. Based on the overall coloring, size, and its call, we believe that it was a SANDERLING. Karen Miller had arrived, and she was able to get the American Pipits and the American Golden-Plovers, but we were unable to relocate the Lapland Longspur nor the Sanderling.

~Palm Warbler at Liberty Lane, 10/06/18.~

Kyle and I had an unproductive stop at the Pine Island Turf Nursery, a single Solitary Sandpiper and several American Kestrels were our best birds. Kyle had to head home, but I continued, heading over to Liberty Lane; Rob Stone had let me know it was pretty active earlier in the morning. It was still hopping when I was there. I had a nice walk with loads of birds with almost every step. Swamp Sparrows and Song Sparrows dominated, but there were also some highlights: 4 White-crowned Sparrows, a Palm Warbler, a Blackpoll Warbler, and a CAPE MAY WARBLER. The Cape May Warbler was super accommodating and I was able to take many photos of it. On my way out I had a single Lesser Yellowlegs flying and calling overhead, which was a nice way to end a good day of birding.

~This bird stumped me. Chipping Sparrow (first winter) at Liberty Lane, 10/06/18.~ 
~I alway love these dudes. Horned Lark, looking spiffy. Skinner Lane, 10/06/18.~ 
~Solitary Sandpiper strutting its stuff. PI Turf Nursery, 10/06/18.~ 
~Blackpoll Warbler in tough photo conditions. I had the bird in better light, but blew it. Liberty Lane, 10/06/18.~ 
~One more shot of the Cape May Warbler, Liberty Lane 10/06/18.~ 
~Documentary shot of the LAPLAND LONGSPUR,  Skinner Lane 10/06/18. 

Sandhill Crane Shenanigans

 

~SANDHILL CRANES interacting in the black dirt.~

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.

More Good OC Shorebirds, 08/19/18

~Beautiful birds! Two BAIRD’S SANDPIPERS make their way through the grasses at Skinner Lane, 08/19/18.~ 

This morning was yet another productive morning for shorebirds in Orange County. I went straight to Turtle Bay first thing; Rob Stone had located a WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER there the evening before. The place was loaded with birds and I had a total of 10 species of shorebird: Least Sandpipers, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Semipalmated Plovers, Killdeer, Pectoral Sandpipers, Lesser Yellowlegs, Greater Yellowlegs, Spotted Sandpipers, Solitary Sandpiper, and I was able to relocate Rob’s WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER. That’s a good list of shorebirds for Orange County for sure! Maria Loukeris and Linda Scrima joined me and also got the bird; several others got the bird later in the morning.

~BAIRD’S SANDPIPER, Skinner Lane 08/19/18.~ 

From there, Maria, Linda, and I headed to Skinners Lane, where we ran into birding buds and fellow Mt. Peter Hawkwatchers Judy Cinquina, Tom Millard, and Rick Hansen. The place was pretty dead, so they headed for Turtle Bay after hearing our report of the birds there. Linda headed home, but Maria and I lingered. I’m glad we did – while scanning I saw some movement in a field with some taller grass. It ended up being a Killdeer, but moments after getting on the Killdeer, a BAIRD’S SANDPIPER walked into my field of vision. And then a second one! A good number of folks got to see the birds: Linda, Rob, Judy, Tom, John Haas, and returning from the dead, Bruce Nott (always good to see you Bruce!), which made me happy. It was a good day of birding and for seeing some of my favorite birding buds.

~A distant shot of the WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER with a Killdeer, Turtle Bay 08/19/18.~

Double UPPY, 08/18/18

~UPLAND SANDPIPER at Skinner Lane, 08/18/18. This is a super distant shot, cropped within pixels of its death.~ 

QUICK POST: The crazy weather and the good shorebirding continued in Orange County this afternoon. Another substantial storm rolled through, so I ran back out to see if I could get any more good shorebirds. My first stop was Skinners Lane where I had several Lesser Yellowlegs, one Greater Yellowlegs, several Least Sandpipers, and the ever present hordes of Killdeer. I was on my way out and I checked one more area – I was thrilled to locate an UPLAND SANDPIPER, one of my favorites for sure. I put the word out, shortly afterwards a second UPPY joined the first. It didn’t stick around for long – it took flight and I didn’t follow it because I wanted to keep and eye on the bird that stayed. Linda Scrima and Rob Stone joined me and we all enjoyed nice scope views of the remaining Upland Sandpiper. Good shorebirding continues in the OC!

~Two UPLAND SANDPIPERS at Skinner Lane, 08/18/18.~ 

More OC Shorebirding, 08/18/18

~Hmmmm, why are there no shorebirds around…. American Kestrel in the Black Dirt Region, 08/18/18.~

I made the rounds in the black dirt this morning, searching for shorebirds of course. I was once again optimistic after last night’s storms. The best spot of the day was Turtle Bay, where there were many shorebirds present. I ran into Kathy Ashman out there early and we sifted through some quite distant birds and had 5 species of shorebird: Least Sandpipers, Solitary Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs, Pectoral Sandpipers, and Killdeer. I checked back a little later and ran into John Haas, who had located an additional, excellent species: SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER. The bird of the day for me, however, was a single AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVER out at Skinner Lane. The bird was close enough for some decent photos, and at one point was kind enough to confirm its identity with a nice wing stretch, exposing clear wing-pits. Kathy Ashman and Linda Scrima both ran for the bird and enjoyed good looks at the bird as well.

