Surprisingly Good Sunday Birding, 10/14/18

~A young Cooper’s Hawk at Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge, 10/14/18.~

I headed out early this morning to bird Liberty Marsh at Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge. I’d had a good full day yesterday, so I was going out without much in the way of expectations. When I arrived at the refuge and got out of my car, I scanned the marsh and picked up two birds flying along the west side of the loop, just over the trees – SANDHILL CRANES!  I took that as a good sign for the morning. Shortly after my arrival, I ran into birding bud Linda Scrima and we walked parts of both Liberty Lane and the Liberty Loop.

~A cooperative female Purple Finch, Liberty Lane at Wallkill River NWR, 10/14/18.~

Swamp Sparrow was bird of the day for sure. We had many as we walked out Liberty Lane, as well as a good number of Song Sparrows, a single White-crowned Sparrow, and a couple of White-throated Sparrows. Our best bird on Liberty Lane was Purple Finch – we had at least three with one female that was confiding enough for some decent photos. I also had a young Cooper’s Hawk fly right over my head and perch in a tree not too far off the trail.

~It’s hard to miss the Swamp Sparrows out at Wallkill River NWR right now.~

We then walked part of the west side of the Liberty Loop. We got about 100 yards down the trail when Linda picked up a bird that landed in the marsh just off the trail. I caught it just as it landed – its flight was a bit awkward and we agreed it was likely a marsh bird of some sort. We were scanning the area where we thought the bird flew in when the bird took flight again, heading deeper into the marsh – it was an AMERICAN BITTERN! I was not prepared and my camera setting were no good, so I ended up with a bunch of blurry pics. Linda did better than I did, and I’ve included one of her shots at the bottom of this post. On the west side of the loop we ran into a birdy area which produced my first Dark-eyed Juncos of the season,  2 Blue-headed Vireos and a couple of Ruby-crowned Kinglets as well. We finished up with a total of 36 species for the morning.

~Photo by Linda Scrima – Blue-headed Vireo at Wallkill River NWR, 10/14/18.~ 
~I will never tire of seeing these two birds. I hope they just stay in OC forever. SANDHILL CRANES in flight, Wallkill River NWR 10/14/18.~

Afterwards, I headed to the Camel Farm to see if I could dig up any more shorebirds. I had the feeling yesterday that there were more birds out there than I was able to see and/or identify. It’s a tough spot to bird these days. It’s a good distance to be looking (as always), and right now everything is overgrown and the shorebirds just disappear when they land. Additionally, depending where you are viewing, there is not much room to pull off the road and the traffic on that road is relentless. So, it makes for a less than ideal birding situation, but that’s where the shorebirds seemed to be this weekend. I was easily able to get good looks of several Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs, as well as a handful of Killdeer. I had a group of shorebirds in flight that I was unable to see once they landed (*they may have been Pectoral Sandpipers, see below). I also had a flock of longer billed shorebirds in flight. I was able to get photos of these birds and I have them as Wilson’s Snipe, 24 of them:

~Wilson’s Snipe in flight over the Camel Farm, 10/14/18.~

I repositioned to try and locate the unidentified group of birds I’d seen, but I was just not able to find them in the area where I thought they went down. Then, I heard a shorebirdy call behind me – and sure enough there was a flock of PECTORAL SANDPIPERS flying behind me. They put down right on one of the Camel Farm neighbor’s front lawns, which I thought was pretty funny. I’d love to have Pectoral Sandpipers on my front lawn, ha ha!

~Pectoral Sandpipers on a front lawn at the Camel Farm, 10/14/18.~
~Photo by Linda Scrima. It was awesome to see this bird! I wish I’d done better with photos, but it happened very quickly. AMERICAN BITTERN at the Liberty Loop, 10/14/18.

A Full Day of Birding, 10/13/18

~Cape May Warbler at Mount Peter Hawkwatch, 10/13/18.~ 

This morning’s rain delayed the start of hawkwatch, so I spent the morning in the black dirt looking for shorebirds. Although it was not raining all that hard, the weather was tough on my gear today. The humidity must have been through the roof, because frustratingly, every time I lifted my binoculars to my eyes they seemed to fog over. I had two sets out and I was alternating just to be able to see with any consistency. Even my scope developed some moisture between the filter and the lens, leaving a perfect circle of condensation which lasted for most of the day. Regardless, I ran around for shorebirds and here’s what I had:

Skinner Lane: 4 American Golden-Plovers

Missionland: 2 Lesser Yellowlegs, 18 Killdeer

Turtle Bay: 1 Least Sandpiper, 15 Killdeer

Camel Farm: 20+ Wilson’s Snipe, 4 Killdeer, 2 Greater Yellowlegs, 12 Lesser Yellowlegs

Pine Island Turf Nursery: 18 Killdeer

~Lesser Yellowlegs at Missionland. This shot was from Friday evening, 10/12/18.~ 

The rain let up and I was up at Mount Peter for Hawkwatch at 11:45. It was a really good day to be on the mountain, with cool temperatures and a steady northwest wind. Birds were flying and I had a decent number of birds (total of 83 migrants), with very good variety (11 species). Linda Scrima, Rob Stone, and Bob Klenk all visited and helped me out. Sharp-shinned Hawks were the number one migrant, and highlights for me included a couple of Merlins, a Peregrine Falcon, and a couple of Northern Harriers ( a bird we see frequently in our area, but to me it’s awesome to see them flying high over the hawkwatch in migration). Non-raptors had some good highlights too, with a couple of CAPE MAY WARBLERS, and two skeins of BRANT flying over. See my full report at the bottom of this post.

