OC Shorebird Update, 08/09/20

We’ve had some decent shorebirds in the county this week. It started with some post-tropical storm Isaiah puddling at Turtle Bay Road. Right after the storm, Linda Scrima was on the scene and located a SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER as well as: 3 Semipalmated Sandpipers, 3 Pectoral Sandpipers, 4 Least Sandpipers, 3 Semipalmated Plovers, a Spotted Sandpiper, and of course a bunch of Killdeer. Not a bad haul! A couple of days afterwards, I finally made it over, and fortunately the dowitcher had stuck around, as did the Semipalmated Plovers. Turtle Bay continues up to today as pretty much the only good shorebird spot that I know of in southern part of the county, and although the SB Dowitcher has moved on, I had as many as 8 Pectoral Sandpipers over the weekend. It will be interesting to see how long it lasts, as the spot is getting dryer by the day. Meanwhile, Beaver Pond and the Camel Farm appear to have water levels too high for optimum conditions. I haven’t been out to Citgo Pond, but I’m assuming the same holds true there. Let’s hope they dry up enough for good conditions soon.

~I tried Pine Island Turf Nursery on Saturday and had a grand total of one shorebird, this Solitary Sandpiper. PI Turf Nursery 08/08/20.~
~Short-billed Dowitcher at Turtle Bay Road, 08/06/20.~
~A typical Orange County look at shorebirds: two Pectoral Sandpipers WAY downtown. Location Turtle Bay Road, 08/09/20.~

Wow, Black Dirt GOLDEN EAGLE!

My plan for the morning was to get outside and take a hike without worrying too much about getting any birds. I walked the trails near Reservoir 3 in Port Jervis. It was predictably quiet, but it was a pleasant walk in the woods on a cool, partly cloudy day. It wasn’t until I was on my way back that I started to think about getting some birds. Earlier, while I was hiking, Joyce Depew reported thousands of Snow Geese in the black dirt. On my way home, Ken McDermott followed up with another report of SNGOs in the fields off Onion Avenue. I figured I would stop by and check them out, especially because it was on my way home. Then, it got interesting: Bruce Nott reported a GOLDEN EAGLE flying over the Snow Geese, heading east.

~GOLDEN EAGLE flyover in the black dirt, photograph by Linda Scrima, 02/02/20.~

I arrived at Onion Avenue convinced that I had missed any opportunity to see the Golden Eagle. But, as I got out of the car everyone was urging me to hurry up – I jumped on Bruce’s scope and sure enough there was the Golden Eagle circling in the distance! It wasn’t great timing (see Linda’s photos in this post), but it was pretty darn good! Another minute or so, and I would have completely missed the bird. Exciting birding!

~One more shot of the GOLDEN EAGLE by Linda Scrima, 02/02/20.~
~My documentary shot of the GOLDEN EAGLE in the black dirt this afternoon, 02/02/20.~

OC Greater White-fronted Goose, 01/25/20

After a week of beautiful weather, I can’t lie, I was ticked off this morning with rain being in the forecast for basically the entire day. I woke up early to get out a little before the rain; Maria Loukeris and I ran to try for the Glaucous Gull that has been reported at Sussex County Municipal Utilities Authority. While we were there, it started raining. And, although I got on a larger white-winged gull in flight a couple of times, we we left without ever being able to locate the bird on the ground to confirm the ID (most gulls were landing on the other side of the hill and out of sight). Sigh.

~Awesome bird. Greater White-fronted Goose at Skinners Lane, 01/25/20.~

But, it’s amazing how one single bird can save a day of birding. After dropping off Maria, I stopped by Skinners Lane and found a good sized flock of Canada Geese. I started to sort through them and quickly located a GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE; likely the same bird that has been reported intermittently in the area this winter. I went through the rest of the flock, hoping for a Cackling Goose, but no luck there. I’d put the word out, and Linda Scrima and Karen Miller both ran for and got the GWFG.

