I woke up very early Thanksgiving morning to drive up to Syracuse to join Tricia at her Mom’s place to celebrate the holiday. I left early enough so that I could make a quick stop beforehand at Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge. It was a cold an snowy morning with strong wind gusts. I was at the refuge for just over an hour and in that time I identified 14 species. Here’s my list:
Canada Goose 125
Tundra Swan 80
Ring-necked Duck 100
Common Merganser 25
Northern Harrier 2
Cooper’s Hawk 1
Bald Eagle 7
Red-tailed Hawk 3
Ring-billed Gull X
Rock Pigeon 30
Mourning Dove 12
American Crow X
American Tree Sparrow 1
I got home early from work today, and as I was walking in the door I got a call from Rob Stone: A second SNOWY OWL had been located by Ken McDermott! In case you are thinking this is perhaps the same owl, Rob was out looking at the first Snowy Owl when Ken called him to say he had a second one! Incredible birding days in Orange County! I zipped right over to check out the bird and snap some photos. Thanks again to Rob and of course, Ken who located the bird.
I also went to check on the first owl (which I did not locate), but thanks to fellow birder Maria (sorry I did not catch her last name), I was able to finally get some decent Snow Bunting photos:
Last night I received an email posting through the Mearns Bird Club. Elizabeth McKnight had located a SNOWY OWL in the Black Dirt Region, not 15 minutes from our house! I was losing my mind last night thinking about this bird. I got up early to look for the bird before work. While I was out, it started to snow pretty good, making the task a bit more difficult. I looked for just over an hour, but I was unsuccessful in relocating the bird. Off to work I went. Just before noon I received a call from Bruce Nott. The bird had been relocated! I believe it was Curt McDermott and Scott Baldinger that found the bird. I jumped on the phone with my boss, and he was kind enough to let me go run for this bird. On my way there I called Tricia and Karen Miller to give them the heads up. I joined Bruce, Curt, John Haas, and Ajit Antony who were viewing the bird. Ken McDermott, Tricia, and Karen Miller joined us not long after that. Rob Stone, his son Anthony, and Jeff Goulding were the last to arrive. We were not disappointed as we all got really great looks at the bird. The folks who know more than I do generally agreed that it was likely a first year female. Thanks to everyone involved, this was a life bird for me and a really special one at that.
In the evening I decided to try for the Short-eared Owls again. It was sunny and beautiful when I left the house. By the time the owls got up, which was early at 3:30, it was very gray and dark out. Here’s my best effort:
I went out to the Shawangunk Grasslands NWR this afternoon in hopes of getting some photos of Northern Harriers. I had seen reports that the Short-eared Owls were back, but only one report where they up up before dark. I walked out to the north blind without seeing much bird activity, just a couple of harriers in distance. I was not in the blind long when I had a Northern Harrier fly in close:
Not much later, at 3:55 pm, I was pleasantly surprised to see a single Short-eared Owl come up from the grasses. I started to click away and more owls came up. The owls put on quite a show, flying all around the blind, tangling with each other and with the harriers too. The light was beautiful, and I clicked away trying not to miss any good opportunities.
I spoke to Scott Baldinger in the parking lot on my way back to my car and he gave a count for the night: He had 8 Short-eared Owls and 6 Northern Harriers in a single sweep, not too bad! What a great night of birding and bird photography!
With all the exitement of getting the Short-eared Owl photos on Saturday evening, I never got around to posting about the birding I did on Saturday morning. I made several quick stops just to see what was going on.
Sunday morning I joined Judy Cinquina, Tom Millard, Denise Farrell, B.A. McGrath, and Gene Tappan on a birding trip to Sandy Hook NJ, which is part of the Gateway National Recreation Area. All the folks I went with are experienced birders, and most are also official counters out at Mt. Peter Hawk Watch. It was really great to be able to spend the day birding with this group; the company was excellent and I also saw it as a good opportunity for me to learn. I tried to observe and listen to the other birders in the group as much as the birds in a effort to see how others go about their birding.
The wind was blowing pretty good when we arrived and it got stronger as the day passed. This seemed to keep a lot of the birds down, so it was not as active as we had hoped. I counted a total of 37 species for the day, but I may have missed a few. We did well with raptors, seeing plenty of Turkey Vultures, eight Black Vultures, many Sharp-shinned Hawks, maybe a half dozen Red-tailed Hawks, and at least a couple Cooper’s Hawks.
