HEAD NORTH!

One of Tricia’s favorite sayings is “When in doubt, head north“, which is exactly what we did last weekend. Actually, I got the idea from John Haas after a recent discussion with him about being in a “birding slump”. His advice was to take a trip and spice things up a bit; he suggested the trip up north to Saranac Lake and gave me great tips on where to do the best birding. If anyone is interested in doing some birding in the Adirondacks, leave a comment and I will pass along as much information as I can.

FRIDAY

Tricia and I headed up on Friday after getting out of work a little bit early. It was a pleasant drive that was highlighted by finding a female Common Merganser with her brood on the side of the road in Keene NY. I felt like this was a good omen for the weekend to come.

Common Mergansers in Keene NY, 7/5/13. I am not sure if it was the color of the rocks underneath or the evening light, but all my photos have a very orange tone to them. I adjusted some levels  to get a somewhat decent result.
Common Mergansers in Keene NY, 7/5/13. The color of the rocks below the surface and the late afternoon sun created an unusual and not necessarily pleasing effect, giving this photo and overall orange look. I made some adjustments to try to save it, but ultimately I am somewhat disappointed with all my shots of these birds.

Friday evening we made a brief stop at Bloomingdale Bog Trail, near Bloomingdale Road. We were there for less than an hour when it started to rain pretty heavily, but before we ran for the car we managed to identify 14 species, including two life birds for me – a pair of Lincoln’s Sparrows and three Gray Jays.

Adult Gray Jay at Bloomingdale Bog, 7/5/13.
Adult Gray Jay at Bloomingdale Bog, 7/5/13.
Juvenile Gray Jay at Bloomingdale Bog, 7/5/13.
Juvenile Gray Jay at Bloomingdale Bog, 7/5/13.
Lincoln's Sparrow at Bloomingdale Bog, 7/5/13.
Lincoln’s Sparrow at Bloomingdale Bog, 7/5/13.

SATURDAY

We knew that we were certainly going to do some paddling while we were up in the area – Tricia did a canoe trip some years ago with her brother at the St. Regis Canoe Area, which involved several days of paddling and camping out. We only had one day, so I referred to ‘Quiet Water New York’, a fantastic guide to paddling in New York state. We decided to do one of the Fish Creek Loops; it included five ponds, four carries and most importantly, it could be done in a day. Here is the route we took:

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Our paddling route for the Fish Creek Loop.

This was an adventure for me; up until now, I have just paddled locally in a single body of water for a couple of hours at a time. In ‘Quiet Water New York’, they mention seeing a Common Loon diving, so I was hoping that we might see one as well. We parked the car at the south end of Follensby Clear Pond. It was only moments after getting out of the car that Tricia noticed two Common Loons swimming in the distance. We put our kayaks in ASAP hoping to get close enough for a photo or two. We put in, and I was just floating in my kayak, trying to get situated and get my camera out of my dry bag. Tricia started calling my name urgently – a Common Loon had surfaced less than five feet from my kayak!

This Common Loon Surfaced so close to me I had to wait to be able to take a photo! Follensby Clear Pond,
This Common Loon Surfaced so close to me I had to wait to be able to take a photo! Follensby Clear Pond, 7/6/13.

I was thrilled to say the least. These loons are such beautiful birds, and to be able to see them this closely was quite a treat for me. We paddled to the north end of Follensby Clear Pond where we had more loons which were very active all around us, including this chick:

A very cute Common Loon chick in the north end of Follensby Clear Pond, 7/6/13.
A very cute Common Loon chick in the north end of Follensby Clear Pond, 7/6/13.
Common Loon at the north end of Follensby Clear Pond, 7/6/13.
Common Loon at the north end of Follensby Clear Pond, 7/6/13.

 

The loons were very active all around me - I was panicking trying to take photos!
The loons were very active all around me – I was panicking trying to take photos!
I was hoping to get a good shot of a loon flapping like this!
I was hoping to get a good shot of a loon flapping like this!

 

I guess loons are a heavy bird, so they require a long running, flapping take-off.
I guess loons are a heavy bird, so they require a long running, flapping take-off.

Other birds seen on Follensby Clear Pond included: Common Merganser, Osprey, and Great Blue Heron. We found the carry to Polliwog Pond with the help of a local paddler who also happened to count Common Loons on the ponds for the Department of Environmental Conservation.

