Mount Peter 2018 Season Report

~Cooper’s Hawk at Onondaga Park, 11/23/18.~

Judy Cinquina runs the Mount Peter Hawkwatch. She is a fabulous leader and she does an excellent write up at the end of each season. It’s an interesting read for sure and I’ve included a few recent raptor photos which I haven’t had a opportunity to post yet. Thanks so much to Judy for everything she does at the watch and for sharing her report. 

MOUNT PETER 2018 by Judith Cinquina

Twenty four days of bad weather shortened the 2018 Mount Peter Hawk Watch to 418 hours between September 1 and November 15, but produced a healthy 8,529 raptors, averaging 20.4 per hour. Highlights of the 74-day count included record Red-shouldered and Cooper’s Hawks, daily records for the Turkey Vulture and Red-shoulder and an encouraging increase in the once common American Kestrel. Results for the N. Harrier, however, remained depressing. Although the Rough-legged Hawk failed to show up for the eighth consecutive season, Golden Eagles and Goshawks sprinkled a bit of glitter on our 61st season.

September seemed a never-ending series of fog, drizzle, rain, heat and weak winds from the wrong direction, yet our 11 volunteer leaders persisted and ticked off 5,071 Broad-winged Hawks, most of them pepper specks at the edge of invisibility. Matt Zeitler drew the best day and counted 1,257 on the 22nd with a light NW wind.   October, however, was kinder and graced us with a few record scores and rarities. The 213 Red-shouldered Hawks beat out our old record of 165 from 2012 (90 adult, 21 immature and 102 unknown). Most moved through between October 19 and November 4 on strong NW winds. Just to be contrary, light S winds generated a new daily record of 28 Shoulders on October 26 for Denise Farrell. That wiped out the record 27 scored November 4, 2017 by Matt. This species has gone through low and high seasons for decades, but since 2012 has been on an upward swing. The 508 Red-tailed Hawks was an improvement over last season but a far cry from the record 905 scored in 2003. Nick Bolgiano wrote in the 2012 season’s Hawk Migration Studies –Vol. 38, No. 2 that Red-tails in the Kittatinny Ridge corridor are “short-stopping” or not migrating as far south as their ancestors or not migrating at all. In that same area Christmas Bird Counts have seen an increase in Red-tails. According to Bolgiano, the same thing holds for the no-show Rough-legged Hawks. 

~Bald Eagle at Stony Point, NY. Taken during my lunch break on 12/13/18.~

The 1,469 Sharp-shinned Hawks was better than the 841 that graced the 2017 season, but remains part of a downward trend in the Northeast. Our only three-digit count was on October 12 with 173 on strong northwest winds. Their cousin the Cooper’s Hawks has been increasing, evidenced by our new record of 176 that squelched the 165 tallied in 2012. This species hit triple digit tallies beginning in 1990 and has been increasing ever since all over the Northeast. The much rarer Goshawk made two appearances this season.  Both Ajit Anthony and Will Test bagged immature Goshawks, Ajit on October 17 and Will on November 14, on brisk west and northwest winds. Both Gos provided close views, and Will, who endured below freezing temperatures and howling 20 m/h winds, stated that the sighting warmed him up a bit.

After three seasons of two-digit counts, the American Kestrel bounced back to a three-digit 159 ( 35 male, 27 female, 97 unknown). That’s good news for this little falcon, although it can’t approach the 592 totaled in 1981. Most moved through between October 12 and 24, a very late peak for this species. Denise garnered the best day with 41 on strong NW winds on the 12th, a day that produced many Kestrels all over the Northeast including 5,406 at Cape May. Mount Peter is not a falcon lookout, so the 15 Merlin, although a bit below average, were a treat, especially the three Tom Millard tallied October 30. Peregrines brought in our second best score ever, with 23 noted. The record 26 was made just last season, so this species is on the up-swing after practically disappearing in the 1960’s. Ajit Antony and Bill O’Keefe each scored three Peregrines on September 19 and 30 respectively.

