I got out of work a little bit early today and took the opportunity to walk the Liberty Loop at the Wallkill River NWR. It was a nice walk around the loop where I had 16 species identified. Highlights included 6 Short-eared Owls being very vocal and putting on quite a show, a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, and on my way back to the car I had 5 TUNDRA SWANS fly over. The birds were heading south along the west side of the loop. They followed the loop into New Jersey and eventually headed back north, this time on the east side of the loop (which is where I was located), flying right over me, and back into New York State. I could tell from the shape of the head/bill that the birds were not Mute Swans, and I was thinking Tundra. Fortunately one of the birds was calling periodically, which lead me to conclude that they were indeed Tundra Swans. Of course, I had to listen to the call on my phone app to know this! What a nice surprise on an unplanned trip around the Liberty Loop!
Rob Stone texted me this afternoon to let me know he had located four GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GEESE on Onion Avenue in New Hampton, NY. When I got there later in the afternoon, just after 4 pm, I could only locate one GWFG among approximately 1200 Canada Geese. I spoke to John Haas after I had left, and he let me know that while he was there, a total of five Greater White-fronted Geese were present. Huge thanks to both Rob and John, what a “great” way to make my day!
Tricia and I were back on Long Island this week to spend Christmas with our families. The day after Christmas, I went birding out east with with Tricia’s Brother-in-law Bill. We basically started out at Cupsogue County Park (a spot I’ve been wanting to get to, having seen many reports of good birds there), and then we headed east on Dune Road. The highlight of the day was locating two (!!!) SNOWY OWLS. Both owls could be seen easily from the car on the beach side of Dune Road and the light was nice which made for some nice photos. Aside from the Snowies, we did pretty well, identifying 28 species and seeing a few more than that; I did not have my scope with me which meant leaving some of the more distant birds unidentified. The birding on Long Island is pretty amazing, the birding hotspots seem endless. Thanks once again to Bill for showing me around; it was a super day of birding.
Here is my species list for the outing:
American Black Duck
Great Blue Heron
Great Black-backed Gull
Mourning Dove 9
Tricia and I went to Long Island on Saturday afternoon to attend my sister’s annual Christmas Caroling Party. We left a little early to beat the worst of the snow that was coming, so we joined up with Tricia’s brother-in-law Bill to do some birding on the south shore. Bill has a nice “birding by car” loop that he does, which includes Robert Moses Park, Captree Island, Gilgo Beach, Oak Beach, Cedar Beach, Cedar Beach Marina, and various other stops. We did the loop while the snow got heavier and the winds started to pick up. I think due to the high winds, it was not overly birdy; our best birds where several Northern Harriers and a Merlin fly-by. We went to Cedar Beach Marina to look for the Gyrfalcon that had been reported there, but had no luck.
The party was a blast on Saturday night, but we were still up relatively early, ready to try Bill’s loop again in some better weather. Tricia’s sister Carolyn and her niece Cameron also joined us. The highlight of the day was, without a doubt, finding a SNOWY OWL on Captree Island. It was really exciting because this was a life bird for Bill, Carolyn, and Cameron. Although the bird was very distant (see photo!), we got some decent looks in binoculars and in the scope as the bird changed perches from time to time.
Other highlights of the day included: 2 Peregrine Falcons, Several Northern Harriers, a flock of Brant, many Buffleheads, a handful of Northern Shovelers, several Common Loons, 3 Red-throated Loons, and my personal favorite birds of the day – 4 Long-tailed Ducks. We struck out on the Gyrfalcon once again, but really it was a great day of birding. Huge thanks to Bill and Carolyn for taking us around and showing us all the spots; it’s so good to have the local knowledge and good company too.
The Snow Owl invasion continues. It was just before 3:00 pm and I had just gotten home. I thought my birding for the day was done when I received a phone call from John Haas: He was looking at a Snowy Owl in Bethel, NY. Tricia and I jumped into the car in hopes of getting a look at the bird. When we arrived, the bird was still present, and what a beauty! The markings on this bird were darker than the two I had seen in Orange County and the effect was striking. Many birders were present or on their way to see the bird. I was particularly happy for all the Sullivan County birders to finally get a Snowy Owl for the county. Thanks once again to John Haas for the call. You can go to The Bashakill Birder to see John’s account of the events.
Northern Shrike Update
I also did some birding in Orange County in the morning and I wanted to add that the Northern Shrike on Lower Wisner Road in Warwick, NY continues. I located the bird working the old fence line between Upper and Lower Wisner between 10:00 and 11:00 am. I’m still working on a good photo…
I got home early from work today, and as I was walking in the door I got a call from Rob Stone: A second SNOWY OWL had been located by Ken McDermott! In case you are thinking this is perhaps the same owl, Rob was out looking at the first Snowy Owl when Ken called him to say he had a second one! Incredible birding days in Orange County! I zipped right over to check out the bird and snap some photos. Thanks again to Rob and of course, Ken who located the bird.
I also went to check on the first owl (which I did not locate), but thanks to fellow birder Maria (sorry I did not catch her last name), I was able to finally get some decent Snow Bunting photos:
I was happy I ran into Judy Cinquina this evening. It’s always good to see Judy, she is one of my favorite people, but tonight it was especially nice because she relocated the Northern Shrike while we were out on Lower Wisner Road in Warwick NY. What a great bird, I was so happy to get a better look and to be able to at least take some documentary photographs of the bird. I’ve said it before, but, I REALLY hope this bird sticks around!
The bird was located in the two taller trees a 150-200 yards south of the parking pull over area on Lower Wisner Road.
After work today, I drove over to the Clay Avenue Wetlands, located in Lyndhurst NJ. I had received a rare bird alert email from eBird, indicating that an American Avocet had been seen at the wetlands. The bird was easily located and what a beautiful bird it is! Unfortunately the bird was pretty heavily backlit and there are not many spots to view the birds from, which made taking photos difficult. I am not really thrilled with the above photo for various reasons, but I had to post this awesome bird. I hope to get back in the morning when the sun will be at my back. Stay tuned for more photos.
Tonight at 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary, the two Long-billed Dowitchers continue in the small pond to the south of the Heritage Trail. Additional shorebirds included 11 Lesser Yellowlegs and 4 Pectoral Sandpipers. I also enjoyed a decent showing of waterfowl with Canada Geese, Mallards, Green-winged Teal, Blue-winged Teal, a single American Black Duck and a single Northern Pintail.
I also tried something new for me tonight: I wore camouflage. I’ve heard many photographers talk about how effective camouflage is for photographing wildlife, and tonight I experienced it for the first time. While shooting Yellow-rumped Warblers, I noticed that the birds seemed far less likely to flush. Also, while shooting the two Dowitchers, 10 Lesser Yellowlegs flew in and landed between myself and the Dowitchers – pretty darn close really. It’s only one outing, but it does appear to make a difference.
As of 5:30 this evening (10/5), the two Dowitchers at 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary continue. The consensus is that these birds are in fact Long-billed Dowitchers. I sent John Haas over 20 photos last night and he re-located the birds this morning to get a look himself. John feels that these are Long-billed Dowitchers – see his comment in my original post about these birds and go to his blog to see his post. Both are interesting and informative – well worth clicking over to. I also posted on the NY Birders Facebook page and all comments have been supporting LBDO.
Between these two birds and the Black Scoters located by Bruce Nott, it has been great weekend of birding!