On this cold, windy Saturday morning, I left the house without much of a game plan. I wandered around, hitting several spots in southern Orange County before ending up at the Bashakill Wildlife Management Area.
GLENMERE LAKE: Highlights included 42 Ring-necked Ducks and 4 Common Mergansers.
SCHERVIER PAVILLION, WARWICK: 10 Hooded Mergansers, 2 Common Mergansers, Canada Geese, and Mallards.
WARWICK TOWN HALL PONDS: Ring-necked Ducks too spread out and numerous to count (maybe 60+?), Gadwall, American Wigeon, Canada Geese, and a single American Coot
SANFORDVILLE ROAD, WARWICK NY: 1 American Kestrel and 2 Red-tailed Hawks (including the one pictured below with some super markings).
LAUREL GROVE CEMETERY, PORT JERVIS NY: Highlights included 4 Red-breasted Mergansers, 2 Common Goldeneyes, and over 40 Tree Swallows, my first ones of the year!
BASHAKILL WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT AREA, SULLIVAN COUNTY NY: I got my best bird of the day here – a pair of FOX SPARROWS located at the Deli Fields. I tried desperately for photos because I haven’t had a Fox Sparrow since sometime in 2013! The birds would not cooperate and in the end this was my best shot:
Other highlights included 9 (!) Bald Eagles including one cooperative one that seemed to be playing while flying above Haven Road. And I also had 4 Tree Swallows and I able to get a decent photo of an Eastern Bluebird.
After work today, I decided to go for the the Red Crossbills that John Haas had located at the Neversink Reservoir earlier in the day (see John’s post HERE). Karen Miller and Lance Verderame were also out looking for the crossbills, but unfortunately the three of us came up empty-handed. Fortunately for me, I had quite a sweet consolation prize. On my way out to the reservoir, not long after getting off Route 17, I found a Barred Owl perched on the side of the road! So lucky!
Later, after trying for the crossbills I took Karen back to the spot where I had seen the owl – it would be a life bird for her. The bird was no longer present; we scanned the surrounding area for a little while and then I got back in the car to head home. A few minutes later, Karen called – she had the bird! It was perched on a wire just up the road from where I had seen it; I must have driven right under it! Thinking back, I realized that once I started for home, I had immediately begun scanning the radio for the Pittsburgh Penguins game, so I wasn’t looking up! I went back to see the bird for a second time, but unfortunately a Good Samaritan with a bad muffler on his car had stopped to see if Karen needed help and doing so flushed the bird.
Oh, and I also had an additional consolation prize – my first Red-breasted Nuthatch in over a year!
I spent a long day on Saturday birding in the Black Dirt Region. I started the day by getting my first Killdeer photo of the year when I came upon 5 Killdeer on the side of the road on Onion Avenue…
…And the day ended with nearly 1500 Snow Geese at Skinner Lane.
But I did a lot of birding in between, hitting most of the regular spots and some of them twice. Missionland Road was a good stop; I ran into Kyle Dudgeon and another birder named Jason that I had met once before. We had good photo opportunities with a pair of Gray Ghosts, and I found what I believe was Cackling Goose in a flock of maybe 2,000 Canada Geese. The bird was distant and never seemed to have its head up, making it tough for photos. Here is my best effort:
I made a stop at Scenic Farms Golf Course, sifted through a couple thousand Canada Geese (and came up empty-handed), and then saw a distant Coyote hunting in the field across the street from the golf course.
Another productive stop was the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge, where I walked the Liberty Loop Trail with Kyle. It took us ages to make our way around the loop, mostly because the birding was so good. Waterfowl is what I was hoping for, and we did well. Most of these birds were seen in the Sussex County portion of the loop:
Mute Swan Tundra Swan (2)
American Black Duck
We also did well with raptors, with the highlight (for me) being a very active Peregrine Falcon that spent the entire time we were there terrorizing the waterfowl. I’m not sure, but I think the highlight for Kyle was the three (possibly 4) Bald Eagles that we had. In all, we had seven species of raptors: Turkey Vulture, Black Vulture, Bald Eagle, Northern Harrier, Red Tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, and Peregrine Falcon.
Wow, what a day of birding in Orange County today. I, of course, was at work and missed most of it! The action started early when I received a text from Karen Miller 7:30 this morning saying that while she did not relocate the Snow Geese from last night, she did have (8) likely TUNDRA SWANS at the Camel Farm. An hour later Linda Scrima texted that the Snow Geese had just come in and landed in the fields off of Onion Avenue. She also sent over a photo confirming the Tundra Swans. A couple of hours later, John Haas and Rob Stone were on the scene and located not one, but 2 ROSS’ GEESE! And one of them was a blue morph! Check out John’s blog for his account. And not too long after that, I checked my email to see that Rob Stone had located a GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE at Scenic Farms Golf Course! Are you kidding me??? I was losing my mind at work and when I finally got out my first stop was at the golf course to go for the GWFG. I met Bruce Nott and Dave Baker over there, and thanks to them I was able to see the bird pretty quickly. Unfortunately it was miles out, so no photos. My next stop was the Camel Farm, where Dave and I had no luck with the swans. Next was Onion Avenue, where I spent most of the rest of the evening trying for the 2 Ross’ Geese with some great company like Ken McDermott, Marianne Ofenloch, and Scotty Baldinger. Unfortunately, we never located either bird.