~Pretty bird. AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVER at Skinner Lane, 08/18/18.~ 
~Streeeetch. American Golden-Plover, Skinner Lane 08/18/18.~ 
~Linda Scrima and I got a real kick out of seeing several young Horned Larks this morning. We had a  total of nearly a dozen HOLAs at Pine Island Turf Nursery.! 

Wow! More Good OC Shorebirds, 08/14/18

~Dowitcher Species at Pine Island Turf Nursery*, 08/14/18.~

QUICK POST: I have to keep this one short because it’s late and I’m exhausted. I had another good evening for shorebirds in the Black Dirt Region. My first stop was at Turtle Bay, where, among many Killdeer, I had 12 Semipalmated Plovers. I think that might be the most I’ve ever had at a location in Orange County. Then I headed to Pine Island Turf Nursery*, where I located a Dowitcher Species. I have good photos of this bird, so I know it will be identified, but I think I need to put some work in to learn how to differentiate between the Long-billed and the Short-billed. According to eBird, it is much more likely to be a Short-billed as their bar chart doesn’t have LBDOs coming through until Mid-September.  But, tonight is not the night to learn this, I’m too tired and I have to get up early. I’ll leave it unidentified for the moment, if anyone has thoughts on this bird, please comment or email me. Rob Stone and Linda Scrima both ran for the bird and got it. As a bonus, we got to enjoy a double rainbow when the rain finally let up a bit.

~Dowitcher Sp. at PITN*, 08/14/18.~

On my way home, I stopped at Skinner Lane. It was almost to dark to see, but luckily I had a good bird right near the road – BAIRD’S SANDPIPER! I cranked up the ISO and was at least able to get some documentary shots. What a night! In case you couldn’t tell, I just LOVE shorebirds in the OC.

*Please remember that you have to get permission to bird at Pine Island Turf Nursery! Ask at the office – they are really nice people!

~I picked this shot because it showed the rain so well. Dowitcher Species at PITN*, 08/14/18.~
~One more of the Dowitcher, standing at attention. PITN*, 08/14/18.~
~Baird’s Sandpiper at Skinner Lane, 08/14/18.~
~One more of the Baird’s Sandpiper at Skinner Lane, 08/14/18.~
~Double rainbow! Black Dirt, 08/14/18.~

BLACK TERNS in the Black Dirt!

~Three of the 7 BLACK TERNS in the pouring rain at Skinner Lane this evening, 08/13/18. Usually I’m not a fan of farm machinery in my shots, but in this case it seems perfect.~ 

Wow, what a crazy evening of birding I had tonight! I was feeling optimistic as I headed out to the Black Dirt Region after work. Severe storms had moved through the area and appeared to have dropped a lot of water; I was hoping this would make for some interesting birding. I was planning on covering a fair amount of territory, but my first stop – Skinner’s Lane –  ended up being so good, I never left until it was dark. It was raining pretty hard. In fact, it rained pretty good for almost the entire evening, only letting up when I was getting ready to leave. When I arrived, there was a pretty good collection of shorebirds present: BLACK-BELLIED PLOVERS (3), Semipalmated Plovers (4), Least Sandpipers (3), Killdeer (many), and one bird that I initially thought was a Semipalmated Sandpiper but for the moment I’m leaving unidentified (see below).

~Photos were tough, but this one turned out halfway decent. Black Terns at Skinner Lane, 08/13/18.~

I was just about to leave when I noticed a group of peeps had flown in without my seeing them. It was a group of what I’m pretty sure were Semipalmated Sandpipers. Then things got crazy. A small flock of larger birds flew in – they circled the field once and then flew to the south and out of sight. By this time, all my gear was wet and really, I had now idea what the birds were because I just couldn’t get a good look. But, then they came back – I jumped into my car and grabbed my camera to get some shots. They circled the field 3 more times and then headed northeast and did not return. I must have been a little frazzled because I looked at the pics and still couldn’t ID them… I shot a quick photo to Rob Stone who identified them as BLACK TERNS! I was freaking out! I looked at my photos to get a count – I had a single shot with 7 in it!

~BLACK TERNS in the black dirt, 08/13/18.~ 

More shorebirds arrived after the terns had departed – I added 2 Wilson’s Snipe, 7 Pectoral Sandpipers, and another group of Semipalmated Sandpipers to my list for the evening. What a great night of birding; once again, bad weather=good birds.

~I like this shot because you can really see the rain coming down. It’s a grainy, rainy shot of BLACK TERNS at Skinner Lane, 08/13/18.~ 
~BLACK TERNS at Skinner Lane, 08/13/18.~ 
~I’m not sure what this bird is. I’m wondering if it’s a Sanderling – I’m not sure if you can see it in the photo, but the bird had hints of rufous on its head and back, and the size seems possibly good for Sanderling (see photo below with Killdeer as reference). Any thoughts on this bird, please leave a comment – thanks! ~ 

08/04/18 – Orange County WHIMBREL!

