QUICK POST: It’s late so I have to make this quick. I had some great birds and some darn good photo ops while birding the black dirt this evening. Highlights included: 2 BUFF BREASTED SANDPIPERS, 9 American Golden-Plovers, a Northern Harrier close encounter, and a late evening Common Nighthawk flyover. Here’s some of my shots from the day.
I spent nearly all my birding time this weekend looking for shorebirds in Orange County. Saturday was a bit of a bust, in spite of favorable overnight winds. Today was another story. I got out to the black dirt early while it was still on the cool side. At my first stop I had a small shorebird flyover with a small flock of Killdeer. I watched the bird in my binoculars until it was out of sight, never to be identified. At my second stop, I had a similar experience, but this time the bird put down about three fields over. I got on it with my scope and it looked like a BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER! I followed the bird, walking on the road as the bird worked the field. I would stop every so often when the bird would come to an area unobstructed by grasses and put down my scope for a look or to take some photos, becoming more and more convinced that it was a BBSA. I eventually lost the bird, so I walked the road to the other side of the field to try and relocate it. At first I could not find it, but I did see in the middle of the field, a single AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVER! Very exciting! Of course, at the time I wasn’t sure exactly which plover it was (American Golden or Black-bellied), I figured that out later. I eventually relocated the Buff-breasted Sandpiper and it was with a second Buffie. Then I heard a call I was unfamiliar with – I looked away from the scope to see 3 more American Golden-Plovers coming in! I took photos as the birds came in to land on the field – showing clear wing pits (not black as would be seen in Black-bellied). I had put the word out earlier, but unfortunately, before anyone arrived to see the birds, a low flying plane flushed first the plovers, followed shortly afterwards by the Buffies. Kathy, Scotty, Bruce, and I combed the area but came up empty. Sorry for the poor photos of these birds, but they were extremely distant and the heat shimmer was terrible.
I did check 6 1/2 Station Road’s Citgo Pond in the early afternoon, but I did not locate any new birds – I found basically the same birds as were present on Thursday, minus the Baird’s Sandiper and the Greater Yellowlegs.
I ran into Karen Miller and Diane Bliss this afternoon – we were all heading in to check out 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary’s Citgo Pond. We arrived at the pond and set up our scopes, and as luck would have it, the first bird in my scope was a beautiful BAIRD’S SANDPIPER! We were all super excited and enjoyed great looks in our scopes as we put the word out. John Haas, Bruce Nott, and Kathy Ashman all ran for the bird, which ended up being very confiding, allowing for great looks and some decent photos too. Shorebirds were numerous at the pond, here is our count:
I joined John Haas, Karen Miller, and Lance Verderame on what has been called ‘the poor man’s pelagic’. We took a whale watching trip through Viking Fleet in Montauk, New York. It was a long day; we left Goshen at 5 a.m. and I didn’t get home until after 9 p.m., but it was worth it. We had basically 4 pelagic birds for the day:
For John and Lance, they each added 4 birds to their New York State year lists. For Karen, all 4 were life birds. And for me, I also added three birds to my NYS life list (I’d had RNPH in NY before) and, most excitingly, I got my lifer Cory’s Shearwater.
I need to keep this short, but I have to mention that the water was a little bit rougher than they predicted, and many folks got seasick. And not everyone made over the side of the boat either. The real kicker, for most people on the boat, was that we never did get to see any whales! Which didn’t matter much to us – it was a great day with some excellent birds, but I’m exhausted, I’m still rocking to the ocean waves, and it’s past my bedtime.
Okay, so I guess I can keep calling the blog Orange Birding. This evening I just wanted to make a quick stop at 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary’s Citgo Pond to check the water levels, because when I was there on Friday the levels were too high and there were no shorebirds present. Well, the water levels were still high and there were still no shorebirds, but I found a welcome surprise: a BLACK TERN! When I arrived the bird was perched on the ground, but it took flight not long after I got on the bird and never set down again. The bird flew around the pond, hunting continuously and splashing into the water from time to time. I put the word out and John Haas, Karen Miller, and Diane Bliss were all able to run for the bird. Bad weather was moving in quickly, so we ended up having to hustle out of there to beat storms. It was a nice looking bird and we got good, if slightly distant views – all my pics are cropped within an inch of their lives. This is my 193rd species for Orange County this year.
