Unfortunately, today’s Brooklyn Pelagic was cancelled due to what they described as a “horrendous forecast”. They are trying to reschedule it for February 4th; hopefully it will fill up and I will be able to make it.
I resorted to ‘Plan B’, which I came up with on my commute home last night: I’d take a trip to the Edith G. Read Wildlife Sanctuary in Rye, New York. It’s been a while since I’ve been there and I thought it would be fun to see how well I could do with waterfowl. Afterwards, I ended up also going to the Marshlands Conservancy, which is also in Rye, and then stopping at Piermont Pier on my way home. For the day I had 19 species of waterfowl; here’s my list by location:
The biggest surprise for me was the number of Common Goldeneyes at the sanctuary. My count of 22 is very conservative and I don’t remember ever having nearly that many there in the past. I was also hoping to see my first shorebirds of 2018, but it was not to be (in the past, I have had Purple Sandpipers at E.G. Read Sanctuary and back in December of 2013, I had 13 Dunlin at the Marshlands Conservancy). As for songbirds, I feel like I’ve done better at the sanctuary and the conservancy in the past. My best songbird of the day was a fleeting look at a FOX SPARROW at the Marshlands Conservancy. Here’s some more shots from the day:
After yesterday’s snow, I knew I wanted to check out the black dirt today. One of my main goals was to try for Snow Buntings and Lapland Longspurs among the large flocks of Horned Larks. I was hoping the snow cover would push the birds closer to the roadsides, this only happened to a small extent, but I was able to get a single LAPLAND LONGSPUR out at Skinner’s Lane. The bird was only about 40 yards off the road, but I was a little slow on the draw and missed getting a shot. I did a little bit better shooting raptors; I got my first decent shot of a Norther Harrier for the season. I also watched a Merlin enjoy a snack on a telephone pole, and miraculously, when it had finished, it took off in my direction, allowing for a decent shot.
After the black dirt, I checked out Wickham Lake, where I happy to find 12 species of waterfowl! They were pretty much the usuals, but it was excellent birding. The following species were present: Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Wood Duck, Gadwall, American Wigeon, Mallard, Am. Black Duck, Ring-necked Duck, Bufflehead, Common Merganser, Pied-billed Grebe, and Am. Coot.
From there I went to Glenmere Lake and found the birds of the day: a single BLACK SCOTER and 2 LONG-TAILED DUCKS. I haven’t had any sea ducks this fall, so I was pretty happy to see these birds. All in all, it made for a really great day of birding, one that I needed. It’s rare that I post twice in a single day – click here or on the link below to see my post from this morning with the Mount Peter 2017 end of season report by Judy Cinquina.
I decided to forego my Christmas shopping on Black Friday, and headed to Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge instead (that was a joke, by the way, I know, keep my day job). Birding the refuge can be a little bit overwhelming during duck migration. Black Lake, the first large body of water on the left on Wildlife Drive, was absolutely loaded with waterfowl! There had to be thousands of birds present. Some birds are close enough for good binocular looks and even some photos, but most of the birds are pretty far out – it’s a distant sea of waterfowl. For the day, I had a total of 15 species of swimming waterbirds at the refuge: Canada Goose, Tundra Swan, Northern Shoveler, Gadwall, American Wigeon, Mallard, Canvasback, Redhead, Ring-necked Duck, Lesser Scaup, Greater Scaup, Hooded Merganser, Ruddy Duck, Pied-billed Grebe, and American Coot. I also did alright with raptors, with: Red-tailed Hawk (3), Bald Eagle (4), Northern Harrier (3), American Kestrel (1), and ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK (1).
One of the more exciting moments was seeing an incredible 87 (!) SANDHILL CRANES. I viewed them from East Road – the birds were relatively obscured by vegetation which made getting a good count difficult. At first I counted approximately 60 birds, but then I discovered there was a second group, just 100 yards away. My best count was 87, but I’m sure there were some birds that were hidden and not counted.
I wanted to drive through Wildlife Drive one more time. I stopped by the visitor’s center and another birder told me that he had seen a SNOWY OWL nearby to the refuge just a little bit earlier. I ran for the owl, but alas, it must have moved and I was unable to relocate it. I did get lucky with the CATTLE EGRET that has been recently reported; a bird that I would normally be pretty excited about but I was bummed to have missed a Snowy by such a small margin. From there, I decided to leave the refuge and bird Cayuga Lake…
…I drove the west side of the lake and ended up at Cayuga Lake State Park, which had a nice dock for viewing the lake. I added 4 species of waterfowl (American Black Duck, Bufflehead, Red-breasted Merganser, and Horned Grebe), bringing my total for the day to 19. I was most excited, however, with the gulls present: Ring-billed, Herring, Great Black-backed, and BONAPARTE’S.
On Saturday morning I tried again for the Snowy Owl, but was unsuccessful. I also wanted to try Cayuga Lake again, this time I went down the east side of the lake. I was hoping to do better with Bonaparte’s for photos – I got much better looks, but the photos were terrible. I did add Common Loon, Double-crested Cormorant, and Common Goldeneye to my waterfowl list, giving me a total of 22 species in two days – not too bad. Good birding in Seneca County!
The good thing about not being able to bird all week is that I am really appreciating my birding time when I get it, down to the littlest things, such as that beautiful feeling of putting my binoculars up to my eyes and focusing in on a bird; it’s a joy. The bad thing (or at least one bad thing among the many), is that I feel out of practice. This is my second week of no weekday birding and I’ve had the same feeling both weekends, where I was just a little bit out of sorts and not really quick to ID birds.
