I enjoyed a really nice morning birding at Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge. I started at Owens Station Road, where I was surprised to find a SNOW GOOSE in the parking area as I pulled in. Well, I actually wasn’t surprised about there being a Snow Goose present, as there had been 6 reported there recently – it was more that it was in the front parking area and it proceeded to walk down Owens Station Road, apparently heading to New York on foot:
I hiked in from Owens Station Road and walked a portion of the Liberty Loop Trail in Sussex County. Afterwards, I drove around and parked on Oil City Road and birded part of the loop in Orange County. I had a total of 45 species seen or heard. Highlights included several LEAST BITTERNS; I had distant but nice looks at 3 birds and heard a fourth. Common Gallinules are plentiful in both counties. Mostly I just enjoyed being out early to beat the heat. The light was nice for photos too, so that never hurts. All in all, a very pleasant morning of birding.
Some evenings are better than others. Tonight was one of the better ones; and it was made even more so because I went out with little or no real expectations. I met up with Kyle Dudgeon at Wallkill River National Wildlife refuge; we were trying to get together one last time before he headed 0ut west for the summer. As we pulled into the lot, the evening started off pretty well as the rain subsided and a huge double rainbow appeared.
The evening that followed was just flat out fun. We had a close encounter with a VIRGINIA RAIL (my FOY). Kyle got an incredible shot of the bird; it’s hard to express how good this guy is, the bird was visible for probably less than 5 seconds, Kyle was hand-holding a 500mm lens with and extender, and he gets the killer shot at the top of this post. Honestly it blew me away. An American Bittern was calling on an off all evening, as were several Sora. I sifted through a collection of shorebirds, finding Killdeer, Solitary Sandpipers, Lesser Yellowlegs, and Greater Yellowlegs. A Black-crowned Night-Heron flew across the marsh in the distance (another FOY). We could see that there were many COMMON NIGHTHAWKS feeding at the pool in front of the platform, so we headed back there and enjoyed what I can only guess was 30+ Common Nighthawks and countless swallows feeding on insects over the marsh. At times we had nighthawks flying just feet away from our heads – it was incredible. We heard a SANDHILL CRANE calling and then watched as 3 cranes flew over the marsh, putting down in the south side of the loop. A young Bald Eagle cruised down the west side of the loop, also heading south. What a night!
QUICK POST: Busy day here, so just putting together some recent photos, most from this weekend, all from within the last week. I just realized as I was writing this that all were taken at Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge, either at the Liberty Loop or at Winding Waters Trail.
I had a pretty good hawkwatch today while it lasted, a nice combination of migrating songbirds and raptors. Fellow counter Denise Farrel joined me up at Mount Peter; I had my first 4 migrating Osprey of the year, as well as a couple of Broad-winged Hawks and a single Cooper’s Hawk. As for passerines, a couple of mixed flocks moved through quickly – I was able to pick up several American Redstarts, a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, a Prairie Warbler, a Red-eyed Vireo, two Palm Warblers, a likely Yellow-rumped Warbler, and a Northern Parula (you can see my complete list of birds in my hawkwatch report below). The rain began during the third hour of the watch and was light at first, but then it started fall a little more steadily, so at 2 o’clock I packed it in.
I took the opportunity and spent the rest of the rainy afternoon looking for shorebirds. My first stop was at the Liberty Loop’s southernmost pool, where a few good birds were seen yesterday (Wilson’s Phalarope, Baird’s Sandpiper, and Little Blue Heron). I whiffed on all three of those birds, but I was lucky enough to locate a STILT SANDPIPER, the first one I’ve seen in quite a while. This is a bird I’ve been talking about wanting to see lately, so it was nice for it to happen.
Afterwards, I headed to Skinner Lane where I had a trio of good birds: BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER (5), BAIRD’S SANDPIPER, and AMERICAN GOLDEN PLOVER. The big difference today is that, finally, the birds were not absolutely miles out. So, I was able to get some really good looks (especially in the scope), as well as some decent shots. All in all it was quite a good day of birding – a little bit of everything.
Kyle Dudgeon and I spent some time very early this morning with the LEAST BITTERNS at Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge’s Liberty Loop. It was great to see good numbers of LEBIs, and we got lucky with one particularly accommodating individual, which landed not very far off the path – I’ve included four photos of this bird.
In birding news, Karen Miller watched the ROSEATE SPOONBILL fly north over Oil City Road and into Orange County. Kyle and I searched for the bird down Liberty Lane, and John Haas joined us to help search the area, but unfortunately, as of this writing, the bird had not been relocated.
I was thinking that the best chance to see the Liberty Loop’s ROSEATE SPOONBILL enter Orange County was to wait until just before night fall and hope it flew into New York on its way to roost. Rob Stone had a different idea. His idea was to get up early and watch as the birds (the ROSP and the Great Egrets) returned to the marsh after a night at of roosting. He tried it on Saturday morning, but arrived too late. We agreed to try on Sunday; Rob thought if we arrived just after 5:00 am, the timing would be good. Well, I struggled to get out of bed and ended up rolling in at 5:40 am. Rob was on the viewing platform, his bins were up and he was on something. I hustled to the platform and he got me on the spoonbill. It was heading north along the west side of the marsh. I kept thinking it would put down in New Jersey, but it held on and flew over the berm an into Orange County! We hustled down the path to try for a better look, running, jogging, and then fast walking, the whole time keeping our eyes pinned on the area where the bird went down. When we were nearly at the northwest corner, we watched as the spoonbill took flight, went back over the berm, and into Sussex County once again. I couldn’t believe it stayed in OC for such a short visit – it could only have been 4 or 5 minutes tops! Still, we were pumped to have seen it, and who knows, this could be the start of some new behavior for the bird where it starts to spend some time in OC?
