I went to Glenmere Lake again today, and it was awesome! I had 7 species of shorebirds: Dunlin (15+), WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER (at least 3), Semipalmated Sandpiper (9), Lesser Yellowlegs (1), Greater Yellowlegs (1), Killdeer (2), and Pectoral Sandpiper (3). The water was much calmer, and the sun actually was peeking out from time to time. I had rare occurrence of getting home and liking my photos more than I had anticipated, so that’s always a good thing.
The other excitement of the day was when I found a CATTLE EGRET in the parking area of the Liberty Loop. I pulled in and was eating my breakfast. It wasn’t until I got out of my car that I noticed the CAEA just 30 feet or so from my car! John Haas ran for the bird, and apparently the bird stuck around because I got word from several birders that they got it later in the day. Scroll down to the bottom of this post for CAEA photos.
The rainy, windy weather put the kibosh on hawkwatch at Mount Peter today, so instead I ran around Orange County hoping that once again bad weather would equal good birding. I checked Greenwood Lake and Wickham Lake early and came up empty, so I decided to shift gears and head to the black dirt. By the way, birding today was tough. It wasn’t raining all that hard, but it was pretty steady and the wind was strong and relentless. You absolutely HAD to bird with your back to the wind, otherwise your binoculars or scope would be instantly drenched. Or the inside of your car. Anyways, in the black dirt, the bird of the day was the American Pipit. I had many today, in several locations. In one flock, I was lucky enough to locate a couple of LAPLAND LONGSPURS, always a favorite of mine. I thought there might be some shorebirds around, but other than a single SANDERLING at Skinner Lane, I had no shorebirds in the black dirt (they’d come later, see below).
In the afternoon I head to Glenmere Lake. Not for ducks, but for shorebirds. Kathy Ashman had let me know that she had been observing shorebirds on the vegetation in the southwest corner of the lake. You can walk out the blue trail about a half a mile or so and there is a lookout onto the lake. Which is what I did this afternoon, and I had a nice collection of shorebirds: 14 DUNLIN, 3 Semipalmated Sandpipers, 1 Least Sandpiper, and 1 WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER. I got pretty excited and went back to my car, unloaded my kayak, and headed out to get a better look. It was not the easiest paddle; it was with the wind on the way out and I was practically riding the waves but it was into the wind (and waves) on the way back, making it a bit of a chore. But, it was worth it! It was really cool to see these shorebirds up close and to get some photos. Oh, and of course there was bunch of American Pipits moving amounts the vegetation as well. I was exhausted and wet by the time I was done, but I felt I’d made the best of a blustery, wet day in Orange County.
Yesterday was an excellent day at Mount Pete. The flight was steady and and on the low side, with most birds being able to be seen naked-eye. The highlight of the day, however, came pretty early, during the first hour of the watch. I spotted an eagle just over the treetops to the north of the platform. I got the bird in the scope, in perfect light, and sure enough it was a GOLDEN EAGLE! I was flipping out, and of course that early I was up there all alone. I made an adjustment to my scope, and when I tried to relocate the bird, it was gone! It presumably had dropped below the tree line; I looked for was seemed like ages right and left to see if I could catch the bird passing through, but I had no luck. I was disappointed – I was really thinking I’d get better looks at this bird! Nearly ten minutes passed, and I picked up another eagle rising up north of the watch – sure enough it was the Golden, and it eventually passed relatively high up and west of the platform, allowing for documentary pics and the extended look that I was hoping for:
The rest of the day was less exciting, but still good. The flight was relatively low and consisted mostly Sharp-shinned Hawks but also had good variety – of the expected species we missed only Broad-winged Hawk and Northern Goshawk. As usual, I’m including my Hawkcount.org report at the bottom of this post. Today (Sunday) could be a good day for hawk watching, so if you are so inclined, head out to your local hawkwatch.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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!
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.