We paddled through Polliwog Pond and found the carry to Middle Pond. During the carry, we had two Hairy Woodpeckers, which we got very good looks at but no photos because the camera was packed in a dry bag. Middle Pond held a nice surprise:

These two chicks seem somehow conspiratorial. Common Loon with two chicks, Middle Pond 7/6/13.
These two chicks seem somehow conspiratorial. Common Loon with two chicks, Middle Pond 7/6/13.

We made the carry to Floodwood Pond where we had only distant looks at Common Loons as we ate our lunch in our kayaks. I had one raptor fly over in the distance the I could not positively identify other than it being a Buteo. We were also hearing many birds from the shore all day, but not getting any looks.  From Flatwood Pond to Little Square Pond is an easy paddle; the current just takes you at a steady pace. Fish Creek was easy  as well; it was a very relaxing float down the creek. We made our final carry back to Follensby Clear Pond where we found more accommodating loons:

This is one of my favorite shots of the day. Common Loon at Follensby Clear Pond, 7/6/13.
This is one of my favorite shots of the day. Common Loon at Follensby Clear Pond, 7/6/13.

 

Common Loon splashing at Follensby Clear Pond, 7/6/13.
Common Loon splashing at Follensby Clear Pond, 7/6/13.

It took us over seven hours and we were both exhausted. The final paddle to the where we parked the car was tough, it felt like we were paddling in quicksand. What a fantastic day! I cannot wait to do it again!

SATURDAY EVENING

 In the evening, Tricia and I were both sure we would fall asleep if we didn’t get out and do something, so we decided to head over to Bigelow Road to do some birding. It was not very birdy, we were hearing some birds but not seeing any. We ran into three birders from the Syracuse area who were very nice. They were telling us that they hadn’t seen much either when Tricia said “I see a bird”. We looked in a tall evergreen and found a BOREAL CHICKADEE! The bird was a bit distant but managed to get some photos which ended up better than I expected.

BOREAL CHICKADEE at Bigelow Road in Saranac Lake NY, 7/6/13.
BOREAL CHICKADEE at Bigelow Road in Saranac Lake NY, 7/6/13.

SUNDAY

Sunday morning I went out birding alone for a couple of rainy, misty hours at Bloomingdale Bog. Although the weather was not cooperating, it was a really nice morning of birding. I identified 29 species and I had a couple of highlights. The first one was unexpected for me. I looked back down the trail at one point and I saw a Northern Harrier cruising the trail, tilting from side to side hunting. Later, I saw a second Northern Harrier flying in the distance with what appeared to be a snake in its grasp. My second and best highlight of the morning was seeing a couple of BLACK-BACKED WOODPECKERS. The light was terrible for photos, and the birds were distant. I did the best I could and I at least have this shot for documentation:

Black-backed Woodpecker at Bloomingdale Bog, 7/7/13.
Black-backed Woodpecker at Bloomingdale Bog, 7/7/13.

What a great weekend it was! Even sitting in hours of traffic to get home didn’t dampen our spirits after a fun, adventurous weekend like that.

Basha Kill by Kayak 6/23/13

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It’s still nice to get a good shot of one of our more common birds. Red-winged Blackbird at Basha Kill WMA 6/23/13.

I was feeling a bit uninspired when trying to figure out where to bird this morning. With migration long over and the summer kicking in, I was looking to do something a little bit different. It was right about this time last year that I started birding by kayak out at the Basha Kill, so I figured I would give it a shot. I put my kayak in the water at the route 209 boat launch just before 7 am. I paddled to Haven Road without seeing very much at all – a huge difference from last year when I had Wood Ducks and duckling at just about every turn, Pied-billed Grebes, and no shortage of Great Blue Herons. I was hearing plenty of birds on the perimeter of the kill, and I also was enjoying watching the Tree Swallows hunt and then perform an apparent mid-air food exchange. I tried to get a photo of this behavior, but I was unsuccessful.

At Haven Road I could see an adult Bald Eagle perched on the other side of the bridge. The water level is still very high, so I had to walk my kayak over Haven Road to continue. I moved very slowly and eventually got in good position to take some photos. This was clearly the highlight of my outing, I snapped away until the Red-winged Blackbirds and Eastern Kingbirds became too bothersome for the eagle and it flew.

