I just spent an amazing weekend in the Adirondacks; definitely my best to date. I spent some time kayaking with the Common Loons, as I always do (it’s one of my favorite things to do all year!), but this weekend was about so much more. I’m exhausted tonight, and it will likely take be a few days to go through and edit all the photos, so I will be posting sometime this week.
I inadvertently made a really good choice of places to bird this morning.I was tired from the week, and a little uninspired, so I ended up sleeping in a little late for me (7:30), especially for a hot summer day when it’s good to bird early to beat the heat. I dragged my self out of bed and and made a coffee. Then I decided to head over to the Mongaup River Trail just outside of Port Jervis. I hadn’t been there in a while, and I remembered that it was a pretty good spot for summer birding.
What I didn’t remember is that it’s also a very cool (temperature-wise) place to bird. The sun doesn’t get up over the ridge to the east of the trail until a little later, plus it’s just nice and cool walking along the river. The trail winds alongside the Mongaup River for just over a mile and a quarter, ending at a small cemetery in the woods.
It was a nice cool walk, not exceptionally birdy, but still enough birds to keep me interested. I’d forgotten how loud the river can be, especially at the beginning of the trail, making pretty difficult to hear the birds. I had a modest total of 26 species for the morning. There were a couple of birds I was surprised to have missed: Louisiana Waterthrush and Northern Parula. I don’t think I’ve ever been there in the summer and not gotten both species.
The highlight of the day was having a Common Merganser family swim up to where I was birding on the shore. I was hoping to see Common Mergansers, but every other time I’ve been there, the birds were very aware and kept their distance. Maybe it was because I was standing still for a good while, so they weren’t aware of my presence. They swam up river, feeding as they went. Then they stopped and climbed on some rocks and began preening and then eventually took a little snooze. I sat on the shore, trying to stay motionless other than taking photos, while they did their thing less than 45 feet away, seemingly oblivious to me.
On the way back, I found a secondary trail that I’d never noticed before. It doubled back the way I had come, at first climbing up and then flattening out and continuing parallel to the lower trail and the river. I added a few species to my list, and it was just nice to explore a new trail.
The timing of the weather was pretty good today. Just as I was finishing up work, the rain was stopping and the sun was coming out. I knew with the storm coming through and the timing, that it might be a good evening for sea ducks. I went to Glenmere Lake first; as I was setting up my scope Rob Stone called to let me know he had two BLACK SCOTERS at Wickham Lake. Figuring that I would come up empty, I told him I would quickly scan Glenmere and then head over.
~Icing on the cake: a trio of Rusty Blackbirds at Wickham Lake just before sunset, 03/13/20.~
Well, I figured wrong. First, I located a Common Loon in non-breeding plumage. Then, I found a pair of SURF SCOTERS! I was pretty excited to see these birds. Scope views were fabulous, photos were strictly documentary. Before I left, I found a second Common Loon, this one in breeding plumage.
I headed over to Wickham to try for the Black Scoters – I passed Rob on my way (he was going for the Surf Scoters!). The BLSCs were still present, keeping company with a trio of Ruddy Ducks. Linda Scrima eventually arrived and we enjoyed decent scope views of these birds. Unfortunately they were just a bit too far out for any worthwhile photos. Before I left, I located 3 Rusty Blackbirds in a tree and was able to get some shots of one of them. Not bad for a Monday evening!
*I have no idea how many people may or may not get the reference in this post title. Happy Mondays was a band that I listened to back in the 80’s and early 90’s. I Googled them, and although they have been through several incarnations, they are still making music and playing concerts.
Today, for the second year running, Linda Scrima and I participated in the Mearn’s Bird Club’s Orange County Winter Waterfowl Count. Like last year, our sector was the Black Dirt Region. Which means more fields than bodies of water, so we spent the majority of the time searching for, counting, and sorting flocks of Canada Geese. We met at the Liberty Loop parking area at sunrise, and then made our way through the black dirt, hitting the usual spots as well as scouting some relatively unfamiliar territory.
Last year we got lucky and located a couple of rare birds (Cackling and Greater White-fronted Goose). This year was a little less exciting; our best bird was a blue morph Snow Goose that we found on Celery Avenue. But, we did increase our number of species from 2019 to 2020 (6 to 7). Here’s our totals for the day:
- Canada Goose: 1,755
- Mallard: 48
- American Black Duck: 2
- Mute Swan: 5
- Ring-necked Duck: 1
- Common Merganser: 17
- Snow Goose: 1
We did have some notable other birds as we made our way around. Raptors top the list with: Red-tailed Hawk (6), Red-shouldered Hawk (1), Rough-legged Hawk (1), Sharp-shinned Hawk (1), and Bald Eagle (2). We also had a surprising (3) Great Blue Herons as well as an extremely large flock of blackbirds that passed in the far distance; it is hard to put a number on it, but there were probably north of 3,500 birds.