~Wow! Whimbrel in the rain at Skinner Lane, 08/04/18.~

Last night and this morning I was having a feeling we might get a good bird in the county today. For some reason I was thinking it would happen at Turtle Bay, but instead it was at Skinner Lane, where I located a WHIMBREL in the rain around 7:30 this morning. I was super pumped; I put the word out and several birders were able to run for the bird. Rob Stone, John Haas, Karen Miller, Kathy Ashman, and Bruce Nott all saw the bird while I was still there; it was a lifer for both Kathy and Bruce. Clay Spencer reported the bird in the late morning as well. Whimbrel is a bird I have daydreamed of finding in our area for a while, and it is the 252nd bird on my Orange County life list.

~WHIMBREL at Skinner Lane, 08/01/18. Other shorebirds present include: approximately 40 Killdeer, 1 Least Sandpiper, 3 Semipalmated Sandpipers, and 1 Lesser Yellowlegs.~ 
~I, of course, ran around the area looking for more shorebirds but did not come up with much. Pine Island Turf Nursery had several Killdeer and a Spotted Sandpiper. Camel Farm had several Killdeer. Turtle Bay had 8 Least Sandpipers and 2 Semipalmated Sandpipers (as well as several Killdeer). This Killdeer was at PITN, 08/04/18.~ 

Lapland Longspur in (nearly) Breeding Plumage, 04/08/18

~Lapland Longspur in the Black Dirt, 04/08/18.~ 

I was having a conversation with Rob Stone earlier this week about Lapland Longspurs. I had commented that they had probably migrated north by now; Rob wasn’t so sure and said that he thought his latest date for LALOs was April 7th. We agreed that, if they were around, you might find one in  darn nice plumage. I set out to the black dirt this morning with all this in mind. I located large, loose, flock of Horned Larks; they were extremely scattered and jumpy as can be. I eventually located a single LALO in beautiful breeding plumage. The bird was distant so I tried my best to document it by digiscoping video with my phone, but the jumpy birds, the wind, and the heat shimmer made it difficult for sure (see the result at the bottom of this post). I found several LALOs in the flock and it was cool because I could differentiate the birds by their plumage. I put in a good amount of time, and eventually it (sort of) paid off when part of the flock landed close to me and in that group was a LALO nearly in breeding plumage. It was a really exciting time, I really love Lapland Longspurs, and I never thought I’d ever see one in breeding plumage. Beautiful birds!

~The heat shimmer was just awful today. In fact, for me it’s been awful all spring long, destroying scope views and photos alike. The Horned Larks were looking especially sharp to me today. In the Black Dirt, 04/08/18.~ 
~Savannah Sparrow in the Black Dirt, 04/08/18. Just ignore the plastic wrap in the background. 

Great Day in Orange County, 03/30/18

~This is a beautiful goose – Blue Morph Snow Goose in flight in the Black Dirt Region, 03/30/18.~ 

There was an awful lot of birding action in Orange County today. I was at work, but my phone was blowing up with reports: Kathy Ashman had 8 HORNED GREBES, a Red-breasted Merganser, and a Pine Warbler at 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary. Bill Fiero had a Wilson’s Snipe and 3 Eastern Phoebes at Stewart Forest, and then Kathy had 7 more Horned Grebes, 3 Greater Scaup, and an 80 Snow Geese fly-over at Glenmere Lake. Ken McDermott had Ruddy Ducks, 7 LONG-TAILED DUCKS, and 2 Horned Grebes at Orange Lake. In the black dirt, Maria Loukeris reported 4 Eastern Meadowlarks and 200+ Snow Geese. Rob Stone had 6 Long-tailed Ducks at Wickham Lake. Phew! That’s a lot of good birds!

~Snow Geese taking off in the black dirt, 03/30/18.~ 

Luckily, I got out of work a little bit early, so I was able to run for some birds. And, maybe even luckier still, ALL the birds I ran for stuck for me! I went to Wickham Lake first and got the 6 Long-tailed Ducks as well as a Red-breasted Merganser and a Ruddy Duck. At Glenmere Lake I relocated the Horned Grebes, the Greater Scaup, and also had a single Ruddy Duck there. At the pond near Glenmere, I made a quick stop and had my first Northern Shoveler of the year in Orange County. From there I went to the black dirt and did well with Snow Geese (200++) and also managed to relocate 2 of the Eastern Meadowlarks. And finally, my last stop was at 6 1/2 Station Road where the Horned Grebes were kind enough to stick around and were close enough for some documentary photos. Not a bad haul for a work day! Excellent birding, thanks so much to everyone that reported!

~Five of the 8 Horned Grebes at 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary, 03/30/18.~
~Snow Geese in the black dirt earlier this week, 03/27/18.~ 
~Also earlier this week – Wood Duck in the black dirt, 03/27/18.~ 
~Red-shouldered Hawk at Glenmere Lake, 03/27/18.~ 
~One last shot of the Snow Geese in the dying light. Black Dirt Region, 03/30/18.~