Rob and I decided to continue and walk the entire Liberty Loop. We eventually relocated the Roseate Spoonbill, it was in the general vicinity of where it was first seen last week. We also had a Glossy Ibis among a large crew of Great Egrets. Green Herons are numerous at the refuge right now, and we also located two BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT HERONS perched in a tree on the west side of the loop. My best photo op occurred at the south end of the loop, where we had several LEAST BITTERNS flying around and perching out in the open. It was awesome, Rob enjoyed seeing them and I enjoyed getting more photos of one of my favorite birds.
Afterwards, I went to the black dirt to try for shorebirds. I did alright, with a Solitary Sandpiper and a Lesser Yellowlegs at the Camel Farm, as well as a Least Sandpiper and 3 SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPERS at Turtle Bay. I was heading to Pine Island Turf Nursery when I got a notification that John Haas had relocated the ANHINGA at Morningside Park in Sullivan County. I rushed over, but unfortunately arrived after the bird had already flown. The Anhinga was first seen and considered a one-hit-wonder six days ago! Where has it been all this time? When will it show up again? I really hope I get another shot at that bird, that would be exciting. Great day of birding!
I met Linda Scrima at the Liberty Loop this morning for a brief outing. My target bird was LINCOLN’S SPARROW, which I got relatively easily as Linda had had them out there several times earlier this week (big thanks to Linda – this is two years in a row that she helped me get my LISP). We got excellent looks at a couple of birds and photos too. Other good birds for the morning included: Merlin, Cooper’s Hawk, a trio of cooperative Palm Warblers, several Savannah Sparrows, and a Pied-billed Grebe right in front of the viewing platform. The Lincoln’s Sparrow was bird #210 for me this year in Orange County.
QUICK POST: This morning I ran to Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge’s Liberty Marsh to see the juvenile LITTLE BLUE HERON that Linda Scrima had relocated (the bird was originally reported to eBird yesterday by Ken Witkowski). Linda had put the word out, so several other local birders also got to see the bird: Joyce DePew, Kathy Ashman, Karen Miller, John Haas, and Scotty Baldinger were all present as some point while I was there. The bird spent most of it’s time conveniently right in front of the viewing platform, out maybe 75 feet or so. It did relocate a couple of time and at one point it came back to the pool in front of the viewing platform; as it came in, it snagged a large frog mid-flight! I’ve never seen a wader do that before! Check out the bottom pic in this post to see it. Huge thanks to Linda for finding the bird and for getting the word out. More good OC birding!
(ANOTHER) QUICK POST: I had an excellent evening of birding at Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge. I ran for four VESPER SPARROWS that Rob Stone had located earlier in the day and miraculously the birds were still present and I was able to relocate them. When I returned to the platform at Oil City Road, I met up with Karen Miller and we birded from there for a while. The next good bird to come in was a pair of LESSER YELLOWLEGS, my first of the year. They seemed to fly over the entire marsh before settling in out of sight about 100 yards in front of the platform. Then Karen Miller saw a bird emerge from the grasses in the pool right in front of the platform – it was a COMMON GALLINULE!!! I snapped a few quick photos, and I’m glad that I did, because the bird stashed itself in the grasses soon afterwards and could only be seen through the scope. What an unexpectedly excellent night of birding!
I met Linda Scrima out at Winding Waters Trail early this morning; I was hoping to get my first Lincoln’s Sparrow of the year, and we thought maybe we would get lucky with the Connecticut Warbler for Linda. Just a short way down the trail, Linda got me on a Lincoln’s Sparrow in very nice light. As we worked our way toward the area where the Connecticut Warbler has been seen, a group of birders caught up with us. It was Scott Baldinger, Karen Miller, Bruce Nott, Jody Brodski and Diane Bliss (who actually caught up with all of us further down the trail). I was thinking that I did not like our odds of relocating the CONW with such a large group, but we would try our best. It was a very birdy morning on the trail and having all the extra eyes helped locate many birds. We did particularly well with warblers; Northern Parula, Magnolia Warbler, Tennessee Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, and Black-throated Green Warbler were all seen well (it was my lifer Tennessee Warbler – woohoo!). The one warbler that was not cooperating was the Connecticut, at least not for a good while. Then, a bird popped up just to the left of me and Jody. We both got on the bird quickly and knew it was the CONNECTICUT WARBLER! It perched briefly and then moved further up and into another tree. We were trying frantically to get everyone on the bird, which then crossed the path and perched in some ivy high up on a tree trunk. It eventually showed itself very well on an open branch in good light and I was lucky enough to get a photo. AND, everyone in the group was able to get on the bird! I was really shocked that it worked out, and everyone was pretty giddy about it. The bird was a life bird for everyone in the group outside of myself and Scotty. Pretty exciting birding!
As a side note, Jody had a flyover of a Sandhill Crane in the Black Dirt Region on her way to Winding Waters. I ran around a little bit afterwards, as did Bruce and Jody, but as of this writing no-one had any luck relocating that bird.