A Good, Long Day of Birding in Orange County

*Click on photos to enlarge.*

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~A Male Northern Harrier, the Gray Ghost, in flight at Missionland Road, 3/21/15.~

I spent a long day on Saturday birding in the Black Dirt Region. I started the day by getting my first Killdeer photo of the year when I came upon 5 Killdeer on the side of the road on Onion Avenue…

~One of five Killdeer in the freshly fallen snow on the side of Onion Avenue in New Hampton, NY 3/21/15.~
~One of five Killdeer in the freshly fallen snow on the side of Onion Avenue in New Hampton, NY 3/21/15.~

…And the day ended with nearly 1500 Snow Geese at Skinner Lane.

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~I can’t get enough of these birds. Snow Geese in flight over Skinner Lane, 3/21/15.~
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~More SNGOs at Skinner Lane, 3/21/15.~

But I did a lot of birding in between, hitting most of the regular spots and some of them twice. Missionland Road was a good stop; I ran into Kyle Dudgeon and another birder named Jason that I had met once before.  We had good photo opportunities with a pair of Gray Ghosts, and I found what I believe was Cackling Goose in a flock of maybe 2,000 Canada Geese. The bird was distant and never seemed to have its head up, making it tough for photos. Here is my best effort:

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~A likely Cackling Goose (at center with head pointed down and to the left) among many Canada Geese at Missionland Road, 3/21/15.~
I'm not sure what's going on here with the grasses in this bird's grasp. Prey within? Male Northern Harrier in flight at Missionland Road, 3/21/15.~
~I’m not sure what’s going on here with the grasses in this bird’s grasp. Prey within? Male Northern Harrier in flight at Missionland Road, 3/21/15.~
~Not a great photo, but I included it because the bird not only has prey but is tagged. Northern Harrier on Missionland Road, 3/21/15.~
~Not a great photo, but I included it because the bird not only has prey but is tagged. Northern Harrier on Missionland Road, 3/21/15.~

I made a stop at Scenic Farms Golf Course, sifted through a couple thousand Canada Geese (and came up empty-handed), and then saw a distant Coyote hunting in the field across the street from the golf course.

~Coyote across the street from Scenic Farm Golf Course in Pine Island, NY 3/21/15.~
~Coyote across the street from Scenic Farm Golf Course in Pine Island, NY 3/21/15.~

Another productive stop was the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge, where I walked the Liberty Loop Trail with Kyle. It took us ages to make our way around the loop, mostly because the birding was so good. Waterfowl is what I was hoping for, and we did well. Most of these birds were seen in the Sussex County portion of the loop:

Snow Goose
Canada Goose
Mute Swan
Tundra Swan (2)
Wood Duck
American Wigeon
American Black Duck
Mallard
Northern Pintail
Green-winged Teal
Ring-necked Duck
American Coot

~I was pretty psyched to see a pair of Tundra Swans fly in and land in the refuge. Walkill River NWR, 3/21/15.~
~I was pretty psyched to see a pair of Tundra Swans fly in and land in the refuge. Walkill River NWR, 3/21/15.~

We also did well with raptors, with the highlight (for me) being a very active Peregrine Falcon that spent the entire time we were there terrorizing the waterfowl. I’m not sure, but I think the highlight for Kyle was the three (possibly 4) Bald Eagles that we had. In all, we had seven species of raptors: Turkey Vulture, Black Vulture, Bald Eagle, Northern Harrier, Red Tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, and Peregrine Falcon.

~An adult Bald Eagle flies over the eastern leg of the Liberty Loop, 3/21/15.~
~An adult Bald Eagle flies over the eastern leg of the Liberty Loop, 3/21/15.~
~I wish I had gotten a better shot of this bird, she was gorgeous. Northern Harrier at Wallkill River NWR, 3/21/15.~
~I wish I had gotten a better shot of this bird, what a gorgeous creature. Northern Harrier at Wallkill River NWR, 3/21/15.~
~An explosion of ducks - Green-winged Teals and Ring-necked ducks mostly, with a few American Wigeon thrown in for good measure. Wallkill River NWR, 3/21/15.~
~An explosion of ducks – Green-winged Teals and Ring-necked ducks mostly, with a few American Wigeon thrown in for good measure. Wallkill River NWR, 3/21/15.~
~Bald Eagle at Wallkill River NWR, 3/21/15.~
~Bald Eagle at Wallkill River NWR, 3/21/15.~
~There were plenty of Northern Pintails at the refuge, Liberty Loop 3/21/15.~
~There were plenty of Northern Pintails at the refuge, Liberty Loop 3/21/15.~
~It's a lousy photo, but I had to include it because I was so excited to see this Peregrine Falcon doing its thing at the Wallkill River NWR, 3/21/15.~
~It’s a lousy photo, but I had to include it because I was so excited to see this Peregrine Falcon doing its thing at the Wallkill River NWR, 3/21/15.~

Wow, what a day, filled with exciting birds.

4 thoughts on “A Good, Long Day of Birding in Orange County”

  1. Nice shots, as usual! My faves were the grey ghost & the 1st one of the SNGO close up. Wouldn’t it be nice if a harrier nested here? Wouldn’t be that far for them to expand their breeding range just a bit…

    1. Thanks Marianne. It would be really cool if a harrier nested around here. I don’t even know what type of nests they have and where they build them. I will have to look into that… Matt

  2. Great shots Matt.
    I was happy with my Snow Geese on Friday morning, so I went eagle nest hunting along the Delaware all the way to Lackawaxen yesterday. I didn’t come up short on eagles and I was able to get a shot of the Redheads at the Rondout reservoir.

    I was surprised that I got them, It was pretty dark in the spillway and I didn’t know what I was looking at, but when I up loaded my pictures I had a nice surprise, except that they had their backs to me.
    Another lifer for me.
    Wilma

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