Additionally, you would think that, since I didn’t have the opportunity to bird all week, that I might come up with a plan for my Saturday morning when I finally can get out. But I didn’t. So I just headed out and cruised the black dirt; my main goal was to try and find some Canada Geese to sort through. The morning was mostly a dud; my highlight was watching in my scope, as an absolutely gorgeous Coyote made its way across a field in the distance. That was awesome. I also bumped into John Haas, who I hadn’t seen in a while, so that was nice. We sorted through the largest group of Canada Geese that I had all morning (maybe 600 birds?). Unfortunately, we came up empty and I was running late to meet up with Linda Lou at the Bashakill to do water testing, so I had to run. While I was doing the water testing, John put out an alert that he had a CACKLING GOOSE on route 416 by Hillcrest Farms. After water testing and little lunch, I headed out into the rain and ran for John’s Cackler. It took me ages to find the bird, but eventually I did. It was a really good stop and I got really great looks in my scope and the usual goose documentary photographs. Huge thanks to John for finding and posting.
After, I thought it might be a good idea to try for more waterfowl. I headed to Tomahawk Lake, since it wasn’t far away. I had: Common Mergansers, Ruddy Ducks, and a single Ring-necked Duck there. Then, I headed to Round Lake. I went there because there is a covered spot for viewing the lake, since the rain had picked up pretty good at that point. At Round Lake I had 4 species of waterfowl: Mallards, a single Ruddy Duck, two Pied-billed Grebes, and three Greater Scaup that were close enough to shore for some decent photos (rain and horrible lighting aside). By the time I left Round Lake, it was late and dark already. I was going to head to Glenmere Lake, but that will have to wait until tomorrow…
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.
QUICK TEASER: Kyle Dudgeon and I took a trip up north this weekend for some awesome Adirondack birding. We took loads of photos (especially of Common Loons), so it may take me a little time to get through them. Stay tuned for a post in the next few days.
After work today I headed straight to Glenmere Lake to follow up on a lead from Rob Stone – he had two WHITE-WINGED SCOTERS there earlier in the day. And I just can’t get enough of sea ducks in Orange County, I find it fascinating. When I arrived, the birds were still present. I had distant but excellent looks in my scope and I managed to digiscope a few halfway decent shots with my phone. While I was there, I also had a remarkable 4 Ospreys flying over the lake and 2 Bald Eagles; one adult and one immature.
From there, I headed over to Wickham Lake, following up on another tip from Rob; he let me know about a Northern Waterthrush that was near the parking area at Wickham Woodlands Town Park. At first I was having no luck, but after a while I heard the bird. I really wanted to see the bird, so I waited a long time… and eventually I caught just the briefest look. While I was waiting, the area was birdy and I had several other warblers: Yellow Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Palm Warbler, and my first of the year American Redstart.
I finally went to the shore of the lake to scan for waterfowl. I was not optimistic, but wanted to check before heading home. I was pleasantly surprised to first hear and then see a Common Loon out in the distance. What a great sound and sight! But that was just the beginning – I continued scanning and…wait let me count them… one, two, three, four RED-NECKED GREBES! They were in the company of 4 Ruddy Ducks. Again the birds were quite distant – I took some shots with my camera and I digiscoped some as well and got enough just to document. What a super night of birding, you just never know what you’ll find when you get out there!
QUICK POST: I stopped by Wickham Lake after work this evening to try for the Red-throated Loon that Rob Stone had located earlier in the day. I was on my way to a doctor’s appointment and only had a few minutes, plus the rain was coming down pretty hard. I got to the lake, set up my scope, looked in and had not one, but two (!) RED-THROATED LOONS. As I was enjoying seeing the birds, it started to thunder and lightning. I high-tailed it to my car and went to my appointment soaking wet. Afterwards, I went back to the lake. The rain had stopped and the sun even came out briefly. I enjoyed much better looks of the RTLOs as well as a pair of Common Loons and a single Long-tailed Duck. Excellent birds!
Last night’s rain must have had some good timing – it grounded a fair amount of waterfowl in Orange County. My first indication that it was going to be a good day was when I received a text around noon from Bruce Nott. He had a RED-THROATED LOON at Orange Lake. Which was followed shortly afterwards with a text that he had 2 LONG-TAILED DUCKS and a Common Loon at Washington Lake. Then, a half hour before quitting time I got word from Rob Stone that he had a slew of birds at Wickham Lake. I joined Bruce Nott, Kathy Ashman, and Linda Scrima at the lake to enjoy this waterfowl bonanza. Including the Canada Geese I had as I drove in, we had 17 (!) species of waterfowl!
How’s that for a waterfowl list?!? I was particularly happy to see Redheads in Orange County for the first time ever. This is the sort of day, as a birder, that I get really jazzed about, and Bruce, Kathy, and Linda all seemed equally excited about it. Another good bird we had while were there was a single BONAPARTE’S GULL, always a favorite of mine. The only downside was that, of course, the birds were quite distant. Scope views were pretty amazing but photos were nearly impossible. Huge thanks to Rob and Bruce, great birding for sure!
Three weeks ago I did a waterfowl survey of 9 locations not too far from my home in Goshen. Today I repeated this survey, hitting the same 9 locations in the same order. The overall number of birds was down from over 950 to under 700 birds, but I had a little more variety today with 16 species of waterfowl (up from 14). I’ve included species lists by location below.
I was hoping for some more interesting birds, but all 16 species were what I consider the usuals. Things were better in that regard earlier in the week, when I had a trio of Long-tailed Ducks at Glenmere Lake, and yesterday when I had a single Common Loon at Wickham Lake: