I got out and birded the black dirt region both Saturday and Sunday mornings, but compared to all the recent Snowy Owl excitement, both days were relatively uneventful. Here’s a few things that folks might find interesting:
- On Saturday morning I had 9 Snow Geese among approximately 1200 Canada Geese at the Camel Farm.
- At Indiana Road on Saturday, I found 15 Snow Buntings in a flock of approximately 60 Horned Larks.
- Raptors were out in numbers, especially Red-tailed Hawks. I felt like you could not throw a rock without hitting a RTHA this weekend. Saturday morning I hit Pumpkin Swamp Road, Indiana Road, and Skinner Lane and had 13 Red-tailed Hawks! I also had several Northern Harriers at each location on both mornings. Additionally, over the span of the weekend, I saw 3 Rough-legged Hawks (Skinner, Wallkill River NWR, and Pumkin Swamp).
SHORT-EARED OWL SURVEY
The highlight of my birding weekend was participating in the First Annual Unofficial Orange County Short-eared Owl Survey. The survey was organized by Curt McDermott and Rob Stone, who wanted an answer to the question of how many Short-eared Owls were currently in Orange County. The idea was to get birders out to known Short-eared Owl haunts both Saturday and Sunday evening to get a total for the county. So, on Saturday evening, Karen Miller and I went out to our designated area to count, which was the Wallkill River NWR. The plan was to get the best count we could there and then shoot over to Scenic Farms Golf Course on Glenwood Road and get a count there. We had a fabulous evening, counting 10! SEOWs at Wallkill River NWR and then picking up an additional 5 at the golf course, totaling 15 for the evening. Late edit: It should be noted that for the owls seen at Wallkill River NWR, for the purposes of this survey we are assuming that the birds pass back and forth over the county border as they work the open areas of the refuge (Thanks for keeping me in check Marianne!). On Sunday my spot was Pumpkin Swamp Road. It was really freezing cold, but it was worth it when I got a count of 6 SEOWs there. When all the locations were combined, the survey revealed a total of 31 Short-eared Owls in Orange County this weekend – very exciting!