Last night’s rain must have had some good timing – it grounded a fair amount of waterfowl in Orange County. My first indication that it was going to be a good day was when I received a text around noon from Bruce Nott. He had a RED-THROATED LOON at Orange Lake. Which was followed shortly afterwards with a text that he had 2 LONG-TAILED DUCKS and a Common Loon at Washington Lake. Then, a half hour before quitting time I got word from Rob Stone that he had a slew of birds at Wickham Lake. I joined Bruce Nott, Kathy Ashman, and Linda Scrima at the lake to enjoy this waterfowl bonanza. Including the Canada Geese I had as I drove in, we had 17 (!) species of waterfowl!
How’s that for a waterfowl list?!? I was particularly happy to see Redheads in Orange County for the first time ever. This is the sort of day, as a birder, that I get really jazzed about, and Bruce, Kathy, and Linda all seemed equally excited about it. Another good bird we had while were there was a single BONAPARTE’S GULL, always a favorite of mine. The only downside was that, of course, the birds were quite distant. Scope views were pretty amazing but photos were nearly impossible. Huge thanks to Rob and Bruce, great birding for sure!
I was not planning doing any birding this morning. But, when I woke up, there was already a text from Curt McDermott – he had four SANDHILL CRANES in the town of Shawangunk. I quickly made some coffee and ran for the birds, which ended up sticking around and being very cooperative. When I arrived, Bruce Nott, John Haas, and Bill Fiero were on the birds already; they had all been there for a bit and headed out shortly after I arrived. Karen Miller joined me and we enjoyed super looks at the birds along with Scotty Baldinger. The birds flew at one point and relocated in an area where they could still be view well. Several Ulster County birders arrived for the birds and when I left they were still enjoying excellent scope views of the birds. What a great way to start the day! Huge thanks to Curt for the heads up on these great birds.
Three weeks ago I did a waterfowl survey of 9 locations not too far from my home in Goshen. Today I repeated this survey, hitting the same 9 locations in the same order. The overall number of birds was down from over 950 to under 700 birds, but I had a little more variety today with 16 species of waterfowl (up from 14). I’ve included species lists by location below.
I was hoping for some more interesting birds, but all 16 species were what I consider the usuals. Things were better in that regard earlier in the week, when I had a trio of Long-tailed Ducks at Glenmere Lake, and yesterday when I had a single Common Loon at Wickham Lake:
QUICK POST: I was doing some lazy birding after work this afternoon. I stopped by Glenmere Lake and I was scanning the lake from my car and getting ready to leave, having seen just the usuals. But, then 3 ducks caught my attention; I half-thought they might be LONG-TAILED DUCKS, but it wasn’t until I got out of the car and put the scope on them that I really believed it. The birds were very distant, too distant for even documentary photos, so I walked the snowy trail that heads southwest along the shore of the lake to get a little bit closer. This did allow me to get some documentary photographs and some great looks at the bird, which were in beautiful light. I put the word out and although I had to leave, Karen Miller reported back that she too had gotten the ducks. Good (if lazy) birding!
It’s not very often these days that I can get two life birds in one day, but that’s exactly what happened today. The first was a bird that I have been really hoping to get for some time now, the LONG-EARED OWL. The bird did not disappoint, such a beautiful little owl, absolutely gorgeous. The second was a bird that I’ve had some experience with in the past, the NORTHERN SAW-WHET OWL. Back in the fall of 2013, Tricia and I joined a John Haas, Karen Miller, Scott Baldinger, and Arlene Borko in Sullivan County to call in migrating NSWOs. We heard several that night and caught a glimpse of one in flight in the dark, but I guess at the time I didn’t think that was enough to count it as a lifer. Today was quite different and there is no doubt about getting my lifer NSWO. These two owls are life birds #373 and #374 for me. Forgive the vague post, but with the best interests of these birds in mind, I will not be sharing their locations.
QUICK POST: For the second consecutive time, on my way to participate in a DEC Raptor Survey, I had a really nice photo op. Two weeks ago I had a large group of confiding Ring-necked Ducks. Last night, it was Six Snow Buntings on the side of the road. They seemed uncooperative at first and flushed, but then came back to land very close to my car, posing nicely on the tops of the piles of plowed snow. Good birds for sure!
I decided to do my own Orange County waterfowl survey of sorts this afternoon. I visited nine different locations not too far from my home here in Goshen. First thing I will say is that it was COLD out there today. The temperatures weren’t so bad, in the mid-twenties, but wind made it very cold, bringing tears to my eyes all day. I think if it was a little bit more comfortable out I would have been a little bit more thorough; I felt like I certainly could have spent some more time at some of the locations. That being said, it was a fun way to spend the afternoon and I ended up with 14 species of waterfowl and over 950 individuals. I had a Northern Shoveler and a Pied-billed Grebe at Brown’s Pond and both birds were my first of the year in Orange County. Scroll down to see my results by location.
It’s not very often that I get good photo ops with ducks because, as we all know, ducks tend to keep their distance. I think it would take some work, planning, and likely a photo blind to actually get really good shots of most ducks (at least from the shore – I’ve had much better luck from the kayak). Yesterday afternoon I found a group of Ring-necked Ducks at Upper Greenwood Lake that just didn’t seem to care. I saw the birds from my car, I pulled over and parked, but unfortunately the only way to approach was on foot. I did so slowly, fully expecting the birds to swim in the opposite direction, leaving me wanting. I must be on a roll because they did no such thing and instead just carried on as before. I photographed them for about 20 minutes; when I left they were still in the same area going about their business. I then continued towards the black dirt, where I was going to spend the evening participating in the DEC’s Raptor Survey. It was an excellent pit stop which yielded a nice series of pics of these RNDUs, in really nice light.