After work today, I made it out to the black dirt region of Orange County to look for the Pink-footed Goose that was found yesterday by Curt and Ken McDermott. I did not have any luck with the PFGO, but I did enjoy the amazing show put on by what I estimate was approximately 3500 Snow Geese. Please click HERE to see a 30 second clip that I got with my iPhone – not the best quality, but it really gives and idea of what it was like to be there. I have of course seen Snow Geese on videos and in photos, but this was the first time I have ever witnessed anything like this and it was thrilling. None of these photos are very good as it was sunset or later when this all happened. They were all shot with an ISO of 1600 or higher, which results in very “noisy” photos with my camera. Good birds, bad photos. Amazing birding. Happy Birder.
I think it might be time to change my expectations of 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary. I’m not exactly sure why, but when I go there I am never expecting to see very many birds. Maybe it’s because it is the birding spot closest to home and I get out there pretty often. It is true that there have been many days when I have had hardly any birds, but there are also many days when there are numerous of birds to be seen, and some of them are unexpected.
I made a quick stop at the sanctuary yesterday after work. It was a gray dull day; it snowed for most of the time I was out there. It was not a very good day for photographs, none of the photos in this post are any good with maybe the exception of the Carolina Wren but I did want to document the day. Here is my species list from the forty-five minute stop:
Canada Goose 3
Hooded Merganser 2
Northern Harrier 3
Red-tailed Hawk 4
Ring-billed Gull 1
Belted Kingfisher 1
Peregrine Falcon 1
American Crow X
Black-capped Chickadee 3
Carolina Wren 1
European Starling X
Song Sparrow 3
Red-winged Blackbird 20
I really wasn’t expecting to see any ducks, but there was some open water on the sanctuary side of the Heritage Trail where I found eleven Mallards and an unexpected bonus of two male Hooded Mergansers:
I had my first of season Red-winged Blackbirds; I guess spring will being coming this year after all:
As far as raptors go, Red-tailed Hawks are nearly always present at the sanctuary, but I don’t normally see much else. On this day I had three Northern Harriers, one of which was an adult male “Gray Ghost”. Two years ago NOHA were regulars hunting at the sanctuary but I have not seen many this year. The male was flying low and hunting while the other two where soaring up high. All three eventually headed northeast of the sanctuary. Finally, on my way out I saw this Peregrine Falcon fly by with what looked like a Mourning Dove. I been visiting the sanctuary for just over two years – I checked on eBird, and this is my first record of a Peregrine Falcon at 6 1/2 Station Road.
Here is a list of some of the more memorable birds that I have seen out at 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary in the past couple of years:
Greater White-fronted Geese
In 2011 I recorded observing 50 species in 25 visits to the sanctuary. In 2012 I had 87 species in 27 visits. I am curious to see how I do in 2013, I would certainly like to increase my recorded visits and, of course, my number of species.
Today was a memorable day of bird photography for me out at the Shawangunk Grasslands. We received a heavy dusting of snow the night before and the grasslands looked beautiful. The light was not exceptional, but the birds were flying pretty good, mostly Northern Harriers and Rough-legged Hawks. The highlight of the day for me was this Rough-legged Hawk that landed right next to the blind. The RLHAs are usually so aware of human presence and stay pretty far away so I was glad to get this photo:
The Northern Harriers seemed to be exceptionally acrobatic on this day:
And I finally got a shot of an adult male that I like pretty well:
There are plenty of Red-tailed Hawks out at the grasslands, but they seem to spend the majority of their time along the perimeter of the reserve. This one perched temporarily in the tree right behind the blind.
The Rough-legged Hawks were very active on this day. These two were mixing it up pretty good. One of them had a clump of grass that I assume contained some prey and the other wanted it pretty badly. They made their way across the grasslands chasing and tangling as they went.
And in case all of that was not exciting enough, at the end of the day a coyote made its way across the reserve…way out in the distance but still a joy to see. What a day!
Today was the day after Winter Storm Nemo. Approximately 14 inches of snow fell here in Goshen, so I donned my snow shoes and hit the Heritage Trail that leads to 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary. It was a tough walk, but very enjoyable. I did not find any out of the ordinary birds, but many of the usual suspects made a good showing.
The most interesting aspect of the day for me was noticing how the snow lit the underside of the birds as they flew over. The amount of detail I could see on this Red-tailed Hawk was fascinating to me. And as the crows flew over I was seeing colors and highlights I never really noticed before. For both of these birds, what I was seeing came through in my photos. I also had several Black Vultures that looked SO different to me, it was amazing – unfortunately it did not come through in my photos. I also had several Ring-billed Gulls fly over that were the brightest, cleanest white I’ve ever seen; none were very close so I was unable to get any photos.
I was interested in getting some photos of birds in the snow, but it never really panned out. Here are a couple decent shots from the day.
Update: I was thinking today that I have not included many species lists in my posts lately. I think it’s probably because my lists have been pretty sparse. On this day I did pretty well, totaling 15 species for the day. I also used the app Birdlog on my iPhone for the first time. It is actually pretty cool and it allows you to easily keep track the species and their numbers while in the field. I enjoyed using it on this day, but I am interested to see if I start to use it all the time. Here’s my list for the day:
Black Vulture 5
Turkey Vulture 7
Red-tailed Hawk 2
Ring-billed Gull 4
Belted Kingfisher 1
Downy Woodpecker 3
Blue Jay 3
American Crow 38
Black-capped Chickadee 4
Tufted Titmouse 1
European Starling 12
American Tree Sparrow 1
Song Sparrow 1
White-throated Sparrow 3
Dark-eyed Junco 1