Okay, so at what point do I change the name of this blog to Bergen Birding? Over the weekend, another GREAT bird – a WILSON’S PHALAROPE, was located at DeKorte Park in Lyndhurst, New Jersey. I didn’t go for it then, I but today after work, I ran for the bird and luckily the bird not only stuck around, it was very accommodating for photos. I was talking with Chris Takacs while viewing the bird, and he indicated that this was likely a young bird. The bird is absolutely beautiful, white as white can be with a long very thin and pointy bill. It fed nearly the entire time I was there, only stopping to preen and then relax for a short time. This is the second time I’ve seen a Wilson’s Phalarope, my lifer was at the Liberty Loop back in April of 2013.
Huge thanks to both Maria Loukeris and Denise Farrel, who kept me posted with the alerts for this bird today.
Just a week and a day after getting decent photos of an adult Black-crowned Night-Heron at DeKorte Park, I was pleasantly surprised by this juvenile that I saw this morning at Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge. I inadvertently flushed the bird when I paused on the trail to watch an American Kestrel hunting. I watched as the heron briefly flew, then landed and stashed itself in the heavy vegetation. The bird does not look very hidden in this photo, but I can tell you that it took me a long while searching with my binoculars to relocate the bird, and that was after having seen where it had flown in. BCNHs are one of my favorites and it’s always a thrill to see one, especially in Orange County.
In an effort to beat the heat and catch the good light, Kyle picked me up at my house at 5:30 this morning. We loaded up the kayaks and headed for Morningside Park, which is undoubtedly the best local spot to photograph shorebirds. We arrived just after 6:30 and the air was relatively cool and the light was perfect. We paddled out to the islands where throughout the morning we had 5 species of shorebird:
As usual, the peeps were super cooperative for photos. The other birds not so much, although I was able to get one shot of the snipe. We spent some time shooting the peeps and also just paddling around the lake to see what other birds might be around – we totaled 27 species on the lake for the morning.
On our way back we stopped at the Bashakill; I had to meet up with Linda Lou Bartle and we figured we’d do some quick birding while we were there. Surprisingly, it was a great morning for raptors there, we had:
When this Red-tailed Hawk actually took flight TOWARDS me, it was so unexpected that I almost panicked. I picked up the bird fairly early as it took flight (shots #1 and #2). Then I lost focus for a moment but was able to get it back again as the bird came closer (shots #3, #4, and #5). After shot #5, I lost focus again, but this time I think the bird may have been too close for my focus setting. Pretty exciting to get an opportunity like this and to not completely blow it!
Birding in Orange County has been a little bit slow all week, so Kyle, Linda, Maria, and I piled into my Volkswagen Golf and headed south to Richard W. DeKorte Park in Lyndhurst, New Jersey. We all seemed to be in the same mood, ready spend the morning at a spot that has no shortage of birds and also offers up great photo opportunities. We were not disappointed and had 41 species for the outing. LEAST BITTERNS were high on the priority list – we were hoping to get Kyle his lifer, which we achieved through a fly-by very early on. We saw several LEBI while were there, and we spent some quality time viewing and photographing one young bird that was in nice light and wasn’t too far away.
Other highlights included a nice look at a couple of male Ruddy Ducks in breeding plumage, and a young, large, (probably a female) Peregrine Falcon that absolutely ripped onto the scene and took what appeared to be a Forster’s Tern. Those PEFAs are killing machines and are fascinating to watch in action. For shorebirds, we had what I suspect are the expected species – Least Sandpipers, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Spotted Sandpipers, Short-billed Dowitchers, Greater Yellowlegs, and Lesser Yellowlegs. Other good birds included three Black-crowned Night-herons, a couple of Osprey, two Great Black-backed Gulls, and several Snowy Egrets. It was an excellent morning of birding in great company!