The highlight of the trip for me was looking for birds out in the ocean, with the New York City skyline off in the distance to our left. As Sanderlings shot back and forth at the water’s edge, we had many birds in the distance: Black Scoters, White-winged Scoters, Surf Scoters, Common Loons, Red-throated Loons, Royal Terns, and Northern Gannets. I particularly love watching the few gannets that came in a bit closer, they are a fantastic bird to watch in flight.
Sandy Hook is a bit of a trip from Goshen NY (over 2 hours), but well worth it. I certainly plan on getting back there again, hopefully on a day with better conditions.
I was happy I ran into Judy Cinquina this evening. It’s always good to see Judy, she is one of my favorite people, but tonight it was especially nice because she relocated the Northern Shrike while we were out on Lower Wisner Road in Warwick NY. What a great bird, I was so happy to get a better look and to be able to at least take some documentary photographs of the bird. I’ve said it before, but, I REALLY hope this bird sticks around!
The bird was located in the two taller trees a 150-200 yards south of the parking pull over area on Lower Wisner Road.
So it was my last day of the season as official counter out at Mt. Peter Hawk Watch. On my way to Mt. Peter, I stopped at Lower Wisner Road to look for the NORTHERN SHRIKE that Rob Stone reported yesterday. I relocated the bird in the distance right after my arrival. The bird flew and I didn’t track it very well – I think I was expecting it to return to its perch. Well, it never did, and I only got a brief and distant look at the bird. So, I tried for it again after the watch and I apparently missed it by 15 minutes. Several folks got to see the bird today, so that is good. Hopefully the bird will stick around and I will get a better look and possibly a photo.
At Mt. Peter, I had another slow day, but I had some decent photo ops of the birds I did see. Here is my report:
Warwick, New York, USA
Daily Raptor Counts: Nov 09, 2013
There were a couple of notable sightings in Orange County on Wednesday 11/6/13. I received a call from Bruce Nott just after 9 am. He had located an American Bittern at the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge – Winding Waters Trail. The way I understand it, if you take a right at the fork in the trail, the bird was located in the first ditch that the trail crosses, on the right hand side out maybe a couple hundred yards. Congrats to Bruce on a great find. I also received a text from Rob Stone. Out at Skinner Lane, among the Horned Larks, he had relocated the two Lapland Longspurs and also had 20+ Snow Buntings.
While I was at work, I was trying to decide which of these two sightings to go check out at the end of the day. Ultimately, my decision was made for me; I got out of work a little bit late and that made going for the bittern a bit of a time crunch. My desire for Snow Bunting photos made this an easy decision to accept. Once out at Skinner, I did see two Snow Buntings in flight with about 25 larks, but they never did get close enough for photos. The longspurs were not relocated. Fellow Mearns Bird Club members Bruce, Curt, Lee, and Debbie were also out at Skinner. It was nice to shoot the breeze with them for a while; actually it was the highlight of the evening.
On our way out we had a Ring-necked Pheasant in the road. It is always difficult for me when I see these birds. They are so beautiful and wonderful to see, but knowing that the bird was likely released to be hunted saddens me. Lee and I clicked away, my best effort is at the top of this post.
I made a brief stop at Skinner Lane today after work to look for Snow Buntings. The Horned Larks had increased in number to somewhere between 75 and 100 birds. I did not have any luck with the buntings, but as I scanned the larks with my scope, I did manage to locate two LAPLAND LONGSPURS. Two things seemed to stand out about the longspurs. The first was was the obvious markings that form a dark frame on the cheek of the birds. The second is that they seemed to be moving differently than the surrounding larks, a little closer to the ground and more quickly too. I watched the birds for nearly a half hour in the scope, until they lifted up and I was unable to relocate them, mostly because it was getting pretty dark. This is a life bird for me, so I was of course very excited. The birds were too far out for photos, but I will certainly try for photos in the upcoming days if the birds stick around.
Huge thanks once again to Rob Stone, if it wasn’t for him talking to me about it, I would not have even been out there looking for these birds.