I enjoyed participating in the count – it was nice to have a defined purpose in our birding. I’m thinking this is a direction I’d like to take to a larger degree in my birding moving forward.
I got a nice early start this morning, meeting Linda Scrima at Wickham Lake just after sunrise. It was relatively uneventful, but we did have a single CACKLING GOOSE, which we first saw in my scope and then heard calling periodically while we were there. With the wind whipping pretty good, it was brutally cold on the lake, so after determining there were no other interesting waterfowl on the lake, we were happy to move on.
After a quick and unproductive stop at Glenmere Lake, we decided to follow up on some of the great birds that were reported this week. We headed to Lake Osiris to try for the GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE that Bruce Nott found on Tuesday. There were many Canada Geese on the lake, but after scanning pretty thoroughly we were ready to leave without any luck. Just as we were getting ready to leave, several skeins of geese flew in and landed on the lake. We scanned again, and voilà, there it was! We did our best to get some decent shots of the bird. The light was nice, but, as it goes with these geese, the bird was quite distant. Interestingly, just like the Cackler earlier, the bird started calling from time to time. It was a first for both of us and it was really cool. The bonus for the stop was watching an interesting exchange between three young Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers. They seemed to be playing, chasing each other through the trees right next to us, oblivious to our existence. It was awesome.
From there, we headed to Orange Lake to chase yet another Bruce find – a WHITE-WINGED SCOTOER from earlier in the morning. It was a good stop; we located the bird, an adult male hanging out with 4 adult male LONG-TAILED DUCKS. Unfortunately the birds were just too distant for even documentary shots. The heat shimmer just rendered my images useless.
Next stop was Brown’s Pond to try for the GREAT CORMORANT that Ken McDermott reported last Sunday. Fortunately, the bird was still present and after a little searching, Linda located the bird on the far side of the pond.
For our final stop, we met up with Maria Loukeris and walked the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge’s Liberty Loop trail. It was a nice, brisk walk which was mostly uneventful, but we did have two birds that I was pretty excited about: Fox Sparrow and American Pipit. Mostly, however it was nice to get out with friends for a walk and be outside for a while.
I love scoters. I particularly love scoters when they are found locally. But, I had mixed feelings this morning when Kathy Ashman reported 2 WHITE-WINGED SCOTERS at Wickham Lake. It was early in the day when she reported them, and I was convinced they wouldn’t stick around until the evening when I got out of work. Well, fortunately I was wrong and the birds were still present when I arrived around 6 pm. They were quite distant, so I took a walk on the trail that runs along the east side of the lake to try for a better vantage point and some better photos. I didn’t get anything great, but it was a definite improvement from the tiny specks I had in the camera initially. These were the first scoters I’ve had in the county this year. Huge thanks to Kathy for finding and reporting the birds!
Today was an interesting day for me. I had plans to play my first round of golf of the year at 10 am, so I got up early and made stops at both Glenmere Lake and Wickham Lake. Glenmere had a good number of waterfowl present – mostly Buffleheads and Ring-necked Ducks. My best bird there was a Red-necked Grebe, I’m not sure if this is the same bird that’s been there for a while or if it’s a new bird. At Wickham the birds were a little more sparse, but I did have an up close Horned Grebe as well as 2 distant birds that I believe were Red-necked Grebes. The distance, backlighting, and fog prevented a definitive ID; I wanted to get back this evening, but I never made it (see below).
After golf, I stopped by the Newburgh on my way home. I birded Kowawese Unique Area at Plum Point, and I made several stops along the Newburgh Waterfront. Unfortunately, I found way more people than birds, so I scrammed. I made a quick stop at Lake Washington, where I found a dozen scaup way out in the lake. They were all tucked in, but from what I could tell, they looked like Lesser Scaup. From there I headed to Brown’s Pond. I was going to just make a quick stop, but the birding was good enough that I stayed for a good while (preventing me from getting back to Wickham Lake). There was a beautiful Horned Grebe in breeding plumage – distant but I enjoyed some incredible scope views of that bird. I had 9 species of waterfowl, but it was the Bald Eagles that stole the show. There was a trio of young Bald Eagles flying around the lake; I saw one fishing, but mostly they seemed to be enjoying terrorizing the ducks and tangling with one anther. I sat on a bank and enjoyed the show; taking pictures whenever they came close enough.
This morning Maria Loukeris and I headed to the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Morris County, NJ. Maria had some business to attend to in the area and we birded the refuge beforehand. We mostly drove around from spot to spot, but we did walk the trails briefly as well. We had a total of 25 species during our visit; four were first of year (FOY) birds for me: Eastern Phoebe, Eastern Towhee, Tree Swallow, and my favorite bird of the morning, RUSTY BLACKBIRD.
