Around Town, 04/21/18

~Blue-gray Gnatcatcher at Wickham Lake, 04/21/18.~

I got out and around locally this morning. My main goal was to check on the American Bitterns from last night – in my imagination I was picturing numerous bitterns flying around the Liberty Loop in perfect light. The reality was more than slightly different; I met Linda Scrima there first thing  and although we heard an American Bittern calling repeatedly, we were unable to get a visual. We had no shorebirds, but I did pick up a few FOY birds – Brown Thrasher, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, and Field Sparrow.

 

~Horned Grebe in nice plumage at Wickham Lake, 04/21/18.~ 

A quick stop at the Camel Farm was disappointing – one lonely Killdeer is all Linda and I could find as far as shorebirds go. From there I headed to Wickham Lake; best birds were a Common Loon and a Horned Grebe and I also picked up my FOY Blue-gray Gnatcatchers. Glenmere Lake and pond were relatively unproductive but I did have 4 Blue-winged Teal at the pond. I watched them for a good while; they are beautiful. My final stop of the morning was in the black dirt to check on the Horned Lark flock. I last had them on Tuesday evening, but including today I’ve come up empty on my last 2 tries. I spent about an hour trying to wait them out today, but I’m starting to think they have moved on.

~I spotted this bird on my way home from work on Friday night – Common Loon at Lake Kanawauke in Harriman State Park, 04/20/18.~
~It’s been a while since I shot a Mourning Dove. MODO at Wickham Lake, 04/21/18.~
~Maria and I had this female American Kestrel out on Liberty Lane on Friday night, 04/20/18.~ 
~Good bird/bad pic – Blue-winged Teals at Glenmere Pond, 04/21/18.~

Wow! Five AMERICAN BITTERNS at the Liberty Loop!

~Super grainy, but I was thrilled to get this photo of my first ever American Bittern in Orange County. Liberty Loop, 04/20/18.~

What started out as an uneventful evening ended up being an incredible birding experience. I met Maria Loukeris out at the Liberty Loop; we walked out Liberty Lane – highlights included some distant unidentified shorebirds, several White-crowned Sparrows and my FOY Swamp Sparrows. As we were walking back to the cars, I turned to Maria and said “Let’s go look for some American Bitterns”.  I was only half joking, and I had no idea what was in store for us. As we reached the parking area, Maria picked up two birds flying across the marsh and exclaimed “bittern!”.  I got on them immediately and was thrilled to see two AMERICAN BITTERNS fly from the front pond and head southwest towards the back of the marsh. We went to the viewing platform; we were pretty sure that we wouldn’t see them again, but had to try. But, then we heard another AMBI calling from just to our left. We scanned and remarkably, Maria located the bird right away. As I ran to get my scope from the car, a different AMBI took flight and flew north over Oil City Road. Shortly after that, yet another bittern joined the one that was calling – that gave us a total of five American Bitterns! I put the word out, and Linda Scrima made record time to arrive to see a pair of them in the scope before we lost the light. What a night! I’m still freaking out!

A Nice Night, 04/19/18

~This Common Loon popped up right near me! I guess I was not optimistic about photos because my camera was still packed away. I had to get it out quickly but without any sudden movements to grab this shot. Wickham Lake, 04/19/18.~

After spending the weekend out of town, and then feeling a little under the weather earlier in the week, it was good to get out and do some productive local birding. At work today I saw multiple reports from Scotty Baldinger and Karen Miller of good waterfowl in Sullivan County, including Common Loons, Horned Grebes, G. Scaup at Kiamesha Lake and more Common Loons, Red-breasted Merganser, and best of all – SURF SCOTERS at Swan Lake. This had me raring to go at the end of the work day to see if I could find any good waterfowl in Orange County. I had time to stop at my two usual spots – Wickham Lake and Glenmere Lake. Wickham was the more productive stop – I had 3 Common Loons, 4 Horned Grebes, and my Osprey  of the year in OC. Glenmere was less exciting, but I did have a pair of Lesser Scaup and I also had my first Barn Swallow of the year at the small pond up the road from the lake. It was a nice night to be out and I took a moment to appreciated it.