My last ditch effort was to join Bruce to check the Camel Farm one more time… and I got lucky and the 8 Tundra Swans were there! Karen Miller joined us for a better look than she had gotten in the morning. I took some distant photos and enjoyed seeing them through my scope. What a day – incredible really!
Last night I was at the Liberty Loop viewing platform just before sunset. There was much bird movement, particularly waterfowl. Many Canada Geese were flying over, from south to north. Mallards were circling around the reserve and Northern Pintails were doing the same. The highlight, however was a single skein of maybe 150 Snow Geese that flew over very high and pretty well east of the viewing platform. So today after work, I was on a goose chase. I found fewer Canada Geese than I would have expected, but numbers were certainly up with Canadas being seen at Scenic Farms Golf Course, the Camel Farm, Turtle Bay Road, Pierce Circle and Onion Avenue.
Also in the fields between Pierce Circle and Onion Avenue, there was approximately 150 Snow Geese! I was very excited and took some distant photos from Pierce Circle. I moved to Onion Avenue for a closer and better look. And more Snow Geese started to arrive from the south. They were putting on quite a show, picking up, circling and then landing over and over. I had put the word out and Linda Scrima and Maria Loukeris both joined me as the number of SNGOs continued to grow. By the time we left at 7:15, I approximate there were 1500 Snow Geese present. They seemed to be settling down a bit too, so hopefully they will stick around for a little while.
Also of note, I stopped by Glenmere Lake earlier in the afternoon and had 2 Common Goldeneye (as well as 12 Ring-neck Ducks and 8 Common Mergansers). Here’s a distant shot of the two COGOs:
It’s been a good week of birding so far, the warm weather has been so nice to be out in, and it has thawed some of the open water in the county. As a result, I’ve done pretty well with waterfowl in Orange County over the past couple of days-
Glenmere Lake 3/11/15: Ring-necked Duck (3), Common Merganser (2), and Mute Swan (2).
Warwick Town Hall 3/11/15: Canada Goose (35), Mallard (8), Gadwall (5), Ring-necked Duck (25), Hooded Merganser (2), Common Merganser (2), and American Coot (1, FOY).
As my work day was coming to an end, I received two separate reports for Red-breasted Mergansers on the Hudson near Newburgh, NY. One was a text from Rob Stone, the second a call from Bruce Nott. I headed in that direction in hopes of getting a RBME for Orange County for the year. From Plum Point Park I had some distant waterfowl where the water was open, but the heat waves were distorting the image in my scope way too much to confidently ID the birds. From what I could tell, they were likely Common Mergansers.
When I got back in my car, I had a missed call on my phone (which I had forgotten there). It was from Bruce; I called him back and he had what he believed to be a LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL – seen from the old Torches parking lot. I hustled over, but I was too late. The bird had ridden the ice floes up river and out of scope range. I was really bummed! Then, some folks started to feed the ducks and gulls from the parking lot and a good number of the gulls were up in the air. Many relocated on the ice floes right in front of us, and fortunately, one of them was the Lesser Black-backed Gull. I relocated the bird and had Bruce take a look – we both liked it for a LBBG. The bird was close enough for some decent photos, so I sent it out – thank you to John Haas, Rob Stone, and Curt McDermott who all responded that they agreed with LBBG. Huge thanks to Bruce Nott – this is life bird #318 for me, very exciting! Oh, and I never did get a Red-breasted Merganser tonight…
QUICK POST: It’s not much, but it’s a start. I stopped by Glenmere Lake after work today and I was pleased to find two Ring-necked Ducks (first of the year for me) and one Common Merganser in one of the thawed areas in the lake. Afterwards, I made my way over to the Liberty Loop viewing platform. Kyle Dudgeon was there already, Linda Scrima and Maria Loukeris showed up not too long after I arrived. It was nice to be out in the warmer temperatures, and we enjoyed watching a male American Kestrel hunting. The bird went two for two, successfully catching (and then eating) what I assume were voles on his first two attempts. Also of note, we heard my first Orange County Killdeer of the year.
To be honest, I was feeling pretty uninspired about my birding for this weekend. I think I might just be tired of winter birding and ready for spring migration to get into full swing. It will be nice to get out of the car and back onto the trails, which is certainly my preferred type of birding.
That being said, I did get out quite a bit. On Saturday morning I went up to Ulster County to try for the Gyrfalcon but came up empty. The highlight of the morning was running into and catching up with fellow birder/photog/nice guy Eddie Rodriguez, who I had not seen in ages. In the afternoon, Tricia and I stopped by Piermont Pier on our way to my Aunt Judy’s 75th birthday party in the Bronx. I picked up two year birds – Greater Scaup and White-winged Scoter, but the highlight of the stop was getting photos of a male Ruddy Duck with some blue on his bill. I’m not really sure how it works, but I imagine that this bird is just starting to show his breeding colors.
On Sunday I went over to the Hudson to look for Bald Eagles. I typically don’t go out of my way for Bald Eagles, but I like to go at least one day in the winter when they congregate at the river. On my way there, I was worried if I had waited too long, it has finally warmed up a bit and I wasn’t sure how successful I would be. I had a total of 51 Bald Eagles as seen from the following four locations: the scenic overlook off route 9 near Bear Bridge, the Peekskill Metro North Station, Charles Point Pier Park, and Croton Point Park. At the scenic overlook I picked up two more year birds: Wood Duck and Common Raven, and at Croton Point I saw my first two Killdeer of the year.
On Sunday afternoon I did a brief tour of the black dirt and did not have any unexpected birds. I was happy with a couple of photos, however: