I love getting word of a good bird while I’m at work. Well, I love it and I hate it. It’s great because it’s exciting and something to look forward to after work, but it can be terrible too because the day inevitably passes very slowly and there is always the chance that the bird will move on. This morning I received a text from John Haas – he had a GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE among a couple thousand Canada Geese at Turtle Bay in the black dirt, which was very exciting to me! As expected, the day did drag on, and of course, as I was leaving I received word from Linda Scrima that after spending most of the day at Turtle Bay, all the geese had lifted up. She had scoured all the regular black dirt geese locations and was unable to locate any large groups of geese. I could think of one other location where the birds could be located, but it was private property. Linda met me at the location, and with the homeowner’s permission we were able to relocate the bird and get some good photos too!
My exciting evening of birding didn’t end there. I had been in contact with Bruce Nott and he was at the Newburgh Waterfront looking for gulls. I contacted him after leaving the GWFG and he was on a LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL, presumably the same bird John Haas had located earlier in the week (that guy’s having a pretty good week!). I made my way over to Newburgh and when I arrived, Bruce and Ajit and Liza Antony all had the bird in their scopes. I hopped out of the car and took a good look at the bird in both scopes before going back to the car for my own scope. They told me how they had lost the bird but relocated it while I was in transit! What a great afternoon and evening of birding!
QUICK POST: I was out of town visiting family, so the only birding I did over the weekend was this afternoon when I ran around the Black Dirt Region for a couple of hours. It wasn’t the most productive of outings; I had only 18 species for the afternoon, and all were expected birds. The highlight for me was two ROUGH-LEGGED HAWKS; it’s nice to see that RLHAs seem to have finally moved into the area in some numbers. They were too distant for photos but still nice to see. At any rate, here are few shots from the afternoon.
I birded the Black Dirt Region by car this morning and covered a lot of ground. I wanted to first check to see if the Snowy Owl continued – I was unable to relocate the bird and did not hear of anyone relocating the bird all day. My second goal of the day was to sort through some of the many Canada Geese in the area, looking for rarities. I really wanted to locate a Cackling Goose, especially since John Haas had reported 2 from the day before. I located two decent candidates; one flew before I got any photos or could be sure of the ID. When I located the second candidate, Linda Scrima joined me and although we got some decent looks and photos of the bird, we left unsure of the ID. I kept going back and forth with this bird, sometimes it looked really good for a Cackling and other times not so good. Being this unsure, I will leave this bird unidentified, but I’ve included a photo of the bird in this post in case anyone would like to weigh in. The only other notable geese from the day were 5 Snow Geese. My final goal was to try to add some birds to my Orange County list and I increased it by 9 birds. I had 30 birds on my species list, which I’ve included at the bottom of this post. Highlights of the day for me included 2 Rough-legged Hawks and 2 American Kestrels.
Great Blue Heron
American Tree Sparrow
I met Kyle out in the Black Dirt this evening after work to try for some raptors – Northern Harriers and Short-eared Owls were the goal. I was pleasantly surprised when I spotted a large white bird fly over a field in the distance, being chased by crows – SNOWY OWL!!! We immediately jumped out of the car and got the bird in the scope to find it had perched on a distant small post in a field. We watched the bird as it was harassed by both Northern Harriers and Short-eared Owls; it flew one time and found a new perch, but shortly after returned to its original perch. The bird was very distant, so pics were tough; the above is from the camera, and the shot below is with the iPhone through the scope. It was a super exciting night! Lifer Snowy for Kyle and my first one in a couple of years!
***If you go for this bird, please be respectful of the locals in the black dirt. Many roads are private and not public and shouldn’t be used without permission. Farmers are still working so please keep all roads clear and let them work. As a general rule, for me, if there is any sort of work going on I leave the area.***
Before I get to the wrap up, I wanted to mention that I created a new page for 2016 where I will post photos by species. Each time I take a photo that consider an improvement on the previous for any species, I will replace it on the list. As a starting point, I’ve typed out the list from the Edgar A. Mearns Bird Club Checklist of Birds for Orange County. As I was typing it out, I realized how daunting it can be to think about getting all these photos – there are over 265 birds on the list! It will be interesting to me to see how many of these I will get and also how many I might add to the list. Click here to check it out or on the page at the top right called Species Photos 2016.
The weekend started on a good note with a Friday evening trip to the Black Dirt where I was able to relocate the dark-morph Western Red-tailed Hawk, originally located by Steve Sachs the day before and relocated in the morning by Linda Scrima. Due to the distance and the trees, I was unable to get any photos, but Linda got some and gave me a couple to post here, see them below (thanks Linda!). It was a sort of strange experience seeing that bird – it was vocalizing constantly and moving from perch to perch to perch, never staying in one place for very long.
