This morning I had some good luck and timing. I woke up to find that my car had a flat tire; I’d run over a screw presumably at the dump in Sussex County yesterday morning. I removed the tire and headed out to get it repaired in Tricia’s car. On my way, I received alerts from both Bruce Nott and Linda Scrima; they had approximately 3,000 SNOW GEESE on Onion Avenue. I wasn’t far, so I made a detour and headed over. My timing was excellent, I caught the birds about five minutes before they flew.
The birds headed south/southwest. I continued on to get my tire repaired, but Linda and Bruce followed the geese. They reported back to me later that the original group was joined by a second group, making the total number of Snow Geese in the neighborhood of 7,000 birds! Unfortunately the birds did not put down again, instead they continued south/southeast. I’m thankful that I got lucky this morning and huge thanks to Linda and Bruce for putting the word out.
After a week of beautiful weather, I can’t lie, I was ticked off this morning with rain being in the forecast for basically the entire day. I woke up early to get out a little before the rain; Maria Loukeris and I ran to try for the Glaucous Gull that has been reported at Sussex County Municipal Utilities Authority. While we were there, it started raining. And, although I got on a larger white-winged gull in flight a couple of times, we we left without ever being able to locate the bird on the ground to confirm the ID (most gulls were landing on the other side of the hill and out of sight). Sigh.
But, it’s amazing how one single bird can save a day of birding. After dropping off Maria, I stopped by Skinners Lane and found a good sized flock of Canada Geese. I started to sort through them and quickly located a GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE; likely the same bird that has been reported intermittently in the area this winter. I went through the rest of the flock, hoping for a Cackling Goose, but no luck there. I’d put the word out, and Linda Scrima and Karen Miller both ran for and got the GWFG.
Today, for the second year running, Linda Scrima and I participated in the Mearn’s Bird Club’s Orange County Winter Waterfowl Count. Like last year, our sector was the Black Dirt Region. Which means more fields than bodies of water, so we spent the majority of the time searching for, counting, and sorting flocks of Canada Geese. We met at the Liberty Loop parking area at sunrise, and then made our way through the black dirt, hitting the usual spots as well as scouting some relatively unfamiliar territory.
Last year we got lucky and located a couple of rare birds (Cackling and Greater White-fronted Goose). This year was a little less exciting; our best bird was a blue morph Snow Goose that we found on Celery Avenue. But, we did increase our number of species from 2019 to 2020 (6 to 7). Here’s our totals for the day:
Canada Goose: 1,755
American Black Duck: 2
Mute Swan: 5
Ring-necked Duck: 1
Common Merganser: 17
Snow Goose: 1
We did have some notable other birds as we made our way around. Raptors top the list with: Red-tailed Hawk (6), Red-shouldered Hawk (1), Rough-legged Hawk (1), Sharp-shinned Hawk (1), and Bald Eagle (2). We also had a surprising (3) Great Blue Herons as well as an extremely large flock of blackbirds that passed in the far distance; it is hard to put a number on it, but there were probably north of 3,500 birds.
I enjoyed participating in the count – it was nice to have a defined purpose in our birding. I’m thinking this is a direction I’d like to take to a larger degree in my birding moving forward.
I enjoyed a pleasant weekend of birding. After the first full work week in a while, it just felt good to get out and see some birds. That being said, I didn’t come across anything too exciting, with the exception of one bird – Linda Scrima had an ICELAND GULL at the Newburgh Waterfront on Saturday evening. This is likely the same bird that Bruce Nott located in the same area on Friday. Unfortunately, while we were lucky to get the bird, we were a bit unlucky in that it flew south after only a couple of minutes and we were unable to relocate it. See poor photo of that bird at the bottom of this post.
Aside from the Iceland Gull, the weekend was a bit hum-drum. Linda and I tried for the Storm King Golden Eagle, but didn’t have any luck. On Saturday morning, Linda relocated the Greater White-fronted Goose that has been hanging around the black dirt, but it flew before I could even think about running for it. I sorted through many geese on both days with nothing other than Canada Geese. Wickham Lake on Sunday morning was a pleasant stop; I had a couple of American Widgeon, a couple of Ring-necked Ducks, and a very accommodating Bufflehead. Still, it was great to get out, especially with the weather being so mild.
On the evening of December 21st, I was birding at the Newburgh Waterfront. While I was there, I located a Great Black-backed Gull with a black band on its left leg. Through my spotting scope I could see that it read, in white print: 4RO. I reported it at the U.S. Geological Survey’s www.reportband.gov, and on Tuesday of this week I received an email with the subject line of ‘Certificate of Appreciation’.
The certificate indicates that this gull, of unknown sex, was hatched in 2008 or earlier. That means this bird is at least 12 years old! I’m not sure what the life expectancy of gulls is, but I found it interesting that the bird was that old. It was banded on Appledore Island in York County, Maine by Dr. Sara R. Morris.
The body of the email read as follows:
The North American Bird Banding Program
Bird banding is important for studying the movement, survival and behavior of birds. About 60 million birds representing hundreds of species have been banded in North America since 1904. About 4 million bands have been recovered and reported.
Data from banded birds are used in monitoring populations, setting hunting regulations, restoring endangered species, studying effects of environmental contaminants, and addressing such issues as Avian Influenza, bird hazards at airports, and crop depredations. Results from banding studies support national and international bird conservation programs such as Partners in Flight, the North American Waterfowl Management Plan, and Wetlands for the Americas.
The North American Bird Banding Program is under the general direction of the U.S. Geological Survey and the Canadian Wildlife Service. Cooperators include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Mexico’s National Commission for the Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity and Secretary of the Environment and Natural Resources; other federal, state and provincial conservation agencies; universities; amateur ornithologists; bird observatories; nature centers; nongovernmental organizations such as Ducks Unlimited and the National Audubon Society; environmental consulting firms and other private sector businesses. However, the most important partner in this cooperative venture is you, the person who voluntarily reported a recovered band. Thank you for your help.