It’s not very often that I get good photo ops with ducks because, as we all know, ducks tend to keep their distance. I think it would take some work, planning, and likely a photo blind to actually get really good shots of most ducks (at least from the shore – I’ve had much better luck from the kayak). Yesterday afternoon I found a group of Ring-necked Ducks at Upper Greenwood Lake that just didn’t seem to care. I saw the birds from my car, I pulled over and parked, but unfortunately the only way to approach was on foot. I did so slowly, fully expecting the birds to swim in the opposite direction, leaving me wanting. I must be on a roll because they did no such thing and instead just carried on as before. I photographed them for about 20 minutes; when I left they were still in the same area going about their business. I then continued towards the black dirt, where I was going to spend the evening participating in the DEC’s Raptor Survey. It was an excellent pit stop which yielded a nice series of pics of these RNDUs, in really nice light.
Maria Loukeris and I spent a fantastic day of birding down at the Jersey Shore today. Our first stop was at Morgan Avenue Mudflats in Middlesex County. We dipped on our target bird – the Black-headed Gull which had been reported as recently as Friday, but we did get lucky with a LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL. We got great looks at the bird and some documentary photos.
Our second stop was at Manasquan Inlet in Ocean County. I knew it would be a good stop when I stepped out of the car and photographed a Common Loon at close distance. We worked our way out onto the jetty and I saw a very white bird on the water, not far from the jetty. “Is that a gannet?” It was a NORTHERN GANNET; we had several while we were there, and one in particular spent a large amount of time not far from the jetty. We reached the end of the jetty and Maria found the bird of the day, a RAZORBILL! The bird was very close to the jetty; I could barely believe it. We got super looks at the bird, and even some decent shots. It was definitely the highlight of the day.
Our final stop was at Shark River in Monmouth County. As it was last year when we were there, the place was absolutely loaded with birds. We never located the Eurasian Wigeon that had been reported, but we did pretty well with waterfowl (and a couple of shorebirds too):
First thing this morning I headed to Piermont Pier to see if could get any good ducks. It was a nice stop and I had 7 species of waterfowl:
Canada Goose (3)
Common Goldeneye (2)
Common Merganser (1)
Ruddy Duck (43)
The Common Goldeneyes stole the show for me; I got great looks at one bird that spent some time close to the pier. The Canvasbacks were nice to get, but were very distant and a scope was needed to see them well.
I left Piermont Pier and headed to State Line Lookout to join the hordes of birders/photographers/sheep that were present to try for the Gyrfalcon that has been reported recently there. It was quite a scene and I estimate that in the time I tried for the bird (4 hours), over 125 birders/photogs were there for the bird as well. Millions of photographs were taken of the local Peregrine Falcons (that might not be an exaggeration). The falcons did not fly much, but did spend much time on the closest perches. Other good birds included several Bald Eagles, Common Ravens, and a Cooper’s Hawk which was chased from the far side of the river to the Lookout by the local male Peregrine Falcon. As for the Gyrfalcon, it was of course a no-show. Hopefully it sticks and I’ll try for it another day.
Birding in Orange County has been a little bit slow all week, so Kyle, Linda, Maria, and I piled into my Volkswagen Golf and headed south to Richard W. DeKorte Park in Lyndhurst, New Jersey. We all seemed to be in the same mood, ready spend the morning at a spot that has no shortage of birds and also offers up great photo opportunities. We were not disappointed and had 41 species for the outing. LEAST BITTERNS were high on the priority list – we were hoping to get Kyle his lifer, which we achieved through a fly-by very early on. We saw several LEBI while were there, and we spent some quality time viewing and photographing one young bird that was in nice light and wasn’t too far away.