~Red-tailed Hawk at Liberty Marsh, 12/15/18.~ 

After five mediocre seasons, the Osprey produced a bit of a bounce with 134 noted but the tally remains under our 10-year average. Bill O’Keefe nabbed the best count of 19, September 20 on weak NE winds. The elegant N. Harrier barely made it over our lookout with a mere 35 spotted this fall (3 male, 9 female, 8 immature and 15 unknown). Bald Eagles came in at an above-average 112 (58 adult, 51 immature and 3 unknown). We also had 58 Bald Eagle visitors who weren’t counted and headed north. Sometimes a pair would entertain us, interacting and flirting and distracting us from counting real migrants. Others accompanied true migrants past the platform then headed back north. Matt Zeitler observed 10 on September 29 that weren’t counted, five of them adults flying north together. Six Golden Eagles were shared by leaders this season: 2 adult, 4 immature.  Rick Hansen reported a young Golden appeared over the lookout at 8:45 a.m. November 10, sat on the updraft along the west side and stooped into the valley and disappeared. The next day, a young Golden almost slipped by to the east, where trees block our view but was spotted at the last second by Jeanne Cimorelli and Tomorrow Millard.

Turkey Vultures produced their 2nd best tally ever, with 504 counted. Denise Farrell netted the record day with 88 on strong NW winds, October 12. Black Vultures muddled along with 79 tallied. Up to five local Ravens were with us almost daily, and Rick Hansen counted seven migrating past the lookout November 10. A moderate 307 Monarch Butterflies were recorded, along with a mere 13 Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. Once again, Denise had the big Canada Goose day of 1,884 on October 5. Only 5,081 were counted for the season. Matt had the only Brant with 250 on October 13, and he also scored the most Blue Jays on September 22 with 600 noted. The season produced 1,628. Between September 1 and October 24, we tallied 458 Double-crested Cormorants, including Ken Witkowski’s 417 on September 24. Nine C. Loons were spotted this season heading towards Greenwood Lake. Other birds of interest included:

 We can’t thank our friends and visitors enough for their support, especially on high, blue days when even eagles were invisible to the naked eye or overcast days when the wind howled and every migrant shot like an arrow past the watch. A special shout out goes to Bill Connolly, John and Liz Sherry and Rob Stone for their many hours of spotting and company, and a big welcome to new leader Jeanne  Cimorelli. Our 61st count was enriched by all of you.  We our indebted to our clean-up crew Denise Farrell, Rick Hansen, Tom Millard and Gabriele Schmitt and to the Fyke Nature Association of Bergen County, NJ who supplied our insurance. Here’s hoping that the NYDEC Region 3 Foresters can do something about the trees that block our view of low migrants to the SE of the platform before next season and that the pot-holed dirt track to our lot can be improved.  We our indebted to Fyke for sponsoring our count and to all who supported our site on Hawkcount.org. We continue as the oldest, continually run, all-volunteer fall watch in the country.   

Wow! Orange County NORTHERN SHRIKE!

~Immature NORTHERN SHRIKE at Kendridge Farm this evening, 12/15/18. This shot was taken with  my new toy – a 1.4x extender, as compared the shot below, which has the same crop but did not have the extender. ~ 

This morning Jody Brodsky reported an immature NORTHERN SHRIKE at Kendridge Farm in Cornwall. I was already out birding, but I dropped all my plans and headed straight over. When I arrived, I wandered around a while and then reached out to Jody for more details. Karen Miller, who was doing the Christmas Bird Count with Jody, called me and gave me the low down. I was unable to locate the bird where they had it earlier, but I was waiting it out when Jim Schlickenrieder reported on the Mearns app that he had the bird on the red trail. I hustled over there but missed the bird; it had flown and we were unable to relocate. Jim and his crew left and again I waited in the area where they had last seen it. Finally, I gave up and decided to call it a day. On my way out, in the general area where Jody and Karen had it earlier, I heard a call I did not know. I stopped the car and eventually located the shrike. As soon as I got on the bird, it took flight, chasing a songbird. After a short flight, the shrike perched on the top of another tree and stayed put for a good while. I took photos, which were difficult in today’s light, and I enjoyed fantastic looks in my scope. At one point, while I was watching in the scope, the bird expelled a pellet! It was so awesome! It was a great ending to a day where I thought luck was not on my side. The NORTHERN SHRIKE is OC bird #224 for 2018, that’s 2 county year birds in 2 days – not bad for mid-December! Huge thanks to Jody and her team for locating and reporting the bird.

