I did a lot of hiking this holiday weekend; I walked a total of around 15 miles in the three mornings. I love hiking this time of year, it’s fun to cover a lot of ground as you never know what you will come across. Highlights included Acadian Flycatcher at two locations in Sterling Forest State Park: the Appalachian Trail near Little Dam Lake, and on the Sterling Loop trail. Also on Sterling Valley Loop trail, I saw my second ever Five-lined Skink this morning. It was a little too quick for me to get a photo, but click here to see the one I had at Silver Mine Lake last year.
The AT near Little Dam Lake was a nice surprise, it’s a beautiful hike with nice views of the lake, and it’s quite birdy. I had a close encounter with a Red-shouldered Hawk there – I was looking out over the lake and the bird flew past my right shoulder, very close, I don’t think it knows about social distancing. And just beyond the lake, there is a rise in elevation, and I had a singing Hermit Thrush there, which was nice.
The only thing I don’t like about hiking – it’s not very productive for photos. Most of the trails I was on are through relatively dense woods, so the light is terrible (see Acadian Flycatcher, below). Plus, the birds aren’t numerous, nor are they close to the trail very often. Still, a bad day on the trail beats any day in the office.
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.
I haven’t posted in a couple of weeks – it’s not that I haven’t gotten out, it’s just that time of year where the birds are basically all expected breeding species, doing their thing, so there’s not as much excitement (at least not locally). Still, I’ve enjoyed getting out, taken some hikes, and continued atlasing in my priority block. I struggled last week to get many post-worthy photos, but I did a little bit better this week.
I enjoyed getting out early on both mornings this weekend. On Saturday I spent some time in my NYS Breeding Bird Atlas priority block (Warwick_CE), and I was able to confirm two additional species (Mute Swan and Red-winged Blackbird), bringing my block total to 9 confirmed species. That number pales in comparison to other blocks I’ve looked at in Orange County, but little by slow I’m confirming birds.
This morning I had my plans foiled. I wanted to hike out to Jupiter’s Boulder in Black Rock Forest, hoping for Ruffed Grouse (like last year at this time). I woke up early and drove to the trail head only to find that the trail has been closed due to the pandemic. It’s a popular trail, and I can imagine it was getting many visitors since everything has shut down. So, I headed to the Orange County Airport, where I was able to get my first GRASSHOPPER SPARROW of the year. From there I went to Hamptonburgh Preserve. I’ve never walked the whole trail there – it’s a really nice walk through tree-lined fields. It continues all the way to the Wallkill River, where I enjoyed watching a pair of Northern Rough-winged Swallows feeding over the river. It was a pleasant, if not exciting, weekend of birding.
This morning I got a call from Rob Stone. I figured it had to be something good for him to call me while I’m working, and it was. He had located a WILSON’S PHALAROPE at the Camel Farm. I was able to run for the bird at lunch time and thankfully it hung in there for me. Gail Benson and Tom were on the bird when I arrived, which made it a very easy get. They said that they believed the bird to be a transitioning female, but wanted to check additional resources to be sure. It wasn’t the most colorful bird, but beautiful to see nonetheless. I tried to document, but between the distance, the harsh sun, and heat shimmer, the results were less than stellar. The bird was my 260th Orange County life bird.
This is a weak edition of SS, but I always like to at least check in on the weekends. My birding was a little unfocused; I think migration winding down had a lot to do with it. I tried for shorebirds in the county with almost no success (I did, however, get some at the Liberty Loop in Sussex Co., where I had Semipalmated Plovers, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Greater Yellowlegs, and a Spotted Sandpiper). I also did a little atlasing. I know that’s not a real word. I think that I need to be patient and I will have success with it, but it’s slow going so far for me in my priority block. That said, I did manage to confirm one more species – Swamp Sparrow. Here’s some pics from the weekend (and one from a couple weeks ago – it was slim pickings this week).
The past couple of days I enjoyed getting out in the mornings; both days were birdy enough to keep it interesting. On Saturday I went to Port Jervis. Laurel Grove Cemetery was a bust, but Elks Brox had a good number of birds. It was mostly the usuals or birds I’ve already gotten this year, but I was able to pick up two new birds for the year: Swainson’s Thrush and Gray-cheeked Thrush. I’ve included shots of each below. See my Elks Brox report here.
This morning I went to Goosepond Mountain in an effort to spend some time in my NYSBBA priority block. I was hoping to confirm any breeding species (I didn’t), but I particularly wanted to follow up on the Broad-winged Hawks I saw there a few weeks back (also a fail – unfortunately no sign of them). The highlight of my morning was hearing a WHITE-EYED VIREO just off the trail. The little bugger was stubborn though, and I never laid eyes on it. That’s the second WEVI I’ve heard but not seen this weekend! (The first was at Sterling Forest SP on Saturday). In spite of the above frustrations, it was actually a great walk with plenty of birds (45 species) and very few people.
Low tide in Newburgh was at 7:52 this morning. With that in mind, I headed over to the Hudson River in hopes of getting some shorebirds on the mudflats of Cornwall Bay. As luck would have it, upon my arrival I had 3 unidentified peeps in flight, heading north, never to return. Sigh. From there, I went to the waterfront and ran into birding bud, Bruce Nott on the way. He informed me that the LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL was still present. I enjoyed my best looks at the bird, as well as some decent photo ops (in spite of the poor lighting).
Afterwards, Bruce and I met up at Ironwood Drive in Sterling Forest State Park. We enjoyed a pleasant late morning of birding; the cool rainy weather made it quite pleasant and the birds remained quite active. Highlights included our target birds Golden-winged Warbler and Brewster’s Warbler. A bonus was hearing a White-eyed Vireo. The bird called for about 2 minutes, never showed itself, and then nothing! Frustrating, but still very cool. Pics were tough, I included shots of the Brewster’s in my eBird report, but just for documentary purposes. I do, however, have several shots from the past week or so that I’m including here:
I can’t imagine many other birders feel this way, but warblers stress me out. Every spring I worry that I’m not going to be at the right place, on the right day, at the right time, and poof all the migrating warblers will be gone. It’s never happened, I always get my share, but this is what I do. Fortunately, today I was in the right place at the right time. After a relatively uneventful visit to Pochuck Mountain early this morning, I headed to Laurel Grove Cemetery, where I met up with Linda Scrima.
In spite of our late(ish) arrival, the place was hopping. And the birds lingered into the late morning, an unusual occurence at this location. We had a total of 13 species of warbler, highlighted by several Cape May Warblers, at least six Bay-breasted Warblers, a couple of Blackburnian Warblers, at least a couple of Magnolia Warblers, and a single Canada Warbler. Other good birds included Blue-headed Vireo, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Least Flycatchers (2), and I got my first Eastern Kingbird of the year. We had a total of 42 species for the morning, and some decent photos to boot.
After a pretty disappointing day of birding on Saturday, I was happy to have a pleasant and birdy walk at Pochuck Mountain State Park this morning. It was a sunny and cool morning, and had the place almost completely to myself; when I arrived there were no turkey hunter’s vehicles in the lot at all, my only contact with anyone was a single mountain biker on the trail briefly. I had a total of 31 species, which is just slightly above average for me at this location in early May. Highlights included 8 species of warbler (Ovenbird, Worm-eating, Nashville, Common Yellowthroat, Northern Parula, Chestnut-sided, Black-throated Blue, and Black-throated Green), Yellow-throated Vireo, my first Baltimore Orioles of the year, and probably my best photo op of a Pileated Woodpecker to date.