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Bald Eagle perched near Haven Road, as seen from my kayak 6/23/13.

 

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Here the eagle is starting to get bothered by the small birds buzzing around…
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I believe that is a female Red-winged Black bird right behind the eagle as it took off. 
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An here, it appears that an Eastern Kingbird is hitching a ride! It always amazes me that these small birds are willing to tangle with an adult Bald Eagle. 

 

I took a quick cruise over to the Nature Trail when I finished my paddle, and picked up my best bird of the day by far: a pair of NORTHERN WATERTHRUSHES. This was a life bird for me, giving me two life birds this weekend – not too bad! They were splashing around in a puddle in the parking lot when I arrived, pumping their tails repeatedly. I tried to move closer for a photo and flushed them; I never did see them again. I had a nice photo opportunity at the end of the trail, where I stumbled upon about 10 Wood Duck ducklings. I think they are so sweet.

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Pure sweetness – a Wood Duck duckling at Basha Kill WMA 6/23/13.
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Here’s a couple more…

It ended up being a great morning for birding and for bird photography. Here’s my species list for the day:

Canada Goose  10
Wood Duck  25
Mallard  6
Great Blue Heron  5
Turkey Vulture  1
Bald Eagle  1
Virginia Rail  1
Common Gallinule  2
Mourning Dove  1
Red-bellied Woodpecker  1
Downy Woodpecker  1
Northern Flicker  2
Eastern Wood-Pewee  3
Eastern Phoebe  2
Eastern Kingbird  10
Yellow-throated Vireo  4
Warbling Vireo  3
Red-eyed Vireo  1
Blue Jay  2
American Crow  1
Northern Rough-winged Swallow  1
Tree Swallow  25
Barn Swallow  6
White-breasted Nuthatch  2
Veery  2
Wood Thrush  3
American Robin  X
Gray Catbird  X
Ovenbird  2
Northern Waterthrush  2
Common Yellowthroat  2
American Redstart  6
Yellow Warbler  10
Song Sparrow  3
Northern Cardinal  1
Red-winged Blackbird  X
Common Grackle  8

 

 

 

The Generosity of Birders

I ran into John Haas and Scotty Baldinger out at the Basha Kill this morning. They were on the trail of a suspected King Rail, which turned out to be this very accommodating Virginia Rail. I'm sure John and Scotty were disappointed but I sure wasn't - it was a life bird for both myself and Joyce D. who had joined us along with Mary B. in the search.
I ran into John Haas and Scotty Baldinger out at the Basha Kill this morning. I joined them in search of  a suspected King Rail. We were joined shortly after by fellow Mearns Bird Club members Joyce D and Mary B. The King Rail turned out to be this very accommodating Virginia Rail. I’m sure John and Scotty were disappointed but I sure wasn’t – it was a life bird for both myself and Joyce D.
Here's one more of the Virginia Rail, Basha Kill 6/22/13.
Here’s one more of the Virginia Rail, Basha Kill 6/22/13.

This post includes three birds that I enjoyed watching an photographing this week. They are also birds that I would not have been nearly as likely to find without the generosity of my fellow birders. I have wanted to write a post about this for a while now, when I think back on all the posts I have made over the last year or so, how often am I thanking another birder? Very often! I am continually impressed by how kind and giving birders are; my experiences with other birders here in Orange County and the surrounding areas have been overwhelmingly positive. I have yet to come across a birder that is secretive or keeping any sort of “birding hotspot” to themselves. Rather, it is much more common to run into other birders out in the field, where they will give me the most detailed directions to get a good look or photograph of the latest bird that I am seeking.

Additionally, birders will  take the time and energy to share their observations by texting, emailing or posting online. Again, this usually includes accurate and very detailed descriptions of where and when the bird had been seen.

The birding community is an extremely nice group of people, one that I feel I have slowly become a part of over the past couple of years. I want to take this opportunity to thank all the generous birders out there – I hope I can repay you all at one time or another.

