I put my kayak into the water at Morningside Park just as the sun was coming up over the trees this morning. My goal was to photograph migrating shorebirds in the early morning light, but unfortunately there were not all that many present (are you sensing a theme this fall?). I had a single Spotted Sandpiper, 2 Solitary Sandpipers, and 3 Least Sandpipers, but that’s it for shorebirds. There was a MERLIN present that was tearing around and keeping the shorebirds on their toes, which was exciting but doesn’t help when your target birds are its prey. The small falcon perched for a while in a nearby tree and I was happy to get some decent photographs; it’s been a while since I’ve seen or photographed a Merlin.
Otherwise, I ran into just “the usuals”, with plenty of Green Herons and Great Blue Herons to photograph in the beautiful morning light. I spent just about 2 hours in the water and had 30 species in that time, which made for some pretty good birding.
SHOREBIRD REPORT: Well, there is actually not very much to report, but it’s not for lack of trying. I am more than ready for some shorebirds to show up in Orange County, but really, the birds have been sparse. Here’s the latest:
Friday 8/11: I had a single Greater Yellowlegs at the Camel Farm, where conditions are finally shaping up a bit for shorebirds.
Saturday 8/12: The Camel Farm was a bust, but I had a single Semipalmated Plover at one location in the Black Dirt, and I had three Lesser Yellowlegs and a single Least Sandpiper at another location in the BD (as well as hundreds of Killdeer).
Sunday 8/13: I had a single Least Sandpiper in the Black Dirt that was very accommodating for photos, the Camel Farm had no shorebirds, and Citgo Pond had 5 Least Sandpipers. All the recent rain has made conditions at Citgo less than ideal, so I was happy to have the 5 LESAs. I ran into Jeff Goulding and Bill Fiero at Citgo, and they informed me that they had several Lesser Yellowlegs at the Liberty Loop earlier in the day. They also informed me that the LITTLE BLUE HERON continues at that location. And, finally, John Haas had 20 Least Sandpipers, 2 Solitary Sandpipers, and a Semipalmated Sandpiper at Morningside Park in Sullivan County this morning. I plan on getting out to that location in the upcoming days for sure. Check out his post here.
…to me! This evening, on my 48th birthday, I located my 200th bird of the year in Orange County – an UPLAND SANDPIPER! The heavy rains this afternoon cancelled my golf game, so I headed to the black dirt to look for birds. Honestly, my expectations were low, but when I located this uppy, I was totally thrilled. What an excellent bird for #200! Unfortunately I did not have my camera with me, so I relied on digiscoping to document the bird. I watched the bird for a good while, and having put the word out, eventually Dick Riley and Karen Miller both showed up to get the bird. Good OC birding!
Put the summer doldrums on hold for a minute! With last night’s rainfall, I was optimistic that we might get a good bird today. Kyle Dudgeon and I were only half-joking about the outside possibility of a Roseate Spoonbill, since they’ve had one in New Jersey recently. Then I received a text from Linda Scrima – with an attached eBird report for a SNOWY EGRET at Citgo Pond, reported by a Kevin McGann at 8:23 this morning! I met Linda there after work to check it out; we were doubtful that the report would be accurate, not knowing Kevin McGann and having been burned on several inaccurate SNEG reports in recent years. We walked out to the pond, and sure enough there was a SNOWY EGRET! We put out the word and several birders were able to come join us in viewing the bird. Other highlights included hearing a Cooper’s Hawk calling from the trees (only my second time hearing the “kac, kac, kac” call), my first Lesser Yellowlegs in a couple of weeks, 10 (!) Green Herons, and a Red Fox on the far side of the shore, located by Kathy Ashman and Karen Miller.
QUICK POST: Well, Rob Stone strikes again. This evening he somehow managed to relocate the five immature WHITE IBIS that had been reported in Orange County earlier this week, but had not been seen for several days (I thought those birds were long gone!). I, of course, ran for the birds and when I arrived, Rob got me on them immediately. They appeared to be getting ready to roost in the treetops on the shore of Wickham Lake. I have to say that seeing WHIB, in Orange County, in the treetops, just blew me away. It was so awesome! Linda Scrima showed up shortly after I did, and then Curt McDermott and Karen Miller not long after her. Curt had been Kayaking at Glenmere Lake, so he had his kayak. I was really excited when he pretty much insisted that I get the first run in the kayak to get some photographs while the light was still good. I paddled out and got great looks at the two birds at the very top of the trees and, of course, clicked away. Huge thanks to Rob for relocating the birds and to Curt for the kayak. What a night!
I wasn’t sure where I wanted to bird this morning, so I consulted John Haas‘ book ‘A Birding Guide to Sullivan County New York’, and decided to head out to Hickok Brook Multiple Use Area. John mentioned in his write up that Hickok Brook is good for breeding warblers, and more importantly, that Ruffed Grouse could be found in the area. I did okay with warblers, getting nine species: Ovenbird, Black-and-white, Common Yellowthroat, Hooded, Chestnut-sided, Blackburnian, Black-throated Blue, Pine, and Black-throated Green. I had one bird calling that I couldn’t identify; I’m wondering if it wasn’t a Nashville. The best part came a little bit later in my walk. It was closing in on noon, and many of the birds had quieted down as I walked back to my car. Suddenly, from the ferns on the side of the trail, not 10 feet from me, a RUFFED GROUSE popped straight up and flew at high speed into the woods, never getting more than ten feet off the ground. It scared the heck out of me! And while I was happy to get the bird, it was a less than satisfactory experience. Let’s just say Ruffed Grouse remains on my nemesis list.
