I think we picked a good weekend to go to the beach. Not for birding, but for going to the beach like normal people – getting a little sun and riding the waves. I say that because not much is going on with local birding lately. I can’t remember the last report to come over on the Mearns Bird Club app. Anyways, I did manage to get locally out for few hours this evening; it was more of the usuals. One highlight was seeing my first juvenile Pied-billed Grebe of the season at Wallkill River NWR. Here’s hoping that things start to pick up sooner rather than later; I’m looking forward to some more exciting posts…
I got out early both days of this weekend; with the hot weather we’ve been having, it was the only time to do any sort of comfortable birding. It was mostly more of the usuals – it’s that time of year. The most notable siting I had was nearly 100 Great Blue Herons at a single pool at Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge. There is also a good number of Great Egrets at the refuge these days. Returning shorebirds have been sparse thus far in OC but I finally had some at the refuge on Saturday morning; but just Least Sandpipers, Killdeer, Spotted Sandpipers, and a single Lesser Yellowlegs. Let’s hope that it’s the start of a good fall shorebird migration in our area.
After work this evening I stopped again at Silver Mine Lake in Harriman State Park. The first time I visited the lake, prior to my post from last weekend, I had over 160 swallows on the wires at the boat launch. But, it was absolutely pouring rain and I was unable to document what I felt, in spite of the poor lighting conditions, was mostly CLIFF SWALLOWS. Linda Scrima went yesterday and had a similar experience – loads of swallows on the wires in terrible rainy conditions. I stopped after work but unfortunately there were not that many swallow present and I counted only 38 CLSWs. But tonight, I went back…
… and it was a different story. When I arrived there were many swallows present. I immediately counted 51 Cliff Swallows on the wires in the parking area. Then I went down to the boat launch and my best count in one sweep was a remarkable 172 Cliff Swallows! That was counting only the birds I felt confident about; I left many birds unidentified. Also present were approximately a dozen Barn Swallows, several each of Tree Swallows and Bank Swallows, and a single Northern Rough-winged Swallow. I digiscoped some video through my scope in an effort to try and document; it’s long (over 5 minutes) and poorly shot, but if interested, you can link to that video on Youtube here. I also took many pics; I’ve included several here. By the way, I went to the lake twice this week, during the week, and did not have to pay to park.
Sometimes it just takes one good bird or one good photo to make my day. Today it was this shot of a pair of Eastern Kingbirds taken at Black Rock Forest. I got out early(ish) and took a shorter hike that was not overwhelmingly birdy, but still pleasant enough. I had a secret hope that I might hear Ruffed Grouse in the distance, as the trail I walked is not all that far from Jupiter’s Boulder, but alas it didn’t happen. This time of year, it’s just nice to get out for a little while, and if you can beat the heat it’s that much better.
QUICK POST: My birding time was limited this morning, but I made the best of it by following up on an eBird report by Scott Barnes from earlier in the week. He reported 40 Cliff Swallows at Silver Mine Lake in Harriman State Park; the birds were still present today and my best count was 37. It was certainly the highlight of my morning, I hiked around the lake to some extent (just under 3 miles), and had a total of 36 species (all the usual suspects). It’s actually a nice area to hike and it was quite birdy, but be aware that parking in that lot right now costs $6.00.
Since this weekend was pretty much a bust as far as photos go, I decided to take the opportunity to go back to some photographs that I previously hadn’t posted. This spring and early summer, several Sandhill Cranes were being seen in the area of the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge. I was lucky enough to get flight shots on two occasions; it was quite a treat to see these big beautiful birds in flight.
I got up early again this morning to try and beat the heat again. Last night I was looking through my trail maps and I came across a map of Schunemunk Mountain State Park. So, I decided to give it a try this morning. I parked at the trailhead on Clove Road. Looking on the map, it was a pretty substantial ascent for the first mile or so (for me, as a birder rather than a hard core hiker); I went up approximately 900 feet in just over one mile of hiking. This may be no big deal for true hikers, but for me it was more than enough.
The birding was just okay – the trail was probably one of the least birdy trails I’ve walked this year. That being said, in addition to the usuals, I had some pretty good birds. I was surprised to hear a Hooded Warbler calling just about a half mile up the trail. I got my best looks of the year at Worm-eating Warblers; I had at least a half dozen and got very good looks at three birds. I got a good look at a very young bird in a bush – at first I wasn’t sure what it was but as I thought about it, it came to me – it was a recently fledged Cedar Waxwing. I also got great looks at three young Black-and-white Warblers; they were so close but I didn’t have any luck getting photos. It was actually a tough day for photos with birds being backlit, obscured, etcetera. I covered 4.5 miles during my hike, and I ended up with a modest 35 species for the morning. You can see my eBird report here.
I got out early this morning to try and beat the heat and headed out to Harriman State Park for a hike. I parked at the parking area between Lake Askoti and Lake Skanatati and hiked a loop that ended up being just under 7 miles long. I’ve included a screenshot of my eBird track at the bottom of this post. As always, I was hoping to come across something super exciting on the trail. Unfortunately that was not the case, but it was a really nice hike with absolutely loads of the expected birds and I totalled 52 species of birds.
Highlights included several Yellow-throated Vireos (always a personal fav), my first Blue-winged Warblers in a while, and a singing Hooded Warbler that I never got my eyes on. Probably the most entertaining moment was coming across a Northern Mockingbird, WAY out in the trail, and listening to it run through a very extensive and impressive repertoire of bird songs. My favorite was when it did the Eastern Whip-poor-will call almost perfectly.
As an aside, Harriman State Park is a really great place to be from say 6:00 am until maybe 10:00 am at the latest. By then, the hoards of people have arrived. From the trail I could hear the roaring motorcycles and speed racers. At one point the police got involved and I could hear their sirens and then they were using some sort of megaphone; I couldn’t make out what they were saying. So, not exactly the peaceful respite I am typically going for. And with today being the 4th of July, by the time I left at noon the park was jammed full. I sat in traffic trying to get home. Lesson learned on that one – I’d say early in and early out if you plan on going.
Yesterday on my way home, I saw an interesting raptor in flight over Route 6 west just before the Woodbury Commons outlets (I’m thinking Mississippi Kite is a definite possibility). There was nowhere to pull over, so I eventually ended up turning around and headed back east on Route 6, to try and get another look at the bird. Of course, I didn’t see the bird again as I passed. So, I then had to drive up the mountain to turn around and head west on Route 6 again to head home. When I did that, I remembered that there is a rest area lookout on my way back (see map below). I pulled into the rest area and scanned for the raptor, but again, no luck. But, I did find something else – an absolutely massive Great Blue Heron rookery! I don’t know if others know about this rookery already, but it was new to me. I scanned several times and my high count was 45 Great Blue Herons! I thought that was a pretty lucky find, and I will be getting back to the area this weekend in hopes that I’ll get a look at my mystery raptor.