Other highlights included a nice look at a couple of male Ruddy Ducks in breeding plumage, and a young, large, (probably a female) Peregrine Falcon that absolutely ripped onto the scene and took what appeared to be a Forster’s Tern. Those PEFAs are killing machines and are fascinating to watch in action. For shorebirds, we had what I suspect are the expected species – Least Sandpipers, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Spotted Sandpipers, Short-billed Dowitchers, Greater Yellowlegs, and Lesser Yellowlegs. Other good birds included three Black-crowned Night-herons, a couple of Osprey, two Great Black-backed Gulls, and several Snowy Egrets. It was an excellent morning of birding in great company!
QUICK POST: I’m going to try to keep this short because it’s late and I’m tired. It’s remarkable to me how much luck plays a part in birding. After work today, thanks to some prodding from Maria Loukeris, I ran for the RUFF that has been reported in recent days out at DeKorte Park in Lyndhurst, New Jersey. I searched for the bird for over 2 1/2 hours from the Transco Trail, along with several other birders and then I decided to head home. On my way back to my car, I ran into Chris Takacs on the boardwalk; Chris had originally located the bird over a week ago. While we were talking, a group of yellowlegs flew over and Chris commented that it looked like the Ruff might have been in with them. Moments later, he received a text – he was right, the Ruff had just come in! We headed back out to the Transco Trail and sure enough the bird was still present! What an incredible bird, and I was so lucky to get it! I got great scope views and tried to take some photos and video – none came out very well, but I did get to document it. The Ruff is life bird #368 for me. Huge thanks to Maria for letting me know the bird had been relocated today, and also to Chris Takacs for all his help out there.
Maria Loukeris and I got an early start and headed south to Richard W. DeKorte Park in Lyndhurst, New Jersey; we were trying for the Ruff that had been reported there. We were not the only ones with that idea, as the park was absolutely loaded with birders. We met up with Marianne O., as planned, met some other birders for the first time, and also ran into Denise Farrel, who is also a hawk counter at Mount Peter Hawkwatch. Ultimately, we left and the Ruff had not been relocated. Meanwhile, we had some great birds at the park, including several LEAST BITTERNS. I was hoping when I finally got my lifer LEBI, it would not be a speck in a scope, or a fleeting glimpse of a bird, and I was not disappointed. The first one we had was only 50 feet away or so. It was in the shadows and partially hidden by phragmites reeds, but it looked absolutely incredible in the scope, and we worked hard to get some decent photos (I was not at all optimistic about these shots, so I was pleasantly surprised when I got home and saw them on the computer).
DeKorte is absolutely loaded with shorebirds. There were too many Least and Semipalmated Sandpipers to count, the same goes for Lesser Yellowlegs and Short-billed Dowitchers. We also had a handful of Semipalmated Plovers and also several Greater Yellowlegs. A Peregrine Falcon came through a couple of times and lifted up all the shorebirds (I somehow missed it both times!?). Also of note was a Sora that was seen well by Marianne and others but would not re-emerge when Maria and I made our way back to where it was being seen.
I had always been intimidated to go to DeKorte; mostly because of the driving and traffic, but also because I didn’t know the lay of the land. I admit that we did get a little bit lost on the way in, but really the driving wasn’t a problem at all especially since it was early on a Sunday with little traffic. And the park is very inviting, you don’t really have to know anything going into it; just arrive an enjoy some good birding.
Sometimes things just seem to work out. I had a work appointment in Wilmington Delaware this morning, and Merrill Creek Reservoir in Warren County, New Jersey, where a BROWN BOOBY has been recently reported, is not very far off the route that I took home. With some directions from Linda Scrima and a little luck, I found the location easily enough, and the bird was still present and was immediately pointed out to me by the other birders present. It spent most of its time perched and partially hidden on the I/O Tower, but in time I was there it did take flight a couple of times, which allowed for some halfway decent photos. I really enjoyed this bird and with its beautiful long thin wings it was exciting to see it in flight. Plus, it’s a booby in the middle of New Jersey, that’s pretty amazing! And finally, it was life bird for me, my 367th.