I didn’t sleep well last night, but I somehow dragged my butt out of bed this morning and strapped my kayak to the roof of my car. I’m glad I did, because it was a beautiful and crisp morning; the wind was down, the clouds hadn’t completely rolled in yet, making for a pleasant paddle on Glenmere Lake. My main goal (as usual), was shorebirds, but today in addition to a smattering of shorebirds, I found a couple of favorites as well.
The bird of the day for me was undoubtedly the American Pipit. There were many on the lake, working all the little “islands” of muck that the shorebirds enjoy so much as well. I would estimate I had at least 75 AMPIs, but it was hard to get any sort of accurate count. I can tell you this: pipits are not like shorebirds (for the most part oblivious to me in the kayak). They are much more jumpy and moved frequently from island to island. I finally made a slow, smooth approach and was able to get a decent pipit shot.
I worked my way along the shore and came across a mixed flock. I’d noticed some activity and slowly made my way over. Birds seemed to be everywhere around me- Yellow-rumped Warbers, Golden-crowned Kinglets, American Robins, and Cedar Waxwings. Then I noticed a small flock of mixed blackbirds feeding on the ground in the vegetation along the shore. I could first hear and then see several RUSTY BLACKBIRDS among them. I was just settling in to try and get some photos when a Sharp-shinned Hawk flushed just about all the birds. The blackbird flock took off over my head (unfortunately I never did catch up with them again).
As for shorebirds, I found a pair of Least Sandpipers, (6) Wilson’s Snipe which were flushed by a Cooper’s Hawk, (4) Killdeer, and (6) mystery shorebirds, also flushed by a raptor – not sure which because I kept my binoculars on the shorebirds as they flushed; they flew up over the trees heading west and I watched in my bins until they disappeared in the distance. My best guess for those birds is Dunlin, but we’ll never know. I totaled 39 species, which isn’t too bad for a couple hours or so on the water.
It was a vulturific day from the get-go. Yeah, I just made that word up, and yeah I know it’s cheesy. Anyways, when I woke up, the vulture roost in our backyard was in beautiful light. I was thinking that I don’t photograph these birds nearly enough, so I tried for some shots while the light was still good. Then I had a cup of coffee and got ready to head up to Mount Peter to count migrating raptors all day.
It was chilly up on the mountain – 37 degrees Fahrenheit with a breeze from the northwest. I had a slow start with nearly cloudless sky and no migrants in the first hour, but then things picked up. Jeff and Liz Zahn joined me in the second hour; we had a nice mix of birds including my only migrating Bald Eagle of the day, an adult over the valley which was located by Liz. .
It was during the fourth hour of the watch when fellow counter Jeanne Cimorelli located a kettle of vultures due north of the platform. The birds rose up very high and then began to stream out, heading SSW in a determined fashion. Counting a few stragglers that followed the kettle, there was a total of 41 Turkey Vultures and 2 Black Vultures that passed through.
In my final hour, I was getting ready to wrap things up a little early because I hadn’t had a migrating raptor in over an hour. Then Amanda Stanley and Jon Fazio (visiting from Wildcat Ridge Hawkwatch) showed up and we had one last flurry of activity to end the day with: a Cooper’s Hawk, a young Northern Harrier, and a Peregrine Falcon. I finished the day with 97 migrating raptors; this brought our year total to over 8600 birds. As usual I’ve included my HMANA (Hawk Migration Assoc. of North America) at the bottom of this post.
Well, it was an interesting weekend of birding for me. I counted at Mount Peter Hawkwatch on Saturday, and it was a bit of mixed bag. In 7 hours of counting, I had only 22 migrating raptors. But! I had a remarkable 14 sitings of Bald Eagles, 6 of which were countable, migrating birds. I also had my first migrating Northern Harriers of the season. And, I somehow managed to add 4 birds to my 2019 Orange County list: Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Swainson’s Thrush, Hermit Thrush, and very exciting – a skein of 27 BRANT! I haven’t really been going for numbers this year, but as the fall has rolled in I started looking at it with the hopes of at least reaching 200 birds in the county this year. These four birds brought my total to 199.
I also had some really great visitors on Saturday, which helped the time pass when things were slow. Some folks even brought me snacks. You can see the list of visitors in my HMANA report at the bottom of this post. On my way home I stopped at Glenmere Lake and joined Karen Miller, Kathy Ashman, and Diane Bliss for the last little while of the Mearns Bird Club’s Big Sit. We had a nice flurry of songbirds come through (mostly Yellow-rumped Warblers) just as we were getting ready to leave.
On Sunday I didn’t have the opportunity to get out until the early afternoon. My first stop was Citgo Pond, hoping for shorebirds. There were only 2 shorebirds present (a Greater Yellowlegs and a late Solitary Sandpiper), but the trail had plenty of birds. They were mostly Yellow-rumped Warblers, but also some more interesting birds: Blue-headed Vireo, Palm Warbler, and my 200th bird of the year in the county, a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.
I also made a brief stop at Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge. I walked Liberty Lane briefly and in sheer numbers, I had as many sparrows as I can remember ever having out there. That being said, I didn’t find anything out of the ordinary, but I did have a total of 6 sparrow species: Song, Swamp, Field, Savannah (easily the most numerous), White-crowned, and Chipping. I wanted to do some kayaking at Glenmere Lake in the evening, but to be honest I just ran out of juice and stayed in.
I got a slightly later start than I wanted this morning. I struggled sleeping last night; I eventually got back to sleep around 5 am, but that made it tough to wake up early. My plan was to get to Citgo Pond before the sun was over the trees (once it’s over the trees, the birds are severely backlit and tough to ID). Anyways, I had to forego that plan and I headed directly to my next planned stop: Glenmere Lake. It ended up being a good decision as I had some really good birds in perfect light.
I kayaked the lake, just as I did last weekend. As I paddled out, I could see some good shorebird activity in the distance at the south end of the lake. I heard a shorebird call; I couldn’t put my finger on it and I also couldn’t locate the bird – it seemed to be moving over great distance. I eventually caught up with that bird, it was an AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVER, undoubtedly the bird of the day. Prior to locating the plover, I’d come across nearly a dozen Pectoral Sandpipers (always a favorite), and 5 Lesser Yellowlegs. Of course there were many Killdeer around as well. Photo ops were mostly good as the light was good and the birds were cooperative. One other bird of note was a single American Pipit flyover, calling as it went. Again, I can’t express how great it is to be able to see these fabulous birds up close and personal – kayaking for shorebirds rules. I’ll be out again in the morning, fingers crossed for some good birds.