~Awww. A pair of Ring-necked Ducks look into each others eyes  at the small pond near Glenmere Lake, 04/19/18.~ 

Spring Raptor Migration in Orange County

~Kent did not have any photos with this post, so I figured I would tack on one of my own recent shots – Bald Eagle flyover at Glenmere Lake last weekend, 04/07/18.~

I recently invited several of the more prolific birders in our area to contribute to the blog whenever they have something that they feel is worth sharing. I think there is a lot of good birding going on that folks would like to hear about, and the end result should be a little more complete coverage of the birds and birding in our area. Kent Warner is the first to take me up on the offer. The timing is perfect too, since I was out of town all weekend and didn’t get any birding done.  I found this post very interesting because, generally speaking, not much attention is paid to raptor migration here in Orange County.

SPRING RAPTOR MIGRATION IN ORANGE COUNTY

BY KENT WARNER

Today was a stunner at Bellvale Community for raptors especially. As the sun warmed, and the updrafts started, the first couple of broad-winged hawks, passed low overhead. As the day continued, despite a stiff north breeze, the raptors kept coming – predominantly  Broad-winged Hawks and Turkey Vultures, but a little of everything showed. Here is a list of what I saw…

Broad-winged Hawk – 450 (very conservative estimate of just the ones I saw, there were definitely more)

Turkey Vulture – 45

Black Vulture – 6

Osprey – 16

Northern Harrier – 3

Sharp-shinned Hawk – 3

Cooper’s Hawk – 5

Bald Eagle – 5

Red-Shouldered Hawk – 1

Red-tailed Hawk – 6

American Kestrel – 6

Merlin – 1

Peregrine Falcon – 1

Lapland Longspur in (nearly) Breeding Plumage, 04/08/18

~Lapland Longspur in the Black Dirt, 04/08/18.~ 

I was having a conversation with Rob Stone earlier this week about Lapland Longspurs. I had commented that they had probably migrated north by now; Rob wasn’t so sure and said that he thought his latest date for LALOs was April 7th. We agreed that, if they were around, you might find one in  darn nice plumage. I set out to the black dirt this morning with all this in mind. I located large, loose, flock of Horned Larks; they were extremely scattered and jumpy as can be. I eventually located a single LALO in beautiful breeding plumage. The bird was distant so I tried my best to document it by digiscoping video with my phone, but the jumpy birds, the wind, and the heat shimmer made it difficult for sure (see the result at the bottom of this post). I found several LALOs in the flock and it was cool because I could differentiate the birds by their plumage. I put in a good amount of time, and eventually it (sort of) paid off when part of the flock landed close to me and in that group was a LALO nearly in breeding plumage. It was a really exciting time, I really love Lapland Longspurs, and I never thought I’d ever see one in breeding plumage. Beautiful birds!

~The heat shimmer was just awful today. In fact, for me it’s been awful all spring long, destroying scope views and photos alike. The Horned Larks were looking especially sharp to me today. In the Black Dirt, 04/08/18.~ 
~Savannah Sparrow in the Black Dirt, 04/08/18. Just ignore the plastic wrap in the background. 

Another Excellent Day For Waterfowl in OC, 04/07/18

~This little cutie made my day – Horned Grebe at Greenwood Lake, 04/07/18.~

It was an excellent morning for waterfowl in southern Orange County – I had good birds at nearly every stop I made and a total of 18 species  (see my list by location, below). But, it was one extremely accommodating Horned Grebe at Greenwood Lake which made my day. Greenwood Lake is not typically a spot that is good for photos – the birds are typically quite distant – in fact, I often leave my camera in the car. Well I was glad I had it with me today as this HOGR came in close and fed well, completely unconcerned with my presence. I love it when, every once in a while, things work out really well. Here’s what I had today, by location:

6 1/2 STATION ROAD SANCTUARY: 6 Green-winged Teal, 35 Canada Geese, 5 Mallards, 9 American Black Ducks, 2 Mute Swan, and 1 Northern Shoveler.

~One of 12 Common Loons at Glenmere Lake. Most of the birds were in a single group, but this one was off on its own, near the parking lot.~

GLENMERE LAKE: 12 Common Loons, 10 Horned Grebes, 2 Mute Swans, 5 Canada Geese, 6 American Black Ducks, 3 Bufflehead,and 4 Wood Ducks. Thanks to Kathy Ashman for reporting – she had 16 Common Loons prior to my arrival.