In the afternoon I birded three local lakes: Greenwood Lake, Wickham Lake, and Glenmere Lake. Wickham was far and away the best stop; I had 8 species of waterfowl, including over 200 Common Mergansers, a single Red-breasted Merganser drake, and an up close look at a beautiful little HORNED GREBE. At Glenmere, the RED-NECKED GREBE continues but was so far out I didn’t even take documentary photos. For the day I had a total of 37 species. I’ve included a list of all the birds with locations at the bottom of this post.
Here’s my list of species for the day, with locations (Great Swamp = GS. Wickham Lake = WL, Greenwood Lake = GRL, and Glenmere Lake = GLL).
- Canada Goose (all locations)
- Mute Swan (WL, GRL, GLL)
- Wood Duck (GS, WL)
- Mallard (GS, GLL)
- Gadwall (GLL – small pond up the road)
- American Black Duck (GS, GLL)
- Bufflehead (GRL, WL, GLL)
- Ring-necked Duck (WL, GLL)
- Hooded Merganser (GRL, WL, GLL)
- Common Merganser (GRL, WL, GLL)
- RED-BREASTED MERGANSER (WL)
- HORNED GREBE (WL)
- RED-NECKED GREBE (GLL)
- Ring-billed Gull (GRL, WL, GLL)
- Herring Gull (WL)
- Turkey Vulture (GS, WL)
- Bald Eagle (GS, WL)
- Red-tailed Hawk (GS, WL)
- Sharp-shinned Hawk (on the road, Sussex Co.)
- Red-bellied Woodpecker (GS)
- Blue Jay (GS, GLL)
- American Crow (GS, WL)
- Fish Crow (GRL)
- Common Raven (WL)
- Tree Swallow (GS)
- White-breasted Nuthatch (GS)
- Tufted Titmouse (GS)
- Eastern Bluebird (GS)
- American Robin (GS, WL)
- European Starling (GS)
- Dark-eyed Junco (GS)
- Song Sparrow (GS)
- Eastern Towhee (GS)
- American Tree Sparrow (WL)
- Red-winged Blackbird (GS, WL, GLL)
- RUSTY BLACKBIRD (GS)
- Common Grackle (GS, WL)
There were some good birds reported locally this week, so that gave me some targets for today. At first light I headed over to Glenmere Lake to try for the Red-necked Grebe that Kathy Ashman located yesterday, and fortunately bird was still present. Kathy also showed up, and the bird put on a pretty good show as it tried to swallow a fish that was just way too large. Eventually a Ring-billed Gull swooped in and stole the fish, putting a halt to the grebes attempts. Glenmere is one of the few lakes with open water in the county, and including the grebe, I had 10 species of waterfowl: Wood Ducks, Hooded Mergansers, Buffleheads, Mute Swans, Canada Geese, Mallards, American Wigeons, Ring-necked Ducks, and 2 COMMON GOLDENEYES.
I then cruised the black dirt for a while – I had several large groups of Canada Geese, maybe around 5,000 total, I sifted through them all and unfortunately did not located any other species. I did alright for raptors; I had my first Sharp-shinned Hawk in the count for the year, several Red-tailed Hawks, Turkey Vultures, an American Kestrel on a wire, and I got some decent shots of a Rough-legged Hawk.
My next move was to head north to Ulster County to try for the Ross’s Goose that had been reported all week. I tried Bates Lane at Blue Chip Farms first, and I got lucky as another birder, Neil from the Schenectady was already on the bird when I arrived. He gave me a look in his scope, as the bird was at quite a distance, and I tried to get some documentary shots of the bird. It’s always good to see a Ross’s, and this bird is just the perfect beautiful example of the species. I made a quick stop at the Shawangunk Grasslands NWR, since I was so close, in spite of the parking lot being full of cars (at just after noon!) there were not many birds flying and I had only a single Turkey Vulture in the distance.
I had planned to head over to Cornwall to try for the Lesser Black-backed Gull that Bruce Nott found yesterday, but I ran out of time. I may try for that bird tomorrow. What a satisfying day of birding, I feel like we are on the verge of some really good birding in our area.
I got a good look at several Ring-necked Ducks at Glenmere Lake just after sunrise this morning. Glenmere is not typically a good place for photographing waterfowl from the shore, especially first thing in the morning as the view generally looks southeast, creating a severely backlit situation if there is a clear sunrise. This morning, however, these Ring-necked Ducks were located in a little cove of sorts along the shore. I positioned myself behind a tree and shot them with the sun just off my left shoulder; it was nice surprise to get some decent shots with nice light.