Karen Miller and I ran into Curt McDermott out at Stewart Forest on Wednesday evening. On Thursday evening I was taking photos of Bank Swallow in Wallkill thanks to a hot tip and perfect directions from Curt.
Karen Miller and I ran into Curt McDermott out at Stewart Forest on Wednesday evening. On Thursday evening I was taking photos of Bank Swallows in Wallkill thanks to a hot tip and perfect directions from Curt. Btw, this is a difficult bird to photograph. I realize this is not a great photo but it was the best I could do! I plan give it another go sometime soon…
Ken McDermott and Ajit both posted on the Mearns Bird Club that there were Purple Martins out at the Shawangunk Grasslands. I got out there this morning and managed to get some flight photos.
Earlier this week, I received an email from Ken McDermott and Ajit Antony posted on the Mearns Bird Club that there were Purple Martins out at the Shawangunk Grasslands. I got out there this morning and managed to get some flight photos.

 

Early Saturday Morning Birding

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House Wren out at Denning’s Point State Park, 6/1/13.

I got up early to try to beat the heat this morning and headed out to Denning’s Point State Park. I had not been out there since last year, so I was hoping to have some luck with Green Herons and Black-crowned Night Herons. As it turned out, the park was not extremely birdy on this day and I did not see any herons at all.  All told I had 22 species, many of which were only heard. On my way back to the car I enjoyed the highlight  of the visit, an amazing Red-tail Hawk with beautiful markings.

I love the markings on this bird, particularly the very light head and the
I love the markings on this bird, particularly the very light head and the very dark area at the base of the bill – I’m not sure if that would be considered the Mustachial stripe or the Malar (or both?). Red-tailed Hawk on a light post at Denning’s Point State Park, 6/1/13.
I sat on a rock and watched this bird for a good while. Periodically a Red-winged Blackbird would dive-bomb the hawk...
I sat on a rock and watched this bird for a good while. Periodically a Red-winged Blackbird would dive-bomb the hawk…
...eventually the hawk had had enough and took off, giving me a great look at its gorgeous red tail.
…eventually the hawk had had enough and took off, giving me a great look at its gorgeous red tail.

I left Denning’s Point and then headed to Kenridge Farm. I walked the extensive trails there for close to two hours and although I did not see or hear anything our of the ordinary, I did pretty well, identifying 28 species of birds. My “best birds” where: Brown Thrasher, four Killdeer (two of which I believe were immatures), a female Mallard with ducklings, and a pair of Green Herons.

I finally got a good enough look at a Green Heron for a photo. Kenridge Farm 6/1/13.
I finally got a good enough look at a Green Heron for a photo. Kenridge Farm 6/1/13.
Three of four Killdeer out at Kenridge Farm, 6/1/13.
Three of four Killdeer out at Kenridge Farm, 6/1/13.

The heat was getting pretty unbearable and the harsh sun was making for difficult photography when I wrapped it up at 11:30 am. It was a morning of enjoyable, but not amazing, birding.

 

Basha Kill 5/18/13

Chestnut-sided Warbler at the Stop Sign Trail at the Basha Kill, 5/17/13.
Chestnut-sided Warbler at the Stop Sign Trail at the Basha Kill, 5/18/13.

In a brave move, I went out to the Basha Kill solo this morning. As you probably know, I do plenty of birding alone, but in this case I say it is brave because it is warbler season, and this being only my second year of looking for warblers, it still does not come very easily to me. I find both aspects of looking for warblers a challenge: 1. birding by ear, and 2. finding these littlest of birds in the vastness of the rapidly growing foliage. I felt pretty good about it when I was out, I was really enjoying myself. But by the end of the morning, I had only totaled 6 species of warblers, which is not exactly spectacular. Even though I did not get many warblers, I was seeing, hearing and identifying many birds. I ended the morning with 41 species, which a very nice total for me. Here’s my list for the day:

This was one of the highlights of the morning for me, one of two White-crowned Sparrows at the Deli Fields, 5/17/13.
This was one of the highlights of the morning for me, one of two White-crowned Sparrows at the Deli Fields, 5/18/13.

Canada Goose  X
Wood Duck  4
Mallard  5
American Bittern  1
Great Blue Heron  10
Green Heron  1
Osprey  1
Bald Eagle  2
Rock Pigeon  10
Mourning Dove  7
Black-billed Cuckoo  1
Chimney Swift  2
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  2
Eastern Phoebe  3
Eastern Kingbird  4
Yellow-throated Vireo  2
Warbling Vireo  X
Blue Jay  3

American Crow  1

These little Yellow Warblers are everywhere right now, and I think they take nice photos. This one was at the Nature Trail, 5/17/13.
These little Yellow Warblers are everywhere right now, and I think they take nice photos. This one was at the Nature Trail, 5/18/13.