~Eight Common Loons at Glenmere Lake, 04/07/18.~

WICKHAM LAKE: 2 Common Mergansers, 10 Double-crested Cormorants, 12 Buffleheads, 5 RED-THROATED LOONS, 1 Common Loon, 9 Horned Grebes, 1 Pied-billed Grebe, 4 Lesser Scaup, 2 Mute Swans, and 6 Canada Geese.

GREENWOOD LAKE: 2 Common Loons, 3 Horned Grebes, 15 Double-crested Cormorants, 7 Red-breasted Mergansers, 5 Common Mergansers, 5 Buffleheads, 2 Mallards, 4 Canada Geese, and 2 Mute Swans.

~I was surprised that this bird swam in so close too – Red-breasted Merganser at Greenwood Lake. He was one of seven RBME present, 2 males and 5 females. Greenwood Lake, 04/07/18.~

WALTON LAKE: 1 Common Loon and 1 Double-crested Cormorant.

ROUND LAKE: 2 Mallards, 1 Horned Grebe, 2 Greater Scaup, 5 Buffleheads, 14 Double-crested Cormorants, 2 Ruddy Ducks, and 6 Canada Geese.

~I had to include one more shot of the Horned Grebe at Greenwood Lake, 04/07/18.~

25 OC RED-THROATED LOONS!

~One of the 25 Red-throated Loons ventured close enough for a decent photo. Wickham Lake, 04/04/18.~ 

At first I thought it must be a joke. I really did. But, that’s not Rob’s style. The text read 25 RED-THROATED LOONS at Wickham Lake. Really? You’ve got to be kidding me. I was pessimistic about them sticking around until I got out of work, but somehow they did. I arrived just after 6 pm and I have to say that they did not disappoint. I enjoyed an amazing evening watching these beautiful birds make their way around the lake. They must have been quite comfortable since, with the high winds, the water was extremely rough. I was really curious to see what they would do as the sun started to set, and at 7:10, all but six of the RTLOs took flight. After several laps around the lake, gradually getting higher and higher, they departed, heading west-northwest. Shortly after, I headed out, leaving the lake to the remaining 6 Red-throated Loons. I wonder if they will spend the night?

~Red-throated Loons at Wickham Lake, 04/04/18.~ 
~Departing Red-throated Loons, Wickham Lake 04/04/18.~ 
~RTLOs in flight over Wickham Lake, 04/04/18.~ 

Montezuma NWR and a Little Catch-up, 04/02/18

~A young Bald Eagle flies over, Montezuma NWR, 03/31/18.~

QUICK POST: I’m exhausted this evening, so I’m going to try and make this a quick one. My brother-in-law Bill and I made our yearly Easter visit to Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge. We hit the usual spots; it seemed a little quieter than normal to me. We totaled 30 species for the morning, which seems low for the time of the year, and all were expected species. We had a few highlights – a Sandhill Crane flew over on my drive to the refuge, and then, after Bill and I made our way through Wildlife Drive, at Tschache Pool we had a group of over 50 Great Blue Herons as well a half dozen Bald Eagles tormenting ducks (and each other), flying over the pool.

~I thought this was an interesting look at a female Hooded Merganser. Montezuma NWR, 03/31/18.~
~Sixteen of the over 50 Great Blue Herons at Tschache Pool, Montezuma NWR, 03/31/18.~ 
~Two young Bald Eagles mixing it up, Montezuma NWR, 03/31/18.~

Back here in Orange County, the action continued through the weekend and. today was another good day with some good birds reported: Wilson’s Snipe was the big winner, being reported at three locations in the county: Lynch Road in New Hampton, the Liberty Loop, and Citgo Pond. Additionally, Rob Stone located a Common Loon, 40+ Scaup, and a Bonaparte’s Gull at Wickham Lake, which is where I headed after work. The scaup were still present, as was the Common Loon, but the Bonaparte’s Gull had moved on. The loon was in beautiful breeding plumage, but was WAY out and photos were not an option. It was nice to get a good look at the 45 or so Greater Scaup.

~Approximately 45 Greater Scaup at Wickham Lake, 04/02/18.~