RANDOM TANGENT: I feel like my birding by ear is worse this year than last year. It could be that last year I spent all of my time in Orange County and I had learned most of the birds that I would hear. This year, I feel like I’m struggling. I noticed it for sure when Kyle and I went to the Adirondacks, and again in recent weeks when I’ve been birding in Sullivan County. There are some birds that I just don’t know by ear, but also I find myself getting a little lost from time to time and struggling with some of the birds I thought I knew. One of these days I am going to write a post about what makes a good birder, and birding by ear is certainly high on the list.
SHOREBIRD REPORT: I have been checking Citgo pond regularly and so far I’ve had low numbers of Least Sandpipers and just a couple of Lesser Yellowlegs. Conditions are good at the pond, so I remain optimistic.
Maria Loukeris, Linda Scrima, Kyle Dudgeon, and I headed out early this morning to Wolf Brook Multiple Use Area. John Haas recently posted on his blog that he had several Canada Warblers on the trail there, so this was our target bird for the morning. We walked the road that leads to the trailhead and then nearly a mile of the trail. It was a birdy walk, but as expected at this time of the year, more birds were heard than seen. And photo ops were few and far between. Eastern Towhees, American Goldfinches, and to a lesser degree, Chestnut-sided Warblers and Black-throated Blue Warblers were the most numerous birds heard and seen. About half a mile into the trail, we were beginning to think maybe Canada Warbler was not in the cards for us, when Maria finally located one. We watched it for a good while, and we also relocated it on our way out. What a great bird, and really tough to photograph since it kept its distance and never stopped moving. We all had afternoon plans, so we ended up cutting the hike a little bit short, so we never made it out to the waterfall. We’ll leave that for next time. In just under 4 hours, we had a total of 32 species.
QUICK POST: Huge thanks to Linda Scrima, who contacted me tonight to let me know she had a FORSTER’S TERN at Wallkill River NWR’s Liberty Loop. I jumped into the car and ran for the bird, and WOW, what a beautiful bird! It was perched on the measuring pole just to the left of the viewing platform, which made for a great photo op. I’ve never had FOTE in Orange County before, so this is OC bird #243 for me! Very exciting!
Kyle Dudgeon and I loaded the kayaks onto my VW Golf this past weekend and headed north to do some Adirondack birding. We were heading to Saranac Lake, where there are some excellent local birding hotspots and the St. Regis Canoe Area is less than a half hour away. This trip has become an annual one for me; I’ve gone the past four years in a row now, but for Kyle, this was his first birding trip in the Adirondacks. Our main goal was to photograph the Common Loons, and if that went well and the timing worked out, we would do some additional birding in the area.
We arrived at the boat launch late Saturday afternoon. The weather seemed good while we were on the road, with mostly sunny skies above us as we made the 4 1/2 hour drive. But, when we got out of the car it was really windy and we immediately saw that the water was extremely rough. As we debated on whether or not to venture into the water, an adult Bald Eagle swooped in by the boat launch and then perched on the other side of the small cove. That convinced us and we headed out in the kayaks. Once in the water, the eagle did not stick around for any photos and the water was rough enough for me to be concerned. I wasn’t worried for our safety, we had life vests and we are both strong swimmers, but between the two of us, we had a lot of camera gear to keep dry.
We eventually made it to some areas that were protected from the wind, making the waves at least tolerable. Unfortunately, we were not having much luck with loons, getting only a brief look at a single bird. I’ve been successful on every other trip, but here I was with Kyle and I was beginning to get worried. We paddled around the large pond, hoping our luck would change and eventually it did. We first heard a loon calling, and then four loons flew in and put down just across the pond from us. We made our way over to them and, as I’ve experienced in the past, the birds were comfortable with our presence and went about their business. The loons had put down in an area where the water was pretty rough, which made it really tough to take photos, but in the end I felt like the water movement really added to the photos. Later, as we paddled back to the launch, Kyle and I decided to definitely give it another try first thing in the morning, hoping that the wind would die down a bit and make for some easier paddling.
We arrived at the boat launch right at sunrise on Sunday morning. And the water was like glass. What a difference a day makes! The light was gorgeous and the paddling was super easy. We spent 2 1/2 hours on the water; we did well with more Common Loons, including finding one that was on a nest. We were also hearing many songbirds along the shores of the pond and the islands in the pond. We had an excellent close encounter with a Blackburnian Warbler, but I somehow blew my photos of that bird. Kyle did better than I did, you can check it out, as well as all his photos from the trip here. The highlight of the morning, however, was an adult female Common Merganser with 8 of the cutest chicks you’ve ever seen!
It was still early when we finished up kayaking, so we hit a couple of hotspots to try and get Kyle some target birds. We were hoping for Boreal Chickadee, Gray Jay, and Black-backed Woodpecker. We made brief stops at both Bloomindale Bog and Bigelow Road. Both areas were birdy, but the birds were mostly heard and not seen. We had our best luck at Bigelow Road, where right near the trailhead we had a great look at a Nashville Warbler. Further on, we eventually heard a pair of Black-backed Woodpeckers, which were frustratingly close to the trail, considering we never got even a glimpse. Then, on our way back to the car, we first heard and then saw a single young Gray Jay. The bird did not cooperate, so no photos. We wrapped up the weekend with a nice big, late, breakfast before getting on the road. It was another great trip to the Adirondacks, a place that I’ve grown to really love in recent years. Huge thanks to Kyle for joining me; he was great company.
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!