Barn Swallow  8
Veery  1
Wood Thrush  4
American Robin  X
Gray Catbird  X
Brown Thrasher  1
Black-and-white Warbler  1
Common Yellowthroat  X
American Redstart  6
Magnolia Warbler  1
Yellow Warbler  X
Chestnut-sided Warbler  1
Field Sparrow  1
Song Sparrow  X
Swamp Sparrow  2
White-crowned Sparrow  2
Northern Cardinal  1
Rose-breasted Grosbeak  1
Red-winged Blackbird  X
Common Grackle  X
Baltimore Oriole  X
American Goldfinch  6

This was my first opportunity to photograph a Wood Thrush. This is a bit noisy and also a little soft because of the low light. Nature Trail, Basha Kill 5/17/13.
This was my first opportunity to photograph a Wood Thrush. This is a bit noisy and also a little soft because of the low light. Nature Trail, Basha Kill 5/18/13.
I had my first of season AMERICAN BITTERN shortly after arriving at Haven Road this morning.
I had my first of season AMERICAN BITTERN shortly after arriving at Haven Road this morning. For a change, the bird was pretty easy to pick out in the sea of green.
Always photogenic, Eastern Phoebe at Haven Road, 5/17/13.
Always photogenic, Eastern Phoebe at Haven Road, 5/18/13.

 

Colorado Trip Part II

Here are ten more photos from our Colorado trip. Some are life birds, some birds we see at home all the time, all are photos that felt were worth sharing.

1.

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American Kestrels are numerous in the Fort Collins area. Posing on a cattail at Cathie Fromme Prairie, 5/2/13.

2.

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Western Kingbird in the snow at Cathie Fromme Prairie, 5/2/13. 

3.

American Kestrel by Horsetooth Reservoir, Larimer County CO. 5/6/13. Photo by Tricia.
American Kestrel by Horsetooth Reservoir, Larimer County CO. 5/6/13. We pulled up alongside this bird and he never flew, I handed the camera to Tricia and she got a great shot. I love the detail in this photo.

4.

Horned Lark at Pawnee Grasslands, 5/3/13. This is the best look I've ever gotten of the "horns" of the Horned Lark.
Horned Lark at Pawnee Grasslands, 5/3/13. This is the best look I’ve ever gotten of the “horns” of the Horned Lark.

5.

Yellow-headed Blackbird at Cattail Pond in Loveland Colorado, 5/2/13.
Yellow-headed Blackbird at Cattail Pond in Loveland Colorado, 5/2/13.

6.

This Black-billed Magpie was so close I had trouble keeping the bird in frame. Rocky Mountain NP 5/5/13.
This Black-billed Magpie was so close I had trouble keeping the bird in frame. Rocky Mountain NP 5/5/13.

7.

This image is a little soft but I like the bird - Western Bluebird at
This image is a little soft but I like the bird – Western Bluebird at Chautauqua Park in Boulder Colorado, 5/4/13.

8.

Male Mountain Bluebird at Cathie Fromme Prairie 5/2/13.
Male Mountain Bluebird at Cathie Fromme Prairie 5/2/13.

9.

I would have liked to get a better shot of the red-shafted  Northern Flicker. We saw many of them but this was my best shot. Cathie Fromme Prairie 5/2/13.
I would have liked to get a better shot of the red-shafted Northern Flicker. We saw many of them but this was my best shot. Cathie Fromme Prairie 5/2/13.

10.

This is my first photo of a Broad-winged Hawk that was not a speck in the sky. Bobcat Ridge in Fort Collins CO, 5/6/13.
This is my first photo of a Broad-winged Hawk that was not a speck in the sky. Bobcat Ridge in Fort Collins CO, 5/6/13.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bobolink

I went to Wallkill River NWR and walked the Liberty Loop this morning. I went out primarily looking for warblers, but I only managed to find several Yellow Warblers and Common Yellowthroats. I was pleasantly surprised to find my first Bobolinks of the season, and to make it even better they were within decent photo distance. These photos are a bit noisy; I had the ISO very high because the morning was very gray.