On Saturday, Kyle Dudgeon, Linda Scrima, and I headed to Piermont Pier to try for the WESTERN GREBE. The bird was located by some other birders shortly after our arrival; it was a little far out and backlit but we got decent scope views and Kyle and Linda got their lifer WEGRs. I was hoping for more waterfowl, but really we did not have a large list: Canada Goose, Mallard, Canvasback, Lesser Scaup, Bufflehead, Ruddy Duck, and Double-crested Cormorant. We had some Buffleheads and Ruddies that were close enough for photos but the light was not very good. The highlight for me was a Merlin, perched in a tree and eating prey (which looked to be a Dark-eyed Junco). On our way home we made a stop at State Line Hawkwatch, but it was a bust as we had only two distant Red-tailed Hawks in the half hour we were there.
On Sunday morning I met Maria Loukeris out in the Black Dirt, we tried unsuccessfully to relocate the dark-morph Western Red-tailed Hawk. We did, however, see my first ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK of 2016, hunting (successfully) over a distant field. This is only the second RLHA that I have seen this season. In a relatively short amount of time we had a good number of raptors: Maria had an American Kestrel before my arrival, and in addition to the RLHA we had 8 Red-tailed Hawks and a Sharp-shinned Hawk. From there I checked Glenmere and Tomahawk Lakes but neither had much waterfowl present; in fact Tomahawk was mostly frozen over, but I managed to see a high-flying Bald Eagle which was nice.
I blame the insomnia. I do. I really struggled to sleep last night and ultimately only got a very little bit of shut-eye. Which made for a really tough morning, a difficult workday, and some bizarre birding.
Just before noon, I received a phone call from John Haas – he had a WESTERN GREBE at Piermont Pier! When I got out of work I headed straight to Piermont and arrived with plenty of beautiful light. I parked at the beginning of the pier, and as I walked towards where the bird had been seen, Bob Senerchia pulled alongside me and gave me a lift the rest of the way, explaining that there was plenty of parking further up. Maria Loukeris and Christopher Takacs were both there and photographing the bird, which was in perfect evening light and not very far out (I’ve included one of Maria’s shots below). I jumped out of Bob’s car and pretty much immediately started to take photos… I looked at my camera and saw some awful words: No Card in Camera. Ugh, no way, not today. I must have a spare back in the car! Bob let me borrow his car, which is a Prius which apparently you need a special degree to drive. I finally figured out out how to get it into gear and drove back to my car. With the parking brake on – I thought the beeping was for the seatbelt! I checked my camera bag and of course, no spare card. My heart was broken, but I grabbed my scope and my iPhone adapter and called Bob so he could tell me how to release the brake. I made it back incident-free, and decided to make lemonade out of lemons. I stayed for a good while and enjoyed the bird, what a beauty! I took what photos I could through the scope and shot the above video, which made me happy. When it came time to leave, I took the wrong exit and went across the Tappan Zee Bridge… it’s the insomnia – that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Huge thanks to Bob for letting use his car, Maria for her photo, and of course to John Haas for locating the bird and getting the word out.
This morning I went out and did my first birding in Orange County for the new year. I took a tour of the Black Dirt Region, ending at the Liberty Marsh at Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge, where I did not walk the trails but just viewed from the platform for 20 minutes or so. I then check on Wickham Lake and Glenmere Lake before heading home. It felt good to get my list for the county started and I ended the morning with 27 species; I’ve included today’s list at the bottom of this post. Highlights from the morning included seeing large flocks of Horned Larks with Snow Buntings mixed in. At one point I had nearly 75+ Horned Larks taking a dust bath in the road in front of me. I’ve only seen this one other time and it was really cool to see it again. On the disappointing side, I was hoping to run across some Snow Geese in the black dirt, especially after seeing them fly over in Ulster County the day before.
All species located in Black Dirt Region (including Liberty Marsh) except where noted:
American Black Duck
Bald Eagle (Wickham)
Sharp-shinned Hawk (Home)
Belted Kingfisher (Glenmere)
Black-capped Chickadee (Glenmere)
Tufted Titmouse (Glenmere)
White-breasted Nuthatch (Glenmere)
To say the meteorologists got it wrong would be an understatement. With clear, sunny skies in the forecast, Kyle Dudgeon and I headed out to the Shawangunk Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge in hopes of getting some good Northern Harrier and Short-eared Owl photos. We arrived early enough to claim one of the four photo blinds at the refuge, but alas, the heavy cloud cover refused to clear. We approximated 6 Northern Harriers were present at the refuge; we tried for the majority of the day to get some decent photos but no harriers came close enough for any decent shots. Fortunately, it was just barely after 3:00 that the Short-eared Owls picked up. And, although they never came very close, they spent enough time around our blind to get some decent (if noisy) shots and they were as entertaining as ever. Another highlight of the day was 3 large skeins of Snow Geese which flew over, heading south.