~Awesome bird, period. NORTHERN SHRIKE at Kendridge Farm, 12/15/18.~ 

Orange County CANVASBACK, 12/14/18

~Bad pic of a good bird. CANVASBACK at the Newburgh Waterfront, 12/14/18.~ 

On Thursday, Bruce Nott found a CANVASBACK at the Newburgh Waterfront. Fortunately the bird stuck around and I saw reports of it while at work on Friday. And even more fortunately, Friday was my work’s Christmas Party, so we got out early. I ran for the bird and it was still present – woohoo! Orange County life bird #254 and OC year bird #223! The bird spent most of it’s time tucked in, but finally, just as it was getting dark, a bunch of gulls made a raucous and the bird finally looked up and I was able to get some grain pics. It made me think – it was this time last year I was trying hard for Canvasback in OC because we had so many just downriver in Rockland County near my work. The bird appeared to be settling in for the night as I left – hopefully it will stick around for a little while so more folks get to see it.

~This was my view of the bird for 99% of my time at the Newburgh Waterfront.~

Orange County White-winged Scoters, 12/02/18

~Two WHITE-WINGED SCOTERS at Wickham Lake this morning, 12/02/18.~

QUICK POST: I spent most of my morning running around southern Orange County checking the lakes for waterfowl. The day was mostly a bust, but it was made when I located two WHITE-WINGED SCOTERS at Wickham Lake. Rob Stone and John Haas were both able to join me; it was rainy and foggy and the birds were distant, but we enjoyed what looks we could get of them in our scopes. I was excited because, for one thing I just love scoters, and for another, it was my 221st species in Orange County for the year, making it my most productive year yet. And it was good bird for John too – it was his 270th Orange County life bird – congrats John!

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.~ 

Orange County SNOW GEESE! 11/18/18

~Snow Geese in flight, Route 1 in Pine Island, 11/18/18.~ 

I had a nice weekend of local birding; after two weeks with almost no birding, it was just good to be out and about. For the most part, the birding was uneventful – I finally managed to locate a Fox Sparrow in Orange County which was noteworthy on a personal note as it was my 220th bird in the county this year.

The real excitement, however, happened late Sunday afternoon. I picked up my car from the shop and just wanted to do some last ditch effort birding (I didn’t want the weekend to end!). So, I headed to Skinner Lane, since I was nearby. It was mostly quiet until I heard the familiar sound of SNOW GEESE calling over my head. I didn’t even have my camera unpacked, so I grabbed it quickly and snapped some shots. Three more large skeins flew over, and then I noticed in the far distance, well south of my location, a large group of Snow Geese putting down. I’d put the word out, and I eventually met up with Ken McDermott and Linda Scrima. Ken had seen them putting down too – he thought maybe at Pine Island Turf Nursery, but we had no luck there. It wasn’t until we were leaving that Linda noticed a large group of SNGOs in flight just off of Route 1, west of the turf nursery. They were hidden once they put down, but we were able to get some grainy shots (darkness was coming quickly) of the birds in flight over the fields. What an excellent way to end the weekend!

~My initial skein of SNGOs at Skinner Lane, 11/18/18.~ 
~Snow Geese in flight over Route 1, 11/18/18.~ 
~Now that’s a nice skein of geese. Snow Geese flying over Skinner Lane, 11/18/18.~ 
~SNGOs directly overhead, Skinner Lane, 11/18/18.~ 

Bathing Dunlin

QUICK POST: Family obligations pretty much kept me out of commission this weekend birding-wise, so I have nothing to post from the weekend. However,  I’ve been wanting to post this bathing Dunlin since I photographed it a couple of weeks ago out at Glenmere Lake. I’ve always liked bird images with water, particularly with splashing, spraying, or flowing water. I’ve tried to photograph bathing birds before, but usually the results are just not that great. I found these shots interesting and I hope you enjoy this glimpse of Dunlin behavior.

A Word About Cattle Egrets

~Eastern Cattle Egret in Taiwan, breeding plumage. Photo by Bill Fiero.~

It’s going to take me a couple of days to go through and edit my photos from yesterday’s pelagic trip to the Huson Canyon, out of Brooklyn, NY. The trip proved to be interesting in ways I don’t think most of you would imagine, so stay tuned, I should post in the next few days. Meanwhile, with perfect timing, Bill Fiero has contributed yet another excellent post. I personally can’t get over how beautiful the Eastern Cattle Egret in breeding plumage is – great shot Bill and thanks for the post. -Matt

A Word About Cattle Egrets – By Bill Fiero

Cattle Egrets have undergone an extremely rapid and wide ranging expansion in the last century or so; originally found in tropical and subtropical Africa and Asia, at the end of the 19th century it was found in Souther Africa, and now occurs virtually worldwide, first being observed in North America in 1941. 

The Eastern and Western populations have been recently split by some taxonomic systems as ‘Western” (Bubulcus ibis) and ‘Eastern’ (Bubulcus coromandus). They are very similar in appearance, but different enough to be considered separate species. 

Here are pictures of both; the now famous ‘Western’ Cattle Egret found by  Matt at the Liberty Loop, and the ‘Eastern’ species that I took in Sri Lanka; both are shown in non-breeding plumage. At the top of the page is a shot of the Eastern species in breeding plumage. 

~Eastern Cattle Egret in Sri Lanka, non-breeding plumage. Photo by Bill Fiero. ~
~Western Cattle Egret at the Liberty Loop, non-breeding plumage. Photo by Bill Fiero.~ 

Mt Peter Hawkwatch, 11/03/18

~I was trying to turn this bird into a Northern Goshawk in the field. Examining pics at home, I’m sticking with a healthy looking Cooper’s Hawk. Mount Peter Hawkwatch, 11/03/18.~

It’s hard to believe that today was my last day as counter for the 2018 hawkwatch season at Mount Peter Hawkwatch. I was scheduled to count next Saturday, but I will be out of town so Rick Hansen is covering for me. The morning rain caused a 2 hour delay to the start, and when I got up on the mountain it quickly became clear that it was going to be a cold and windy day. I had most of my 38 migrating raptors in the first 2 hours, and then things slowed down after that. Raptor highlights included 2 migrating Bald Eagles, one adult and one immature, as well as a nice adult Red-shouldered Hawk. The real highlight of the day, however, came when Bobby Linguanti and some of his family stopped up for a visit. Today is a year since Carol (Bobby’s wife, hawk counter extraordinaire, and all around awesome person) passed away, and they were making the rounds to some of Carol’s favorite spots. It was a sweet and sad visit. As usual, I’ve included my Hawkcount.org report at the bottom of this post.

~Red-shouldered Hawk passing over the platform, Mount Peter Hawkwatch 11/03/18.~ 

PELAGIC TEASER: Tomorrow I’m heading out on an 18 hour pelagic trip with See Life Paulagics, out of Brooklyn, NY. Hopefully it will be a good one, our target species include: Red Phalarope, Manx, Cory’s and Great Shearwaters, Northern Fulmar, Pomarine Jaeger, and the holy grail for this time of year Great Skua.

~Northern Gannet taken during a winter pelagic trip I took back in January of 2017.~

Sunday Shots, 10/28/18

~Dunlin with who-knows-what in its bill. Glenmere Lake, 10/28/18.~

I went to Glenmere Lake again today, and it was awesome! I had 7 species of shorebirds: Dunlin (15+), WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER (at least 3), Semipalmated Sandpiper (9), Lesser Yellowlegs (1), Greater Yellowlegs (1), Killdeer (2), and Pectoral Sandpiper (3). The water was much calmer, and the sun actually was peeking out from time to time. I had rare occurrence of getting home and liking my photos more than I had anticipated, so that’s always a good thing.

The other excitement of the day was when I found a CATTLE EGRET in the parking area of the Liberty Loop. I pulled in and was eating my breakfast. It wasn’t until I got out of my car that I noticed the CAEA just 30 feet or so from my car! John Haas ran for the bird, and apparently the bird stuck around because I got word from several birders that they got it later in the day. Scroll down to the bottom of this post for CAEA photos.

~Dunlin, Glenmere Lake 10/28/18.~
~WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER coming at you. Glenmere Lake, 10/28/18.~
~Dunlin at Glenmere Lake, 10/28/18.~ 
~Dunlin at Glenmere Lake, 10/28/18.~ 
~Dunlin at Glenmere Lake, 10/28/18.~ 
~Lesser Yellowlegs making its move. Glenmere 10/28/18.~
~I never seemed to get a good look at any of the Pecs – this was the best shot I got of one. Glenmere Lake, 10/28/18.~ 
~WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER, Glenmere Lake, 10/28/18.~
~Bathing Dunlin, Glenmere Lake 10/28/18.~ 
~CATTLE EGRET at the Liberty Loop, 10/28/18.~ 
~A photographer pulled up, took some pics from by his car, and then walked out and flushed the bird. Sheesh. CAEG in flight, Liberty Loop 10/28/18.~ 
~Cattle Egret minding its own business. Liberty Loop, 10/28/18.~