Rough-legged Beauty

~Rough-legged Hawk in flight, Black Dirt Region 01/27/19. One of my goals for 2019 is to look more closely at birds’ plumages. This bird looks to me like it might be an adult female, based on the dark trailing edge on the wings (adult), and the buffy underwing coverts with brown mottling (female).~

You know how certain birds just do it for you? That’s how it was today with this Rough-legged Hawk; it is the best looking bird I’ve seen in a long while. What I wouldn’t have done for a decent photograph of this bird. I had several fantastic scope views of this bird perched, and it just blew me a way; there’s just something about the bird’s pale, vanilla colored head that is just gorgeous to me. Who knows, maybe our paths will cross again and things will work out differently…

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.~

OC Greater White-fronted Goose, 12/01/18

~A perched Red-shouldered Hawk at Wisner Avenue early this morning, 12/01/18.~

I ran around southern Orange County this morning and into the early afternoon. It felt really good to be out in the field after a long week of all work and no birding; this time of year is rough for me. The highlight of my travels was locating one of my favorites: a single GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE at the Camel Farm. Linda Scrima and her husband Artie met me out there and got on the bird as well. The bird was not exactly cooperative; it was quite distant and seemed to prefer spending time down in a ditch. Still, it was a great bird to see and I’ve included a documentary shot below. Other good birds for the day included 4 Blue Morph Snow Geese ( also in the black dirt – one adult with 3 juveniles), a young Red-shouldered Hawk at Wisner Avenue, and a nice sized flock of mixed blackbirds on Lynch Avenue (probably 200 birds – Red-winged Blackbirds, Common Grackles, Brown-headed Cowbirds, and European Starlings).

~The bird of the day, Greater White-fronted Goose at the Camel Farm, 12/01/18.~ 

~Canada Goose, Adult Blue Morph Snow Goose and Juvenile Blue Morph Snow Goose in the black dirt, 12/01/18.~ 

~I had a nice photo op with a couple of White-throated Sparrows on Lynch Avenue, 12/01/18.~

~I made the trip to Port Jervis and walked around Reservoir 3 for a while without coming up with many birds. On my way out I stopped at Laurel Grove Cemetery and found this Red-tailed Hawk.~ 

Rainy, Windy Saturday 10/27/18

~American Pipit in the rain,  black dirt, 10/27/18.~

The rainy, windy weather put the kibosh on hawkwatch at Mount Peter today, so instead I ran around Orange County hoping that once again bad weather would equal good birding. I checked Greenwood Lake and Wickham Lake early and came up empty, so I decided to shift gears and head to the black dirt. By the way, birding today was tough. It wasn’t raining all that hard, but it was pretty steady and the wind was strong and relentless. You absolutely HAD to bird with your back to the wind, otherwise your binoculars or scope would be instantly drenched. Or the inside of your car.  Anyways, in the black dirt, the bird of the day was the American Pipit. I had many today, in several locations. In one flock, I was lucky enough to locate a couple of LAPLAND LONGSPURS, always a favorite of mine. I thought there might be some shorebirds around, but other than a single SANDERLING at Skinner Lane, I had no shorebirds in the black dirt (they’d come later, see below).

~Always a cool bird to see – one of two LAPLAND LONGSPURS in the black dirt, 10/27/18.~ 

In the afternoon I head to Glenmere Lake. Not for ducks, but for shorebirds. Kathy Ashman had let me know that she had been observing shorebirds on the vegetation in the southwest corner of the lake. You can walk out the blue trail about a half a mile or so and there is a lookout onto the lake. Which is what I did this afternoon, and I had a nice collection of shorebirds: 14 DUNLIN, 3 Semipalmated Sandpipers, 1 Least Sandpiper, and 1 WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER. I got pretty excited and went back to my car, unloaded my kayak, and headed out to get a better look. It was not the easiest paddle; it was with the wind on the way out and I was practically riding the waves but it was into the wind (and waves) on the way back, making it a bit of a chore. But, it was worth it! It was really cool to see these shorebirds up close and to get some photos. Oh, and of course there was bunch of American Pipits moving amounts the vegetation as well. I was exhausted and wet by the time I was done, but I felt I’d made the best of a blustery, wet day in Orange County.

~Dunlin at Glenmere Lake, 10/27/18.~ 

~Semipalmated Sandpiper at Glenmere Lake, 10/27/18.~ 

~One more Dunlin shot – Glenmere Lake, 10/27/18.~ 

~It’s always nice to see a White-crowned Sparrow. Skinner Lane, 10/27/18.~ 

~Lapland Longspur in the rain, 10/27/18.~ 

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.~