One of two Bobolinks seen at Wallkill River NWR, 5/11/13.
One of two Bobolinks seen at Wallkill River NWR, 5/11/13.
Two of two. Bobolink at Wallkill River NWR 5/11/13.
Here’s another shot of the same bird with a closer crop.
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Two of two. Bobolink out at Wallkill River NWR, 5/11/13.
An extremely buttery Goldfinch at Wallkill River NWR 5/11/13.
An extremely buttery Goldfinch at Wallkill River NWR 5/11/13.
It has been fun and challenging getting back to shooting song birds. Song Sparrow at Wallkill River NWR, 5/11/13.
It has been fun and challenging getting back to shooting song birds. Song Sparrow at Wallkill River NWR, 5/11/13.

 

Long Island 4-19-13

I guess it is a busy time of year, both in real life and in my birding life. I have managed to get out birding, but it has been harder to find the time to write posts about it. On Friday I had some work on Long Island, so I decided to stay the night with my sister Meghan and her husband Tim. After my appointments I went up to Lloyd Harbor to do some birding. I stopped at West Neck Beach briefly and got some good looks at a flock of Brandt and took some photos of a cooperative Great Egret:

Great Egret at West Neck Beach in Lloyd Harbor NY, 4-19-13.
Great Egret at West Neck Beach in Lloyd Harbor NY, 4-19-13.

 

I then continued up to Target Rock NWR, which was a nice spot and fun to explore but relatively few birds were present. I did get a nice look at a couple of Little Blue Herons (a life bird for me!) and several Snowy Egrets.

A juvenile Little Blue Heron at Target Rock NWR, 4-19-13.
A juvenile Little Blue Heron at Target Rock NWR, 4-19-13.
Snowy Egret and Little Blue Heron at Target Rock NWR, 4-19-13.
Snowy Egret and Little Blue Heron at Target Rock NWR, 4-19-13.

I only stayed at Target Rock for a short time; I was going to meet Meghan at Heckscher Park in Huntington. There had been a Tufted Duck at the pond there for quite some time. On my way back I stopped on the road where I had 10 Long-tailed Ducks (out too far for photos), a couple of Osprey and many Greater Yellowlegs.

An Osprey stretches its wings. Lloyd Harbor NY, 4-19-13.
An Osprey stretches its wings. Lloyd Harbor NY, 4-19-13.
Osprey in flight, Lloyd Harbor NY, 4-19-13.
Osprey in flight, Lloyd Harbor NY, 4-19-13.
Osprey on a wire with what I am pretty sure is a goldfish! Lloyd Harbor NY, 4-19-13.
Osprey on a wire with what I am pretty sure is a goldfish! Lloyd Harbor NY, 4-19-13.

 

 

 

I kind of like this shot of three Greater Yellowlegs, which seemed to be everywhere in Lloyd Harbor.
I kind of like this shot of three Greater Yellowlegs, which seemed to be everywhere in Lloyd Harbor.

We did not locate the Tufted Duck at Heckscher Park, but we did have a good look at an Osprey looking for fish in the pond, many Double Crested Cormorants, and this leucistic Canada Goose that was causing a ruckus:

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On Saturday, Tim and I played golf at Bergen Point Golf Course on the south shore of Long Island. I had my camera with me but I did not manage to get any photos of the many Osprey that where fishing in the ponds on the course. It was a short but sweet visit to Long Island with good birding too!

 

 

 

 

Shawangunk Grasslands NWR

I hope that there is still an interest in seeing the Northern Harriers out at the grasslands, because for me it is still very exciting. To be in the blind and have these amazing birds fly so close to me is a real thrill that has not worn thin for me at all. Yesterday I went out because my friend Ed sent me some fabulous Short-eared Owl photos. They were up early and he took full advantage of it. The owls got up a little early yesterday, but I had a small window to get some photos and it just didn’t work out for me. I did have some more luck with what seems to be a young male Northern Harrier:

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You can’t see it from the parking lot, but there is a fairly good-sized pond at the grasslands:

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That is where this Great Blue Heron was heading when he flew right over the photo blind. It was very strange for me to see a GBHE flying low over the grasslands!

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There were several Eastern Meadowlarks present but none got very close to me.

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Here is my best Short-eared Owl photo from the night. I was disappointed, but it was still really amazing to see the owls.

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