I headed out early this morning to bird Liberty Marsh at Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge. I’d had a good full day yesterday, so I was going out without much in the way of expectations. When I arrived at the refuge and got out of my car, I scanned the marsh and picked up two birds flying along the west side of the loop, just over the trees – SANDHILL CRANES! I took that as a good sign for the morning. Shortly after my arrival, I ran into birding bud Linda Scrima and we walked parts of both Liberty Lane and the Liberty Loop.
Swamp Sparrow was bird of the day for sure. We had many as we walked out Liberty Lane, as well as a good number of Song Sparrows, a single White-crowned Sparrow, and a couple of White-throated Sparrows. Our best bird on Liberty Lane was Purple Finch – we had at least three with one female that was confiding enough for some decent photos. I also had a young Cooper’s Hawk fly right over my head and perch in a tree not too far off the trail.
We then walked part of the west side of the Liberty Loop. We got about 100 yards down the trail when Linda picked up a bird that landed in the marsh just off the trail. I caught it just as it landed – its flight was a bit awkward and we agreed it was likely a marsh bird of some sort. We were scanning the area where we thought the bird flew in when the bird took flight again, heading deeper into the marsh – it was an AMERICAN BITTERN! I was not prepared and my camera setting were no good, so I ended up with a bunch of blurry pics. Linda did better than I did, and I’ve included one of her shots at the bottom of this post. On the west side of the loop we ran into a birdy area which produced my first Dark-eyed Juncos of the season, 2 Blue-headed Vireos and a couple of Ruby-crowned Kinglets as well. We finished up with a total of 36 species for the morning.
Afterwards, I headed to the Camel Farm to see if I could dig up any more shorebirds. I had the feeling yesterday that there were more birds out there than I was able to see and/or identify. It’s a tough spot to bird these days. It’s a good distance to be looking (as always), and right now everything is overgrown and the shorebirds just disappear when they land. Additionally, depending where you are viewing, there is not much room to pull off the road and the traffic on that road is relentless. So, it makes for a less than ideal birding situation, but that’s where the shorebirds seemed to be this weekend. I was easily able to get good looks of several Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs, as well as a handful of Killdeer. I had a group of shorebirds in flight that I was unable to see once they landed (*they may have been Pectoral Sandpipers, see below). I also had a flock of longer billed shorebirds in flight. I was able to get photos of these birds and I have them as Wilson’s Snipe, 24 of them:
I repositioned to try and locate the unidentified group of birds I’d seen, but I was just not able to find them in the area where I thought they went down. Then, I heard a shorebirdy call behind me – and sure enough there was a flock of PECTORAL SANDPIPERS flying behind me. They put down right on one of the Camel Farm neighbor’s front lawns, which I thought was pretty funny. I’d love to have Pectoral Sandpipers on my front lawn, ha ha!