~BRANT! I was super pumped to have a couple skeins fly over the watch today, Mt. Peter Hawkwatch 10/13/18.~ 

After hawkwatch, I stopped at Glenmere Lake, where the Mearns Bird Club was holding a big sit. They spent the whole day, sunrise to sunset, at the lake counting birds. I joined Kathy Ashman and Karen Miller, who had a long but good day of birding along with 12 other members of the club. They finished the day with 47 species, which I thought was pretty good.

I headed home, tired but happy with a full day of birding behind me.

~Ahhhh… the obligatory Turkey Vulture photo returns. Mt. Peter Hawkwatch 10/13/18.~ 
~One more Cape May Warbler shot, Mt Pete, 10/13/18.~

Excellent Day of Birding in OC, 10/06/18

~Cape May Warbler at Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge’s Liberty Lane, 10/06/18.~ 

Saturday was a busy day for me, so I’m finally getting around to writing this post early Sunday morning. First, the bad news: hawkwatch at Mt. Peter was a total bust as the mountain was completely fogged in all day. The good news, was that I did some more traditional birding and it was very productive.

~Just look at the markings on this beautiful bird. I especially lover the white around the eye. Swamp Sparrow at Liberty Lane, 10/06/18.~ 

My first stop was Skinner Lane. It was supposed to just be a pit stop, but since the fog was showing no sign of lifting and the birding was good, I stayed for a good while (actually, I ran up to Mt. Pete at 10:30 thinking it might be clear; it wasn’t so I headed back to Skinner). When I first arrived, I was impressed by the number of Tree Swallows present. I was pleasantly surprised to find a pretty good sized flock of Horned Larks had moved in, among them several AMERICAN PIPITS. The big surprise came when I was scanning the larks and came across a LAPLAND LONGSPUR! This is a bird that is certainly one of my favorite, has a certain inherent coolness to it, and I just seem to have a knack for tracking them down. I was pumped, and although the bird was not really close, I was able to get some documentary photos; I’ve posted one at the bottom of this post.  Kyle Dudgeon joined me shortly after I’d located the LALO, but unfortunately we were unable to relocate it.

~Very exciting – AMERICAN PIPIT  at Skinner Lane, 10/06/18. I was happy to have this bird close enough for some photos. 

Shorebirds were, of course,  my initial target for my stop at Skinner. I’d had 6 American Golden-Plovers earlier, and Kyle relocated them as soon as he arrived. Then, we had a single shorebird flying and calling. We tracked the bird in our binoculars, waiting for it to put down. But, it never found a spot that it liked and it rose up and flew out of range. We thought that was the last we would see of the bird, but minutes later it returned and did the same routine but this time it put down in the distance. We relocated to try to get a better vantage point, but alas we were unable to relocate the bird. Based on the overall coloring, size, and its call, we believe that it was a SANDERLING. Karen Miller had arrived, and she was able to get the American Pipits and the American Golden-Plovers, but we were unable to relocate the Lapland Longspur nor the Sanderling.

~Palm Warbler at Liberty Lane, 10/06/18.~

Kyle and I had an unproductive stop at the Pine Island Turf Nursery, a single Solitary Sandpiper and several American Kestrels were our best birds. Kyle had to head home, but I continued, heading over to Liberty Lane; Rob Stone had let me know it was pretty active earlier in the morning. It was still hopping when I was there. I had a nice walk with loads of birds with almost every step. Swamp Sparrows and Song Sparrows dominated, but there were also some highlights: 4 White-crowned Sparrows, a Palm Warbler, a Blackpoll Warbler, and a CAPE MAY WARBLER. The Cape May Warbler was super accommodating and I was able to take many photos of it. On my way out I had a single Lesser Yellowlegs flying and calling overhead, which was a nice way to end a good day of birding.

~This bird stumped me. Chipping Sparrow (first winter) at Liberty Lane, 10/06/18.~ 
~I alway love these dudes. Horned Lark, looking spiffy. Skinner Lane, 10/06/18.~ 
~Solitary Sandpiper strutting its stuff. PI Turf Nursery, 10/06/18.~ 
~Blackpoll Warbler in tough photo conditions. I had the bird in better light, but blew it. Liberty Lane, 10/06/18.~ 
~One more shot of the Cape May Warbler, Liberty Lane 10/06/18.~ 
~Documentary shot of the LAPLAND LONGSPUR,  Skinner Lane 10/06/18.